December 7, 2018
Understanding what people will value, and pay for
As an old Marketing guy, I've always been fascinated by what people will pay for. That is, what opens their wallet, as opposed to what they just talk about. There's an old expression that sums it up very well: "Talk is cheap". And it really is. So Marketing people pay close attention to what people do, not so much what they say. It may sound cynical, but it's realistic.
My first lesson in this type of economic transaction came from my high school art teacher, who, in addition to teaching, also sold his drawings and paintings. Of course he obviously wasn't all that financially successful, because he was teaching art at a high school, but I remember that he valued his work, and expected other people to. When students asked what he charged for his work, and he told them, they would wonder "how long it took?" and he would say that people weren't paying for his time, they were paying for his genius. A good early lesson for me!
He suggested to his students that if someone said that they liked a drawing that you had done, you should try to sell it to them. No, not for thousands of dollars, but for anything of value. Sometimes the value was simply having them take it - often people who would praise a drawing would reject it if it meant that they had to take it, too much trouble. I would do drawings for free, of course, but sometimes I would ask someone for a favor, maybe they could do a drawing for me? As I worked up the scale, I found that the Yearbook would give me a budget for drawing materials in exchange for the drawings that I would do for it. I did that for two years. Of course I didn't make a profit, but I got to see value expressed, with real money, with a budget.
The world is filled with people who will talk about things, but not give a penny. And I'm not talking about donating to causes, I'm talking about seeing value, and paying for it. Speaking for myself, I never saw any value in paying for parking, so I'd find a place to park for free, and walk to the beach. Other people valued the convenience - they may have grumbled at the price, but they paid it. And that's the point. Being cheerful about paying for something isn't a requirement for expressing value, it's the paying for it that counts. Everyone would like things to be cheaper, or free, of course!
I paid five dollars for a hot dog this past weekend at the local swap meet. I was hungry, and it smelled good. I smiled, and thanked the vendor, but my mind went to how many hot dogs I could buy at the store for five bucks! And if there had been a vendor next to him selling hot dogs for four dollars I would have gone there. That doesn't make me a bad person, it just means I want value for my money, which is perfectly reasonable.
When people talk about things that I know they'd never pay a cent towards, I let my attention drift away. I watch what they do buy, like tickets to a sporting event, or an expensive jacket with their team logo on it (you can tell I'm fascinated by sports marketing!) and I realize what they value.
No surveys, or study groups are necessary - this is easy to observe.
Posted by Brad Hall