In this episode, Russ Fowler discusses best practices in regards to planning for and opening a new center or renovating an existing one. Best efforts in planning and thinking through the customer journey should help alleviate some of the difficulties associated with these types of endeavors.
Guest Thought Leader:
Vice President, Marketing Environments, Derse
Derse is a complete face-to-face marketing agency with a smarter approach to building client sales and managing their trade show, marketing environment and event programs. Derse helps organizations align face-to-face marketing efforts with broader business strategies through:
Hello and welcome to the Sea Ex Apple. I've an interview style podcast addressing topics, trends and tips for creating real time digital experiences in a customer. First Customer. Last World This show for briefing and meeting professionals brings you authentic and unfiltered conversations with industry experts who know howto elevate customer experience across people, teams and programs. Let's listen in Welcome everyone to our C except live podcast series dedicated to today's briefing professionals. I'm Darby Mason Warner senior director, client and partner strategy with the C s out. And I'm thrilled to be interviewing our thought leaders across the industry who can share their experiences and ideas to help us all improve our programs. And today our discussion focus is on center builds and renovations in our briefing industry. There are many important aspects of our programs that truly make a difference for our customers and add to the bottom line for companies. One of the most exciting projects we can take on is planning for an opening either a new center or renovated center, which instantly creates a memorable experience for our guests. Many of us have been down this road and there are best practices we should follow. But how can we think ahead and avoid some of the difficulties that we can come across with this process? Let's see what new ideas we can uncover today to help guide us through that process. And today I am so happy to be joined by rest. Fowler, vice president of marketing environments at Dorsey Russ has been involved in the briefing industry for over 25 years and also has led dirties creative teams in the design of these experiences. And you know what I've known rest for over 20 years, having first met him in the dirty headquarters in Milwaukee in 1998. So restaurants a unique insight into the briefing industry, being able to provide consultation for programs around crafting customer experiences, having attended many of his sessions of the A B P M conferences. I'm always moved, by the way, that the human element of any experience is at the forefront of his intention. How we make spaces become intentional ways of communicating to and engaging with our guests by tapping into our core senses to create a memorable experience. It's just so important, and I always get so much from the sessions when I listen to rest. So hire us. Thank you so much for joining me today and for your time to share your expertise with our listeners today.
Well, thank you for having me. I'm excited. Thio have our conversation and be able to share some of the insight. And experience is you don't
perfect. I'm so looking forward to our conversation today, too. And let's start with you briefly sharing about what was your journey that led you to the briefing industry?
Well, it's interesting. A lot of people will say they happened upon this industry and they were doing something else, and somebody played him towards this ex, went to college for this. I went to college Thio to design experiences and environments, and that's what I'm doing. So this is just a number, another channel, that we can create these face to face engagements and experiences and centers and environments. So I went to school for it. I've been doing it for my entire career.
Oh my gosh, that's so great. You know, you're so so right. There's so many of us in this industry where we had no clue what what it was about to create these experiences, and we just happened to find a way to it, and and then we all love it, and we're just so passionate about it. So I can't wait for you to share with us today more about what you've seen over the years and the advice that you can give to our our center. Folks, this is really gonna be exciting. So let's go ahead and get started. And I've got questions here for you on center built and renovations. So let's get going with our discussion. So my first question is, how do you recommend to start the process of building and designing or renovating a center? What is the flow for doing
well? That's a good baseline question to start with. 30. So often people think of the physicality of a space. What is the environment? A large space with a small spaces, it new? Is it fresh when we really like to back up and say, Let's consider what the customer experience and the journey needs to be. Then we think about what the environment in space, the tools and the elements are needed in order to support that journey and that customer experience who the flow. Really? We like to look at what your target audience is there going to be in there. So we really start with their so identifying that human aspect. Er who's coming and wired it coming? And we use that as our foundation. Understand? You know, one of those audiences currently know about you. What do you need them to know about you? What do you need them to feel about you? And that's a really key one, because that helps us connect emotionally with each of your various audiences and personas that air coming through. And if you think about it, I haven't said anything about designing a spaceship because we're really trying to connect with you know who those audiences are and trying to craft what those journeys are and what the messaging needs to be in order for those audiences to have a rewarding experience,
right? Yeah, exactly. That seems like it is the perfect place to start with that. I love what you're saying about the field part because you know, each one of us that has a program and then a center in a physical space. It's still about that connection, and when they leave. You want to have built that trust, You want them to feel certain things. So So I love that. That's how you start off with everything you know, just from my experience. My next question is is really selfish in that sense, because I want to ask about when you start into a project of Does it matter if you have secured a budget first or if you engage with an experiential design partner and you get your pricing? You know, it's kind of chicken in the egg. What is your thought around that,
um, it really doesn't matter, because oftentimes folks such as yourself are program managers. They really don't know how to establish a funding or the economics of how you go about this.
