Subscribers As Product: Delivering Transformation Via Email

I've been listening to audiobooks during my morning commute this month; it's an inspiring way to start the day. Last week it was Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore's "The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage." If you haven't read it yet, (1) read it, and (2) you might want to opt for the printed version; the audio sounds like it's read by the same old dude who narrated our science films in grade school.

But Pine and Gilmore got through to me, particularly in chapter nine. There they argue that the highest, most evolved goal of business is to enact transformation in individuals. Customers desire self-improvement and change, and as business people, we need to provide avenues for them to enact those changes. If we aim to be transformative, then our true "product" becomes the individual customer himself. I don't know about you, but I feel transformed already.



In his Aug. 13 article, Aaron Smith wrote about creating emails that build memorable experiences for customers. Stepping beyond even this idea, Pine and Gilmore point out that if we don't design these experiences to transform, then the experiences themselves eventually feel repetitive and become commoditized.

Since email allows continuous dialogue with customers, it's an ideal vehicle for enacting ongoing transformation that outlasts static experiences. We can all relate to a desire to refresh our living environments, so I'll use the home furnishings vertical to demonstrate ideas for an infusion of transformation-minded messaging. Consider how you might give your email power to transform:    

Illustrate and inspire.  Illustrate the transformative process through imaging and inspire transformation through your offerings. Show your subscribers a spruced up environment and they just might realize that they're ready for a change, too.

·    Animation is a great way to illustrate transformation. Flash a master bedroom with a hand-me-down quilt and faded carpet and-voila-show the made-over version with a rich, embroidered duvet. Chances are a viewer will glance around the room and envision his or her own transformation.  West elm gets it right here.

·    Sending a before-and-after email can achieve a similar effect. Show a living room full of furniture that looks tired and dowdy next to the transformed living room image full of the season's best offerings. Don't forget to tell customers how they can imitate the move.

Guide the change. Used dynamically, email can lead customers along in their uniquely chosen transformations. Pine and Gilmore point out that transformation itself is not something that can be delivered or sold -- it's a process that needs guiding. So guide! Here are a of couple ideas:  

·    Send how-to email. The top ten ideas for classing up the bathroom. Kitchen interior design from A to Z. Break down the steps and make change look simply alluring.  Williams-Sonoma Home delivers holiday décor tips here.

·    Even better, make individual transformation the main event from start to finish. Create a series of emails tailored to help subscribers achieve specific goals. A home furnishings brand could use preference centers to sort out decorating needs. Some folks dream of a classy new dining room, some prepare nurseries for expected babies, and some think ahead to their holiday decorating. Each could opt to receive a distinct email series that guides them through the transformation process of their choosing.

As Pine and Gilmore tell us, customization makes all the difference. If you show subscribers exactly what they need at the moment that they need it, you can't help but change them. Stage experiences that open opportunities for transformation, and keep your transformative processes dynamic enough to take hold and effect change over time. Email has never felt so powerful.
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