Have you ever paid a crazy amount of money for something that could probably be gotten much cheaper somewhere else… then your friends saw it and said “You paid HOW MUCH for… for… THAT?!”
Of course YOU know why you paid so much. Makes perfect sense. Those other guys… they just don’t get it, do they?
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote, that to succeed in business, “find a need a fill it.”
Well, that’s kinda like saying “to succeed in business, make sure you’ve always got the lowest price.”
Both are just flat out wrong. Sure, you can play devil’s advocate and say Wal-Mart makes a pretty penny off the concept. But take a look at the mega-infrastructure that took them 40+ years to build… all of that to sell barely profitable groceries, electronics, and crappy clothes that start to fall apart after 3 washes. (damn you, “George” brand clothes!)
It’s not something you and I can just go do in our free time… not that we’d want to anyway. There’s just too much hassle in a volume-based commodity business.
For the rest of us who want to make our money, AND have time to enjoy it, it’s best to think in terms of very specific desires within a marketplace.
The thing is, when we exchange our dollars for something, there’s a whole lot more going on in our heads than price alone. There’s also a whole lot more going on to our decisions than merely “what we need.”
If business were only about price and what we need, we’d all be puttering around in low-end Hyundai’s and eating only fruits, vegetables, and lean meats for sustainance.
But obviously that’s not how the world works, is it?
So I’d say the REAL quote should be: “Find a WANT and fulfill it.”
Because when you supply people what they WANT, price begins to float away and fade into the distance, becoming less and less an issue as the buyer’s desires get stronger.
Milk, eggs, bread… most of us eat ‘em up so fast and think so commonly of them, there’s really only so high you can stretch their price. Would you pay $20 for a gallon of milk? Probably not. If I did, it’d better be some damn fine milk… like vintage 2008 from hand-milked cows raised by Zeus himself imported directly from the green paradise of Elysian Fields… the kind that shakes an orgasm outta me with every sip.
But the same is not true for other purchases in life… things like clothes, accessories, books, videos, experiences, feelings… these things are far easier to command an extreme price… IF you know how to do it.
And, IF you know how to do it, it’s the surest path I know of to an immensely profitable business.
Good advertising fundamentally taps into the existing desires and wishes within people, and then shows them how to achieve those dreams by means of the product being sold. Quite often, these desires are based on insecurities built up in the person over the course of their life.
Interestingly, you can learn a lot about your own insecurities by taking a long hard look at what you purchase… and WHY you really bought it.
Here are a few things I recently bought. First I’ll tell you what they were and the price… then the logical reason I bought them… and finally the “real” reason I bought them. Once you understand these examples from my own life, you’ll be able to notice things about your own purchases that reveal insights into your inner character.
Looking at these examples will also help you to reframe what it is your business actually sells. Not the actual product, but the thoughts, feelings, desires, insecurities behind it that cause your customers to pay more, and love you for it.
Greg’s Irrational Purchase #1. The J.W. Hulme Sojourner Sahara Sand Travel Bag
Price: $700 + $19 for engraved bronze nameplate = $719.00 total
Logical reason I bought it: Because my old duffel bag, a stitched together black leather bag I bought from a mail order catalog for about $40 with my first paycheck ever, was falling apart and needed to be replaced. This new bag from J.W. Hulme has a custom developed one-of-a-kind leather that is soft, supple, and tough as nails all at the same time. American hand-stitching reinforced with brass studs and a lifetime replacement or repair guarantee. In other words, this thing could get blown to bits by a rocket and as long as I still had a scrap of leather I could show them for proof, I’d get a brand new bag.
REAL reason I bought it: I mean look at it… it’s BEAUTIFUL. The damn thing’s a work of art I get to casually flaunt everywhere I travel. Makes me look better. Sets me apart. Makes me appear more like a “sophisticated traveler” than some “lame tourist.” It’s a trusted friend, the one thing I can always rely on when plunged into the depths of an unknown foreign land. It’s an heirloom; something that can be passed down from generation to generation. One day, some kid might be able to say “This is the bag grandpa always had by his side when he saw the world’s most fascinating places and talked to some of the most fascinating people. Oh, the romances, the girls, intrigue, and mystery this bag has seen. If it could only talk.” Also this bag represents a new phase in my life… the transition from “less money” of the past, to the “more money, more success” of the present and hopefully on into the future. It’s the bag of a winner. A man who is comfortable in his own skin and doesn’t conform to norms. It’s a visual representation of who I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. It’s customized. Its well-worn scuffs say “This is Greg Thompson’s bag… he’s seen some serious shit, and escaped to tell the tale.”
