Types of Buyers

April 13th, 2010

Every business offers discounts for bulk purchases, and fotoLibra is no exception. Workers can’t be expected to make decisions for themselves, however, so management usually imposes a sliding scale of acceptable discounts — 5% off for a dozen, 10% off for a gross and so on to tares and bushels and other wonderful weights and measures.

All very well, but some people are always compelled to try and knock the cost down further, whether by pleading, demanding, bullying or negotiating. Whether that’s in their nature or they are commanded to behave like that by their bosses, I have no idea.

A price is a price, and I feel it should be respected. I am deeply uncomfortable in souks and other environments where you are expected to haggle. My haggling skills are zero. Yet I have a good friend who proudly boasts he has never paid full price for anything in his life.

I am also deeply suspicious of ads offering me “50% OFF!” 50% off what? A price which was inflated by 100% in the first place?

But at fotoLibra I’m a seller, not a buyer, so because we know the process can be uncomfortable, we try to make it as easy as pie to buy. I have gradually discovered there are five distinct buyer types:

1. The Wham-Bang

2. The Global MegaBuck

3. The Dealer

4. The Mendicant

5. The Great Honour

The Wham-Bang comes to the fotoLibra site, finds what it wants and buys it. Job done. We love them and we want to have babies with them. All Apple customers are Wham-Bangers. You don’t see many discounts on an iPad.

The Global MegaBuck won’t even deign to notice our existence because it already has tied up an exclusive contract with their pals at Global MegaPix to supply all their image requirements for £50,000 a year and they won’t be dealing with anyone else thank you very much. Then they decide they want a particular picture that only we have and are puzzled that we’re reluctant to sell it to them at the same unit cost that they pay Global MegaPix. So eventually they condescend to allow us a price agreement policy whereby their 1,447 picture researchers are permitted to search for images on fotoLibra. They usually turn out to be perfectly decent people, paying a fair price per picture as long as they can use it how they like.

The Dealer is constitutionally unable to pay the quoted price. “Can I have a discount on that?” or “What’s the best price you can give me?” or some similar tweet is its standard calling cry. No reason for this favour is provided. An offer of 10% often mollifies it, but slamming down the phone always works for me.

You can hear the Mendicant wringing its hands on the other end of the phone. “We’ve got a really low budget on this job, I know it’s a lot to ask but it will be terrific publicity for fotoLibra. Just this once? I know it’s difficult for you, it’s difficult for all of us at this time, heh heh, it’ll be so good for you, I’ll make sure there’ll be a big credit to fotoLibra, you’ll get lots of business …”

The Great Honour is the almost indistinguishable opposite of the Mendicant; it’s like looking in a mirror. “This is going to be so huge, you’re so lucky to be one of our favoured suppliers, now of course we can’t really pay you anything but we can give you a credit on 10 million copies in fifty countries, now you couldn’t buy that sort of coverage, go on, could you?”

The trouble is that apart from slamming down the phone I personally have no real mechanism for dealing with these approaches. I think I’ve worked out a strategy when all of a sudden the Dealer I’m talking to metamorphoses into a Global Megabuck before mutating into a Great Honour. Maybe I just don’t react fast enough.

My simple philosophy is that you get what you pay for. The only trick the microstock folk have taught us is that you persuade people you’re selling pictures for a dollar, then instead of doing that you sell them five thousand Credits — which may or may not be worth a dollar each. Yes, if you buy 5,000 crappy one credit images, they may cost you a dollar apiece. But who needs that many low-res, low-quality images?

It’s damn clever, there’s no denying it. There’s an offer to satisfy everyone. But the basic premise is misleading. It’s like the £5 flights on cheap airlines. They do exist, but it’s harder than you can imagine to profit from them.

You — almost always — get what you pay for.

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