Posts filed under ‘Experience Enhancement’

Europe January 2010

eiffelJoin Susan and I in Europe in January for the first round of design shows. This is the perfect antidote to get out of the blue business funk some of us seem to be in.  For more details visit our sister site.  Check out the basics below:

 Paris in January 2010

Based on your feedback, we have decided on a longer, Paris-Only trip for this main group. We’ve decided to keep this limited to 12 PEOPLE ONLY, to keep the low-key, non-tour-group approach that most of you have requested.*** We felt that adding a few extra days in Paris will allow everyone to both get the most out of the show(s), which are both very large and very engaging, as well as have enough time to really enjoy Paris.metropolitan

7 days/7 nights in Paris, January 18-January 26, 2010 includes:

*Airfare to/from JFK or Chicago

*Hotel d’ Aubusson, Four-star, double-occupancy in the heart of St. Germain (Super-convenient location and we’ve stayed in this hotel and love it!) Five minute walk to the subway, direct line to the show. Walking distance of the Louvre, Orsay, Notre Dame, Sorbonne; surrounded by art galleries, restaurants and shops.

p-hoteldaubusson1

*Daily Breakfast at the hotel. Value of $140.00

*Airport transfers Value of $80.00

*7 day all zone metro pass Value of $85.00

*Admission to Maison&Objet and Planet Mueble trade shows. Value of $78.00

*Welcome reception at M&O from show management

*Exclusive M&O trend presentation with Q&A opportunity

*As-you-wish meet-ups for cocktails or dinner to review the day, compare notes, share stories, etc.

*Pre-travel web session(s) with Deb and Susan to preview locations, M&O planning, travel details, our Paris faves and more

*Cruise on the river Seine. Value of $80.00

*Free entrance to the Louvre or Orsay. Value of $26.00

* High Tea one afternoon in the Aubusson’s Grand Salon Value of

* All taxes and service included.

DOWNLOAD SEVEN DAY ITINERARY

Price per person, air and land, double occupancy based on exchange rates as of September 15, 2009: $2800.00

Guarantee your reservation with a non refundable $150 deposit.

The balance is due as follows:

$1400.00 due October 15, 2009 and $1250.00 is due December 1, 2009

For more info and reservations- email Deb or Susan

DOWNLOAD REGISTRATION FORM

Tour does NOT include:

*Any meals except breakfast at the hotel as noted

*Any admissions or fees except for the M&O and Meuble Paris shows and museums as noted

*Any additional transportation fees outside of those listed above (i.e., we’re not bussing you to/from the shows at a specific time, you get there when you want and leave when you want, courtesy of those all-zone transit passes)

When the spots are filled, we’ll present a couple of extremely interesting optional tours to choose from if you’re so inclined…

Again, strictly limited to 12 should this be 16? people for this PARIS ONLY option.

***If you are looking for a slightly shorter, more structured trip to Paris for M&O this January, don’t worry, we’ve got that covered too! Get in touch with us and we’ll hook you up with that option.

22 September 2009 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

More Money, Less Pain

The June edition of Psychological Science published the results from six experiments conducted by psychologists and a marketing professor that tested the power of money in relation to social interaction. In one of the most startling results, they found that merely touching money or thinking about expenses affected participants both physically and emotionally.

In one experiment volunteers were asked to take a “finger-dexterity” test, one group counted stacks of $100 bills, while the other group counted paper. Afterwards both groups were but into a social interaction simulation where they were meant to feel snubbed and isolated. The group that counted out the money before the simulation rated their level of social distress much lower than the group that counted paper.

In another experiment, the same “finger-dexterity” test was taken and then the volunteers were asked to dip a finger in very hot (122 degree) water. Those who counted the money rated their pain as lower than those who counted paper.

The pain test was then repeated but with the volunteers now writing about either their expenses the previous month, or the weather. After the finger dip, those who wrote about spending their money rated their pain as higher than those who wrote about the weather!

