List member Scott Woods brought up an interesting point in response to the “specialized tools are not a good analogy for specialized experts” email (shared with permission):
_Love it. Another great article!
I think there is some kind of analogy to the specialty tool — maybe not in the longevity of the tool, or the flexibility of the tool. But maybe there’s an analogy in the relationship between the tool and its buyer.
When I need yet another kitchen drawer screwdriver, I try to get decent set, but I try not to spend too much on it. And then I toss it in the junk drawer for the low-level crappy jobs. Its power comes from its instant availability and the willingness for it to do any job / abuse that I may need to throw at it. I gain little satisfaction from owning it, and I tell nobody about its purchase or use.
But if I buy a ChannelLock 927T, that thing isn’t going in the kitchen junk drawer! Instead of price being the primary factor, I’m going to make sure I get it from a reputable buyer, because I want to make sure I don’t get one that’s damaged. And then it’s going in the coveted “specialty tools” drawer of my toolbox. And it’s going to stay in its protective pouch. And I’m going to look forward to the rare jobs where I get to use it, because there’s a special satisfaction from using exactly the right tool for the job. I expect it to perform really well, and I get enjoyment from how well it performs. My $50 investment and occasional use of that specialty tool brings me way more joy than my umpteen $5 flathead generic screwdrivers over the years. Shoot, I might even show it to my friends or write an article about it 🙂
We have the wonderful luxury of being able to choose what kind of tool we want to be. I know what kind I would pick!
By the way, Scott runs a well-specialized dev shop. Check ’em out if you’d like to see an example of a vertically specialized dev shop: https://westarete.com/
I think Scott brings up an important aspect of buying premium-priced, expertise-heavy services, which is the emotion of pride. Or to expand that: pride of ownership.
Let’s flip this around to a question…
What would cause your buyers to feel a sense of pride in having chosen to work with you/your firm?
I think multiple things could cause this feeling of pride, but one of the more common ones would be if your buyers could tell themselves “We bought the best.” (Consider that there are also buyers who would swell with pride if they could tell themselves “We bought the cheapest.” I think you know what I have to say about those buyers.)
Next question: what would allow your buyers to say and believe “We bought the best”?
Now that’s a simple question with no simple answer.
Some buyers are going to look to their peers. Or their boss. Or your price. Or your track record. Or the promises you make during the sale. Or to what third-party authorities say about you. Or to how you actually compare to others they speak to.
Simple question; not-simple answer. 🙂
But it’s well worth knowing how your buyers would answer that question! If you already know, great! If not, what small step could you take to find out? Hit REPLY and I’ll do an anonymized roundup of answers.