It was it was really hard to go through that. So that's okay.
And the reality is, we see it both ways. We see folks that have established a budget and often times you know, we have to have a conversation of how was this budget in these funding? Women's established and other times we don't they don't have ah, close a week. We've got a process that we utilize about developing what we call budget strategy and that's determining what it is and how it is you want to start to connect with your audience is through those customer journeys and experiences, and then we put together good, better best scenarios for ways to connect with them. And it's a it's a process. It's a strategy. So we work alongside you, say we want to invest. We believe we want our best. This amount of funding in this area and this amount of funding is we need to lean into, perhaps technology or demonstrations or that human element or hospitality, wherever that might be. But it allows you to put the right amount of money, the right amount of funding in the right places and we do this all before we put pen to paper. So we understand you know where we want to invest, how much wanna invest and what we're going to be getting out of that prior to it, and it becomes a very useful tool for when we do start designing that we are aiming at the right North Star that you want to go to
right and when you say before pen and paper, we've gone through identified. What? Each of those. Excuse me. Different areas are going to cost what we're going to get for it. And then you go about doing the actual design process and and go into the visuals of what you wanna have achieved in each of those areas of the space. Right?
Because we we will develop what we call a visitor. Continue, continue of experiences. What would your your guests encounter before they arrive when they arrive? What's that? That arrival experience The first impression. What are those peak moments? You know, what are the briefings like, where the demonstrations. So you map out all what? That is, what you want to accomplish in there, and you can prescribed values to all that, then taking that as a road map. That's what you go ahead. You start designing.
Well, I love that. Yeah, that's great. So you understand the whole customer journey that the pre the day of and potentially how it affects the post, But that's that's great. Wonderful. And then I know in part, the process. You know, one of the key things that obviously all of us briefing program Andrew's go through is looking at who should we engage with internally and when in the process, and that could be different, you know, depending on the corporation in the culture. But what is your advice about who to engage with and maybe when, like how early?
It's interesting cause I've seen it recently. Coldplay's where the Stakeholder group is very small and we sort of recognize early on. I'm not sure we're getting all the opinions in here way. Also seen not getting all the opinions that that really might want Harvest. Then we've also seen where they've invited the entire world
here. And there's too many opinions that so quickly and helping them to identify who. The Kik, the key stakeholders are on several levels. Ah, high level, you know the executive by word of people that have the vision, what this needs to be, then the program team. You know, the team of the that is going to be act, actually operating the center in the program itself and then the user's you know, is it is a sales group is a marketing group for their engineering to get those various voices in on that get him in early. They feel like they're active part of that process and that will pay off when it comes down to the decision making process later on. But, you know, it can be very easily identified early on and have those people in the room when it comes to
right. And that input time you were talking about doing, like, a discovery session where everyone is able to basically voice what their objectives are, what they're looking to get out of the space. And you're saying, being able to have each of these different groups the executives, the program team, the folks that are going to use the space, the sales people, so picking service stakeholders that, you know, we think are going to represent, well, executives, we don't have a choice, right? Those are the folks we're going to include. But having them early on in those first discovery sessions, you're saying it is a good plan. Okay,
we do what we call an engagement workshop. Okay? This is 1/2 day or a day long session where you get all these key stakeholders and roomy. We worked through that mapping off. You know what other Kurt perceptions of you you know? Then you know what do you want them to know? That's where we harvest out? You know what we want to feel wouldn't want them to do with their center we want them to do is the result of that, and that becomes that foundation. But the real magic of that is you've got a variety of voices in that room and they'll be challenging each other. They'll be hearing the different opinions and perspectives. Obviously, sales has a perspective of the marketing as its perspective. And then you get your engineering groups in there that might be doing demonstrations, a different perspective. That's what makes the experience is rich. That's where we walk away from that with no real rich tapestry of how we can start to create those Chinese,
right? No, that's great advice. Yeah, and thinking through who are good representatives in each of those groups. So that's awesome, Um, and switching gears just a little bit. But what kind of tongue into what you said, where you've got different opinions from these different groups as to what they want to see take place in the center. Where were they going to use it for? Where the guests going to be doing and obviously thinking and feeling as well. But then how can center leaders and folks that are planning the spaces with you How can they build flexibility into the centers and maybe try and achieve all of those objectives, Or maybe be able to be flexible over time? Because, as we know, we have to, you know, change with the company campaigns or new initiatives and and bring new demonstrations in and half built flexibility into our spaces and the experience.
