» The Paradox of Choice: When More Isn’t Better

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

In my 2014 webinar on pricing, I talk about having better packages and pricing information. I suggest having three packages, where the middle package is the one that you want/expect most customers to buy. I want to delve a little deeper into why this may work for you.

Decision makingIn his book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less, psychologist Barry Schwartz suggests that “eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.” Today’s couples have grown up in a world of seemingly limitless choices. But more choices aren’t always better. More choices don’t make choosing easier; in fact, too many choices makes choosing harder. When presented with so many choices, how do you choose?

Give them better choices
It’s your job as the expert in your field to help guide your customers to the right choice. Giving them a very long list of options is only going to delay them from making a choice. It’s also making selling harder for you. It’s simply harder to sell and harder to buy when there are more choices. If you often have customers say “You’ve given us so much to think about we need to go home and process it,” you may be overwhelming them with choices. In addition to presenting them with choices, it’s also your job to eliminate the options that won’t work for the customer and remove them from their view, literally and figuratively.

Imagine you only have one thing to sell – then it’s simply a yes or no decision. Add another choice and it’s either Option A or Option B. But when you add a third choice something magical happens: Option B becomes the easier choice. Adding more choices muddies the middle, and the clear/easy choice isn’t as apparent.

Why do people choose the middle?
There are many theories as to why people choose the middle. Some say it’s the “follow the herd” mentality. It’s the “safe” choice, as the lower option might be too bare and the higher option too extravagant. I remember reading that when the Wendy’s restaurant chain first started selling a double hamburger, no one bought them. Someone on their marketing team suggested coming out with a triple hamburger, and then doubles started selling. When the double was the largest, no one wanted them. When it became the middle, people felt better about ordering them.

We don’t need no stinkin’ packages
Packages work at any price point. Mercedes and BMW have packages of options. A long time ago you would go to a car dealer and choose from a laundry list of options. It made both the sales process and manufacturing process more tedious. Then Honda came along with three models, DX, LX and EX. You only needed to choose from a short list of colors and manual versus automatic transmission. Eventually all other manufacturers followed suit.

Can you still customize?
Having packages doesn’t eliminate customization. It just means starting from a place where you, and the customer, will have less to discuss – at first. Caterers, for example, can sell a package and then still customize the menu within that package. I’ve helped some of my consulting clients create packages simply by looking at what their customers are actually buying. If there’s a noticeable pattern (which there usually is), then create packages around those patterns. Then, you can honestly label one your “most popular” package. It’s what your real customers are actually buying the most.

They like me, they really like me
Labeling the middle package your “most popular” or “best value” will get even more people to choose it. Just make sure you have a good profit margin in that package. Then have something lower, with less in it (maybe with restrictions) and have something higher, with all the bells and whistles. The higher package is there to make your middle package the safer, more affordable choice (not the cheapest choice!).

I suggested having three packages at a conference and the following year a DJ came to me and said that the day after they printed their new, three-tier price list with the top having the kitchen sink in it, the first customer who saw it bought the top package. She told me that in 8 years of business they had never sold anything that big. Since it was now on the price list it was a legitimate choice. If you’re not good at upselling maybe having better packages can help you sell more.

Why only three choices?
With every additional choice you add confusion and make the decision harder. There are countless examples of giving three choices: the TV show Let’s Make a Deal – three doors; the TV show House Hunters – narrows their choice to three houses; comedians use the rule of three when telling jokes; Goldilocks – three beds, three bowls of porridge, three bears.

Whether your wedding business uses packages or not, you can help your customers by not presenting them with endless options. Sales is about asking better questions, really listening to the answers and presenting your customers with the best solution(s). No one needs everything you offer. No bride needs every dress you sell. No couple wants every invitation style. No couple wants every song in your library/repertoire.

So take a look at what you offer, reduce the choices for your customers and make their buying decision – and your sales – easier. Happy selling!