Perceived Value and the Internet ?
By Denny Hatch
Philadelphia has two entrepreneur restaurateurs—Stephen Starr and Neil Stein—who have created some wonderful eating and drinking emporia.
Stephen Starr's hottest new establishment is Morimoto, created around the "Iron Chef," a fascinating television show on the Food Network.
Neil Stein, who owes a ton of back taxes to the city, just filed for Chapter 11. I won't eat at a Neil Stein restaurant. The reason: Peggy and I had dinner at his pricey saloon, Avenue B. We ordered white wine by the glass, the price per glass being about what I pay for a bottle of white at my discount booze store in New Jersey. The waiter brought the bottle and poured us each somewhere between a quarter and a third of a glass. We felt ripped off. I later checked with one oenophile, who said, "He can afford to be generous with his wine. The markup on wine is high." Another restaurateur familiar with Stein's operations said the wine glasses were large and we had received a fair portion.
We would have felt better had the waiter said, "I could give you smaller glasses and fill them to the top, but I think you'll like this larger glass so you can enjoy the bouquet." But he did not. Instead, we each got a one-third glass of wine.
The point is that it matters not one iota whether Neil Stein thinks he was giving us adequate product. We did not perceive these as fair portions. We were the customers. We were right and Stein was wrong. Period.
To paraphrase Vince Lombardi: In direct marketing, the doctrine of perceived value is not everything—it's the only thing. That's because the prospect cannot see, touch, smell, hear or taste the actual product.
With the Internet, two kinds of products are offered: things you can buy that are shipped to you, and the Web site itself, which is either paid for by advertisers or by the user. No matter what the model—ad-supported or free—it must have perceived value so the user will keep returning. If a prospect comes across a Web site that has high perceived value, it immediately will be bookmarked. No bookmark, no return visits. Out of site, out of mind.
Many pure-play dot-com startups went down the tubes because the hotshot twenty-somethings who created them didn't understand the doctrine of perceived value. Web sites I will not deal with are those that ask me for personal information before they show me what they have to offer. Here are some Web sites I found to have high perceived value and bookmarked the moment I came across them. I would be interested to hear from you about sites you've bookmarked.
General: alibris.com (out-of-print books); amazon.com; lectlaw.com/formb.htm (business and legal forms); legacy.com (obituaries); online-gambling.com (free blackjack, craps, roulette); bedfordstmartins.com/online/citex.html (correct citation styles); ceoexpress.com; www.tcnj.edu/~library/research/find_facts.html (find facts and statistics); imdb.com (internet movie database); babelfish.altavista.com/tr (foreign language translation); m-w.com (Merriam-Webster dictionary and thesaurus); networksolutions.com (buy URLs); whitepages.com; refdesk.com; www.wa-wd.com (who's alive and who's dead); infoplease.com/ipa/A0001619.html (foreign words and phrases)
News sources: news.bbc.co.uk; chicagotribune.com; drudgereport.com; ecola.com (every English language newspaper in the world); news.google.com; guardian.co.uk; nytimes.com; latimes.com; reuters.com; www.timesonline.co.uk; washingtonpost.com
Search engines/portals: google.com; dogpile.com; yahoo.com; alltheweb.com
The single most valuable Web site for the researcher/writer is www.wsj.com—The Wall Street Journal online. You pay to subscribe, but it gives you access to the Factiva archives, a joint venture between Dow Jones and Reuters with millions of articles going back years from more than 1,000 publications worldwide and an amazing search capability. Enter a topic and you get a list of articles: headline, date, publication it ran in, number of words, and the first few lines of the story. If you want it all, click on it, and the full article pops up on your screen. Meanwhile your credit card is hit for $2.95. This is dazzling technology for the beleaguered researcher!
Denny Hatch, contributing editor, consultant and freelance copywriter, is the author of the books "Method Marketing" and (with Don Jackson) "2,239 Tested Secrets for Direct Marketing Success." Visit him online at www.methodmarketing.com.