Are Experts Cheap or Expensive?

By MARK RIFFEY for the Flathead Beacon

You may not be old enough to remember the Fram guy, but he’s the perfect example of the expert who can be cheap or expensive.

The cheap expert is the one who gets paid to take care of routine maintenance that prolongs the life of your asset – in this case, your car’s engine. The expensive expert is the one who rebuilds your engine because it wasn’t properly cared for.

While there are several assumptions made there, the point is clear.

The failure to plan
You’ve likely heard the old saying “A failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”, often accompanied by “People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.

Both of these sayings describe situations frequently seen by experts in finance, legal, insurance, medical, technology, auto repair and other fields.

For example, as a long time technology guy, I’ve reminded more than my fair share of business owners to backup their files to a safe place.

Why? Because I’ve also been paid by a fair share of business owners to recover and/or reproduce their critical data because they didn’t back it up – ie: they didn’t treat it like the critical asset that it is.

One obvious place where this causes problems for business owners is in the critical areas of LIFT – Legal, Insurance, Finance, Taxes. New business owners frequently take shortcuts here because the recommended path costs too much, or at least, appears to.

In those cases, the small business owner might make a decision between C corporation, S corporation and LLC based on a web page’s description or simply because of the cost. If they don’t consult someone who understands the tax and legal implications / limitations / requirements of each type of corporate organization, much less the long term scenarios that each organization tend to bring to the table – do they make the right choice?

Or maybe they buy accounting software and set it up using the default settings rather than having someone who understands their business structure set it up so that it fits the business’ legal and financial organization as well as its goals. And perhaps they just started using it despite a lack of corporate accounting expertise rather than using an experienced, part-time bookkeeper a couple of hours per week.

These are just hypothetical examples, but you may know someone who has taken these shortcuts.

It isn’t that business owners take shortcuts because they are ignorant or apathetic. Usually it’s because they’re under tremendous time and financial pressure.

Can you relate to that? I’ll bet at least some of your customers can.

What about your customers?
Given that, imagine a new prospect needs your expertise but instead of using you, a known expert in the field related to the thing they need help with, they “google around” and do it by the seat of their pants. Why does that happen?

One of the questions I ask new customers is “What do you sell that most of your customers should buy, but don’t?

The answer indicates a number of things, including these three:

  • It tells me one of the things that you feel is critical to the success of your customers.
  • It tells me which of those things you struggle to market, position, price and/or sell.
  • It tells me that your customers may not trust you as much as you think.

Put another way… there’s one product you sell that almost every customer would get good value from, yet you haven’t found a way to show them the value in a way that makes them want to buy it. Or you priced it incorrectly, or you packaged it incorrectly, etc.

If it is truly that important to the majority of your customers, it’s something worth addressing.

Put another way – it’s something the expert recommends, but the customer doesn’t take their advice (or doesn’t take it seriously), so they take a shortcut.

Full Circle
What’s the difference between the choice to take a shortcut that your prospect made and the one you made?


Let’s go back to “What do you sell that most of your customers should buy, but don’t?”

How are you positioning, pricing and selling the things that you KNOW your customers really need?

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him


Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him  Check out the Flathead Beacon archive of all of Mark’s blogs.