Recently I read a really great little book, Difference by Bernadette Jiwa, about modern marketing and how it is less about promoting and more about making a difference to your target audience (sometimes still called a “customer”).  One detail in the book left me challenged though… it repeatedly referred to companies either selling services or products.  I believe we also need to take a fresh look at no longer perpetuating such an outdated, over-simplification of modern business.

Introducing the producers who create and the providers who deliver. 

The established understandings of creating a product and selling it simply no longer apply.  Even traditional manufacturing such as the automobile industry is becoming less about bending metal and forming a collection of rolling parts than it is about creating a driving experience –including providing infotainment (a.k.a. distraction) systems.

Services are also becoming a bit passé in modern times.  With so many companies virtually existing in the cloud, they have become providers of personalized and custom experiences from automatically generating music lists to sharing a car ride from one locale to another.

All About the Experience

This is not simply a semantic argument.  As my good friend Dave Nast discusses in his Huffington Post article, Customer Service vs Customer Satisfaction, it is not only about word choice.  By simply altering a word (or two), it can have profound changes in peoples’ perceptions and behaviors.

By thinking about business in terms of services and products, the focus is completely on the thing being offered.  Companies like Blockbuster rented videos and Circuit City insisted on selling electronics.  In comparison, it is underwhelming to think of Amazon as simply a service selling books or AirBNB as a service providing available rooms for rent. 

By looking at business through a slightly different kaleidoscope (as producers and providers) the focus is more about the recipient (a.k.a. consumer) – the person who will derive benefit or value from the effort of the producer or provider.  The focus becomes about the end experience and not the creation.

As Producers Personalize Everything

The old adage from Henry Ford, “The customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black,” clearly states it was all about what the creator was willing to provide.  That was during the emergence of the industrial revolution.  The knowledge revolution requires a paradigm shift no less important – to focus on the receiver’s importance.

Consumers are no longer willing to simply accept what is provided.  Internet shopping has proffered an opportunity for consumers to obtain nearly infinite options on colors, sizes, prices, and experiences.  As we enter the world of 3D printing (from toys to even houses), we will soon be able to essentially have any product just the way we want it – and in more colors than just black!