Boutique pickups: What does a $250+ set have that a $150 - $200 set doesn't?

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by gregggyf, Oct 6, 2010.

  1. mudfinger

    mudfinger Thanks for the memories. V.I.P. Member

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    That would be me! :laugh2:

    Seriously, I haven't ordered pups from either Wolfie or Coolie, but I could totally see myself being a serious pain in their asses if they offered me free rewinds to account for taste. :naughty:
     
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  2. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid Senior Member

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    It is absolutely not the rewind, it is when a customer asks us what do you think would work best. Now when Wolfe is asked that he will give a different answer than I as we have different styles of what we do. So unfortunately people they think that because x neck pickup is x dc then you need to do the same thing to achieve the same goal when in fact when you send us a clip and we say we think for my style of winding and you choose not to head what we say then you do not like the pup well that gets frustrating. It rarely happens but it does.
     
  3. copperheadroad

    copperheadroad Senior Member

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    Great thread ,I'm gonna have to read all of it...:applause:
     
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  4. Zhangliqun

    Zhangliqun Senior Member

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    Maybe I put across the wrong impression but I love answering the emails, it's a potential sale so how can I complain? Even if I don't get a sale, if I do a good job answering their questions, they often come back weeks, months, even years later and buy, so I take them all seriously. (Except for a certain kind, more on that later.)

    Probably 19 out of 20 emails I get are from people who have been playing for a significant time, have tried out their share of pickups and understand that no pickup anyone can make will all but play the guitar for you. This means that their questions will rarely be anywhere near stupid because this is a customer who pretty well knows what he wants, so to me, the more questions the better. Just in general, the pickier a knowledgable customer is the better. It's counterintuitive but this kind of customer is a lot easier to please, so keep those questions coming.

    That 20th email is almost always a young and/or inexperienced player, the kind who spells the word probably "prolly" and often uses block caps. They don't ask all that many questions, or if they do, they go in 50 different directions that are not even tangential to each other. Or they want something that will be able to do impossible things, like a 38k Alnico 50,000 bridge humbucker that will sound like a vintage Tele neck with the flick of a switch -- and with 18 tap leads from each coil.

    Bottom line, No. 20 doesn't really know what he wants and is therefore impossible to please, so I start getting hives when I suspect an email query is from a teenager. I know it will be just a "rented" sale because it's just this side of metaphysical certitude that this pickup will be coming back for a either an equally stupid tweak request or an angry refund. Either way I'm not going to keep the money so at least let me keep the time. (Sorry kids, come back in 5-10 years...)

    As far as my guarantees go, my policy is pretty much the same as Wolfe's, except I do draw the line when I know what they're asking for won't work. I will tell the customer that, sure, I'll make it for you, but if it doesn't work, the free tweak guarantee doesn't apply because you were warned about it. (In some cases where the idea is really stupid, I'll just refuse to make them that pickup.) They generally start taking my guidance more seriously at that point.
     
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  5. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    Hrm... I'm probably not getting the volume of email that some of the other longer-established winders are getting. I get at least several a day on average though. Sometimes they seem to come in waves. I haven't minded any of them yet. Some have been "interesting" requests to do things outsize of my comfort zone, but I feel like one party of most all of these conversations walks away having learned something. Many times it's me! I'm fine with that. I like to take the emails to phone calls if they get lengthy. Sometimes it's easier for me to get a feel for a person and guide the conversation to a suitable solution faster that way.
     
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  6. 79standard

    79standard Senior Member

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    Well stated! You were, for instance, very patient with my description of my desired tone; you probably sussed out that I wanted to help us nail it on the first try and spare us the agony of multiple rewinds. :laugh2:
     
  7. SKATTERBRANE

    SKATTERBRANE Banned

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    This is my observation, my experience. The people who ask no questions or only one or two are far more likely to buy than people who send many emails, and ask many questions.

    So, when someone starts sending more than 3 or 4 emails, and with each subsequent email they send, the less likely they are actually going to buy. I have had people continue to ask even more than a year!! I suspect they are trying to pick my "brane" to gather information, and then they use that information to buy from someone else.

    Little do they know that much of the information they get does not readily transfer to another winder's pickups!

    You see most people think that DCR and magnet is really all they need to know to choose a pickup! My answers apply to MY pickups and one cannot assume they would apply to someone elses. We all use different criteria to get to a particular result.

    For many people, it is just a matter of getting in the ballpark for the LEAST amount of money. For others they expect one pickup, one guitar to do it all. (like Zhang mentioned).

