I bought a printer a few years ago. Just a cheap, nothing fancy, print-the-odd-boarding-pass-at-home printer.
It cost me about £30.
I specifically chose a cheap one, as I rarely have the need to print things. I actively try to avoid it, in fact. So, I didn’t need anything special.
I just wanted something simple, that would do its basic job, and that I wouldn’t be too fazed about if it were to break.
I specifically wanted something sufficiently cheap that I wouldn’t really care about it.
When I came to pay, the girl at the cash desk offered me a “really fantastic offer”.
“You can buy an extra warranty,” she told me, “a 3-year warranty. So if it needs repairing or replacing within 3 years, we’ll fix it… or replace it… for free!”
“It only costs £30,” she enthused, “Isn’t that amazing? For just £30 you know that you’ll get a free replacement for up to 3 years!”
I remember it took me a little while to work out how to respond. I’ll admit I wondered if she was joking, at first…
“But, the printer is only £30,” I eventually said. “Why would I buy a warranty for the same price as the product itself?
“I appreciate it’s not top-of-the-range, but I’d not expect it – reasonably – to break within 3 years. And if it does, I could just by another one… for the same price that this warranty would cost me.
“Your warranty really, really isn’t a very sensible option for me.”
She didn’t understand. She was so convinced by the “amazing value” this additional warranty represented, she couldn’t step back and see that for a £30 product, there was – quite literally – zero value.
It became quite a comical exchange, as I spent a good 5 minutes trying to help her understand. And it’s the reason I still remember such a typically uninteresting purchase so clearly.
I eventually left the shop (with my printer, but without the extra warranty … ) having failed to make this girl understand my point of view.
In some ways, her commitment to this product … to the value it provided customers … was quite impressive.
Unfortunately, she was missing a critical point.
The value isn’t the same for EVERY customer.
Had I been buying a washing machine … spending £500 … or even £200 …
£30 to guarantee repairs and replacements for 3 years? Yes please! What a great offer!
It wouldn’t have taken me more than a moment to see the value in that proposal, and to say yes.
But for a £30 printer? £30 to guarantee a replacement, within 3 years, of a product that costs the same as the guarantee? This is … to all but that nice girl … clearly NOT good value.
Sometimes we don’t need to change WHAT we offer … but change WHO we offer it to.
(Yes, I realise the questionable grammar in that sentence, but “to whom we offer it” sounds so pretentious, don’t you think?!)
Beyond being an amusing anecdote that I think of whenever I do use my printer (which, incidentally, has been going strong for 3 years and counting)… it is a useful example of the importance of targeting the RIGHT clients in business.
I count myself so lucky (and I’m very grateful) that my clients have wonderful businesses. Wonderful ideas, skills, services.
And wonderful “value” that they can offer their clients.
Yet they come to me as they are finding it tricky to make a consistent living.
They are making it hard work to find clients … or clients who will pay enough …
Initially the consistency and security from their business is eluding them.
And almost always, THIS is the reason behind their struggles.
They have services … “solutions” … that represent incredible value.
For the RIGHT clients.
But for the wrong clients? Those same solutions reflect zero value.
Those clients are baffled by the very offer. Because they simply don’t have THAT problem.
So if you are not getting people attracted to your service … if it’s a mountain of work to find clients that will pay enough for the value you are able to offer … or to find clients who will pay for it at all …
You might be thinking the service … the “solution”, or the “package” … is the problem.
But maybe it’s not?
Maybe you don’t need to change WHAT you do … instead change WHO you do it for?
Maybe you’re offering a £30 warranty to a person buying a £30 printer.
And maybe all you need to do is offer it to the people buying the washing machines.