Assessing Again?

Oh oh! I sense a thread coming on! It is about how to connect with people more efficiently. But not in a way that you might think! Read on!

More commonly, a psychologist might check if you are “obsessing again”, not “assessing again”. We obsess when we get nervous. But when do we assess?

If you read business strategy books, you would think that we should do it all the time. Business thinking is all about what someone else will buy tomorrow. And the only way to make an educated guess about that is via analytics. We should assess what we might offer, what people need and will pay for, how well we can produce and deliver it compared to others, and whether it is worth the bother. And hopefully, this will generate options to make us fabulously rich … errr … or at least richer than people we don’t like.

So do we actually do this? Most of us have at least a vague sense of what we are good at. But we tend to fall down when it gets to the second step. Just what do people need? What are they willing to pay for? Yikes! I have a hard enough time answering these questions for myself! And to mere mortals like us, it seems to require genius in order to match answers from step two in order to invest in designing stuff to produce. Jobs did it, but they say he produced a “reality distortion field” around him. Oh, dear. Perhaps he was an alien. So, sad to say, for the rest of us, it is easy to fall into a rut.

But why is that second step so hard? Here is the simple answer. Because our “needs” do not arise from the material stuff around us. We don’t really need a new car or even a new bottle of shampoo. Those purchasing preferences are relative to our situation at a given moment. We may want them more or less depending on other factors, but we don’t need them.

So if the things themselves don’t drive people, what does? At the extremes, this is not all that mysterious. Rich folks want symbols that confirm their status, and they are willing to pay ridiculous sums for them. Like €50,000,000 for an apartment or €10,000 for a handbag. To be denied proper status is far worse than eating hot dogs for breakfast (which indeed, might be ok if everyone else only got bread and water). Poor folks want symbols that confirm their hopes and they are willing to pay more than they should for them. So even generic packaging for mundane household goods make outrageous claims of style and performance. And the rest of us? I would argue that we all purchase symbols more than the thing itself.

This is why step two is challenging. Just how does one assess the symbolic value of an item for sale? It is not something that we learn in school. Indeed, it is somewhat of a taboo to assert that we don’t buy stuff for rational purposes. But if you doubt this, you might ask yourself why so much advertising is based on emotion.

Instead, we can see from the above examples that the symbolic value of purchases depends on the inner world that the buyer is trying to construct for himself or herself. So how do we construct these inner worlds? If we had that secret, we could anticipate what people might be willing to buy and how much they would be willing to pay.

And that is next in this thread! Stay tuned!

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