    Oh, I answer all the emails I get, but I know it becomes a futile excersize after about the 4th or 5th email. Some people expect that their first foray into boutique pickups has to be their last. That they have only one chance and it treat it like they are buying a house or something.

    One really has to try many boutique winders to understand, to fully appreciate their subtle differences. Hell I must have tried at least a dozen myself before I started my business! And I did not start a single thread asking other forum member's opinion, nor did I bother to email the winder. I simply bought models within the PAF range that I thought would appeal to me. That education was PRICELESS! (P.S. none of them could match a particular set of 57 Classics I had laying around, which I have since SOLD.)

    It is the same when people ask the forum "Should I buy this Les Paul or that Les Paul?" I say buy and sell as many as you can. It is the only way to appreciate and understand their subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences. No one else can experience life for you.

    I would NEVER name one of my pickups after an artist, song, album title, venue etc. I would HATE to imply that this or that pickup can ONLY do this artist's tone! A good pickup is capable of capturing many different artist's tones! Because that tone is also dependent on guitar, amp, (and the amp's speakers, tubes, biasing etc) effects, studio, recording process, and so on. The same set of pickups COULD manage to sound like Eric Clapton in Cream AND Duane Allman! (even though these two examples are so far apart).

    If you find a pickup you love, how do you know there isn't another pickup that is even better?

    I am more of a person who wants several guitars each having their own purpose, than to try to get one guitar to do it all. The very least I would want is a Les Paul with HBs (probably several, because I love Les Pauls AND HBs) one Les Paul with P90s. One ES-335, one Telecaster, and then whatever else.

    So, yes, email and ask as many questions as you want, but know that statisically speaking, I know the more emails you send, the less likely you are to actually buy. There are far more people who email and don't buy than people who do buy.

    What I find interesting is they will ask if I can or will do this or that, or if a pickp can do this or that, and when all my answers are YES, they still do not buy. I think many emails are some kind of test. Then there are the very common "When I grow up, I am going to buy SKATTERBRANES." type emails. Basically kids dreaming, and they probably email the "contact us" link of every product they would buy when they win the lottery. I wonder how many emails Ferrari gets?

    My typical customer places an order and I have to ask HIM a few questions to make sure I am going to get them what they want! Because their order is the first contact I have ever had with the person!

    My customers are typically VERY well informed, KNOW what they want, have money, and have already tried a fair amount of my competitors already. I am not all that compatible with wishy-washy, afraid to make a decision types, in business or in personal relationships.

    I am a very "get it done already" kind of guy. I do not seek counsel very often.

    Oh, and a $400 set is not going to be TWICE as good as a $200 set. I do not understand this concept! A $400 set may be 10-20% "better". As in all things, the expensive stuff is for people who seek that last "nth" of what they are seeking.

    Is a $100,000 car twice as good as a $50,000 car? Nope, but for those who buy the $100,000 car, its price is worth whatever more it has to offer, even if it is that it can do 0-60 .5 seconds quicker, or if it can take a hairpin corner 10 mph faster or if its interior has 8 dB less noise while driving at 80 mph.


    Some people are happy with their stock Gibson pickups, some actually take out their stock Gibson pickups and put in $50 Chinese pickups! Some are impressed when a $150 set blows their stock set away, and they are happy as clams.

    Some want to seek the ultimate, and are still searching.

    And, finally, some will only settle for real $8,000 set of 1959 double white PAFs, no matter how fantastic or mediocre the set they buy may turn out to be.
     
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  8. Hector Arcadius

    Hector Arcadius Senior Member

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    Excellent posts from both Skat and Zhang with some spot-on comments about the way we musicians / guitarists / customers think and operate. Guys like these 2 are the reason I hang around here...:cool:
     
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  9. 79standard

    79standard Senior Member

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    I said "A.D.D. be damned, I'm gonna read the whole thread," :laugh2: and it was an education, IMO not a waste of time at all. :wave:

    Generally I am relegated to secondhand Duncans and DiMarzios, but the few dealings I've had with boutique winders have been very satisfying.
     
  10. Zhangliqun

    Zhangliqun Senior Member

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    Brane-meister: Very interesting that more schmoozing = less sales for you. My experience has been dead opposite, to the point that I'm shocked when I get a sale after only 1 or 2 back-and-forths. The exception would be repeat customers who by definition know what they're getting.

    I'd say the average sale in my case takes 4 to 6 back-and-forths. Some of them go in spurts like that and then I don't hear from them for a while, and then weeks or months or even a year or two later, they come back and we close the deal.

