Aim High

Mark L. Johnson / July 2019

New research in marketing says that if you want to sell a new product—say, an intriguing new flavor of ice cream—you can get more customers to try it by displaying the product stacked in the store in front of a giant picture of a mountain.
    
“Blackberry Hibiscus” is delicious when sitting alongside Mount Shasta, but less so next to Miami Beach.
    
“Images that show a perspective from a high elevation, such as a mountain peak, can sway people to make riskier choices or spend more on risky products than viewing lower-perspective scenes, such as a beach,” says a May 2019 article on KelloggInsight from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
    
A higher vantage point image offers the customer a greater sense of control. I believe this high-vantage-point marketing is also true in walls and ceilings contracting and fabrication.

The Empire State Building Gift Shop
Kellogg School researcher, Ata Jami, toured the Empire State Building as a graduate student. Despite his frugal nature, Jami felt compelled to splurge on overpriced souvenirs at the tourist attraction’s gift shop. He wondered about how the environment could affect a person’s thinking and consumer behavior.
    
Jami set up a series of experiments each with two groups of participants. One group was always shown pictures from a high vantage point. The other group saw images from a lower viewpoint. In one experiment, participants inflated a digital balloon, earning $1 for every 0.01 cubic feet of air they pumped, but losing everything if the balloon burst. On average, the group that viewed a high-elevation image pumped more air into their balloons. They took a greater risk.
    
How can you apply this research to your business?

Price Is a Story
The Kellogg School research confirms what I have long known in my brand development work (although I didn’t know, specifically, that mountain peaks are so key): Aiming high leads to good results.
    
I’ve always told clients, and young people asking for advice, to aim high when marketing their business, pricing their work and getting trained. Aiming high involves setting lofty standards and goals. But, it’s also about telling a commanding (but truthful) story.
    
Business is storytelling. Pricing is storytelling, too.
    
“Because people form assumptions and associations based on your pricing, and your pricing shapes what people believe about your service, it’s important to be clear about how you position yourself,” writes Seth Godin in “This Is Marketing.” “Your price should be aligned with the extremes you claimed as part of your positioning.”
    
It’s not like you can jack up your bids and expect more customers to accept them. But, you can position yourself to gain advantages. Tell your company’s story of being at the apex of the marketplace over and over. Employees will rise to higher levels of work output and quality. GCs and owners will pay more for your services when it becomes clear that you command top dollar among the choices available in the market.
    
It’s all about your narrative, your message and how you package it.

Customers Buy How You Make Them Feel
You might seek professional help in executing high-vantage-point storytelling. Before doing that, however, you should define the terms of your company’s story. Gather the key talking points. Set the standards you will use when taking photos of crews and projects. Shoot from a position of height. Create the feeling that your company towers above others.
    
But more important than creating a collection of photos of your company, create the impression that your firm has leading, commanding, pinnacle-like expertise in the industry. Be involved in everything cutting-edge going on at the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, the EIFS Industry Members Association and the Steel Framing Industry Association, etc., so that you can tell your customers that, yes, you are right there at the margins of growth in the industry.
    
Remember, your customers don’t want to buy what you build. They want to buy how what you build will make them feel.
    
“If you can bring someone belonging, connection, peace of mind, status … you’ve done something worthwhile,” Godin says. “The thing you sell is simply a road to achieve those emotions.”
    
In other words, make customers feel secure, comfortable and confident through your actions and services. Take weight off their shoulders. Aim high.

Mark L. Johnson, an industry writer who loves brand storytelling, can be reached via markjohnsoncommunications.com.