Are Your Low Prices Driving Away Customers?

Do you price too low?

Many small businesses under-price. They should raise their prices. Pricing too low has several negative consequences:

You drive away your preferred customers. Sometimes larger companies expect to pay a certain level, and if you charge less, their judgment is that you’re not qualified to provide what they want.

You attract undesirable clients and customers. Those you attract are smaller jobs, clients that are on tighter budgets, the nickel & dimers, those who are shopping for low price over high quality.

You are not very profitable. This makes your business vulnerable. You’re not building up enough reserves to weather hard times. You can’t afford to pay yourself well, to upgrade your marketing presentation, to pay your people as well as they should be paid.

You can’t afford the strategic thinking and marketing you need to boost your company to the next level.

You can’t afford to hire top-level people, so that more of the work falls on your shoulders when they aren’t up to it.

You are leaving money on the table. Ask yourself, “If this client hires somebody else besides my company, how much will they have to pay?” If you answer, “They’ll probably pay more to a larger vendor, and the quality might be lower,” then it’s time to raise your prices.

How is pricing a marketing issue?

Pricing is part of your message to your prospective customers. If you set prices too high—or too low—it sends the wrong message, and they won’t do business with you.

Prices are set according to several criteria:

1) Profitability. Making sure all costs are covered with enough left over to give the desired profit margin.

2) Competition. Prices are constrained by your competition.

3) Image. Do your prices fit your image? Will they attract your preferred customers?

Why do you price too low?

Timidity. You’re afraid if you raise your prices, you’ll drive away your customers. You may indeed drive away your marginal customers, giving you more time to focus on your better, more profitable ones.

You don’t know what all your costs are, so you systematically underprice. Costs that are often neglected when setting prices:

Marketing and selling. The cost of getting your customers

Owner’s time, both sold and unsold

Owner’s profit, i.e.. return on your investment of time and money

Cost of glitches, mistakes, slippage, theft

Recouping the cost of developing the products or services

You price based on hours spent or cost of goods sold, rather than on the value you provide to your customers. (See our post “Sell Value, Not Time.”)

What if you can’t raise prices?

If you feel this way, it’s time to ask yourself, are you in a viable business, or not?

Perhaps this pertains to just one part of your business. What do you sell that can or cannot bear a price increase?

Redesign your product or service so that you can sell it for the prevailing market price and retain your target margin.

If you can’t raise prices, control your costs.

  • Cost of labor. Set a maximum labor ratio (sales revenue divided by cost of labor including labor overhead). Watch that number like a hawk. Many small businesses have real trouble tracking this number, because they can’t get their employees (and themselves!) to keep track of how much time they spend on different tasks.
  • Inventory control. Make sure you aren’t holding too much expensive merchandise. Get rid of stale merchandise. Improve your controls of theft, waste, and returns

Focus on profit, not just revenue

When you’re setting your prices, focus on your bottom line—your profit percentage—not just the amount of sales. Know what your profit margin needs to be, then set prices (and control costs) to give you that.

This is a tough lesson for many marketing whizzes. Only the ones with thriving businesses.

Are You Having Growing Pains?

What barriers keep you from growing your business to the size and profitability you want? How should you tackle them to grow to the next level? Our free webinar shows you how.

What’s keeping you from growing your business to the size and profitability you want? Has your growth been slowed by things that keep dogging you? How can you smash through those barriers and move to the next level?

Here’s what I hear all the time from owners:

— You’re a solopreneur, and you want to grow beyond what you can handle by yourself.entrepreneurial vision

— You have a handful of employees, but everybody’s reporting to you, driving you to a frazzle.

— You’ve got managers, but you’re still running day-to-day operations, and you’d love to hand this off to a trusted top manager, to free you up to focus on growth—and a vacation!

If you’re nodding your head yes to any of these, check out our free webinar, Smash Through the Top 10 Barriers to Growth, on June 4.

I’m doing it jointly with two other small business experts: attorney Nancy Lewellen and productivity consultant Rosie Aiello.

Here are the details.On that page, scroll down to see the 10 barriers we will cover.

I will focus on three areas:

1. Management style for growth. Make sure you’re not the bottleneck to your company’s growth.

2. Profitability. See how you stack up against the 12 Principles of Profitability.

3. Marketing & Sales. Make sure your Magic Chain of Marketing has no missing links.

This free webinar will be an exciting tune-up for you, to help you quickly discover ways you can overcome your own growth barriers.

Check it out and sign up now while you’re thinking about it.

Call me at 415-491-1896 if you want to find out if it would be right for you.

What Does Sustainability Mean for Business?

A sustainable business does more than sustain itself. It builds wealth and benefit for its owners, employees, and customers

Question from James McErlean on LinkedIn

My response: Great question! Sustainability means using a resource so that it lasts and renews, doesn’t get used up, and doesn’t have a negative impact on its environment.

For a business, this would mean that it is self-sustaining and self-renewing.

It has to make a profit.

It has to provide support for its owners and employees, and contribute to their long-term well-being.

It must generate a surplus to carry it through tough times and to provide a fund for growth.

It must provide a benefit to its community of customers; otherwise it cannot operate profitably.

It must innovate (i.e., “evolve”) in order to stay competitive and keep attracting its customers.

It must be a vehicle for the creative energies of its owners and other key people, so that it will retain their interest.

A business—especially a small business—is a reflection of the skills and passions of the entrepreneur. It is his/her vehicle to provide value to the community of customers. The more it thrives, the more people are benefitted—customers and employees and other stakeholders.

In this way, a successful business does more than just sustain itself and the resources it draws upon. It becomes an increasing source of wealth. A community of such businesses builds a strong multiplier effect throughout the community and economy.

 

How Do You Set Prices for Your Products and Services?

Question from Alicia Terry on Linked In. She also asked, “What is your biggest challenge in setting your price?”

Set prices using two different methods:

A. What the market will let you charge, e.g., competitors

B. What costs you must cover, plus a profit margin

If A > B, charge A

If B > A, then go back to the drawing board. Perhaps you can redesign your product or service so that you can sell it profitably at the price point the market will allow.

Or perhaps you need to promote it in a way that will justify the higher price in the eyes of your target customers.

Many entrepreneurs fail to include all relevant costs when setting prices. Items often neglected: Markup on direct labor, sales commissions, freight costs, damaged goods, warranty work, project management. And #1: the value of the time put in on the job by the owner!

Small business owners underprice. They’re notorious for this. “I’m new, so I’ll offer more for a lower price.” You can’t compete this way with larger, better-capitalized competitors. It’s the route to bankruptcy.

In many fields, if you price too low, people don’t take you seriously. “Is that all he’s charging? He can’t be much good!” Charge at least what your larger competitors are charging, and demonstrate to customers why you are worth it, since you are better.

For small service businesses, look for clients who know the value of their time. If you can save them time, they are willing to pay more for that. Turnkey, troublefree, flexible, responsive–these are the things I will pay extra for. And of course friendly, personal service.