Guiding Customers to Achieve Their Aspirations.
It’s a joy to have my fifth article published in the Harvard Business Review! You can read “The ‘New You’ Business” online now, or in the January/February 2022 paper issue.
The article rose out of two strains of thought:
First, the longtime focus Jim Gilmore and I have had on the economic offering after experiences – transformations – and second, the work Lance Bettencourt has done on what he calls “customer success” combined with his expertise in jobs-to-be-done theory.
When Lance and I started talking, we immediately recognized that true customer success could best be accomplished by focusing on the outcomes customers attain through transformation offerings, those where companies guide customers in achieving their aspirations, in becoming who they want to become.
The two strains of thought fit together marvelously, and we also brought in Dave Norton, a longtime collaborator on articles and projects focused on experience innovation. More than anyone else, I think, Dave has taken the late Clay Christensen’s thoughts on jobs to be done and undergirded them with meaningful frameworks, including one that gives meat to one of Clay’s ideas, that JBTDs could be categorized as functional, emotional, or social. Dave and I recognized that transformations involved something more, and thus aspirational jobs to be done were born.
Defining Transformations of The “New You” Business
So what exactly are transformations? And what does it mean to be in the “new you” business? Perhaps the summary provided by HBR says it best:
“All too often fitness centers, medical providers, colleges, and organizations in many other industries seek to distinguish themselves only on the quality, convenience, and experience of what they sell, say the authors. It’s not that those things aren’t important.
But they matter only as means to the ends that people seek. Too many organizations lose sight of this truth. Even when they do promote what they sell in relation to consumers’ aspirations, they rarely design solutions that allow people to realize them.
Instead, individuals must cobble together what they think they need to achieve their goals—for example, a trainer, a particular diet, and a support network to lose weight. Enterprises should recognize the economic opportunity offered by a transformation business, in which consumers come to them with a desire to improve some fundamental aspect of their lives. Even though we’re all filled with hopes, aims, and ambitions, significant change is incredibly hard to accomplish on our own. This article offers an approach to designing a transformation business.”
Being in The Transformation Business
Do give the article a read and recognize the possibilities for creating greater economic value by going beyond staging experiences to guiding transformations.
Being in the transformation business means helping customers achieve their aspirations and ideally charging for the demonstrated outcomes customers attain – being paid on customer success, in other words. (And while we only had space in the HBR to focus on personal transformations, recognize that there are also B2B/organizational and even societal transformations waiting to be guided.)
The Forthcoming Transformation Economy
Transformations have always been part of our thinking ever since the discovery of the Experience Economy (see “The History of the Experience Economy”), and Jim and I are often asked why we’ve never written a full book on it.
The short answer? The business world hasn’t been ready for it, nor in large measure have consumers been open to such offerings.
We believe that time is now, and this article stretches the thinking on transformations and provides steps that companies can follow to compete in the forthcoming Transformation Economy.
Let me end by noting that the article is all the better for Lance taking lead on its writing, and I would also like to thank my longtime editor at HBR, Steve Prokesch, whose probing questions and fine editing sharpened our thinking and improved our writing.