Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lessons Learned at Priceless Legacy

Observations about the concept of life story preservation and PLC execution to date:

1. Everyone loves the idea – that does not mean they intend to act
2. The mission is good and needs to be done
3. People don’t typically search for this product – it needs to be suggested
4. Customers need assistance in the buying process
a. Encouragement for doing (not a vanity, it will “work” etc.)
b. That the price is valid (not too high or too low)
5. People are happy when they take the time to preserve their legacies
a. Those who act (the subjects)
b. Those who receive (benefit)
6. People need help getting started. .. and to finish
a. Remind them that it is important
b. There is no way to fail (except to not start)
c. No right or wrong only incomplete
7. Operations must be simplified constantly – resist the customers’ pressures to over customize


1. People only fully recognize the need when it is too late (when death or dementia has taken the subject).
2. People cannot assess the economic value of the product because they have no reference points
3. Mass customization is a challenge because some customers think they have special circumstances. – (but also a big justification for the need).
4. Hassle factor, especially with photos, is high.
5. Lack of social consequence for non-action.
6. People tend to obsess with documenting “down” the family tree (their children and grandchildren) – but defer action “up” the family tree (their parents and grandparents)

Bright spots / advantages

1. Societal interest is still high. Demographics are favorable.
2. Digital image capture has revolutionized and democratized the memory preservation business. Now that we can capture and save all these billions of images, who will capture the stories that go with them?
3. As mass media fragments into smaller and smaller niches, is not the family the ultimate micro-niche?
4. Customer Satisfaction is extremely high for those who complete their projects.

Company Specific Lessons Learned

1. We are competing against “non-consumption” (doing nothing) and inertia not high priced personal historians ($5-10K) as we originally thought.
2. Urgency (even with dying subjects) is difficult to convey
3. Mortality is the “elephant in the room” that no one wants to face. This undermines taking action. “If I finish my book, I will die” on some subconscious level.
4. People are habituated to procrastination. “Those photos have been in the box for 60 years for a reason – why should I act now?”
5. We need LCs who sell and not people who can execute
6. Better to centralize operations (interviewing, photo organizing) to ensure quality and consistency.
7. Even after buying, customers will procrastinate making progress. It is therefore important to collect money early and not rely on customer completion.
8. Family incomes must exceed $100K to justify purchase. A professional education level also correlated with the drive to action.
9. Invisible psychological motivations drive behavior (e.g. sibling rivalry, desire for parental approval etc.)
10. Static web presence alone is not enough to drive sales activity.

Priceless Legacy to "Hibernate"

This is the communication that I never hoped nor planned to write. After a year of planning and another year and a half of execution, I have decided to shut down (or hibernate) Priceless Legacy. In simplest terms I have simply failed to create a replicable, scalable and effective process for selling our Life Story products. We figured out a lot of the operations side of the puzzle but without an effective sales “machine” the business does not work.

To the extent possible, we will manage the wind-down in a professional and honest way so that none of the people who believed in us will be harmed or left with a sour taste.

From the start, our vision was to build a company dedicated to helping people preserve their life stories and lessons for the benefit of current and future generations. Our plan was to build an organic direct selling organization (like a Tupperware or Mary Kay) of part-time Legacy Consultants who would evangelize and spread the word regarding the importance of life story preservation and the PLC solution. Virtually everyone I encountered in the planning, launch and execution phases underscored the intrinsic value in the product and concept. Indeed, we joked internally that those who did not endorse the idea clearly “lacked a soul.”

We knew the economy was tough (“worst in 75 years . . .”) but I was confident that the inherent “pricelessness” of the product was so attractive as to compel some level of market support. Initially, our beta test Legacy Consultants had good luck in selling the basic Life Story package for $899 – an unprofitable price that we adopted to get orders in the door so we could develop processes. By month five, we were ahead of plan in both LC recruiting and Life Story sales. Then our growth stalled. We sought advice in better recruiting, engagement and retention, but were unable develop a consistent volume of sales from our LCs. Most LCs would talk to a few friends and then give up forever. There were notable exceptions, but an “interested core” of four or five could not “move the needle” and second level recruiting never took hold meaningfully.

All the while, I personally continued to sell Life Stories on a consistent and almost effortless manner. This caused us to question whether perhaps the issue was just getting in front of more people with a professionally crafted sales message. That insight led to the infomercial direct marketing strategy which was, quite explicitly, a “bet the company play.”

The infomercial we tested in October was a critical success and presented the company well. Unfortunately a $14,000 media investment yielded 253 phone calls and only one sale. I listened to every single call and learned that price was indeed an issue and that these regular American households could not afford four payments of $379. was watching the commercial (and had been aware of our efforts due to outreach on my part). We crafted a web affiliate test with them that has been running since December 4. We have had about 800 visitors to our site since that time. Surprisingly, not one single sale has resulted. During most of that time, the price point presented was $299 for our new Personal Biography concept (“Life Story Lite”) which is designed to be more affordable.

Finally, in a fourth iteration of a strategy to sell this product during December and early January, I tried to line up one or more retail partners. Through discussions with a number of retailers, I learned that people like the concept but generally think the price point too high for their base (even at $299)

Some investors have generously offered additional capital to continue to execute our plans. I cannot, in good faith, accept such investment when I no longer believe in the viability of our offering. In short, I had thought sales would be comparatively easy and operations the real challenge. In fact, we figured out the operations but never did develop a replicable marketing process.

As such, I am taking steps to put the company into hibernation.

Thank you again for your support of this company and timeless and important mission. Not all good ideas are good businesses and this is a lesson I have taken to heart. Someday someone will figure this market out. It is simply too important a cause to lie dormant forever. Perhaps Disney was wrong, dreams don’t always come true; but they are still worth chasing.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Typical Testimonial Letter

Typical Testimonial Letter:

Since we received the beautifully bound, high quality book of our life story, "Still Smiling Through The Years", that you so skillfully edited and published, we haven't been able to put it down. Each time we read through it, it amazes us that the warmth and our true life-purposes were skillfully brought out during the editing and layout process. The captions and
summaries were artfully displayed.

We were delighted that even though some of our pictures were 3rd and 4th
generation photos, the scanner produced them even clearer than the
originals. The dust cover was also beautifully done, a fourth generation

Our family considers this, our life story, one of our most treasured
possessions. In case of a will be the one thing we grab to save
for the next's priceless!

We can't thank you enough for your professional help and encouragement
through this very worthwhile project.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 Marketing Relationship Announced

Beginning on December 3, Priceless Legacy will be one of six service/product offerings on's Expert Connect page. We will offer Personal History products including the $299 Personal Biography alongside of the Deluxe Life Story Package of $1199.

We are excited to work with the premier provider of genealogical data and services in the world.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Poem from Iraq

As a former Marine, I receive a lot of patriotic emails. This one seemed especially poignant for the season we've entered. It also captures an essence of family legacy and tradition that is so central to the work we do at Priceless Legacy.

A Different Christmas Poem

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear..
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the
sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas my 'Gram will always remember."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.."
" So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son."
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30th Naval Construction Regiment
OIC, Logistics Cell One
Al Taqqadum, Iraq

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Old Testament Wisdom on Thanksgiving

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Malachi 4:6 (the last line of the Old Testament)