How To Look Like Big Money – Part Two

How to polish up your messaging

Have you ever watched Frasier? If not, it’s a sitcom from the nineties about a snooty but loveable radio psychiatrist. Go watch it on Netflix. You’re welcome.

My point, and I do have one, is this.

Your product’s value markers are like Frasier himself. He’s the talent, the main draw. His job is to listen to the people who call in to his show and offer advice on their problems. He creates the value.

Your second group of markers is like Roz, Frasier’s producer. She actually broadcasts the show to the audience. By adjusting the sound levels to suit his voice, and putting only the most interesting callers through, she also presents Frasier in the best possible light. She sends out his message and together they make a great team.

Today, let’s talk about how to boost your communication markers – ones which aren’t part of your product, but which say something about its value.

1. Selling contexts

When I was little, my Gran was the leading light behind something called the Lifeboat Shop.

It was a week-long jumble-sale-slash-crafts-market in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, held every summer in our local church hall.

Let’s pretend you make beautiful embroidered earrings and we put them out for sale on a table at the Lifeboat Shop.

It’s a nice hall but it’s draughty, and the donated clothes smell a bit musty, and over there my Gran is sweet-talking a little old lady into buying a pair of jodhpurs.

If we asked a passer-by what they’d be willing to pay for your earrings, what do you think they’d say?

Six or seven dollars? Maybe ten since it’s for charity?


Now let’s put those earrings on a table at Anthropologie.

There’s a hand-poured blackberry candle burning nearby. The table is right in front of an incredible display made from hundreds of hand-made waxed paper flowers. Cool music is playing. Beautiful and expensive jewellery is piled up all around.

What do you think a random passer-by would expect to pay for the earrings this time?

Forty dollars? Maybe more?

Why are those two prices so different when we’re talking about exactly the same pair of earrings?

It’s because customers use the contexts in which you sell your work to draw conclusions about its value.

Boost this marker by:
Choosing middle-to-high-end outlets for your work. Everyone has to start somewhere, but if you consider it, you may realise that particular craft shows, stockists or online marketplaces aren’t a good fit for you anymore.

That doesn’t mean those are bad places – it’s simply a sign that you’ve evolved. Think critically about how customers might view your current selling contexts, and if necessary seek out more prestigious ones.

2. Product Photography

Retailers and online customers rely heavily on pictures to make decisions about value. We can’t examine your product in person, so it’s up to you to show us what’s on offer via your website or wholesale catalogue.

Product photos are the next best thing to actually seeing your work with our own eyes and, since we have nothing else to go on, this means your pictures have a lot of work to do. Poor photography can make even the finest products look low-value.

Boost this marker by:
Learning how to take great product photos, or finding someone who can do it for you. The most persuasive catalogues and websites have two types of photography. Lifestyle shots, which show the item in use, and white box shots which show it against a plain background.

Lifestyle shots are about story-telling. By showing your lovely thing being worn or used, you’re giving the buyer a little window into that world. You’re giving her a sense of how your work might enhance her happiness.

White box shots are more factual. They give information on size, colour, texture and function. When you can’t see or touch the object in question, this kind of clarity is helpful. To communicate high value, your photography should be consistent, bright, clear and in focus.

3. Design choices

Buyers assume that every design choice you make is intentional. If your website is cluttered, if your logo is pixelated, or if the fonts in your wholesale catalogue are old-fashioned and hard to read, they’ll categorise your brand as low-value within seconds.

Design is an indicator of taste. While people might struggle to say precisely what defines good taste, you can bet your boots they know (or at least, they think they know) poor taste when they see it.

Boost this marker by:
Making your branding clean and consistent. If you’re currently using Courier, Arial or another generic font in your buyers’ pack or on your website, pick a new one. Establish a palette of brand colours and stick to them. Pay a designer to make you a professional-looking logo. Prove that you have great taste and the value buyers perceive goes up.

4. Copywriting

How you talk about your business has a huge effect on value perceptions. Copywriting is much too big a subject for us to cover here, but what you say – and how you say it – can persuade people to think about your work in a certain way and rouse them to action.

It’s the most literal way to communicate value.

Boost this marker by:
Fine-tuning the copy on your website, in your pitch emails and in your catalogue.

A quick example is using sensory language in your product descriptions. Words like juicy, crisp, fragrant, soft, durable, spicy, graceful and lustrous tell the buyer what the item will look, feel, sound, taste or smell like.

This copywriting technique has been shown to activate sensory-processing areas in the brain. It helps to bring your product alive for the buyer, and that’s always going to boost the value they perceive.