Greg’s Irrational Purchase #2. Gary Bencivenga Seminar DVDs
Price: $5,000 + ~$12 to Fedex the check
Logical reason I bought it: Gary Bencivenga is the only copywriter legend out there who seems to be universally respected and admired by EVERYONE in the business, past and present. While most people talk about old masters like David Ogilvy, Gene Schwartz, and (I think) either John Caples or Claude Hopkins (can’t remember which)… Gary has actually worked WITH them or under them at some point in his life. He’s witnessed billions of dollars in split-test results and some of his ads are legendary. He works incredibly hard on every piece to make sure it’s the best piece of targeted persuasion it can possibly be. Hell, even copywriter Gary Halbert who was usually mostly about self-promotion even honored Gary Bencivenga several times in his newsletter Gary’s 2005 seminar was to be a landmark; his one and only “tell everything I know all at once” shot in the brain. Well, I must say it was good… but I’m still not sure if it was $5,000 good. Gary did a great job, but unfortunately I have to say I was aware of a lot of the information already, but maybe just not in the same form as it was presented (like the Bencivenga Persuasion Equasion, for instance – the components are obvious, but they way he organizes his research and puts fits it into the bigger picture was new to me.) The presentation by Michael Fishman was particularly interesting, but they cut him short before he had a chance to finish his talk on advanced list selection strategies. I think the major benefit was in going to the actual live event rather than the DVDs, because there you would have gotten to see Gary and the 100 other top direct marketers in the world in attendance… hung out with them, talk with them… just be one of the “cool guys” with them.
REAL reason I bought it: I think that when someone is willing to part with $5 G’s for a set of DVDs, there’s really 2 things at work: #1. The benefit you get from the information must either save you $5,000 or make you an extra $5,000 for it to have paid for itself. Most people who buy $500, $1,000, and $2,500 courses and seminars do so because they know that if the information is what the seller says it is, the money spent will be inconsequential compared to the increase in sales or savings of time, money, or both. Dan Kennedy calls this concept “selling money at a discount.” It’s the part of the pitch that goes something like “I’m giving you X,XXX in value for only $XXX dollars – you’ll make this back plus a ton more in no time.” It works very well for anything information based where the desired outcome is very measurable and tangible. And the #2 thing at work on a $5G DVD set is… I think deep down, most of us want to be legends, to be remembered and admired for our work long after we’re gone. Especially business people. Guys like Gary Halbert and Gary Bencivenga have built a legacy in advertising copywriting and will get to benefit from it. So when they offer something this monumental for sale, it’s kindof like saying “I’ll show you everything I know so maybe one day you can be a legend too.” Most of us want appreciation and recognition from our peers for our work; reassuring pats on the back a warm “couldn’t have done it without ya” at the end of a hard, lonely day.
Greg’s Irrational Purchase #3. Lots of clothes by Polo Ralph Lauren
Price: Varies, though $95 polo’s, $90 Chino’s, and $160 light jackets are commonplace. Suits and sweaters run considerably more. Entire wardrobes of this stuff can easily run into multiple G’s.
Logical reason I buy them: A man’s gotta wear something on his body in public and you can get some really nice looks out of Ralph Lauren combinations. RL covers the entire spectrum of accomplished sportsman, to casual evening stroll, to intellectual sophisticate quite well. Their blacks are blacker, colors more vibrant than other brands, material tougher, and the fit… oh my, the FIT! Perfectly cut shirts and pants for slim body types. The first time I slipped on my $75 custom fit black polo, I was sold in a heartbeat; I’d never seen myself look quite like that ever before. I cast the same silhouette as the model in the ad! It was an eye-opening experience as to what differently cut, higher quality clothes can really do for you.
REAL reasons I buy them: Along with all of the things I talked about above, comes a great boost in confidence and self-esteem. They’re clothes “off the rack” that wear like they were custom tailored just for you. The whole expereince is like visiting some really cool rich guy’s closet who wears all the same sizes as you and getting to raid whatever you want out of it. But more importantly, I think, is how Polo Ralph Lauren presents itself. Look at the guys; slicked back blonde hair, parted on the side. Comfortable, calm, and intelligent. Knows what he wants and how to get it. Real Ivy-Leaguers for sure. Men of good breeding, old-money families, and well repute. Sportsman – not the “dumb jock” kind we remember from high school, but the suave, sophisticated Yale polo men who’d join you for a drink after the match. To outsiders, we may resemble arrogant pricks bent on our own image and unreasonably high ideals, but inside – we know the truth: elitism is not a sin. Life is meant to be lived, so why not do it with style as well as functionality? When you can have whatever you choose out of life, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask “Why not the best?” with every decision to be made. The best family, the best friends, the best cars, sports, boats, and women. It’s all right there for the taking once you’re in the Ivy League. I might venture a guess that guys unsatisfied with their upbringing, formal education, or socialization might be strongly attracted to this brand for reasons they’ve probably never considered.
