Would Anyone Really Pay For That?


I think it’s possible that I should rename my blog: Talks With My Boys. If I look back at the posts I’ve written recently (and the ones people seem to respond to the most), many of them were inspired by a conversation with one of my kids.

Like this one.

Me: “Rollins, you’re so great a finding new music. You should launch a business being a personal music curator. Like Discover Weekly on Spotify - but with a personal touch.”

Rollins: “Yeah, but would anybody really pay for that?”

Confession. One of my favorite things in life is to open my Spotify and realize that Rollins hopped on my phone while I wasn’t looking and queued up a day’s worth of songs for me. Then, the rest of the day, while I’m listening - every new song is like a tiny little present.

But back to my story, which leads me to this question for you:

How many times have you asked yourself “Would anyone really pay for that?”

Chances are, the answer is too many.

A quick search for “paid music curator” led me to an article about an Amsterdam startup who matches music curators with retail stores and other companies who want curated playlists for their locations.

Take a moment now and think about the things that you pay for in your life or business that you never thought you would, or might have seemed insane to pay for at one time in the not-so-distant past.

Here’s my quick list:

  • I pay Mosquito Squad $600 a summer to make sure my yard is an enjoyable place to hang out in the evenings.
  • I pay $16 a month for the Spotify family plan so that all of us have access to the music we love (commercial-free) at any time.
  • I pay an extra $5 a month (or something like that) for Hulu Plus to watch my shows commercial-free.
  • I paid $129 recently for a travel monitor so that I can have a fully functional workstation when I am on the road.
  • My favorite drink at Starbucks costs more than $4 and I order it with joy on my mobile app and love that I never have to wait in line.

What’s on your list?

Seriously, take a moment right now and jot down on your phone or a scrap sheet of paper all the things that you joyfully pay for that you would have once thought - no way.

Now look at your list and ask yourself, when that product or service was just an idea thrown up on the whiteboard in a brainstorming session one day, do you think people in the room said (either out loud or under their breath): “Would anyone really pay for that?”

So, I’m not saying that every idea is a money maker. A quick look at MarketWatch’s 12 Worst American Product Flops reminds me that not every product or service succeeds. And there are logical reasons why:

  • Breakfast Mates, launched by The Kellogg Company in 1998, overlooked the truth that nobody wants to drink room temperature milk. (Did you know that Almond Milk doesn’t actually need to be refrigerated? Silk became mainstream only when they added their containers to the cooler in the grocery store.)
  • Google underestimated the acceptance of their Google Glass product in the realms of privacy, the general public, and the ability to capture video without anyone knowing.
  • McDonald’s released the Arch Deluxe (a burger designed and priced just for adults) in 1996 to a consumer that wasn’t ready to pay almost a dollar more for some honey-dijon mustard on what was otherwise just a Big Mac.

In these examples what strikes me is that the failure of these products was largely due to a lack of understanding of our societal norms in the way the product was presented to the consumer.

A recent study by SMITH, an experiential commerce agency, found that there are 8 different emotional mindsets that influence how consumers make decisions to shop and buy. See the infographic below to learn more about each one:

Which of these typically drives you in your purchasing decisions? When I look at my list of things I can’t believe I pay for, I can clearly see that I’m driven by “Buy and Be Done” (just take care of this problem I have, please - mosquitoes be gone!) and “I’m Special” (because I’m done with standing in lines and watching commercials.)

When you look back at your list, what emotional mindsets are driving your purchasing decisions?

Go ahead, get real with yourself about it. We can even talk about it if you’ll post in the comments below.

As helpful as it’s been seeing my own purchasing and buying patterns in the process of writing this essay (as I hope it has been for you!), that wasn’t really my point. If there’s one thing I’d love for you to take away from today’s essay, it’s this:

The next time you have an idea for a product, service, or program and your immediate reaction is “Nobody’s going to pay for that,” don’t let that be the end of the story.

Take your idea and swirl it around with these 8 different emotional states that drive buying behavior. Sure, music curation might not solve any practical problem, but it sure aligns with “Want Some Fun” and “I’m Special,” doesn’t it?

What revenue projects have you overlooked that could become profitable? What is something you’ve been telling yourself that no one would buy? That could be your big break!

If you’re ready to bounce around that business idea, I’d love to chat about it. Book a free, 15-minute coaching session, and let's see if it has legs.

Thanks a bunch to these awesome resources that helped me write this essay: