Example Business Ideas

How to Sell Things That Don't Exist

Written by Jay Shapiro for Gaebler Ventures

Can you make money without actually delivering a physical product to the customer? The answer is yes.

There are numerous businesses that sell products that the customer never actually sees or has physical contact with.

Buying an acre of the moon, for example, doesn't enable the purchaser to actually go there and plant a flag or make either small steps for man or giant ones for mankind. The idea is merely a gimmick.

So too the 'name a star' services which abound across the internet. For a fee these companies will name a star after your designated loved one. In return you and/or your loved one receives certification that points out the name and the position of the star.

This sort of selling doesn't involve actual products, other than the paperwork. It's not like buying a vacuum cleaner with a delivery day of next Wednesday. There is nothing tangible on offer here.

It's all about selling dreams and appealing to the emotions. The ideal customer for moon acreage and/or star and planet naming is the person who is already in a heightened emotional state. By heightened emotional state we generally mean that the person is experiencing one of the following three states:

  • Love
  • Elation
  • Grief

Let's look at number one. Love. When a person who is deeply in love wants to give a gift to their beloved they want it to be something extra special. This is why personalized goods sell so well to loved-up customers. People in love are susceptible to romantic ideas and are therefore warm to the idea of star naming and the like. Because they are seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles to begin with, they won't question the logic of such fanciful purchases.

State number 2 – Elation. If someone is in a euphoric state then again logic is affected. Perhaps they want to do something different as a gift for someone who has really helped them or made them happy. They want to make an unusual gesture. They are then the perfect target audience for the selling of such dreams.

Grief. It is of course very sad when people are suffering grief. However people deal with their mourning in many different ways and for some, the naming of a celestial body after a much missed loved one seems the perfect tribute. Very often people will name stars after their favorite pet. As a means of commemoration, it's certainly unusual.

Is an emotional sell like this an exploitative one? It really depends how you look at it. Just because there is no physical product doesn't mean that there is a lack of customer satisfaction.

Perhaps cynics find this sort of business a little dubious because they themselves hold materialistic views. That's not to say three is no value in these sorts of businesses and what they provide to the consumer. After all, can a monetary price be put on comfort, or happiness or the expression of love or loss? If it can and you are running this sort of business, the question might be not whether to charge, but how much.

Jay Shapiro is a freelance writer based in the UK. Jay has a particular interest in the emotive aspects of the entrepreneur's character. "Alongside the nuts and bolts of business, the character of the person is often the ingredient responsible for success."

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