What can Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz, and Danielle Colby Cushman teach you about the value of information products?
Are you a fan of the History Channel show “American Pickers?” Personally, I love it. If you have not seen it, the basic premise is that Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz (the main characters) travel across the United States digging through old barns, junkyards, garages, and basements looking for hidden treasures.
In each episode, Mike and Frank either follow leads generated by their business manager Danielle Colby Cushman or go “freestyle picking” and just drive around looking for places that might be potential goldmines of cool old stuff that people like to collect.
Now, you might wonder, “what does American Pickers have to do with creating and selling information products?” Well, I’m glad you asked!
Watching the show provides many lessons in business negotiation and persuasion. But, those are topics for another article. What I want to share with you here is the perfect metaphor that the show provides for understanding the inherent value of the information products that you and I create and sell.
Do You Believe in the Value of What You Sell?
You might be able to relate to this. Early in my information marketing and publishing career I hard a hard time justifying the cost (and value) of the products I was creating. It wasn’t because the weren’t good. My doubts and insecurities came from the fact that I had pretty much found all of the information for free myself. I just couldn’t understand why anyone else would be willing to pay for what I learned after spending a few hours on Google. I hadn’t invented something, I was just collecting useful stuff.
When the time came to actually sell stuff, I either felt like people would discover that I was a fraud and demand their money back, or that they would realize that there was ‘nothing new here’ and dismiss me as another worthless hack. For a long time I was paralyzed with fear and didn’t even try to sell stuff – I just let it sit on my hard drive. Later, I found myself selling at really low prices because I figured nobody would complain if they hadn’t paid very much to begin with.
Have you ever gone through that? Maybe you are there right now.
The problem with this line of thought is that it ignores a huge part of the value in an information product. That is where the American Pickers analogy can offer some new insights.
Finding Gems – American Picker Style
Frank, Mike, and Danielle spend a lot of time locating places where treasures might be found. They know to look for old barns and garages. They know which areas of the country are likely to have the kinds of items they want.
Over the years they have probably wasted plenty of time looking in the wrong places. But their experience has helped them develop the skills and insights to weed out the junk piles and focus on the places where the gems can be found.
The bulk of each episode of American Pickers shows the guys digging through mountains of old junk (and sometimes plain old garbage.) Then, they land on a treasure. It might be a rusty bicycle wheel or an old weathered sign. But Frank and Mike know what they can sell to a collector – because they KNOW collectors. They know what collectors want and how much they are willing to pay.
After some negotiation, they usually land on a price and shake hands on the deal.
One feature of the show that I like is that, after each location they pick, there is a little onscreen tally of what they bought. Generally they pay between one half and two thirds of the retail collector’s price for each item they buy. And, a nice side bonus is that they love what they do.
So, Where is the Value in Picking?
Think about the business end of things for a moment. Retail collectors are paying as much as twice the price they could have paid if they had purchased an item directly from the original owner. And, the seller is getting half as much as what a retail collector is willing to spend for the items they are selling.
For the retail collector, the value comes from having someone else discover the items and bring them to where they are. The owner of an architectural firm might love old collecting old railroad conductor signal lanterns, but traveling back roads for weeks and digging through barns is not something she is willing to do. She just wants a cool old lantern and will happily pay extra for someone else to go out and discover it for her.
The reality for many of the sellers is that they have tons and tons of stuff and no idea what it is really worth or what to do with it. They don’t know retail collectors. Many of them live way ‘off the grid’ and couldn’t begin to figure out how to run an online auction or a retail store. In many cases, the seller doesn’t even know what they have. They are just happy to meet someone who can wade through everything, separate out the valuable items for them, and buy it on the spot – real money right now.
Information Pickers – That’s What We Are!
As an information product creator and publisher, you do the some kind of work as the American Pickers. Through list building, social networking, and other marketing efforts you build an audience of information buyers and learn the sorts of things they are willing to pay for – and how much they will pay. Then you put your skills to work.
Sometimes you go out and uncover a little gem of a product created by a subject matter expert who doesn’t know how to market. Then, you give them some money for the rights to sell the product to your audience of buyers.
Other times, you might put your research skills to work digging up information, interviewing experts, and packaging everything together in a way your audience of buyers will appreciate.
You save your buyers time and money by wading through all the stuff that clutters the information world and delivering the useful bits in a format they can quickly and easily put to use.
Your work provides tremendous value to your customers. You are not just passing along free stuff for a price. You are searching, filtering, and packaging content that will entertain, inspire, or solve problems for them.
Don’t ever underestimate how much your work is worth and never forget, “your customer is not you – make them glad they found you.”