The Elevator Story and Value Staircase

Update 8/31/2011: I was surprised to read that there are still seven-story apartments in New York that do not have elevators and still rent to people. As you will expect, despite the location, the view and the benefits, these apartments are a bargain to those willing to hike 192 steps to get to their home. Apartments that go for $3500, go for $2000 – all because of no elevator.

Imagine you owned  a five story building in 1850 New York, years before the Elevator or more importantly the Elevator brake was invented. Despite the unobstructed views and the status the top floors provided you were not able to charge much for the rent.

There was clear value in the top floors and better yet there was more of it to come if you were to build more floors. Yet, no customer, except those in the most athletic form or those in dire need of a place with cheap rent, was willing to see that value and pay a price for  it.

What use is a feature when its value cannot be realized or the cost to use the feature  far outweighs the value?

In the case of tall buildings, it all changed when Elisha Otis invented a safe way to stop elevators and these stopped being death traps. An invention that had nothing to with you or your own efforts ended up unlocking the unrealized value from these top floors.

Fast forward to present day. You have a product that you know adds considerable value to the segment of customers you are targeting. Yet customers do not see it that way. Your own sales team do not see the full value. Definitely your competitors are making sure it stays that way.

You can improve your value messaging to help reduce the selection cost, credibility gaps, risk aversion and reference price effects. Yet, no amount of value communication from you is going to help reduce the cost of doing business – the effort customer needs to exert to use your product.

You need an elevator to climb back up the staircase. Something that makes it very easy for your customers to adopt and use your product without changing their behavior, business process or the way things are usually done.

Unfortunately there is no Otis to invent a generic one for everyone. It is you who have the task of making it very easy for your customers to use your product.

Until that elevator is invented, your product’s value and price remain unrealized.