Brian Solis of “What’s the Future (WTF) of Business:” Creating Customer Experiences

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Brian Solis, Author of “What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences,” joins Brent Leary to discuss the importance of creating fluid, memorable and enjoyable customer experiences in business and across marketing channels.

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customer experiencesSmall Business Trends:  You have written a number of books and are a highly sought after speaker. Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Brian Solis: I am a digital analyst over at Altimeter Group, I have studied how technology is affecting society, culture and business and I try to reverse engineer everything to help the two roads between customer behavior and business relevance intersect as often as possible.

Small Business Trends:  You were recently at South by Southwest (SXSW) and had an on-stage conversation with the one and only, Shaquille O’Neal. Did you learn anything interesting about Shaq?

Brian Solis: A lot of people don’t know that he was an investor in Google Pre IPO. He also has a lot of investments in companies like Five Guys and Vitamin Water. He is a very smart man. He earned his doctorate recently. He is all about knowledge and at the same time, he is pursuing comedy. So it is an interesting balance of a human being that makes for something unique.

Small Business Trends:  Let’s talk about your new book, “What’s the Future of Business (WTF): Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences.” Why did you write this book?

Brian Solis: I thought, ‘Why not use a book as an object to demonstrate the point of shared experiences?” So I took a step back, I looked at my previously published book, The End of Business as Usual, and I looked at the things that I hear all the time. The one thing that was consistent across the board is that we are reacting to technology.

What’s happening is businesses, schools, everything has just started to get into a reactive mode and that is not a good place to be because technology is only accelerating. The next big thing is always here. If we get into this cycle of just trying to react to everything we are going to lose our footing. When you lose your footing your start to lose your relevance. When you lose your relevance, it comes back to that thing that we were talking about earlier on digital dwarfism – that is when technology and society evolves faster than your ability to adapt.

Small Business Trends:  Do you find that businesses understand that concept?

Brian Solis: Businesses don’t get it. But they could and they should. It is just taking a step back because then, technology becomes the enabler. All of these channels, all of these tools that exist, they become the thing that people use and that you use to bring that experience to life.

Small Business Trends:  You talk about disruptive technology being a catalyst but not a reason for change. But how many companies are still looking at technology as the silver bullet?

Brian Solis: I think over the years we just started putting stuff on top of other things because that is what we are supposed to do. Technology was just part of the equation for efficiency and automation – to use a buzz word in business ‘operationalization.’  But it wasn’t necessarily driven by a vision or by a purpose. I think that business could benefit from rethinking what that vision and what that purpose could be or what it should be.

Technology then, like experiences, just becomes a manifestation of what it is you are trying to do or what you are trying to accomplish; instead of saying on the outside, ‘Hey, marketing jumps all over these social networks’ because that is where everybody is.

Small Business Trends:  I wanted to ask you about the six pillars of social commerce, because we all know that companies are trying to leverage social mobile to the Cloud to sell stuff, find customers and keep them happy longer. Can you tell us what your six pillars are?

Brian Solis: I reference in the book the work of Robert Cialdini and what he called, The 6 Pillars of Social Commerce. Those six were adapted into the world of social media, and the six pillars are essentially:

  • Social Proof:  When in doubt view what everyone else is viewing.
  • Authority:  Earning a position of value in any one of these networks because you continually help people. For example, businesses that put out creative marketing on all of these social networks aren’t necessarily earning authority. But people like the Mayo Clinic or, that can consistently produce objects that help people, that give insights, that answer questions – that earns the position of authority.
  • Scarcity: Less is more, so you don’t have to be everywhere all of the time, but when you do it should have a reverberation.
  • Liking:  Building relationships, and by relationships I mean, not just moving and reacting or following people. I mean by having meaningful exchanges.
  • Consistency:  So that you are not just in one network or in one place all time, but all of those networks, mobile, social, the Web – in a consistent experience across each one of those channels. Right now all of those experiences are broken because they are designed to be broken. They don’t work together. Consistency is just another pillar.
  • Reciprocity:  In the new world of social commerce, if you can reinforce positive behavior, reciprocity is the most powerful of all of these. If you share experiences, reciprocity plays a big role in that.

Small Business Trends:  What are a few things you’d like for people to walk away with after reading your book?

Brian Solis: I hope they walk away with a better understanding that there is a need for integrating experience. There is a need to define what integrating experiences should be. There is the ability, or the need, to see that your product is an interesting experience to everything.

Lastly, to recognize that I am bringing Joseph Campbell’s, ‘Hero Journey’ at the beginning and at the end of the book. At the beginning, I am talking about the customer as the hero in the journey. I show the change that they go through and the opportunity that you have to reach.

Then at the end of the book, I say you are the hero in the hero’s journey. I talk about the steps that you need to take to bring about change, the challenges you are going to face and how to break through them.

Small Business Trends:  I will say this; the book has a style and a vibe to it.

Brian Solis: It is very visual. I worked with the folks at Mechanism, who did the Beyonce Pepsi Commercial at this year’s Super Bowl. I call it an analog app, because it even has a slider that gives you the sense that you are literally moving through a journey.

It is gorgeous; it is four colors but it was intentional. It was a statement that said business books do not have to look like business books. They can be exciting because this is an exciting time. So reinvent a book and if you can reinvent the idea of a book and make it an experience, imagine what you can do with any business.

This interview on creating customer experiences is part of the One on One interview series with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above.

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This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.


Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.

8 Reactions
  1. Great interview. Thanks for sharing it with us.


  2. I really enjoyed reading Brian’s book, including the visual experience of it that reinforces his core message. Key to companies integrating an interesting, relevant and involving experience around their product or place is the sequence of multi-sensory “scenes” that people have around the product or in the place. Especially vital are three scenes, the one most neglected, the last scene (per “peak end” research), the opening scene and the most climactic/meaningful scene. One way to create that experience is by conducting an “Exposures Audit” then storyboarding the experience, as I suggest here

  3. Very cool story with Mr. Solis. Looking forward to reading his book. The more I hear Mr. Solis speak the more I am amazed at how much more I need to learn about connecting with others using Social Media. Again great stuff Brent.