Viewpoint: Pricing Out Fear

Viewpoint: Pricing Out Fear

For 2008, I changed my health care insurance from a traditional plan to a Health Savings Account (HSA). Basically, it means that the first $2,000 (pre-tax) of medical expenses are on me. I was scared at first, but I soon found that it did have some entertainment and educational value.

I have found myself pricing out certain medical procedures like some customers price out car repairs. I tried pricing out a vasectomy. Not that I wanted, or need one, I just want to see how much one would cost out-of-pocket (no pun intended).

I called my doctor to get a price. He quoted me off the top of his head a price range of $600 to $1,200. I asked him if he could be more specific and give me an itemized estimate. He said that he could not do that until he performed an examination and consulted with my insurance company.

If I was going to spend this amount of money, I want to know what I will be getting. I tried to nail down his estimate. I wanted to know if the $600 vasectomy was the “get’em in the door” price, like a $99 brake special. I was worried that once I was opened, they would try to sell me extras.

To reduce the price, I asked if could have it performed without anesthesia. Or, maybe they had economy-grade clips that were less expensive. I suggested that I could bring my own gown and remove my own stitches.

I even went to the phone book and tried to find a Vasectomy specialist who can do it for a discount price. But, since most men need a vasectomy only once, the return business is not too good.

My doctor said that I should not worry about the price because you can’t put a price on your health. His closing remark of “it is not like you can perform a vasectomy on yourself” really got me thinking. No, I was not going to do it myself.

It struck me as ironic. I realized that if some shops tried to use this sales pitch and pricing system, they would be on the evening news. But for some reason the medical community gets away with it because human life is at stake. Also, the consumer is always fearful that every bruise, bump or sign of swelling could mean an end to his life.

Fear and life are powerful sales tools that allow doctors and drug companies to create some of the most horrific marketing and public awareness campaigns.

In my vasectomy pricing exercise, I realized that the aftermarket needs to bring fear back into its marketing. Forget brake dust, OEM quality and warranties, I want aftermarket manufacturers and trade associations to bring bloody fear into the hearts of consumers if they do not use a premium product. I do realize that conventional wisdom says negative images might create negative associations that rub off on the product. This is valid for some consumer products and political candidates. But, in my opinion, it is not applicable to aftermarket parts and services.

Too many aftermarket marketing professionals concentrate on creating “brand messages” that have warm fuzzy feelings that do not do much for creating a compelling case why technicians and consumers should buy and install their parts.

If a marketing professional is concerned that using blood and guts to harvest fear is crossing a ethical line, just look at the Lipitor and Viagra TV commercials.

The doctor I talked to for this story is a car guy, he seemed overly excited when I explained to him the concept of a mechanics lien for customers that do not pay their bill.

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