This Classic Marketing Lesson Is Flawed

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“Nobody buys on price,” he said.

It’s a favorite mantra propagated by sales and marketing gurus everywhere. I later learned that my mentor’s advice was partially right. I came to that realization after two experiences several months apart.

A One-Two Punch In The Gut

Later that night, I thought about the chain of events. I had decided to forego a cost saving out of guilt. The store owner was also a man I liked and respected. It was like a one-two punch in the gut.

My Mentor’s Error

A few months later, my wife asked me to stop at the supermarket on the way home. She needed a small can of tomato paste. There were four or five brands in the supermarket. I chose the one with the lowest price. In this shopping experience, price did matter. Why? Because all tomato paste is the same. The only difference is the label wrapped around the can.

Price matters ONLY when nothing else matters.

If you fail to distinguish yourself in any meaningful way, your customer will default to price as the final criteria. The store owner in my earlier examples was super friendly. He’d always ask if there was anything I needed that he didn’t carry. That’s why I did business with him even though he was more expensive.


If you call your cable company, you’ll suffer through a multitude of automated operators before you get to speak with a human being. They want you to give up. The fewer customer agents they need, the less money they spend. Of course, most of us only have one, maybe two choices for our cable provider. They can afford to give us lousy service.


Imagine you’re in the market to remodel your bathroom in your high rise apartment. You have three choices in contractors. They all have excellent references. The first contractor does everything: roofs, kitchens, bathrooms, walkways and patios. He’s remodeled a dozen bathrooms in the past year, two in high rise apartment buildings. The second contractor does kitchens and bathrooms. She’s remodeled thirty bathrooms in the past year, six in high rise apartment buildings. The third contractor only does bathrooms in high rise apartment buildings. He’s renovated fifty in high rise apartment buildings the past year.


We all want to feel like we’re part of the cool-kids table in some area of our life. Are you a well-respected gamer, comic book collector, yacht connoisseur or widget enthusiast? What if a business selected you as their customer? What if you could use that as a signal to others who share your passion?


Imagine a restaurant that gives you a bottle of wine just for sitting down at the table (they bake the price into the food items). What about a marketing agency that offers a complimentary service as part of their deliverable? How about a bank that doubles as a social club? I don’t know about that one but banks need some re-imagining, don’t you think?

Experimenter in life, productivity, and creativity. Work in Forge | Elemental | Business Insider | GMP | Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.

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