Grab New Customers and Old With These Key Concepts

This is part four of 13 in the Experience Design 101 series. For links to all the articles in this series, click here.

Today let’s look at some key concepts, and define them in terms of how better Experience Design can benefit your firm.

Experience Design

The practice of creating an integrated graphic, physical (spatial), and interactive environment, considering all points of customer engagement with a company. A customer’s experience may begin long before they arrive at your door, with word-of-mouth, telephone calls, or internet research, and may continue long after, either directly (with a product purchased) or indirectly, through memories and conversations with others.

Creating well-designed, sincere, authentic Customer Experiences across all touchpoints leads to rich customer relationships and long-term growth.

“Brands that deliver great customer experiences also reward the customer for the time, money, energy, and emotions they invest in transacting with them, above and beyond the delivery of their products and services,” writes Ralph Ardill in an article for the U.K.’s Design Council.

Read another definition at Wikipedia.

Nathan: Experience Design defines the term.


Points of engagement: for instance, a restaurant’s key touchpoints for a potential guest include their website, their telephone interactions, their signage, the host’s greeting, the service, the (look of and contents of the) menu, the food, and their interiors (the physical space).

Each company also has essential touchpoints to consider with staff, suppliers, investors, and other business contacts which include graphic, physical, and interactive dimensions. Such touchpoints can affect the bottom line, and may be nearly as important to word of mouth as customer touchpoints are.

Experience Audit

Outside Perspective on your Customer Experience. Like supercharged mystery-shopping, an Experience Audit closely examines every touchpoint, to experience your firm in exactly the way that prospective customers do.

Integrated Experience Design Elements:

Strategic Research

The most critical element of Experience Design—knowing your market, their motivations and expectations, your strengths, the field, and the trends. Use clear goals and strategic research to develop a design plan that meets customer needs and business objectives.


Interactive Experience

Often-overlooked element including human-to-human, human-to-product, or human-to-digital-media contacts.

How staff interact with customers and business contacts, in person and on the telephone, may be more crucial than either the look of a space (interiors) or the design of graphic materials. Likewise, frustrating interactions with websites or with the product itself can limit or stall sales.


Interior Design

From lighting to layout to furniture, finishes and colors, the visual appearance of a space tells the story of mood and value for your firm. Make yours memorable.


Graphic Design

Signage, Internet presence, business cards, stationery, brochures, packaging, promotional items, vehicles, and other graphic items also tell a visual story. Graphic design is often experienced away from your physical space. Like all other elements, graphic design needs to be tightly integrated with your Vision to tell the same story!



Clear signage is a big part of wayfinding systems (and the most easily changed for an established location), but your space’s layout is equally important. The most logical, customer-centered layout can eliminate the need for a lot of signage, reducing visual clutter and customer confusion.


Quite simply—your company’s name is the most important ad you’ll ever write.

Innovation vs. Incremental Improvement

I could not possibly do this the justice that Clayton Christensen’s excellent book, The Innovator’s Solution, does. To very, very briefly touch on this point: bringing a better product into an established market, or cutting prices to gain a share of that market, results in only incremental growth, that will ultimately be difficult to sustain. To experience sustainable growth, create innovations which “compete” with non-consumption whenever possible. Differentiate significantly, find a way to bring customers to your product or service who were not being served by the market before, and you’ve struck gold.


Goals, aspirations, and future direction. Who do you think you are and who do you want to be? For most businesses this Vision was an integral part of starting up. If it’s become lost in day-to-day busywork, it may take some concentrated memory-searching to recapture that initial Vision. Having customers who share in your Vision allows you to share your passion while growing your business.

Vision Statement

A Vision Statement describes your company’s aspirations. This is the “big picture” for your firm. A Mission Statement is used after uncovering your Vision, to list goals or steps that illustrate how you will achieve your Vision. At our firm, VisionPoints, I wrote our Mission Statement using our Vision Statement as its first sentence.

Stakeholders and Buy-In

Any person or entity (such as another business) with a vested interest in the success of a company or a project. (Who isn’t a stakeholder?) Stakeholders include management, staff, and investors (internal stakeholders); suppliers, customers, prospective customers, and as you become well-known, the general public (external stakeholders).

Buy-in is whether a stakeholder understands, believes in, and is willing to be a part of getting your message across to others. Are they committed to the same goals you are? Do they identify with your Vision? In other words, do they “buy it” or not?

Ideal Customers vs. Ideal Solution

Ideal Customers are the “target market” which many business planning books tell you to delve into. Paul and Sarah Edwards discuss the concept as “niching” in their book Getting Business to Come to You, and are dead-on when they say that knowing your niche allows the business owner to plan marketing efforts specifically and economically, rather than scattershot, without a tightly defined target market. The newer concept of customer “personas” (see the Eisenbergs’ Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?) encourages deepened understanding of your ideal customers.

The Ideal Solution looks not at the customer, but at needs people have. “[P]eople and companies have ‘jobs’ that arise regularly and need to get done…. [They] look around for a product or service they can ‘hire’ to get the job done,” writes Clayton Christensen. The most successful companies are those “… that target… the circumstances in which customers find themselves, rather than… the customers themselves.” (Source: <The Innovator’s Solution)

Knowing the ideal solution that you can provide, can help uncover that ideal customer. The best planning will Pinpoint both customer and solution, to target Experience Design and marketing efforts, and to demonstrate your unique offerings.