“These effects speak to the power of money, even as a symbol, to change perceptions of very real feelings,” like pain, said Kathleen Vohs, a marketing professor at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the study.

What does this mean for the designer? It’s just one more thing to consider when presenting the project costs. Clients need to feel comfortable enough with the potential of your work to transform their lives and their interiors to offset the real and psychological pain of letting go some of their hard-earned money! It’s about making sure the client understands the value–both immediate and long term–of investing in their home décor; so that the experiential satisfaction they get from the process and the results more than offsets the purchasing pain.

See more about this on Live Science. Within that article are also links that discuss the value of “experiential” purchases vs. “product” purchases.

7 August 2009 at 8:46 am Leave a comment

The Paradox of Choice

 In August Susan discussed Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Choice that Shapes our Decisions touching upon client’s indecisiveness because of too many options. Mark Hurst,a marketer, that I follow recently talked about the same subject with Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice , another  outstanding book on the subject. As can be the case, I am in a different business place today than in August and after rereading Mark’s blog; it all came together for me and I am on board.

Schwartz says, “Everyone agrees that having choice is better than not having choice. It seems evident that if choice is good, then more choice is better. The paradox is that this “obvious” truth isn’t true. It turns out that a point can be reached where, with more choice, people are worse off.”

People can’t ignore options. There’s more effort put into making decisions, and less in enjoying them. What’s nagging is the possibility that, if they had chosen differently, they could have gotten something better. Some social science research says that one consequence of leaving your options open is that people are less satisfied with their decisions; if a decision is non-reversible, you’ll make yourself feel better about the choice you made. If it’s a reversible choice, you don’t do that. He refers to it as accepting choices that are “good enough”.

Transfer that thought to your retail business. If you provide sales options in your retail store, SAH or website, you might think the way to attract people is to provide as many alternatives as possible. But that’s wrong. You’ll attract people, but they won’t buy as much as they would with fewer choices.

 Schwartz goes on to outline how we should do that:

“There’s no general answer except “restrict options” – though in what way depends on what you’re selling. For example, e-commerce sites and store or your SAH client presentation should be designed so that the complexity is hidden, so that people who really care, or know a lot, can find their way to the complexity, and the rest of us who can’t be bothered to find it, won’t have to.

He cites an example of home furnishing stores -stores that sell things that don’t go naturally together – like clothing and furniture. They’re selling a certain aesthetic. How does a small store sell furniture? It puts a couple of things on display, and then offers a million items in the catalog. You’re not overwhelmed when you walk in; instead, you are in an environment where that’s manageable. If you like a couch, and tell the salesperson you’re interested, and ask if it comes in different colors or fabrics, the salesperson can trot out the catalog and then you can see the infinite number of couches you can get. First you’ve been seduced into wanting a couch by what appears to be the simplicity of the decision. That’s the right way to design things in the modern world, where everything is too complex.

He goes on to discuss Amazon.com’s If you like this.. popup. I have to say that I find it annoying. I don’t find myself buying from those popups and if I do start surfing, I end up losing focus and leaving the site without buying what I intended. So maybe he has a point. Schwartz suggests somewhere in the range of six to twelve options is what most people would be comfortable with, most of the time.

The lesson here is to arbitrarily limit the number of options you’ll consider. My husband I just bought a new TV and it took us over 1 year to decide because of all the options, new models and upgrades coming on the market. I was about to throw in the towel. I should have promised myself that I would go to only two stores and then stop my research and make a decision.

That brings me to a retail trend I have been noticing lately- the limited edition, curated site or store. While this concept plays into several consumer behaviors right now it also is based on the paradox of choice. Gaby Basora, the genius behind coveted line Tucker, just launched e-commerce with a twist. Here’s how it works: Each month, there will be a limited-edition (100-150) classic blouse in a unique print that is available only on the site. That print will not be sold again, which means that if you score one, you will be the proud owner of a Tucker collector’s item, so to speak. Consider Gaby’s take. Cut back on the number of samples books you’re bringing into the house or consider a limited edition window fashion website,

For a “more is better” person like I am; I have resolved to start to editing my options in both my personal life and in working with my clients. If they came to me because I am the so –called expert: then here are the choices I recommend and I can back up. If she needs to see every fabric in every sample book, she’s not the client for me.