That's a key thing, oftentimes overlooked. But it's it's sort of where the magic happens, where it could become a very functional evergreen experience versus appointed time. 20 very simply have to plan for it the plan. So that's like stability. And you have to fund it, you know, while easy, you know, to lean into creating everything as digital content because there's a There's a perspective that digital content ISI agent change. It is easy to change to a degree, but also very expensive change. Yeah, so we like to look at it with layers. You bet your digital content you get your your human interactives of what the scripting is for. How those stories we're gonna be told. You know, one of the vehicles that the stories could be told sometimes their demonstrations, sometimes their physical displays. But it's getting that bland and then having the plan so it can be changed, you know, make it so the displays, the elements, storytelling mediums are not so permanent or cost prohibitive that you are restricted to change it. You make it so it's designed it fabricated and install it. So it's meant to be updated.
I love that. I love knowing that putting a plan in place and you know So officially I ran into this as well, where we designed a space, but not having planned for the funding to be able to manage the space as you get into using it, you know, and and then wait did need to add some more demos. And, you know, having that plan ahead of time just so important in knowing that everybody's got that in their minds when you're actually developing the space. So it really does become functional overtime. I loved your evergreen phase, a phrase that you use that's really important to think about it and what what do you think is kind of the average amount of time these days of when folks are renovating centers. If they build a new center, how often are they looking to have to do some of a larger refresh on those
brands Air So fluid? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, just imagine the products that are ruled out, you know, in the spring of 2019 they're very likely to be completely different in the spring of 2020. And because of that, you know, it happens regularly. There are business, pretty their products and service. Is that our divested that they don't have any more than you will find constantly. So it it's almost constant.
Well, yeah, I can see that's you, especially with a lot of the mergers and acquisitions we're seeing take place just across all these damn industries that it's not specifically high tech either. It's everywhere. So I know you have a lot of additional clients that are not necessarily in attack. And so you're seeing this across the board, It sounds like Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Great. Well, so with that, then what would be key items to consider when someone is having to renovate an existing space? You know, I'm sure that's slightly different process, but
interesting, because I think people automatically think that I'm gonna make the space. I'm gonna go in and physically demolish and rebuild a new environment. Yeah, and we want to start with. Let's re craft what the current customer experience is a little bit. That customer journey is Let's talk about what's working. Let's talk about what? What working? Let's talk about what demos might be missing, what tools we're currently going through. Ah, project. Right now it's a customer where son has been open about two years and they have to refresh based on new products. That service is. One of the key things we're doing is we're interviewing and talking to all off the hosts and the tour guides and the program folks who are bringing the customers through them. Just that what's working? What? What do you want at your fingertips when you're bringing a group through? You say what? I only had this. I could tell this story better or rate or this particular demonstration they're not interested in, and this is why they're not interested in it. So you're right, you know, Recraft based on user experience as Well,
that's great to get those folks input that makes so much sense. They're the ones that are hands on day to day and if certain things are already working well, But others were not, then starting with that. But you're right. That's in my mind. That's where a lot of folks start is thinking, Oh, you know, a renovation means you are. You're tearing it out and starting over. But if you can avoid doing that, that's really a key way to think about it. Really. Look at what's working one of the strengths and build on those. Keep Adam.
I'm tuning what that journey is, and the customer experience is that if you could lean into that, it's going to tell you. You know what physically needs to be adjusted so often we get, um, nudged into a direction of Let's put a screen on with a video clip. Let's put a screen over here that has this story and, well, no, we get scream pretty fairly easily. Yeah, maybe a second or third screen. They're not interested anymore. And that becomes very apparent that you need to change up those those mediums that you're telling these stories and how you're engaging down. That's a That's a really nice starting point as well as How is that digital content working for your network?
Yeah, I love what you're saying about the different kinds of spaces and being able to use different mediums. I know in some of the classes, there's always been this kind of focused on water. Also, the human elements, the down spaces, you know, the greenery that we're seeing a lot of green living walls and things now. But spaces where you're not even putting any digital content up because you want your guest to have a space to breathe, you know, natural lighting or places where there is no digital. So I think having that combination and keeping that in mind is really important, huh? Yeah. Okay. So with, you know, doing new center bills or doing renovations, what are some of the key elements or issues that you would recommend to really watch out for along the way? You know what? What are the bumps in the road that maybe you've seen a lot of us make those steaks? And you know, what advice did you give to Blake trying to avoid this one over here. Don't don't go over that pothole over there. You have some of those to share.