Top-of-the-Mind and Word of Mouth (WoM) Referrals

“Top-of-the-Mind” is another excellent term from Paul and Sarah Edwards. That’s the place you want your firm to be: at the top of customers’ minds, when they need what you offer. What’s the benefit if you can achieve this? “WoM,” the new buzzword for, ahem, buzz.

93% of customers identify word of mouth as the best, most reliable source for ideas and information on products and services. (Source: NOP World, via Buzz Canuck blog)

Word of mouth referrals have always been the ideal for spreading the word about your firm. Traditionally this is free, and if you’re lucky enough to create what Seth Godin calls an Ideavirus, word about your business may get “sneezed” around and spread faster than any ad could manage. These days, many companies are using Experience Design to intentionally influence word of mouth, and marketers are even creating word of mouth campaigns, offering various incentives to “influencers,” to jump-start WoM.

Emotional Connection; “Sticky”

Same as memorable. These are trendy terms for what businesses have always been after. To borrow again from Seth Godin—be remarkable.


A cross between prophet (someone who preaches) and volunteer. VisionPoints’ term for the raving fans we want you to have more of!

(Measurable) ROI:

Monetary and non-monetary measurements of Return on (Design) Investment. All of these can tell you more about your firm’s growth if you have old numbers to compare to new (month-over-month, year-over-year), but better to start measuring now than never! Don’t try to measure everything. Choose the metrics which are most relevant to your firm:

Number of Leads, Acquisition Rate

How many leads? (Should go up.)

How many leads per completed sale? (Should go down.)


Satisfaction, Loyalty, Repeat Business

There’s no customer like an old customer—they are of higher value because it costs less to keep a customer than to acquire a new one, and because loyal customers are more likely to refer you to others.



Always ask: “How did you find us?”


Size of Order (Avg. Sale)
Cost per Sale

Measuring your marketing expenses against your sales numbers can be very enlightening. You can influence this number by lowering your marketing expenses, but better to position those dollars into more successful efforts which increase sales numbers, instead of forcing the marketing number down.


(Cart) Abandonment, Defection Rate

Abandonment is usually an e-commerce concept, but is easily adopted to the physical world. How many customers “window shop” without completing the sale? Spend one hour counting the door (humans entering) and the cash register (humans at the register, as well as total sales) at three different times during a week to get a representative sample. As you make changes to your Presence, perform this week-long check quarterly to document your progress. Look for a reduced abandonment or “defection” rate, as well as increased average sale per customer.



A recipient of good service will tell 5 acquaintances on average; a client who suffers bad service will tell 10 (and possibly hundreds if he goes online to complain). (Source: Fortune Small Business, “6 Companies Where Customers Come First.”)


Employee Turnover, Tardiness, Absenteeism

These cost you money, productivity, and customer satisfaction. Unusually high numbers may indicate a lack of motivation in staff that is evident in the service they provide. Your staff is the face of your company and the primary communicators of your Vision. Make staff your very best Propheteers. (Studies show that respect, acknowledgment, and responsibility are even better motivators than raises.)


Top Line

Total revenues or sales of an organization. In Experience Design terms, improving a product or service, gaining new or retaining old customers, will affect the top line.


Bottom Line

Net income: total revenues minus total expenses. Good Experience Design can affect the bottom line by focusing efforts and identifying unnecessary marketing expenses for elimination.

Brand Meaning

The expectation or promise of a company. A set of feelings, thoughts, and experiences which create an overall impression of a company. “Brand identity” grows holistically through all customer touchpoints, and through less definable points of memory, culture, and psychology.

With established firms consumers may agree on a few top attributes (FedEx is…; UPS is…; the U.S. Postal Service is…). However, brand meaning is highly individual. [Link to my UPS blog article later.] In today’s message-saturated society, the more “branding” a company shoves at consumers, the less trusted they may become.


Attempting to control the brand identity of a firm.

External Business Description

The Perception of the public. Are you meeting or exceeding expectations? Are customers aware of your offerings? Do they think of your company first when looking for the Ideal Solution to their need? From an Experience Design standpoint, the External Business Description concentrates on definable and improvable Perception rather than highly individual brand meaning.

Two terms near to our hearts at VisionPoints:

Maximum Customer Experience

The result of VisionPoints’ Experience Design Solution is your company’s complete, integrated Presence. Over time, integrated Presence measurably improves Customer Experience. At VisionPoints, we believe that Maximum Customer Experience is the aim of great Experience Design.

I write the Maximum Customer Experience Blog so that readers, too, can use techniques of integrated strategy and design to achieve measurable results, and so clients can delve more into the processes and practices of Experience Design.


Go Where Your VisionPoints

Our tagline, and a mantra as well, if you like. When Vision and goals are well-defined, Experience Design begins to fall in place, because this really is the point: for your firm to Go Where Your VisionPoints.

Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson


Next up in the series: Part Five: Who do you think you are?

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