From two wheels to two feet, it pays to paint a picture

Just recently, a friend told me about a bike that a friend of his had bought. It wasn’t just any bike. This was a racing bike, hand-built to his exact specifications. It had state-of-the-art everything, and more electronics than the average car. But that wasn’t all it had in common with its four-wheeled cousin. For this bike carried the princely price tag of £8,000. That’s $12,000, give or take a few cents. So why did he do it? Why not buy a bargain bike for less than £100? Here’s why:
  • It’s unique. This type of bike, with this configuration, doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.
  • It’s hand-made, which means it must be better than something that’s come off an automated production line. In fact, the company he bought it from said it was ‘lovingly crafted’, which makes it sound more like a Stradivarius than a bicycle.
  • It makes a statement about the owner (he’s wealthy, has good taste, recognises quality and is prepared to pay for it).
  • It makes him feel good. Well let’s face it, blowing £8k like that would make anyone feel good – for a while. But it’s more than the adrenaline high of the purchase; it’s the ongoing pleasure of owning and using something that’s the best.
But here’s the thing: this friend of a friend doesn’t actually cycle that much. In fact, in the year or so he’s owned this masterpiece, he’s taken it out a handful of times. Mostly, he simply likes telling people how much it cost, and how it was ‘lovingly crafted’ by expert bicycle makers. In other words, he didn’t really buy a bike. He bought a story. About the bike, about himself, about his lifestyle.

Caveat emptor

Buying is never an easy process – for the buyer. For the seller, it’s just another sale, and after a while, one feels very much like another. But for the buyer, it’s always a bit of a wrench to make a decision and go for it. It’s not the cost. Or at least, it’s not just the cost. Almost as bad as spending too much, or too little, is making the wrong choice. The one you’ll regret later, or that your friends will laugh at. The one that keeps you awake at 3am, or has you scrambling online to see what the returns policy is. So we look for affirmation and validation. We check with friends, we look for testimonials, we read reviews. But there’s always a little twinge of doubt, which never really goes away. Just last week, I bought an app for my tablet on Google Play. I wasn’t sure it did everything I wanted, but I was pretty confident I could return it if I had to. And I could – but Google’s returns window is 15 minutes, so you’ve got to be pretty snappy. Luckily for me, a couple of minutes was enough: the app did all I hoped for and more. Plus, it was 50% off, so I’d made the right choice at a bargain price. Things aren’t always that clear-cut, though. Reviews can vary wildly online. Friends can give conflicting advice and opinions. And your initial impressions can be mixed, so you’re left none the wiser about whether you’ve made the right choice. One clever way of giving people a feeling that they’re doing the right thing is by showing them just that. So it’s not about the purchase (the feature) but about the knock-on effect (the benefit).

These boots were made for talking

Tom’s Shoes knows all about selling the benefits. Their tagline is One for one. For every pair of shoes you buy, they give a pair to kids in the Third World. So the more you spend, the more you give. Suddenly, your shoe addiction becomes an act of charity. Guilt is turned into pleasure, and pleasure into virtue. Talk about a win-win situation. Now we can’t all do a Tom and give away our products and services to make people feel good. But we can make people feel better about buying. It’s really just a case of taking the sale and turning it into a story. The car is about freedom. The new smartphone is about having fun with friends. The life insurance policy is about caring for loved ones. The coffee is about making sure producers earn a living wage. Behind every sale is a story. Behind every feature is a benefit. Behind every lovingly hand-crafted one-of-a-kind bike is… the £99 one that I noticed as I walked past the bike shop the other day. Now that’s my kind of story. Find out more: 
  • A step in the right direction. You win, they win, with Tom’s Shoes.
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