Collector's Mindset

By Christopher Zoukis

Collectors are everywhere. People collect anything and everything imaginable. In his book, No B.S. Marketing to the Affluent, Dan Kennedy relates how he bought an antique gambling machine for $8,000. Car Collectors gather together in cities like Las Vegas to bid on classic cars. Some of the cars go for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. A woman in Northern California collects Barbie Dolls. She never takes them out of their original boxes, and exhibits them in a custom-built room in her house. Knife Collectors pay thousands for handcrafted custom knives and swords.  Image courtesy

In one sense, collectors are aficionados. For they are passionate about whatever it is they collect. In another sense, aficionados and collectors are different. Aficionados buy to enjoy and satisfy their passion. So do collectors. But collectors go one step further. They obtain pleasure from the act of ownership. Once they own an item, they do not want to give it up. Rather, they want to continually add similar items to their “collection.”

For example, a Ferrari aficionado buys the latest model to drive it. He wants to enjoy the way it handles and accelerates. He wants to show it off and be seen in it. The Car Collector buys a Ferrari to add to his collection, which may be composed solely of Ferrari’s, different examples from different eras. Or his collection may include many different types of cars. He may drive them, but his real intent is adding to his collection.  

American Gemological Laboratories (AGL), which offers rare pieces of exquisite jewelry to collectors, desired to know more about how to market collectibles to affluent customers. So AGL surveyed their customers. AGL discovered the primary reasons that collectors collect. AGL calls the reasons the Collector’s Mindset:

* Collecting is a way to express wealth.

* Collections are a symbol of achievement.

* Collecting provides a sense of satisfaction to the collector.

* Collecting is a way to enjoy rare objects.

* Collecting is an expression of competitive ownership.

* Collecting provides a connection to history.

* Collecting is a way of leaving a legacy.

* Collecting is a means of wealth transfer.

AGL also discovered that building trust with collectors is a vital factor in marketing and selling to these individuals. Building trust involves four primary factors, according to AGL:

* Clients want access to accurate information.

* Collectors are astute about brands and want to discern between perception and reality.

* The presentation process is important to collectors.

* The building of trust involves a certain level of intimacy.

Regarding the last factor, AGL discovered that when selling rare gems to collectors an 18-inch counter was best for building trust. If the counter was wider, the level of intimacy was too distant. If the counter was narrower, the level of intimacy was too high. A certain level of personal-space had to be maintained.

This trust-building concept led AGL to four important conclusions regarding marketing and selling to affluent collectors.  For one, a specific plan had to be developed. For two, once developed, the plan had to be executed. Execution of the marketing plan involved the third and fourth conclusions: tapping all available resources of expertise inside and outside the company; and staff training. The correct training of sales associates was a vital part of the presentation process, according to AGL.