On price elasticity, and other things that snap

Would your business pay $427 to be able to show the dollar impact of its analyst relations program? Is that a fair price? And if you got the most comprehensive guide to analyst relations along with it, what would be a fair price?

Barbara French writes on her blog that the list price of $500 is too high for the twentieth anniversary edition of Dr. Efrem Mallach’s textbook on analyst relations (it’s currently available for $427 on Amazon). Armadgeddon, a poisonous blog which revels in the negative, repeats the complaint.

This large-format, hardback, 350 page book works through every element of the analyst relations process in 16 detailed chapters. Uniquely, it has a step-by-step worksheet allowing you to prove the value of analyst relations and samples plans for analyst relations programs. It is also the only book to expand analyst relations to consulting firms.

The guidance in this book will pay for itself many times over: in saved hours of efficiency, in greater AR budgets that generate more revenue, and in increasing the ability of AR to defend resources and activities that contribute to business profitability. If your analyst relations program does not think that is worth $427, then how much did you spend on coffee this year?

In fact, good guidance on AR is costly, either directly or indirectly. There’s lots of bad guidance available, and the market for AR services is modest. One of the best papers we saw this year was Outsell’s guide, which was just 24 pages and $295. The Care and Feeding of Industry Analysts, which is twice as long is also $295. Since Efrem has worked both as an analyst, and in AR, let’s consider a few of his peers: Kevin Lucas‘ 11 page paper is $279, while his six pages on evaluation come in at $379. Geoff Roach and Lisa Perry’s e-book is even better, and is longer at 126 pages: but it is $745.50. The much shorter, and hopelessly outdated, guide from softwareCEO is only $150 – but it dates from 2003. Maribel D. Lopez and Merv Adrian’s five pages cost $379. The record goes to Forrester for four pages, also for $379. Merv’s six page guide to analyst days seems a bargain, also for $379.

If you bought all of these reports (written by people with less AR insight and experience than Efrem, even collectively) you would have paid almost $3300 — and have fewer pages for almost eight times the price of Efrem’s huge book on Amazon. And you’d have to print and bind them at your own expense, and deal with a lot of duplication and contradiction.

Quite unreasonably, Tekrati compares the price of Efrem’s book to AR books have been subsidized by their authors. I’m a big fan of Louis Columbus’ book but, with 50 pages for around $11, he was donating the time to the industry. Bill Hopkins’ book is only $50, so sales through online and physical sales can’t hope to cover the cost of the time taken to transcribe Bill’s course, ghostwrite the manuscript, print it, distribute the book and pay the sales channel. Luckily for Bill, his firm owns a mailing list of almost seven thousand AR managers built up over many years. Hopefully he’ll be able to make some direct sales to those people. That means that Bill’s book has the opportunity to get the sort of sales volume that no-other AR book can get, but to sell even 1000 or 2000 of these books will be hard. Bill’s book is a mass marketing tool which reflects his firm’s broad focus on the 1000 or so largest tech and telecoms firms. Efrem (and even the Forrester analysts) won’t expect to sell as many single copies as Bill can: they don’t have the same sales channel.

The key issue here is price elasticity: the addressable market for books and reports on analyst relations is restricted. The market has to be profitable, otherwise there is no supply. Perhaps Efrem can sell 100 copies at $427, but there’s no way he could sell 1000 copies at $42.70, even if he did, he’d have the cost of printing and shipping 900 extra books to readers around the world. First, the AR community is not large. Second, how much would it cost to identify enough people to make a marketing campaign generate enough sales? If anyone can see a profitable way to reduce the price of the book, then Efrem and I are open to suggestions.

What’s interesting is that neither Tekrati nor Armadgeddon complained about the price of these other reports. That’s because they don’t have the same deep interest in those works as they do in Efrem’s book, and that’s because of the far greater quality of Efrem’s book. I can’t blame them for wanting to pay less, but I do doubt their judgment than some other price would be more effective.

P.S. What’s especially ironic is that both these blogs repeat the same joke: they jape that perhaps the book should include “a teleconference or other interactive learning experience with Dr. Mallach. Lighthouse AR should clone Dr. Mallach or at least outsource to a really good impersonator.” The irony is that, in fact, the book does include “one-hour video-conference tutorial with Dr. Mallach” when bought from the publisher.

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