Price, wants, needs and the perils of urgent

You have a choice to make. There are four quadrants, and the thing you offer can fit into one of them.

Perhaps you make a low-priced treat, something that people want. Wrigley’s gum or Heinz ketchup, or an app that’s fun to use. Because it’s cheap, it might appeal to the masses. Because it’s a ‘want’, you’re not going to kill anyone if it doesn’t work now and then.

In the other corner, you might choose to sell pacemakers. Sure, your profit per unit is in the thousands, but the room for failure is precisely zero. You won’t sell a lot, and every single one of them better work.

The other two corners are also fascinating in their own way.

Perhaps you want to offer a luxury good, something that’s clearly a want, and not a matter of life and death. You won’t sell many of your $15,000 handbags, but that’s okay, because the margins are great. But it better increase my status!

And finally, there’s the tempting but difficult quadrant of low-priced goods that the user feels are mission critical. This is a vial of insulin or a web service that backs up data in real time (which can feel like life or death). Tempting, because people are always happy to pay a bit less for something they really need. And dangerous, because if you fail to invest in keeping your promise, everything falls apart.