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A Lesson From New York Fashion Week Make interacting with your business an experience customers won't forget.

By Jim Joseph

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

NYFW.com

It's Fashion Week here in New York -- the highly anticipated, yet extremely predictable and repeatable event, that happens twice a year. Scratch that, it's now three times a year since organizers added a Men's Fashion Week over the summer. That's a lot of fashion, and that's a lot of anticipation and expectation to live up to.

It's almost impossible to live up to it, to be honest. Not to mention that it is one of the most unapproachable, unattainable, unrealistic and inaccessible moments in marketing.

There does seem to be a sea change happening, though, for the last few seasons that is not only notable, but also something that we as marketers can all learn from. Yes, even we marketers who manage mainstream brands and small businesses.

Related: Maximizing Live Experiences to Build Brands

It's not the clothes, it's the experience.

For many consumers, clothes are clothes, and it's hard to tell one fashion house from another -- particularly when the creative directors move about so much. The more sophisticated marketers are realizing that you can't just walk a bunch of models down a runway and expect that you'll get attention. Instead, you have to create an immersive experience that will set your brand apart from the sea of sameness.

I could argue that small business owners and entrepreneurs are in the same boat. You need to build an experience that will separate you from your competition and that will stand out amidst the noise in all of our very cluttered categories. So don't just count on your product to sell itself, build an experience around it that will engage your customers like never before.

Mix up the talent and the team.

For annual events like Fashion Week, it's important to mix up the team that's developing it. If you use the same formula with the same team year after year, you'll likely get the same program year after year, and it'll start to lose steam. If it isn't new and interesting, then it's likely not to get noticed in today's competitive field. So as you look to your team, make sure you are introducing new talent into the mix or at least new tools that will make them more creative. Throw in a little of your entrepreneurial spirit, and you have the makings for a fresh idea, even though it repeats from last year.

Related: Don't Just Hire Millennials, Think Multigenerational

Make it all shop-able.

Fashion Week has always been about pre-announcing the next season's looks six months in advance. The problem is that as shoppers, we don't think that far ahead anymore. Our culture of immediate gratification -- and order it online on my own terms -- has taken over our shopping behavior.

We saw a number of moves this year where being able to shop now took precedence over any kind of advance buzz for spring. For example, Tom Ford's runway clothes are available now in store, as is Macy's Fashion's Front Row lineup. All just a hop, skip and click away. It's even more important for small business owners to make goods and services easily pickable and shopable, so as to not lose to competitive offers that might be more immediately available.

Related: 8 Ways Amazon Changed Your Shopping Life

While you may not think that Fashion Week has anything to do with your business, I do believe that there's a lesson to be learned from every brand. While you may not have the appeal of the big fashion houses, you are even more close to your customers. So it's important to think through the experience you want to provide and to make it as easy as possible to engage with your brand. Mixing up the team and the creative tools in their arsenal will make it that much better year after year.

Jim Joseph

Marketing Master - Author - Blogger - Dad

Jim Joseph is the chief integrated marketing officer and president of the Americas for New York-based communications agency Cohn & Wolfe, part of the media company WPP Group PLC. He is the award-winning author of The Experience Effect series, teaches marketing at New York University, and is on the board of directors for the number one branding school in the country, The VCU Brandcenter. Joseph's new book, Out and About Dad, chronicles his unique journey as a father during a unique time in our cultural evolution.

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