Everywhere you look, there is a new product, method, or technique, that’s “guaranteed to make you run faster and jump higher” to quote one of my favorite childhood movies, “The Sandlot”. These guarantees can be for anything from strength gains to pain relief or even six-pack abdominals in seven minutes a day, but the one constant among all of these shock-value marketing ploys is their target audience. I’m not talking similarities in ethnicity, socioeconomic background, or even body type, but rather the fact that the target audience is all for the most part naive on the subject matter. I’m a small business owner myself, and I firmly believe in the importance of the service that I provide to people who need it, but with that comes a certain responsibility to not sell guarantees and quick fixes, but rather, education and appreciation of the process. Use your position of influence for good.
“You Need It, Trust Me”
For the most part, every business in America is manipulating someone or some group to convince them that their product or service is something they can’t or shouldn’t be living without. Whether it’s Apple releasing the most recent smartphone or Taco Bell creating some new combination of beef, cheese, and a taco shell, companies big and small are trying to manipulate their target audience to believe that they shouldn’t go another day without buying their products and/or services. I fully admit I don’t know the least bit about marketing and consumer metrics, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize when a “professional” has an agenda. This topic means a lot to me, personally, because I’ve seen several people I care about get taken advantage of due to their lack of knowledge. We’ve all probably become a victim at some point in our lives, whether it was an additional service we didn’t really need at the Body Shop or an additional medication. I know, its business, but at the same time, you can inform someone about the services/products you provide and how/why they might be useful, without being deceptive.
The Principal-Agent Theory
The principal-agent theory or “problem” refers to the concept that an individual paying for a service or product that he/she has limited knowledge about relies on an “agent” with the knowledge to provide it. The problem lies within the fact that if the agent knows that the individual “principal” doesn’t really need the service or product, but they provide it anyways because of some sort of incentive on the other end. Let’s apply this theory to a Personal Trainer, who is being paid by Nike to wear a certain type of shoes and receives a commission on the side for additional pairs sold to clients. His or her clients depend on their trainer’s knowledge to determine what type shoe would best fit them for working out in. Now, if the trainer doesn’t first disclose that he/she receives money from Nike before pushing the newest pair of running shoes on the client, by some it would be considered “just business”, but others would call it a “moral hazard”. I’m not a moralist by any stretch, but I think its important to have transparency when you’re in a position of influence. Being up front with customers/clients in these types of situations has become a forgotten trait, as businesses, big or small, increasingly become wrapped up in the idea of the next “sell”.
The Bottom Line
I get it, this country is based on capitalism, and I love it so much. Being rewarded for working harder than the next person is a concept that I believe to be the fundamental reason for so many good things in our world. Salespeople are salespeople, and I’m good with that, but it doesn’t mean you have to sell your soul to make a buck. Transparency can be an amazing sales tool if you void yourself of the tunnel vision and look at the big picture. Investing in your relationships and building trust with people can, in the long run, get you much farther than being deceitful with recommendations of things those people don’t need. If your Personal Trainer, Doctor, or any other hired professional, has to withhold valuable information or even lie to you in order to make more money, isn’t that just an indictment on them as a “professional” in the first place? Before I hop down off of the soapbox, I just want to make sure my readers consider reevaluating their relationships with hired professionals and ask the question “you’re in a position of influence, are you being responsible?”
Yours in Wellness,
Prevention over Treatment