5. Social Proof

If other people seem to enjoy and value something, we’re inclined to believe that we will too – that’s what we mean by social proof.

So this marker is about sharing what your existing customers think about your work. By giving buyers access to testimonials or reviews, you’re helping them feel relaxed about giving you a whirl.

Because if lots of other people are already splashing joyfully around in your pool, well, maybe they should jump in too.

Boost this marker by:
Asking for reviews and testimonials and putting them where new customers can’t help but see them.

Attributed quotes are more effective, so get permission to use the buyer’s name (and maybe even their photo) if you can.

Also, think creatively about what counts as social proof. The logos of blogs or magazines who’ve featured you might make a great “As Seen In” section at the foot of your website.

6. Safety

This marker is about showing your customer that they’re in safe hands. You’re not going to screw them over. You’re not going to make them feel embarrassed, disappointed or foolish for giving you money. Your business is a safe place and they can depend on you to deliver everything you’ve promised.

To demonstrate that, you need credentials – proof that you’re reliable and trustworthy.

Boost this marker by:
Figuring out what safety credentials you have, then highlighting them. What counts as a credential? Anything which suggests you really know what you’re doing.

If you have a large number of stockists, for example, that shows that lots of retailers trust you with their cash. If you’ve won industry awards, that shows you’re among the very best in the business.

See what evidence you can come up with, then succinctly convey that information on your website, in your catalogue and anywhere else you can.

7. Discounting

Whether you offer sales and promotions on your product, and the frequency with which you do so, can have a big effect on perceived value. Running sales all the time suggests that your regular prices don’t mean much, and that anyone who pays them is a bit of a mug.

Buyers can become conditioned to only buy during sales, and to focus on price over quality, service and all the other value you’ve worked so hard to create.

That said, discounting can also be helpful. It can drive short-term sales, help you shift slow-moving stock and reward customers for their loyalty. So what’s the best way to put discounting to work?

Boost this marker by:
This is one marker you don’t want to permanently boost. Constant discounts erode your profit margin and the credibility of your brand. You may decide, therefore, not to offer discounts of any kind and find other ways to drive sales.

I’d suggest leaving the door slightly open, though. If you go about it in the right way, one or two sales a year can give you the best of both worlds.

Also bear in the mind that a promotion doesn’t always have to mean a discount. A limited offer for free shipping, for example, or including an extra product with a purchase, doesn’t diminish perceived value in the same way.

They feel more like a delightful bonus.

8 Price

The final marker which communicates value is the actual price of your product. Remember how the figure on a price label is a kind of short-hand?

It’s a way for the store to say “if you offer us this much, you’ve got yourself a deal.”

Well, buyers take a cue from that price and use it to shape their perception of a product’s value. If your lovely thing has a low price in comparison to similar products, they’ll assign it a lower value. If it’s got a higher price, they’ll assign it a higher value.

To put it another way, if an item seems cheap, buyers will think it probably is cheap or otherwise has something wrong with it. If an item has a hefty price tag, they’ll assume it must be high quality.

Boost this marker by:
Increasing your prices.

Now, this doesn’t work for every product.

When energy-saving light bulbs first came in, some manufacturers tried to set premium prices. It didn’t work.

Turns out that, to most people, a light bulb is a light bulb. As long as the damn thing glows bright enough for us to read the sports section, we’re happy. We don’t care enough about the temperature or precise quality of the light to pay more.

But your lovely thing isn’t a light bulb – it’s a piece of art. Without help, people are notoriously bad at recognising the value of art. Just ask all the museum and gallery cleaners who’ve mistakenly swept up a modern art exhibit and thrown it in the bin.

So if you put a low price on your product, buyers aren’t going to tug on your sleeve and say “Hey, hang on a minute. Looks like you’ve missed out a few zeroes here.” They simply don’t have an in-built sense of what the right price should be.

Your customers need one more marker to guide them – something to help them put a figure on the value they perceive in your lovely thing. Providing it’s backed up by all your other markers, a comparatively high price can do exactly that.

Okay, that’s a lot to get your head around.

If you want to go soak your brain in some caffeine right now, or perhaps some chocolate vodka, go right ahead.

But first, take a look at how far we’ve come. We now know that if you want customers to pay big money, you’ve got to look like big money, and we know how to make that happen.

Next up, how to make sure your value markers and prices don’t conflict – and how to fix it when they do.

help with wholesale

If you've liked what I've had to say,
get more with my newsletter.

Six free Beginner's Guides, weekly wholesale tips and the occasional
offer to help you sell the lovely thing you make to shops.

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Your information will never be shared because I'm not a jerk | By subscribing you agree to my privacy policy.