I do, I think. What of See thing that will destroy derail a project in the process. The quickest is the internal decision making process that your organization has, and each organization is different. They have their path on how they make the decisions sometimes can be. Here's the buck stops with this particular person and they make the decision. Other times it's a whole group. But that's the thing that we run across that makes a project very challenging and could go off the rails work to establish that decision making team prior to the development process. That's where that getting their input is so key because you know they are. They are engaged in that process and they understand the directions, that ability, trying to get new opinions dropping in. You know, let's recorders of the way into the process because it will develop it and it will have budgetary impacts on right just along the way, where people have different visions for things get now. Those are the types of things that we find completely will derail a project and make. It puts it in jeopardy of having open on time and having a clarity of what the messaging and the customer during that you established early on Wilby. Will that happen? Sometimes things happen that you get different stakeholders that will come in to that. But it's just something to look out for and make sure that you have that sort of Mathis. How the decisions. We're going to be, uh, handed down,
right? And we see that happening over and over, especially in our industry. With so many Re York's happening internally, which musical executives I like to call it that the changes that we see happening and that can affect a project, you know, like you said, that can add more time, obviously, and we're budget if there's going to be changes that are made to the fundamental plan that you had already started to set in motion. Not to mention if you've already started into a building, you're already, you know, physically making, making that happen. So that's, uh, yeah, that's a big one. Well, with that, do you have any other kind final thoughts that you want to share with our briefing professionals about center builds renovations how to get through the process and not stress ourselves out completely.
Well, absolutely. You know, some of us have gone and built the house. Yeah. You know where we've gone and leave, we're gonna build a house from, And we know how stressful that could be. In all the very details that go into that building. The center is very much like that. The process is complicated. There's a lot of moving parts to it. But it could be extremely rewarding if plan correctly. And, you know, if you work with an established process to go through so you know where you're heading and what needs to be accomplished it at Sophocles, folks will say, You know, we need this right now. Well, you gotta You gotta grow the beard. You have to go through all those steps in order to get where you need be by laying the foundation. You know, involve your key stakeholders in this, you know, and choose a team or a partner to work with. That really has your business, Jack. This as a priority. And that's a key thing. When you're when you're working with somebody, you're gonna be working with them A good amount of time. A week, not a month. It's probably a year, 18 months, sometimes even two years where you're gonna be going through challenges. But you're gonna be also working through some very exciting things by bringing this the life. So I understand that, you know, choosing who you're gonna be working with. You know, it's true the good people, because you're gonna be spending a lot of time with them, and you have to be able to trust them and trust that they have your business interests in mind again. It will be a very rewarding experience. You know, your partner knows what they're doing and they should guide you along the way. And hopefully they're gonna be stewards of your goals, your budget. You have your best interests.
Yeah, I think that's so true. And like you say, you know, there's a lot of things that are different within different organizations the people, the culture, the process, the decision making process, like you said and trying to get all of the right stakeholders into the project, having them be there for the long run, but bringing in a partner to work with and multiple partners. In many cases, you know, you've got a three and you've got your environmental design and content and all the other partners together. But you're really doing a great job of trying to identify who will work well with your company and your culture and even personalities in some cases. But definitely I love the fact that, you know, this is many years ago that I had gone through the experience. But seeing that there's so many more processes and tools in place. And there's air such a focus on the customer journey, as you were talking about now and really looking at different ways of bringing those messages in that story to life. Like we said not having it be all digital, having down spaces, seeing what works for all of the different elements of what those objectives are for that particular company. And each company does have different ones. So I just really appreciate your time today, Russ, thank you so much. It was great to chat with you. Always great to chat. I always learned so much, and I just loved having you spend this time today and be able to provide all these great ideas for our briefing professionals that are going to be listening. So thank you for that.
You're welcome. I appreciate it. It's been fun. And I look forward to the rest of your podcast that we're gonna be hearing seeing
great. Well, thank you. And with that, I'll say thank you to everyone for listening today and that you can listen to this and other podcasts on our Siri's by visiting www the cx app dot com. And if you have any thoughts or questions about today's podcast, or certainly if you have any ideas for future briefing industry podcast topics that you'd like to see us have in our series, best way to reach me is by email. And that's Darby at the sea except dot com and really welcome your inputs, your feedback and and your ideas really want to make it a great Siri's. So thank you all for joining and thank you again. Rest and have a great day, everyone. This has been a production of the sea X app. Live your partner in digital customer experience programmes. For more insights, tips and trends, visit us at the c x app dot com where the experience is everything