How to Create Your Company's IKEA Effect

Mom and little boy assembling IKEA furniture

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In 2011 Michael I. Norton, Daniel Mochon, and Dan Ariely conducted a series of studies that compared a person's labor and effort with their perceived value of the finished product.

One of their experiments involved people assembling their own IKEA furniture. They were asked to compare their completed work with that of a professional IKEA furniture assembler. (Yes, there is such a thing.)

The study revealed that people consistently viewed their finished product as more valuable than the professional's, even when the professional delivered a more polished product.

When asked to bid on either their own less professionally-completed box or the IKEA preassembled product, the box builders consistently were willing to pay more for the product they contributed to creating.

. . .

What If You and Your Clients Built a Box Together?

It occurred to us if assembling a boring, functional box could inspire a sense of ownership and parting with more dollars, then why wouldn't this apply to your products and services too?

At some point, you have likely been faced with the "it's too expensive" or "it shouldn't take you long to do this" challenge. We all know how those discussions too often end.

If you deliver intangible professional services, creating value can be especially challenging. Your goal is not only to deliver quality services but also to continuously strengthen the value of your relationship.

. . .

It's Complicated and Expensive

We recently asked a group of clients and business partners this question–

"When you hear cybersecurity, what do you think of?"

We received a lot of thoughtful, useful answers, ranging from the technical purpose to the practical outcomes. But these four words really grabbed our attention.

"It's complicated."
"It's expensive."

We immediately understood why the responder felt that way. Cybersecurity, like any subject you haven't studied, is a jumble of frustrating words and concepts. We were reminded of these four words as we discussed creating our IKEA effect.

You provide valuable services that require a high level of professional knowledge and expertise. Clients rarely see the actual work required to deliver their expected outcome, and they shouldn't have to.

But this is where the complicated and expensive creep happens.

. . .

How Your Own IKEA Effect Creates More Value

What if your clients were more actively involved in the finished product? I'm not suggesting they prepare their tax return perched alongside you or draft the final building blueprints. Way too much participation. But what about a plain English, one-page roadmap for one of your start-to-finish deliverables.

Context and scope create clarity.

Simply seeing all the meticulous steps you take can be eye-opening. Suddenly, "it won't take you long" seems a lot less certain.

Then add to this roadmap a series of clear one-page worksheets where your clients actively share in assembling the finished product.

. . .

What We've Learned From Our Box Building

We've begun creating a series of worksheets for our clients, and the results have been surprising.

  • They have a clear picture of how the often unseen work we do fits into their overall business needs.

  • Clients feel more in control because they understand what's happening and why.

  • They know exactly where we all are at any time in a "complicated" delivery. This is a tremendous anxiety-reliever.

  • When they see the pieces coming together, they're reassured that they made the right decision for their company.

  • It's one more opportunity to share knowledge and reinforce transparency. The unfamiliar words now make sense.

  • They feel a real sense of satisfaction in the finished box.

  • Examples to Help You Get Started

    Here are just a few one-pagers we've created to uncomplicate and revalue our cybersecurity services.

  • The plain English How Your Cybersecurity Protection Happens Roadmap. This visually connects all the essential tools and active monitoring our clients never see. Not so complicated and expensive now.

  • How Your Company's Cybersecurity Services Are Implemented Worksheet. This includes the specifics steps our clients contribute to their own successful cybersecurity protection.

  • The Plain English Roadmap to Reliable Backups. Backups are misunderstood and frequently over-simplified. Seeing the pieces work together is a high-value, fact-based deliverable.

  • . . .


    Mom and little boy assembling IKEA furniture

  • Start with one simple, one-page roadmap that explains a complicated, high-value deliverable. Clearly show where in the process your clients contribute to their finished product.

  • Be sure the contributions you ask your clients to make are appropriate, doable, and the purpose clearly explained.

  • One key point in the experiment worth noting – participants highly-valued their finished products only when they completed them. When they gave up or unassembled the box, the value was lost.

  • You're ready to assemble your first box together. It might not be perfect, but it can change the way your clients look at your boxes.

    . . .

    Tags: Marketing Strategy

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    Linda Rolf is a lifelong curious learner who believes a knowledge-first approach builds valuable client relationships. She is fueled by discovering the unexpected connections among technology, data, information, people and process. For more than four decades, Linda and Quest Technology Group have been their clients' trusted advisor and strategic partner.

    Linda believes that lasting value and trust are created through continuously listening, sharing knowledge freely, and delivering more than their clients even know they need. As the CIO of their first startup client said, "The value that Quest brings to Cotton States is far greater than the software they develop."

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