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How To Give Your Expertise Meaning

Why are people willing to pay so much money for celebrity memorabilia? Some of these relics sell for thousands if not millions of dollars.

From Charles Mason's lock of hair to Justin Timberlake's half-eaten toast. From Marlon Brando's 1973 Oscar rejection letter for his role in The Godfather to the original 1983 Apple Macintosh computer prototype from Steve Wozniak.

Some say it's provenance (i.e., the authenticity or quality of a thing's origin). Others say it's the superficial or superstitious belief in the power of celebrity suggestion.

But they don't all come from celebrities. Why do restaurant owners hang their first dollar earned, or bestselling authors proudly frame their first rejection letters? For some, they may be lucky charms or even trophies. For others, they are powerful reminders.

Whatever it is, it's abstract, subjective, and difficult to measure. It's not based on price, quality, or even value, but on meaningfulness.

It's based on perceived value.

  • Real value = real benefits – real costs
  • Perceived value = perceived benefits – perceived costs

It's not the value they get from those artifacts. What people are willing to keep or pay money for is the meaning they give them. Because perceived value will always trump real value.

How do you increase perceived value?

You either increase perceived benefits or decrease perceived costs. Sounds simple because it is. But it's not always easy.

If you're a recognized expert or an authority in your field (and by “recognized,” I don't mean by your peers but by your clients), you have a headstart. If you're not, then your goal is to communicate that you are one.

But doing so outright might sound self-serving, boastful, and conceited. It may also appear exaggerated or misleading, and backfire. As the saying goes, if you have to say it, it's probably not true.

It's far better to imply you are an expert.

Implication is more powerful than specification.

One effective way is to start communicating as one (through your content, for example). Write a book, publish a blog, start a podcast, record videos. Producing content is by far one of the most effective and underutilized ways to communicate your expertise.

The more you communicate as an expert, the more it will communicate you are one. There are more ways to do this, but I'll stop there.

Just remember this. The more your clients recognize you as an authority, the greater the perceived benefits and smaller the perceived costs will be in their minds. 

Perceived value becomes but a mere byproduct.

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Strategic marketing consultant Michel Fortin