When a Client’s Focus is Cost, Beware

Some people, including attorneys and insurance adjusters who are potential clients of Magnus, are more focused on obtaining the lowest price for whatever they are buying than the quality of what they are buying. Other people, in contrast, want the very best products or services money can buy. Most people, of course, fall somewhere between these two extremes in their desire to buy something of quality for an affordable price. Magnus’ services have never, ever, been cheap. We are never the “low price leader” among jury/trial consultants. Therefore, when we determine a prospective client’s focus is on hiring the lowest cost provider of jury/trial research and consulting services, we are wary because we know it is unlikely we will meet this person’s expectations. I had an unpleasant exchange with a prospective client many years ago that illustrates this point. After I made a presentation at a lawyers conference, an audience member approached me to inquire about the cost of Magnus’ jury selection consultation. When I gave him my answer, he exclaimed, “Wow! What makes you think you deserve so much more than Ms. ___, who only charges a fraction of your price?”. To David’s horror, I replied, “Because Ms. ___ has a G. E. D. and I have a Ph. D. Because I am actually qualified to select juries and Ms. ___ lacks any qualifications whatsoever. And, now, if you will kindly excuse me…” I know this is rather harsh, however, I knew, merely because this attorney was solely focused on price, not excellence, he would never be my client. Time and time again, we have had similar experiences. Recently, David was required to deal with the end client of the attorney who had retained us because it was the end client who was paying for our services. The end client repeatedly attempted to get David to “bid against himself” by discounting our fees just because she believed she was entitled to a cheap deal. Hilariously, David asked her if she believed the price of a Mercedes-Benz should be the same as the price of a Hyundai, in an attempt to explain Magnus is the Mercedes-Benz of jury/trial consultants. The client did not answer David’s question, but we later found out she drives, you guessed it, a Hyundai! I have no problem whatsoever with the type of car people drive, however, when a client cares less about the high quality of Magnus’ work, my credentials, or anything related to the valuable assistance my team and I will be to the trial team and instead, focuses only on trying to get a cheap deal, I know this person (or the corporation he/she represents) is not a good fit for the business model David and I established 25 years ago. In jury/trial services, like most other things of value, “You get what you pay for.”

I don’t worry too much about whether we’re seen as a Mercedes, Cadillac or Buick. But I know we aren’t a Hyundai or, for heaven’s sake, a Yugo (for those who remember those eastern European beaters). What is most frustrating is when a prospective client seems to be shopping price, and price only. A problem in our business is that “mock trial” or “focus group” has, to some degree, become a commodity and some uninformed consumers do not understand what is really involved in doing things right and not cutting every corner. One would think that consumers working in the world of litigation, whether the attorneys, the adjusters, or even the litigants, would be sophisticated enough to differentiate. They probably know a McDonald’s hamburger is not the same as a burger at Ruth’s Chris. But, I digress. The aforementioned Hyundai driver took some odd and combative approaches to negotiating with me, which made it even less likely for me to accommodate her requests. When prospective clients say “I have a better price from one of your competitors,” I always ask for information that will allow me to create an apples to apples comparison, for we work in a world where there are apples, and then there are rotten apples, or crab apples. All of this was true when I was in the photography business – I’d be told “I have someone who will shoot for half of what you will.” Well, fine, hire them. If you are talking with me, you probably want me to shoot your photos or do the mock jury and you can probably find someone to do it for twice or three times my price. But these types of buyers do not know the art of negotiation. When I’m in the buyer mode, I try to ask questions that will ensure I get what I want. I may not want the Mercedes, but I rarely buy the cheapest item because I know I probably won’t like the result. Just yesterday I was computer shopping and going through all of these mental machinations when presented with (too many) choices of computers. Price is undoubtably a factor, but rarely should it be the primary factor in a world, like ours, where outcomes are critical. Stay tuned for more on a related topic.

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