I was talking with a friend the other day about the two loose groupings of consumers: satisfiers and optimizers. Satisfiers buy the first thing that meets some level of predetermined standards, and then they go on their merry way. Optimizers need to compare and contrast until they are sure they are getting the best
product relative to the rest of the market, and then they purchase.
Me, I’m an optimizer in far more product categories than I’d like to be, and I’m trying to be less of one. I think I’d save a lot of time and not be any less happy if I made purchases more quickly and with a minimum of research. But that’s neither here nor there.
Point is, my friend’s and my conversation veered toward advertising for products. He explained that a lot of times companies will look at (1) whether their consumers are likely to be satisfiers or optimizers, and (2) where they are in the market relative to everyone else. For instance, far more people are optimizers when it comes to large purchasers like cars. So car commercials are far more likely to compare themselves to other brands and try to convince you that they are the best model.
On the other hand, for daily sundries that tend toward consumers using a satisfier model, companies are more likely to try to breed brand loyalty and get people to try them, find they’re “good enough,” and stick with them.
I started thinking about all this in reference to book production.
You see, considering I’m an optimizer as a consumer, it just makes sense to me to be an optimizer as a producer. I can’t imagine putting out a book that was any less than the best I could possibly make it.
This is probably the way I’ll continue writing books, because I’m a Type-A perfectionist and I’ll want to claw out my brain if I publish at a lower quality standard. But I’m really not sure it’s the optimal way of writing books in general.
Because: let’s say that after the second draft or so my books ended up at, say, 97 percent of what I could make them, and it took months to cover those extra three percentage points. If I said, “screw it” and released at 97 percent, those months could be spent writing the next book — the next book, which I could then release a lot faster, when it was at 97 percent.
And how would this affect my sales? I’d probably make more money due to the quicker release schedule and the fact that enough of my readers are satisfiers (with a standards threshold at a level that wouldn’t cut out my 97-percent-of-what-I-could-make-it writing) for my slight quality drop not to matter in whether they buy the book. (Since most readers aren’t going to buy just one book, it probably makes sense for readers to act as satisfiers when book-buying anyway.)
Personally, I’ve sometimes been annoyed when authors I otherwise enjoy have put out their next book and I read it and I feel that it’s good, but not as good as it could be. I get ticked off as a reader. But the thing is, they’re probably doing the smart thing! They’re probably maximizing their own sales.
And the revelation to me here was that I’m betting those authors are acting as satisfiers with regard to their own work: they wrote a book they consider “good enough” to release, and according to the market, they’re right. They then went on to write their next book. It’s smart. It’s savvy.
Damn, I should consider doing it, too.
Alas, all this is mostly out of interest’s sake, because I’m not sure I’m psychologically capable of doing it with my writing, even though part of me would really like to. But you know, maybe there are other things I can approach with a satisfier mentality from the producer side — things like book promotion, blog posts, tweets, for instance. Maybe there are things I can say are “good enough” rather than trying to make them the “best,” and thus free up plenty of revision time for . . . well, writing and editing that next book! Because will my “best” be able to lead to optimizers choosing me anyway? Will my production optimization really make such a difference that it would lead to me being the top of the market for consumer optimization to choose?
Probably not. Probably my “good enough” and my “best” will just meet slightly different thresholds for satisfiers, and optimizers will more likely pass me by anyway, because come on, “best in the market” is a ridiculous goal to have. So acting as an optimizer as a producer is still only meeting the demand of satisfier consumers, only my approach is as if my audience is optimizers, meaning I waste ridiculous amounts of time trying to at least optimize within my own psyche before putting things out into the world. Instead, I should be attempting to reach a certain bar and hook everyone who will read according to that standard. I should approach my work as a satisfier myself and put it out there when it’s “good enough.”
I’m still going to make my books the best I can make them, because, particularly with my self-published work, I’m the author and the publisher and I CAN and I’m stubborn that way. But I think I’m going to start trying a lot harder to approach other areas of my life with a “good enough” mentality!
We’ll see how that goes.