Is Expert Advice Always Worth the Price?

A few weeks ago I took the day off to blog and do other social media related things but as the hours passed I had writer’s block. Nothing was coming to me until I read a very interesting article, Chris Brogan – Anchoring and Social Proof – Influencing Your Audience, by Paul Hebert. The article talked about how Chris Brogan, a social media guru, publicly stated his $22,000 a day fee for his consulting services. The angle for Paul’s article was how this publicly stated price impacts what other consultants can charge because of the anchor that’s been set.

The article also explores the principle of consensus (a.k.a. social proof) because undoubtedly other social media consultants will move in the upward direction as they see peers begin to do so. It’s a very interesting article so you should take a look.


Here’s my question for you (please feel free to comment below) – Would the advice Chris gives be worth $22,000 IF you or I could give the same advice but we charged significantly less only because we’re not as well known? In other words, is the advice more valuable just because it comes from Chris Brogan as opposed to me or you?

As I pondered this it brought to mind an article I wrote last year, Golf Advice from Corey Pavin. My wife Jane is an avid (addicted?) golfer! In that article I explained how I shared some golf advice with her. It was sound advice based on psychology but it went in one ear and out the other. However, weeks later she read a quote from Corey Pavin that was almost exactly what I had told her and she acted as it if was a revelation! For her it was more believable because it came from Corey Pavin. After all, he’s an authority having won the ’95 US Open.

But think about it for a moment, that fact that he said it didn’t change the reality that the advice was the same and should have worked every bit as well for Jane whether he said it or I said it. His expertise and track record make him an authority, giving him more credibility than I have when it comes to golf, but if you are going to pay for something based on authority shouldn’t you get something more for your money? Shouldn’t the expert give something that’s new or unique in some way?
I’m sure a golf lesson from Corey Pavin would include other tips and insights most people couldn’t give and that would make his higher fee worth it for the average weekend golfer. By the same token, Chris Brogan probably brings additional perspectives other less savvy social media folks won’t have. My point is not to say Chris Brogan isn’t worth his fee, it’s to get you to think.
Part of the influence process is establishing your authority because it makes you more believable and as a result you’ll hear “Yes” more often. I have two points for you to consider when it comes to being influenced by a perceived authority:
  1. Is this person really a legitimate authority? Chris Brogan has authority status having written Trust Agents (a very good book by the way) on using the web to build influence. Because of his work and time in the social media arena he’s recognized as an expert in the field. But that’s not always the case. For example, many spokespeople on TV have no real expertise and yet we’re subconsciously swayed by them.
  2. Is the advice something I could get elsewhere for less (money, time, effort, etc.)? Isn’t it disappointing to visit the doctor only to hear, “Rest it and take some Tylenol”? An expert – yes – but worth the money? Probably not when we all know rest is helpful and Tylenol reduces pain and discomfort. Or maybe you’ve attended a conference with big name speakers only to walk away thinking, “I didn’t learn anything new.” Worth it? Probably not because we expect something more from the expert.
The mind is an amazing thing. If someone believes Chris Brogan’s advice, or Corey Pavin’s, more than my advice or your advice (and lets assume it’s the same advice) then they’ll probably work harder to implement it. I know Jane will stay on the driving range for many more hours trying whatever Corey says, as opposed to what I might suggest, and she will be a better golfer as a result of her extra effort. Businesses will likely do the same with Brogan’s advice and that will legitimize his fee. Maybe that’s some of the value they offer?
The question of value reminds me of the experiment that showed kids prefer food in McDonald’s packaging and rate it as better tasting than the same food in plain packaging. As a parent, if it makes them eat the food then it’s probably worth the extra money and fewer hassles. If a customer is gung ho about the advice some authority gives vs. the same advice given by an average Joe then they’ll work harder to apply the guru’s advice and realize more benefit from it. If that happens I think you can legitimately say the expert advice was worth it.

In closing I’ll share a fascinating resource on this subject of value, the book Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value and How to Take Advantage of It. I read the book not long ago and it was an eye opener about how people value things. I highly recommend it because it will change your outlook as a consumer.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”
7 replies
  1. Maureen Metcalf
    Maureen Metcalf says:

    Very interesting question… Is the individual or group more likely to accept the advice of the expert than someone else who says the same thing? Part of what experts deliver is knowledge and the other part is influence because of their reputation. If an expert can mobilize an organization to overcome barriers that others can not, then the higher rate may be well justified.

  2. Brian
    Brian says:

    I think you're right Maureen. The advice might be the same but if it's more believable because the expert said it then there's value because it will lead to better results.

    We see the same thing in corporate America where some ideas get consideration because of the posiiton or title of the person sharing the concept. There are times when each of us has to show some humility and ask others to share a message knowing it will be better received by certain audiences.

  3. Fox
    Fox says:

    Hey Brian,
    I'm not going to argue if Chris' fees are worth what he claims.

    One thing copywriting/marketing legend Dan Kennedy says, and he charges $18,500 minimum for a day but people actually bid up to $50k for a day to make sure they are secured a spot, the more he charges the more compliance he gets on what he recommends. And, as a result of their actions, people see greater value of their day with Dan.

    And, I have the same issues with recommendations to my bride. I think it's a spouse thing. 🙂

  4. Brian
    Brian says:

    So the more we pay the more we value things. That reminds me of raising kids – when we make them buy a few things rather than giving them as birthday or Christmas gifts they tend to take better care (value them much more) of those things.

    PS I'm glad I'm not the only one who doesn't always get through to the significant other.

  5. Paul Colaianni
    Paul Colaianni says:

    There's one more influential characteristic I believe plays a major role here: Prestige. Not in the sense that person A is better or smarter than person B, but how it plays in the mind of the client.
    Sometimes a spouse knows way too many of our faults to see through them to the golden advice within. Too many other, unrelated, internal thought processes kick in when we offer suggestions or advice to a close family member or friend. My advice to my wife comes with all our history: pain, pleasure, happiness, sadness, and bad advice from the past. It cannot be helped but to mix them all together to form a bigger picture about the person giving the advice.

    Now an influencer with prestige can get away with so much more. We don't know all the mistakes they've made to learn the advice they now give. We only see the person they are today. Their history is painted very carefully (like the example about using the web to build influence).

    Reputation is only as good as the references about the influencer built up in the client's mind. Of course, in this case, perceived value plays a hell of a part too.

  6. Jim Canterucci
    Jim Canterucci says:

    Brian, some thoughts:

    When making a commitment to improve, it's human nature to solidify that commitment with an investment.

    Intend to get healthy? – buy an exercise CD. Taking a class? – Buy a shiny new notebook. Etc. Want to get your company involved in social media and heavy-duty client listening – buy the expert.

    I know of one of Chris' clients who brought him in mainly to help her sell the social media ideas to the execs. The bottom-line impact is still an easy ROI decision. There is inherent value there. Now, Chris's clients are large companies so they can translate the advice into big dollars. It's all relative.

    It's also important to remember that there is a difference between the advisor who read the book and the advisor who wrote the book via a lifetime of experience. It's a matter of texture.

  7. Brian
    Brian says:

    Paul, your spouse comment reminds me of the Bible verse where Jesus said, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." We tend to take those closest to us for granted many times.

    Jim, excellent point on writing the book vs. knowing the book. Behind the writing or teaching is alway so much more than people realize which gives the author/teacher so much more to draw upon. The expert has all that in addition to their published work.


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