Tips for entrepreneurs: What’s more valuable?

It’s the intangible knowledge, the experience, the insights, the years of experience that make any businessman valuable.

May 20, 2013 23:00
4 minute read.
Dollar bills.

Dollar bills 370. (photo credit: Steve Marcus / Reuters)


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Value is relative. Anyone understands why a glass of water in the middle of the desert can bring five dollars or even $50, while a glass of water in a room of free water fountains would not sell at all.

Value has to do with demand and availability and the return on your investment in time, money and resources.

So why on earth is a book of 30,000 words that says “fiction” on the back cover worth $13.99 while a similar sized book by the same publisher which says “nonfiction” worth double or triple that amount? What makes one book more valuable than another? Some people may think it’s because fiction is theoretically easier to write (although many fiction writers actually spend a tremendous amount of time doing research to make sure that the background and historical setting accurate), or the fact that a good work of fiction can sell many more copies than a nonfiction book.

But value to the consumer is not really about the cost of bringing the book to market. Value is always about the impact on the reader and their life or business. It’s more intangible than tangible.

The tremendous price differential in fiction versus non-fiction for the businessman is that the work of fiction may make you giggle, but the non-fiction book can make you real money.

Would you pay $10 for an enjoyable book to read? Probably. $20? Well... Maybe. How about $150? “What?!” I can hear you shriek as you read this. “Are you nuts? I’d never do that, no matter how much money I have sitting around!” But when it’s non-fiction, it’s another story, because the price has nothing to do with the cost of writing and producing the book. It has to do with the value to the reader, the information on the pages. Would you pay $100,000 for a guaranteed treasure map to a chest of gold worth $1 million? Of course! But it’s only one page, not 300. It’s not the product. It’s the value of the product to you.

Depending on what you do for a living, a $150 information product can be an easy sell. “This information” you reason to yourself, is high value. “If it makes me not the $22,000 the ads claim I’ll earn in increased revenue, but even only another half that – it will be the best business investment I’ve made in a long time!” Copywriting works in a similar way. Getting proper copy written is the same idea as buying another new truck to deliver their goods with; it’s not about the time it took or the number of words. It’s about what the copy will accomplish and how it will persuade the reader to do something that translates into a “Kaching!” at the cash register.

Anyone can write a letter to Amazon. Not everyone who writes to them gets a response, or at least not the response they want. Knowing what to write to Amazon then becomes a skill that has value. For instance, I once wrote a letter to Amazon of behalf of a client to persuade the senior management to take a certain position that would benefit my client. It could take many hours, many letters and even a call or two to get the response if you don’t understand how to communicate well.

The email was sent to one person, one time and Amazon responded positively. That meant that the money the client spent having that letter written as best as possible was a no-brainer. It had value to them because it resulted in a desired outcome.

Another email a client and I recently pored over together resulted in a jewelry order from a chain of over 400 shops to carry his line of necklaces. He could have spent a lot of time, effort and money to send mass mailed letters to every store and courted every owner and invested months and even years to get the same result. But he recognized the value of “knowing which bolts and screws to turn” and didn’t focus on the cost, but on the value.

It’s the intangible knowledge, the experience, the insights, the years of experience that make any businessman valuable.

As I saw in a Facebook post from Dr. Harlan Kilstein: “Have you ever wondered why the most successful companies in the world pay the most for good copy (Agora, Boardroom, Weiss) and the least successful companies in the world either want to do it themselves or hire by who’s the cheapest? Good copy doesn’t cost you money. It MAKES you money.”

Will a new office chair be more productive then a persuasive piece of copy that reels in clients? There’s a good reason top companies pay for good copy while many small business owners try to do it themselves.

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