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14 December 2008 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Our Attachment to Closing Doors

One of my favorite new business books so far this year is Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. It addresses all kinds of issues from the motivating power of pain, pleasure and just plain placebos, explanations for why the honor code in the workplace (leaving a dollar in the conference room for your coffee and doughnut) really does work, and more.

But the most interesting examples for me where those where Ariely explores the all too human penchant for keeping as many options as possible open, even when the choice to do so is clearly, obviously, detrimental. Ariely even created a game (try it out for yourself here) where you have the choice to keep options (doors) open or not, all while trying to achieve the highest score. Even knowing what you’re “supposed” to do to win, most people will find themselves clicking to keep as many possible doors open, rather than optimizing their score. Why?

“Closing a door on an options is experienced as a loss,” Dr. Ariely explains. “And people are will to pay a price, sometime a significant price, in order to avoid to emotion of loss.” In the game of course, the trade-off is a lower score for more open doors, but in life sometime the trade-offs aren’t as obvious: wasted time, missed opportunities, lowered creativity, etc. All because we’re afraid to firmly shut the door an option, a project, a colleague, etc.

And flip this to the client side…how much information is too much for clients? Whether they gather it on their own, or we supply it them, the more options they’re presented with, the harder time they have coming to decision. And from Dr. Ariely’s research, this is an ingrained human habit. So don’t get too upset with your clients for dithering…instead think of ways to simplify and clarify the decision-making process for them. Plus keep in mind that they might be willing to pay in order to keep options open! 

As for the “option habit” in our own businesses, I’ve been making a conscious effort to truly weigh what keeping certain opportunities “live” costs me, and I’ve found I’m more willing to cut the cord on them than I was before reading this book. But make no mistake, it is an effort, and it often does cause little mental twinges and spasms of doubt and regret…but I also feel less cluttered mentally and emotionally than I have for a while.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments!

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13 August 2008 at 1:01 pm 1 comment

Overcoming Overwhelm

As solopreneurs we are at a high risk for overwhelm—one missed deadline by a supplier, one mis-shipped material, one mis-placed file—and our carefully planned project schedules are thrown into a jumbled mess. Or somedays it’s the thought of having to be the collections officer, the bookkeeper, the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the office manager, etc., when what you really got into business for–the design–seems like the last thing you can get to.

And so you slip into that frame of mind, where you’re sure the next phone call is going to be even worse news, the next e-mail will just be more trouble…and your negative feelings become self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling, because when you believe you are overwhelmed, everything seems overwhelming! Your main thought is “I don’t want this, I can’t handle this,” but when anyone tries to offer assistance, the main response is often a childish “I fine, I can do it, just leave me alone.” Nice.

The thing I’ve come to realize is that “overwhelm” is often a great shield to hide behind. We can get so caught up in the drama of everything that needs to be done, of all the problems and issues and concerns, that we can use it as an excuse for missed deadlines, poor behavior, and a wide range of other bad habits. Other people, we think, will realize that these things are beyond our control because there’s just soooo much going on.

And here’s the thing, giving into overwhelm diminishes your responsibility and shifts the “blame” to others: your vendors, your clients, your co-workers, etc. It’s “their” fault you’re in this situation.

So the next time you feel yourself getting caught up in the drama of overwhelm, take just a minute and think about what it gets you. What’s the prize for feeling rushed, stressed, abused, mis-understood, etc. That it shows how much harder you work than anyone else? That you care more? That you’re more committed? Those are the most positive spins to be on it, and if true, surely there are better, more productive, less draining ways to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment! Or is it about sticking it to “them”, you know, the “them” that put you in this situation?

