Here's What People Really Want

I love dining out. I do it pretty often.

All cuisines, too. I give every restaurant a shot. Thai, Indian, French, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Greek, Japanese, the list goes on and on. Italian, certainly.

I go to fine dining, cafes, bistros, takeouts, delis, pizzerias, pubs, food trucks. I don’t discriminate. I enjoy trying new restaurants. I’m all about equal opportunity.

Warren Buffett once said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” A lesson that’s apparently rooted in one of the many lessons Benjamin Graham taught him at a young age.  Obviously, this quote is about buying and selling stocks. It’s about investing. For the most part, it’s pretty good life advice, too. I rely on it all the time.

This is my benchmark for restaurants. A simple question, really. Does the value I receive supersede the price I pay?

If so, it’s likely I’ll go back. It’s that simple. My metric is value. Each one has an equal opportunity to provide good value. Sure, I have to account for other variables like geographical area. Things that might restrict the frequency I’m able to or willing to dine there. But that doesn’t stop me from being able to recommend it to other people. Which is something I openly and gladly do. Well, assuming the value is high enough.

Before you can evaluate (or create) value, you first have to look at the “thing.” This never changes. It doesn’t change for me. It probably won’t change for you or Warren Buffett, either. There’s a funny saying, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.” This is what they’re talking about. The “thing” for Buffett is the actual business. It has to be a quality business. That is the most important aspect. For me and you, the “thing” is the product, idea, or service. With restaurants, it’s food. The food has to be quality. Stated easily, is the food any good?

Whether you’re creating or evaluating value, the “thing” matters more than anything. Without a good “thing,” nothing else matters. You need a good “thing.” Quality matters.

Most people, when it comes to most things, will except a fair trade. A good “thing” for its equal in money spent. You can imagine this is highly subjective. Which is why the latest internet guru might scream, “You’ve got provide more value!” I won’t say you have to provide more value, but I’d suggest you should. I can’t tell you “how” necessarily. I don’t know your specific situation. But I have faith you’ll be able to get there on your own, very soon. Keep reading. You’ll see what I mean.

What I can tell you is there are four drivers of value for anyone. These four drivers are all used to add more value to the “thing.” It will be up to you to weigh them in your given situation. One might be more or less important. Then you’ll have to think critically to derive tactics from each driver that will satisfy your situation.

I’ve previously written about this in my book The Salesperson Paradox, but it doesn’t apply just to salespeople or business owners. It will work for anyone trying to create more value for someone in any situation. It also works in reverse if you’re evaluating value like with restaurants—or any product, for that matter.

These four ways realistically apply to almost every human being.

Typically, I’m much less certain and possibly a little more skeptical. But I’ve been strategizing around these four ways for close to 13 years. Plus, every time I think about value, whether I’m creating or evaluating it, realistically, it always seems to boil down to one of these four.

#1: Time

Time is the most valuable resource we have. The hour will go by, the day will end, the year will be over. Yes, you will die one day. This makes time incredibly valuable. Almost every piece of technology today leverages this value driver. Amazon delivers stuff to you insanely fast. Uber, Tinder, Spotify all immediately match you with what you want. Venmo transfers money instantaneously from your cheap friend who skipped out on the dinner bill. They’re all saving you time and providing you value. The examples are literally endless.

You can create value like this, too. Ask yourself:

  • How can I save the person time?

  • How can I increase speed of delivery?

#2: Ease

Have you ever considered why you go out to eat? Sure, it’s for an experience, curiosity, and tastiness. Most good home cooks would probably contend they could make the same stuff at home with the right ingredients and equipment. They would be probably right. But you’re thinking too hard. Many people go out to eat because it’s easier. They don’t have to cook, clean, or serve. Everything is done for you. It’s well documented that humans want comfort, reliability, and certainty. It’s the same reason you bring your car to the auto body instead of fixing it yourself. It’s easier. Maybe you’re thinking, I fix my own car. Remember, “weighting” is important. It’s likely you don’t value “ease” as much as me because I’ve never fixed my car once in my life.

You can create value like this, too. Ask yourself:

  • How can I make this persons life easier?

  • How can I make it easier for this person to “whatever”? (Whatever = Listen to me, respond to me, buy from me, etc.)

#3: Status

Most people hate accepting this one, but please do. It’s insanely valuable and it doesn’t mean you’re shallow, shady, or sneaky. We’re all status seekers in some regard. We all want to look good to somebody.

I just finished Seth Godin’s new book, This Is Marketing, in which he contends that status comes down to one of two things: either, we seek affiliation and look at the world through insiders versus outsiders (does it look good to your tribe or not?), or we seek dominance and look at the world through winners versus losers (am I going to be at the top of heap?).

We tend to make decisions based on status, probably, more often than you think or are willing to admit. What books do you read? What books don’t you read? What car do you drive? What car don’t you drive? What school does your kid go to? What school doesn’t she go to? Don’t panic. It’s just reality. It’s human nature. We’re wired for survival. We want to fit in, look good to our tribe, and feel important. Does your “thing” make me feel that?

You can create value like this, too. Ask yourself:

  • Who does this person want to look good toward?

  • How can I make this person look good toward them?

#4: Money

This is an inevitable one based on the story we all tell ourselves about money. Love it or hate it. As a society, we value money. We’ve all agreed it’s important. Here’s the rub: the key with being able to use this value driver effectively is being able to show tangibility. My perception of what something is worth might be completely different than your perception. In fact, this is the hardest thing for restaurants to show the diner. Casual diners can’t decipher whether the 30% mark-up on the fish dish means you caught it yesterday or just cost you more to buy it. Are you giving me quality or screwing me? Value is hidden. You have to strive to be able to show tangibility otherwise perception will kill money as a value driver. This is why the early bird special or buy one get one free deal actually works. You’ve made the dollar savings tangible.

You can create value like this, too. Ask yourself:

  • How can I save the person money?

  • How can I earn the person money?

There you have it. The four immutable ways to add value for anyone.

Maybe you’ll have to tweak a little bit given your situation, but with this framework you’ll be at least 80 percent of the way home.

Maybe you’re left thinking, What about service? How in the world can you leave out service? I’ve never gone back to or recommended a restaurant that provided me poor service. I agree. I despise bad service. Service is critical. Think about this, though. What exactly did you like about that service?

Did they make the experience more comforting and easier?

Did they bring your food in a timely manner?

Did they make you feel extra special because it was your birthday?

Or, let me guess.

They gave you that dessert on the house?