- While the overall benefit of a high quality product is often not much greater than that of a lower quality product (from fitness coaches to free mobile phone games to bottles of wine), people will still pay much higher rates for a quality product.
- The people who spend this kind of money, curiously enough, also tend to be the kind of people who think that they've gotten a good deal.
- The kind of person who spends a lot of money on something is the kind of person who is likely to value having spent that money and vice versa: if you're the kind of person who doesn't think it's worth it, chances are that it isn't for you.
- Be honest about what you do and don't value, and make smart decisions. Don't waste money on quality when it isn't important, and don't be stingy with your money when it is.
- A good coach is like a good bottle of wine: it's a luxury product, but it's one that can be well worth it.
I know exercise coaches that charge $500/month, and people pay them. I know business coaches that charge $2000/month, or hundreds of dollars for a single phone call, and people pay them.
Why is it that people pay these coaches, when they could get a similar program for $5 if they know the right place to look? In most cases, you could probably find a cheaper coach who would provide roughly the same service. So, why do people pay so much to the coaches at the top of the food chain?
When you play a free mobile game on your phone, chances are that there are ways for you to pay money to get in game bonuses. Sometimes as many as 98% of the people who play this free game will pay absolutely nothing and still be able to get a lot of joy out of it, yet a handful of “whales” - big spenders in that remaining 2% - will pay enough money that it keeps the company making the game afloat. In many cases, these whales might pay a lot more than they would pay for a traditional $60 console game.
Why is it that 98% of people will pay nothing and still get a lot of fun out of this game, while a whale will pay exorbitant amounts and still be happy with their purchase?
In one last example, I can find a typical bottle of wine for just $5-10 at a grocery store. It doesn’t taste great, but it doesn’t taste awful either. Or, I can shell out $50-100 and get a good wine - it’ll taste good and be more enjoyable. Or, there are bottles of wine that cost up to $30,000 or more. Wine culture is huge, and wine tasting is a respected art even though science says that it’s mostly bullshit.
So why is it that wine enthusiasts will pay exorbitant amounts for bottles of wine which are substantially not very different from the junk that you can get for $10?
A while back, I listened to a podcast about Richard Betts, a prominent master sommelier and one of the very few to ever pass his master sommelier’s test on the first try. This test is supposed to be grueling and you’re supposed to fail the first time around. The intent of the test is to weed out the people who aren't really dedicated or ready.
On the podcast, he was asked precisely this same question: is it really worth it to spend all that money on wine?
His answer, to me, was pretty eye opening: that it’s worth it if and only if the person thinks that it is.
This answer isn't terribly meaningful. It's essentially a tautology: a person who likes a thing, likes that thing. Big deal. But it says something very important about these people who are willing to spend large sums of money on things that they care about: that they're a very specific kind of people who want to show off the things that they like.
The people who buy a $30,000 bottle of wine are fundamentally different people than the kinds of people that buy a $5 bottle of wine. These people are really enthusiastic about wine in general, and want to show off their passion. The kind of people who think of a $5 bottle of wine as a better deal are the kind of people who are probably spending their money on something else. That bottle of wine may not really be worth $30k, but if you have the money and the will, it's a way of getting access to a rare experience that few others can brag about.
It’s the same reason that some art sells for $100 and some for millions, depending on how valued the artist is, culturally. It's why, when we don't tell people who wrote the music, they tend to overvalue unknown artists and devalue the classical greats - but when we tell them who wrote the music, they value the names they've heard of or attach social value to, but ignore the unknowns. When it comes to entertainment, true fans will often spend money on the most expensive option simply because it’s the most expensive option, they have money to spare, and want to enjoy themselves.
People who have the money to do so will always collect things: comic books, DVD's, box sets, video game preorder bonuses, the latest tech gadgets, the newest sneakers, and more. Everyone is irrational in their own way - and there's nothing wrong with that, unless we somehow use our irrationality against others.
In short, if you’re asking the question “is it really worth it?”, then chances are that you’re not one of the true believers. For true believers, it’s worth it to spend your money on something you value even if it’s not the most cost efficient. If you had the choice between a crappy $1 cup of coffee and a $5 cup of coffee that’s the best you’ve ever tasted, which would you pick? It's a relatively small cost, but if you value coffee, then you'll spend extra to get the better taste. The difference between this and spending $30,000 on a bottle of wine isn’t too different - it’s just a matter of whether or not you have the money to spare.
