My wife and I went on vacation recently, and a pool float reminded of the importance of creative packaging.
A basic adult-length pool float of the sort that dumps you into the water as often as it holds you up will set you back about $3. At Winn-Dixie that same float already filled with air costs twice as much. An employee earning $8 an hour probably spent one minute per float with an air compressor, and this simple service enables the grocery store to double its profit on each float—an extra $180 for every 60 floats that leave the premises.
Wow. That's a lot of money in exchange for $8 and air, but the air, of course, represents convenience. Many people on vacation are more than happy to spend $3 to not have to blow up a float.
Even those of us who don't own grocery stores have something to learn here: for a minimal expense you can often tweak the presentation or packaging of your products and services and dramatically increase their perceived value.
Packaging is rarely just packaging. It is an opportunity to create a desired perception. Garnish, anyone?
Think about bags of lettuce. If you wash, shred, and bag a head of iceberg, you can charge three or four times more for it.
Think about water. If you bottle water and filter, fortify, and flavor it, you can charge fifty times as much.
Bottled water costs more per gallon than gasoline. Excuse me?! How is that even possible when you can get essentially the same thing out of the tap for pennies? Packaging.
Another more nuanced example of packaging can be found in website design. By Reese offers "luxury website headers," starting at $120. Or you can hope on fiverr.com and buy a custom header for $5 from over 100 different designers.
What's the difference? Why would someone pay 24 times more for one of Reese's creations?
Reese Spykerman is without a doubt a talented designer, and a premium product warrants a premium price.
"Premium" is often just a synonym for fancy packaging. In the case of By Reese, that packaging is an attractive and easy-to-navigate website, the limited availability of the headers themselves, various customization options, bundling (four "free" icons included), and most subtle of all, the satisfaction that comes from believing one has purchased quality.
Is every one of Spykerman's designs better than every design created by a fiver.com seller for $5? Do Spykerman's designs cause websites to convert better or lead to more sales offline? As you have probably already gathered, the value of good packaging is often difficult to measure and quantify.
But you can be sure that you need to pay close attention to your own packaging. Here are 12 ideas that might jar loose some more in that creative brain of yours:
- Free set-up and delivery: Can pay someone $8 an hour to inflate the float or wash, shred, and bag your products and services? How can a little more effort on the front end make the experience of working with you more convenient?
- Guarantees: Nothing proves that you stand by your work (and endorse quality) like the promise of a full refund. It's likely that no one will ever ask, and even if they do, you still have more to gain than to lose by taking all the risk out of working with you.
- Higher prices: Price is perceived value. Charge more, and many of your clients will believe at a subconscious or conscious level that your work is better.
- Hand-written Thank You notes: I've received them from a local realtor and from my dry cleaner. I obviously remembered it. Mission accomplished.
- Humor: MailChimp sprinkles whimsical remarks and links all over the site.
- Personality: Jessica Hische has created several whimsical viewing modes on her website, including Teen Girl, Swiss, and Field Notes.
- Birthday Club. Send a $5 gift to some place like Starbucks to your clients. Say you'd love to catch up sometime. Even better, buy your clients a birthday lunch.
- Discounts on Other People's Stuff (OPS): Use your network to negotiate better rates on OPS—everything from web hosting to lattes at the local coffee shop. The worst those businesses can say is no.
- Out-of-the-Blue Helpful emails: "I stumbled across a blog post that I knew you'd find helpful. Here is the link...Hope all is well…"
- Contests, Giveaways & Prizes: The allure of Cracker Jack and cereal box prizes never goes away. One of my favorite examples of this was the Design Hope contest that FortySeven Media did a couple of years back. They gave away a full-blown design and web development package to a worthy cause. The catch was that applicants had to send in an application.
- Free upgrades: Zappos blew my mind (and gained my loyalty) the first time I received a follow-up email stating that my order had been upgraded to two-day shipping for free.
- Freebies: I love the Five Guys model: Buy a burger and get as many toppings as you want for free. Do you have a free guide, ebook, training session, or video series that you can throw in for free to build goodwill?
In while were on the subject of Freebies, here are two more ideas:
13. Connections: Do you know someone who could help one of your clients? Make the introduction (and combine with #8 when possible).
14. Keeping Promises: Beat deadlines if it kills you.
Go forth and blow up pool floats. If you've got fun ideas of your own, we'd love to hear them. Chime in in the Comments section below.