    My best guess as to why our customer profiles seem to be so different in terms of the schmooze factor -- and this is really a shot in the dark -- is that I go out of my way to bill myself as a guy who will make just about anything if it's within my abilities and I think it will work. I tell customers that you're not married to the models on the site, that you should really just think of them as starting points for "tone negotiations" and let your imagination run wild -- within reason of course.

    Maybe this encourages more questions. You've got a tighter focus on a particular niche so maybe that keeps the viable conversations shorter.

    I suppose I should also say, if it wasn't clear, that I don't let my customers ask all the questions. Anybody here who's bought from me knows I ask a LOT of questions, especially about the tonal personality if the particular guitar and what pickups are in it now and have tried before and what they did/did not like about them. As you said (and this obviously applies to all guitars), a Les Paul is not a Les Paul, they are all surprisingly different. Some sound like they're made of mud, others are so bright that they have Tele's surrounding their house by torchlight with their ears plugged and yelling at them to turn their tone knobs down.
     
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  11. captcoolaid

    captcoolaid Senior Member

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    I am with you there Dave usually 25+ as what I do like yourselves are specialized for a certain group of players. I am amazed when an order just pops up. Then again it may be that Wolfe has been doing this for so long that players already know what they are after.
     
  12. WolfeMacleod

    WolfeMacleod V.I.P. Member MLP Vendor

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    Some do, some don't, and some think they know.:laugh2:

    I'm surprised, not a whole lot of email over the last few days. The break is kind of nice. (Where's the sleepy icon?)
    I still get a ton though. One particular guy likes to email a single sentence in each email. 20 times a day. And of course, never quoting any previous emails, so I can't follow the conversation. At. All. :facepalm:
    Sometimes it makes me laugh. Sometimes not. :laugh2:
     
  13. bill m

    bill m Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    I agree with Skatt with regard to the people with a boat load of emails and questions usually don't order, but I give all emails and phone calls my full attention to the customers and try to give the best advise possible to fit their needs.
     
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  14. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    One time I got this in an initial email:

    "Hi. Please invoice me for a set of your double creams. Thx"

    errrrr..... I need much more info please. :dunno:
     
  15. SKATTERBRANE

    SKATTERBRANE Banned

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    Of course there are some winders who offer the ony way to order is through email. They do not even have an "add to cart" system and they manually process all their orders.
     
  16. LtKojak

    LtKojak Senior Member

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    What? You mean you can't read my mind? What a shitty service... ;)
     
  17. DAllenPickups

    DAllenPickups Member

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    With my sets the ones over $250 I have had parts custom made and usually spend time developing a specific tone with an artist or studio musician so there are a lot of hours going into the design. With all of them the attention to detail will be above any mass produced product.
     
  18. fuelie

    fuelie Senior Member

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    Once you decide to venture away from mass produced products I feel you are also entering a different level of service. Something more personal and refined just like the pickups you are going to purchase from the winder. Most of those who look into custom built products are looking for something and I feel it is the winders job to help steer the customer towards their goal if unsure.

    Personally I like talking to customers and don't mind emails. When selling performance parts and race engines I spent years behind a counter and on the phone giving technical advise. This helped me establish relationships with customers that have lasted to this day or customers who dealt with me through their entire car build. I also think it helped that I wasn't a bullshitter salesman type and was always straight with people.

    This trait is something I had to incorporate into my pickup business. I really like the personal feel of it and actively taking a part in a customer's goals. If I can help them in the end and give them a fair price I am more than happy. Hell, I even offer what I call a "dyno service" where I will load up a custom set in a suitable guitar, break the pickups in, and send sound clips to the customer to see if we are on the same track. I think it's pretty cool considering I don't even charge for it.

    Cliff notes. I firmly believe our service and technical help as "boutique" type pickup builders help add value in our product and within reason should be considered when looking at prices. We are not hourly employees punching a clock blindly winding coils and slamming them together. We wind each pickup with you the customer in mind.:)
     
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  19. cooljuk

    cooljuk Transducer Producer Premium Member MLP Vendor

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    I thought it was Larry. :shock: Especially after he later asked me to send them signed and dated.

    Guess who got "free covers" installed that day? ...now they all do.

    Turns out it was unrelated, though. Just a strange coincidence.
     
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  20. Zhangliqun

    Zhangliqun Senior Member

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    Hey now, I resemble that remark! Although mine is set up for them to give me their phone number too so I will sometimes call. Been calling more lately because it seems voice to voice increases chances of a sale.
     

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