The process of hiring a fitness, business, or other kind of coach to work with is similar. Chances are that you could get the same services cheaper if you spent a lot of time looking, but people don’t think exclusively with their wallet - they want a coach that they get along with, identify with, and relate to, even if that coach is more expensive.
There are fitness programs everywhere. I can google “powerlifting program” or “bodybuilding program” and immediately get hundreds of results. I could go to a forum and ask around. I could run down to literally any gym and ask any person at that gym what their training program is, and I'd get something passable. Most gyms have personal trainers, and most personal trainers will at least write you up a basic program pretty cheaply.
Now, some of these programs would be absolute crap. Chances are, most of them would be. There are plenty of straight up bad programs out there. At the same time, many would be passable. The results you’d get from them would be similar to the results you’d get from hiring a coach.
I'll be honest and admit that while my programming and coaching techniques have vastly improved since I started training clients, it's not like I was writing terrible programs to begin with: I was still getting results both with myself and with clients, and I still had many success stories. I would say I was maybe 75-80% as good as I am today - but today, I write much better programs, work with many more clients, and am much better known. Does this small improvement merit my ability to make much more money now? I don't know, but certainly some people think that I'm worth it.
So why do coaches like myself have careers? Because in the end, it’s not just about the program: it’s about having that relationship with a coach.
Recently, a long time client sat down with me for a phone call. She wanted to change her diet and do a dedicated weight cut for the first time. Over the call, she mentioned how glad she is to have me as a coach: because it’s my job to be there to support her when she messes up, to provide guidance when she’s uncertain, to encourage her and keep her accountable. Is that worth my monthly rates? Well, if you’re asking, you probably wouldn’t think so, but for her it’s well worth the cost.
Ultimately, you always get what you pay for - people are often willing to pay more for something that they value, even if that doesn’t necessarily make sense to someone else with a different perspective. The very act of spending that money also has a tendency to increase our belief in the value of the things that we've spent it on - this is an example of the sunk cost fallacy at work.
I spend a lot of money on video games, but very little on clothes or shoes. This might seem absurd to somebody else, but it's simply an expression of what I value. In turn, because I've spent money on video games, I value them more.
- As a coach: remember that what sets you apart from the competition isn’t necessarily the program, but is instead your ability to make yourself trusted and valued. Learning to design better programs only makes you a better coach up to a certain point. After that point, it's all about creating value for clients and customers - whether that means giving them more free blog posts or going out of your way to provide a better service than the person down the street.
- As a client or consumer: be honest about the fact that you get what you pay for. If you’re willing to put more money or effort on the line for something, chances are that it’s worth it, no matter how expensive someone else might think it is. Spending money has a tendency to convince you to follow through on this initial investment, leading to better results with whatever you're investing it in. Spending money on quality is worth it, if you have the money and the desire. But - be smart about it. Don’t spend money if you’d rather invest time or some other resource.
As a coach, I’ve often hired other coaches. While some might consider this a weakness, the reality is that everyone can get benefit out of working with a coach, even coaches. Most of the best coaches I know have only gotten that way by learning from and hiring other coaches themselves, and are honest and open about this fact.
Having someone to handle your training for you reduces the worry and cognitive load that comes with writing your own programs or managing your own progress. It reduces decision fatigue and makes it easier to succeed. For this reason, even if you know full well how to do something for yourself, hiring someone else to do it for you can still be beneficial.
Working with a coach isn’t for everyone. Some people simply don't have the money or desire to really invest in a coach. For these types of people, cheaper options (like the free programs I give out with my mailing list) will do. But if you really want to have the best chance of succeeding - you get what you pay for.
- Cherry Picking And Confirmation Bias
- I Don't Think We Should Glorify Hard Work
- When I'm Rich And Famous, I'll Give All My Money Away
- The Pareto Principle And Fitness
- My Single Best Productivity Investment
Are you interested in perfecting your deadlift and building legendary strength and muscle? Check out my free ebook, Deadlift Every Day. Or maybe a well-rounded beginners program for those looking to build strength, muscle, and endurance? Check out my other free ebook, GAINS.