I found that the key to calming the storm of overwhelm is to recognize how self-perpetuating overwhelm is and how much “being the victim” helps me justify not-so-professional behavior. And that’s not what I want to be known for, not what I want to project and not how I want to live. Now I’m not perfect, by any means, and still find myself in that overwhelm state of mind. But now I force myself to be aware of it and think about what trade-off I’m making: overwhelm or ????

6 August 2008 at 3:35 pm Leave a comment

Ask For It: Part 2

Yesterday I posted about seven asking strategies you can apply to your business and your daily life, as outlined by Jack Canfield, then I got to thinking about how I have asked and been asked in the past…what makes a question work and what just adds to the confusion.

Some of my clients will tell you that at first, they felt I was asking too many questions and not giving them enough feedback, but with new clients, until you understand better their language, their actual concerns and needs, (as opposed to the ones they often first voice) the project may head off in the wrong direction. Then it becomes very difficult to get it back on track, time is lost, feelings are hurt, money is wasted, etc. Ugh. So here are my suggestions for how to ask.

  1. Be Specific
    Again, my clients (and friends!) will confirm that “Be Specific” is a pet phrase of mine. “I don’t want to spend too much” is not the answer you want when you ask your client about a budget. In order to get a specific answer, you need to ask a specific question: “Do you have a dollar amount in mind for this project?” will get you much closer to the info you really need.
     
  2. Be Persistent
    You will inevitably hear plenty of no’s and I don’t know’s and all other forms of non-helpful answers. Keep asking. You may need to change your timing, your source, your attitude or the form of your question, but if it’s information that’s important to you, it’s important to keep asking.
     
  3. Be Positive
    People who know what they’re looking for and know what they want get a much better response to their questions than those who are hesitant, uncertain or uncommitted. Ask your questions with confidence and assurance and even if you don’t receive the answer you’re looking for, you’ll most likely be referred to someone else who may have the appropriate information.
     
  4. Be Real
    I think the number one reason most questioners don’t necessarily get the information they’re asking for is that there is often no real emotion–interest, desire, need, sincerity, etc.–behind the ask. To get real information you need to be as invested in the response as the “questionee” is in giving it.
     
  5. Be Creative
    From a personal phone call to a mass web survey; from a customized presentation to a clever postcard, there are hundreds of ways to ask. Don’t get locked into one format or one system. Take time to think about the asking format that works best for your audience and the information you want to receive.

What’s been your best ask? We’d love to know.

31 July 2008 at 1:22 pm Leave a comment

Overcoming Your F.E.A.R. Factor

One of the best parts of being a small or solo business is that you’re free to implement any great, crazy idea you think of. But one of the worst parts is that as a small or solo business you often have no one to bounce those ideas off of and get legitimate feedback. Instead, we often let our ideas dissolve under the weight of our own personal F.E.A.R. factors.

What do I mean by F.E.A.R? It stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s the second-guessing and self-doubting most of us of prone to do, fretting and worrying over the what-ifs until that idea just seems crazy and not so great at all.

So the next time you get a brilliant, must-do idea for your business, that you almost immediately start self-editing…take a moment and try this exercise. Grab a sheet of paper and divide it into three columns. In the left column list your fears—the worries, concerns and issues regarding this new idea. In the middle column list the evidence that the specific concern is legitimate and justified. In the right column list the evidence that the specific concern is unjustified, or can be fairly easily resolved.

Give yourself the time and the credit to let your ideas flourish or fail on their own merit, without handicapping them by your own self-doubts. Putting this all on paper and making yourself think through both sides of your fear issues often crystalizes the real reasons we put so many ideas on hold. 

For the final step, just think about what would happen if you tried the idea and some of those negative issues actually came true. Would you lose some money? Some time? Some business? Even if the idea is a failure, would you gain something? Knowledge? New contacts? A new skill? Those are the risks you should be evaluating and not letting F.E.A.R. drive your decisions.

1 July 2008 at 4:56 pm Leave a comment

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