If you want customers to pay big money, you’ve got to look like big money.
In other words, if you want to increase your prices and still have buyers nodding and smiling and cheerfully handing over their Visa card, they need to feel like you’re worth it.
If the trade no longer seems fair to them, because they perceive less value in what you offer compared to your competitors, they’ll walk away.
But how do you boost the value people see in your work?
Their perceptions are all locked up in their brains. It’s not like you can quietly hack into a customer’s mind and turn their perception dial up to eleven.
Or CAN you?
That’s what we’re going to talk about now.
But first, let’s get one thing straight. Most buyers have no flipping idea what your lovely thing is worth to them.
This is because, as we’ve talked about before, value is subjective. Without help, most people find it difficult to accurately predict the benefit or enjoyment they’ll get from a product.
And no wonder.
Every day we’re asked to decide how much value we perceive in hundreds of potential purchases. In order to make a genuinely accurate assessment, we’d have to become experts in dozens of different fields.
Just buying socks would require you to compare and contrast materials, consider tensile strength and how it intersects with your preferred washing powder and evaluate the ways in which different styles and colours mesh with your shoe collection.
Only then could you come close to making a completely rounded, accurate prediction of the value you perceive in one specific pair of socks.
And who’s got time for that?
If we’re buying something expensive like a car, house or a flat screen TV we might take some time to read test reports, ask friends and generally do some homework, but otherwise we tend to wing it.
We know we’ll never be expert enough to make a perfect assessment all by ourselves, so instead we look around for markers of value to help us figure it out. Clues that give us a sense of where your product fits into the spectrum of similar items, and how much value we should attach to it.
In other words, when it comes to assessing value, your buyers are very much open to suggestion.
This creates a sparkling possibility for you. If you know that your buyers are going to look for markers in order to determine value, you can do two things.
First, you can make sure the value markers are actually present. This stops buyers wandering off because they can’t find the clues they need to make a decision.
Second, you can polish the living daylights out of your value markers. By making them the very best they can be, you can look like big money to buyers from the moment they lay eyes on you.
Because, as we know, the more value they perceive, the more willing people are to pay a higher price. And when people are willing to pay a higher price for your lovely thing, you can work less, earn more and order six toppings on your pizza without a second thought.
So let’s talk about value markers and how you can squeeze the maximum benefit out of yours. They fall into two loose groups: ones which say something to the customer about your product, and ones which say something about your brand.
There’s a bit of overlap, but let’s kick off with four value markers which apply to the lovely thing you make.
Desirability is the emotional connection people have with your product. It’s what makes them desperately want what you make. Why do they feel that way? Because your product fulfils a deep emotional need for them – a need they may not even be aware of until they lay eyes on it.
Boost this marker by:
Getting interested in why your product speaks so strongly to some people, then refining and developing that quality. Desirability is the emotional equivalent of a magnetic charge. It won’t work on everyone, but a particular group of buyers will find themselves irresistibly drawn towards your stuff.
That’s because having it in their lives helps them feel a certain way about themselves.
If you pay attention, you can glean insights into the core beliefs, values and perspectives of those customers. When you know more about where it comes from, you can develop and refine your product so that its emotional pull is even stronger.
This marker is concerned with what your product is, does, has or comes with. Where desirability is fuelled by emotion, function is rational. It sets out your product’s undeniable, quantifiable characteristics and tells buyers exactly what they’re getting. This helps them justify how they feel about it.
Boost this marker by:
Making sure your product is doing the best possible job for your buyers.
If you say your jewellery will look as good in five years as it does today, it should. If you say your bath bombs won’t stain the buyer’s towels, they shouldn’t. Hold yourself and your work to the highest professional standards.
As well as telling your buyers about function, you can show them. An image of your bracelet on a person’s wrist, or your print hanging on a sitting room wall, can say more about function than hundreds of words.
Your customers already think of certain things as high-value. Gold, silver, gemstones, jewels, leather and silk. We’ve been conditioned to think of those materials as precious, and we therefore expect to pay more for products which contain them.
These days, ideas about preciousness extend even further. Words like organic, eco-friendly and recycled can push the same high-value button in your customer’s head.
Boost this marker by:
Incorporating precious materials (or characteristics) into your work where possible. Adding gold-foiling to a card, for example, can dramatically increase the value buyers perceive in it, and by extension the price they’re willing to pay.
Preciousness can also help you create different versions of the same item. You might have a “basic” necklace which is made from ordinary materials, a “premium” necklace which contains ordinary materials plus a little touch of something precious, and a “luxury” necklace which is completely made from the fancy stuff.
Your buyers already have these associations in their heads – how can you make use of them?
If you’ve ever bought fancy lingerie from a specialist boutique, you’ll have experienced the power of packaging.
First, the assistant brings out a pretty box. Then she takes a few sheets of tissue paper and lightly sprays them with the store’s signature scent. She puts the tissue in the box, followed by whichever racy little number you’ve picked out.
She adds a sealed envelope containing the care instructions, carefully tucks the tissue around your purchase and fixes it in place with a branded sticker.
Then she closes the box and ties it with a satin ribbon. Finally, she puts the box in a custom-made bag.
After this intoxicating piece of theatre, handing over a month’s rent for a wisp of lace somehow doesn’t hurt so much. It feels worth it.
Now imagine that she just rolls up your negligee and shoves it in an old plastic bag. Would you still feel so happy about handing over your credit card?
Boost this marker by:
Understanding how packaging matters to customers and designing yours accordingly.
A ring in a smart gift box is always going to look and feel more valuable than one in a zip-loc bag. There’s certainly no need to over-package your product, but a little window-dressing certainly doesn’t hurt.
Also, think about how your product arrives in the store. There’s packaging there too, even if it’s just a brown cardboard box.
Although it isn’t a tangible part of your product, your service is a major component of the overall package your customers receive. Quality of service has a huge effect on perceptions of value, even for people who’ve haven’t bought anything yet.
Reading online reviews is now a natural first step for many potential buyers – and if yours suck they’re unlikely to give you a chance to prove yourself.
When we talk about service, what we’re really describing is the experience of giving you money. It covers everything from how you answer the phone, to the wording of your returns policy, and beyond.
Boost this marker by:
Putting as much thought and care into your service as you do into your product. High value service is based on two things: your ability to anticipate and solve problems, and what buying from you feels like.
Imagine you own a water slide. When people buy your stuff, they’re essentially launching themselves down the chute, into the unknown. If you’ve thought carefully about every aspect of your service, they’ll have an enjoyable ride while still feeling safe and taken care of.
Look at any five-star water park in June and you’ll see people happily lining up for that kind of experience, even if it means handing over an eye-watering sum at the ticket office.
If you offer poor service, you’re funnelling people into a rickety structure that might give way at any second. That sort of ride is full of worry and disappointment, and if you make the mistake of offering it you can be sure that word will get around.
As you’ll no doubt discover, that kind of water park has difficulty selling any tickets at all.
That’s how to polish your product’s value markers.
When those markers are firing on all cylinders your lovely thing and the service that comes with it are very good indeed.
But making something wonderful isn’t enough. By itself, even the best product can’t attract buyers and persuade them to hand over their cash.
For that to happen, we need to call in our second family of markers. These ones do the job of communicating value, and we’ll talk about them next time.
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