Greg’s Irrational Purchase #4. Leather-bound classics by Easton Press
Price: About $45 per book on average – usually for the same books you can get off Amazon.com for $1 to $5
Logical reason I buy them: The fine craftsmanship and attention to detail on each and every volume gives the classics a whole new level of readability. Acid-free, archive-quality thick paper, tight binding, leather covers, and real 24 karat gold edges on the pages ensure a long life. And besides, if you don’t have all the classics anyway (Hemingway, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Chaucer, etc, etc, etc) this is a fine way to obtain them via monthly subscription. Basically they send you one book per month until you’ve paid them thousands over the course of many years. All of this mostly for books they didn’t have to buy or license the rights to. I dunno, sounds like a cool business to me.
REAL reasons I buy them: Let’s face it; they look damn good on the shelf. Selling quality books isn’t just about the information and enjoyment you get from reading them personally, but also the showpiece quality and timelessness surrounding them. To your dinner guests, your books tell a story of who you are as a man. With these books, you are the worldly, well-read, sophisticated man of society and good breeding. Respected, admired among peers for your vast reservoir of knowledge, humorous anedotes, and after-dinner stories. Tales from a time long past of human struggle and triumph are familiar to you, and you reguarly share them with others, demonstrating a passion and zest for life like no other man they’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Yes, when you have these books… you are never alone, never lonely, never bored. And when your time has come and you’ve finally left this world, your faithful books will remain here behind, enlightening and entertaining your next generation of society’s best – a small (but important!) part of your legacy.
Greg’s Irrational Purchase #5. The J. Peterman American Baseball Jacket
Price: $345 – Instead of my normal format, I just want you to see below for their excellent write-up about this jacket. From it, you’ll be able to easily see what it means to the buyer.
Made even more world-famous by the show Seinfeld, the J. Peterman company catalog is something EVERYONE in sales should subscribe to. They have some of the most excellent ways of romanticizing their products than most companies you will ever see. Each issue is an entire course in good drama-based, emotional copywriting. And to think they give away all this knowledge for free!
Anyway, here it is:
In Poland or Paris or Prague or Liverpool, they’d kill for a jacket like this.
It’s something they caught a glimpse of in every other American movie they ever saw.
They saw it, but they never even got close to one.
We, meanwhile, grew up with so many little things:
hot rods, drive-in movies, non-electric guitars, hollyhocks, Kelvinators, hand-cranked ice-cream makers, laundry chutes, pom-poms, apple-corers, Buick Roadmasters, I-Like-Ike buttons, milk bottles with a swelling at the neck for the cream to collect in, exciting pictures on page 107 of the National Geographic, pie in the window for “hobos,” shirt-sleeve garters, a Gar Wood mahogany speedboat …and, a baseball jacket (or whatever name you called it) with leather sleeves, like this one.
Maybe you never had one. I didn’t have one either. But I always wanted one.
I think it’s time to pull it out of the attic of our memories. Like youth itself, it’s too good to waste on little kids only.
The American Baseball Jacket (No. 4035). Soft cowhide sleeves. Wool body. Leather-edged handwarmer pockets. Ribbed cuffs, collar, and bottom hem. Quilted acetate lining. Traditional metal snap closures.
Just as good as you remember it. Maybe better.
I could give a lot more examples, but that’s all for now. There’s two important things to learn from all this:
#1. If you’re a business owner, always always ALWAYS keep in mind what the real, more hidden reasons your customers would buy from you might be. Then, take those ideas, and inject and amplify them in your sales material. Focus them to such a point that the product itself becomes mostly transparent, and all the buyer can see is the vision of his fondest dreams finally realized. The ad is like the display window for the product, and the product itself is merely a means to an end – the only end that matters – your buyer’s.
#2. Take a close look at the brands you identify most strongly with. Why do you think that is? Thinking about this will increase your self knowledge by leaps and bounds and might even lead to a breakthrough in helping you move through life with more happiness and peace of mind. Remember, brands are not purchased, they are JOINED. What clubs do you belong to? Why? What are you trying to do? Who do you want to be?
It’s something fascinating to consider…