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FutureNow Article
Friday, Mar. 7, 2008

How to Pitch “Value” to Everyone But Paris Hilton

By Jeff Sexton
March 7th, 2008

tough choiceConsumer Reports almost never endorses the same products a niche enthusiast magazine would. They rarely pick the same car that, say, Car and Driver might. Likewise, most serious skiers — like those on Ski Magazine’s editorial staff — tend to select different skis as “best buys” than the ones Consumer Reports chooses each winter.

Why is that?

For one thing, Consumer Reports tries to objectively calculate the “sweet spot” on the Quality-to-Price Ratio. Enthusiasts, on the other hand, generally give more weight to subtleties, refinements and other semi-intangible qualities; things like aesthetics, ergonomics and brand affinity. Such things aren’t as big a factor for Consumer Reports when they’re trying to help you find “the most [whatever it is] for your money.”

Enthusiasts go beyond the point of so-called diminishing returns because, to them, the return doesn’t feel diminished.

The Perceived Value Curve

In case you still don’t know what I’m talking about, I graphed it…

Consumer Reports thinks in these terms. They look for products that sit neatly on the inflexion point; that spot on the curve just before it gets too steep. They do this because their audience wants an objective, substantiated and dispassionate analysis of the product for which they might — just maybe — exchange their hard-earned (and devalued) dollars.

They’re looking for those 85%-as-good-but-half-the-price products because, for them, there’s no joy in spending a dollar more than they can objectively rationalize.

From “Consumer” to Enthusiast

Unlike the Consumer Reports crowd, enthusiasts are more conscious of a product’s refinements, or lack thereof.

The enthusiast’s minimum standards are higher than average. Audiophiles can distinguish between a CD recording and a 192-bit encrypted MP3 file. Driving enthusiasts appreciate the smooth clutch and slick jolts of a great manual transmission. Wine connoisseurs can anticipate the blackberry notes and soft minerality of their favorite Cab Franc.

This is why acquiring a taste for expensive wines, stereos and cars can sometimes “ruin” you for lesser quality goods, because as Kathy Sierra insists, “Learning increases resolution.”

Enthusiasts continue to perceive noticeable — and substantially increased — benefits well beyond the normally perceived point of diminishing returns. So, if can’t substantiate your product’s superiority in a no-nonsense Consumer Reports-style manner, your best bet may be to write copy that evokes the Enthusiast’s experience.

When you create a high-resolution experience with your Web copy, you help the average, uninitiated consumer picture themselves as enthusiasts.

The Fuji F30 Camera is a good example. The F30 is compact digital camera with rather unimpressive specs (6 megapixels with a 3X zoom) that’s supposedly been supplanted by the newer F40 and F50 models — but it’s STILL selling for between $220 and $300, which is as much or more than either the 12 megapixel F50 or the 8 megapixel Canon SD850.

Why is it commanding so high a price? Because enthusiasts have embraced the little camera for its unmatched ability to take high ISO and low-light photos. It’s the only pocket cam that’s able to take really great low-light shots. And as soon as you “sell” a consumer on that ability, the lower megapixel count stops mattering so much. A smart copywriter would focus in on this “hidden” ability of the F30 in order to raise its perceived value.

Roy Williams gives an example of copy that does just that:

“The prettiest camera in this price class has a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second. But the shutter speed of the ugly Canon PowerShot S500 is a superfast 1/60th of a second, allowing you to take fabulous photos in low-light situations. Your indoor photos will look rich and vibrant when all the others look dark and grainy. And your nighttime photos will make people’s eyes bug out. Beautiful contrast and luminance, even without the flash. This camera can see in the dark. Take a picture of your lover in the moonlight. It will become your favorite photo ever. And that superfast shutter speed is also very forgiving of movement. That’s why no one ever replaces their PowerShot S500. Go to your local pawnshop and see if you can find one. We’re betting you can’t. But you will see several of that “prettier” camera available cheaper than dirt. So if you’re looking for a great price on a sleek-looking camera, that’s probably where you should go.”

Who wouldn’t want a camera like that?If copy alone won’t do the trick, think about staging live events, webinars, streaming videos… whatever it takes to show a glimpse of the hi-res experience. (Here’s another example from Kathy Sierra.)

Don’t lower prices. Stay ahead of the curve by building perceived value with your Web copy.

. .

[Editor's note: Jeff Sexton can show you how to add value to your website. Join him on March 28th in San Francisco for the first-ever West Coast edition of our popular crash course on Persuasive Online Copywriting.]

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Comments (11)

  1. Very good graph and article. It’s totally all about perceived value! Providing you bring that up to a high, the price you can set limitless. If you can make someone believe that a mere pen is worth $200, by all means – do it and sell it for that price!

  2. [...] by Mark on 10 Mar 2008 | Tagged as: Strategy Strive to market to the enthusiasts, not the bargain hunters. » bookmark this » hide bookmarks [...]

  3. Keep in mind, most of us are among the “Consumer Reports” crowd for most items, and are only enthusiasts about a few.

  4. dhimes,

    Not only that, but the harder the economy the more people tend to adopt a Consumer Reports mentality, which is why my previous post covered how to write copy for CR-style products at CR-style prices. What I’m addressing here is those instances when you can’t justify your prices through a strictly CR-style substantiation – what then? At that point, it’s worth attempting to build value by this method before resolving your company to lowering prices and margins.


  5. Way to go dude. Anyone who bashes Paris Hilton is my bro. I hate that skank

  6. Good Article Jeff. It shows how different people are ready to pay different prices and how you can convince the customer about value of product by using right copy.

  7. [...] on superior product photos, descriptions, and objection-handling sales copy.  Think about how much more research you do for a car than a [...]

  8. The dollar and our worldwide economy actually runs on perceceived value, but so what.

    The fact is that I have more fun driving my Jag than driving a VW.
    I enjoy genuine diamonds, even though I know that if DeBeers opened their vaults instead of restricting diamond outflow, those rocks would be as cheap as glass.

    And btw, I love Paris Hilton who actually sells decent products at reasonable prices.

    If everyone sat on their wallets, buying only real value as needed, it would cause a worldwide depression.

    I for one consider it my patriotic duty to spend in order to keep the American economy going.

  9. I like this article, very interesting and gives you something to think about. it depends also I think on how much you are prepared to pay for an item. if it is something you really desire and you consider it value for money then spend that cash!

  10. Way to go dude. Anyone who bashes Paris Hilton is my bro. I hate that skank

  11. Good Article Jeff.

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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