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Making the Price Right

by Marcia Yudkin

When customers whine that prices seem too high, too many businesses conclude that they need to slash what they charge. Counter-intuitively, sometimes you can keep prices exactly where they are, or even raise them successfully by doing a better job of justifying them.

Do clients know you have more certifications than any contractor in the area? Do they realize your calibrations last twice as long as standard ones? Do they appreciate that your guarantee means pests absolutely, positively vanish?

If explaining why the price is warranted doesn't work, try adding value. Pile on extra benefits that cost you little and mean a lot, such as:

  • More personal attention. Say you'll answer their questions, offer advice for no extra charge. Making it explicit that you do this makes it more likely that folks who ask for help will value you for giving it.
  • More affordability. Accept credit cards if you haven't, start a delayed payment plan, offer a pre-payment discount.
  • More speed. Stop dilly-dallying with orders and deliver service faster than they expect.
  • More security. Strengthen or lengthen your guarantee. This nudges many potential purchasers over the decision line, and contrary to fears, longer guarantees prompt fewer returns.

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  • More stuff. Toss in bonuses. Often you can get these from businesses complimentary to yours at no cost to you. If you run a spa, get a hair salon to offer discounts to your clients. If you're a Web designer, cut a deal with a Web hosting service so your clients get their first two months up on the Web free.
  • More duration. Lengthen the duration of each transaction: free updates for a year for a resume service, free sixth-week checkup for a chiropractor.
  • More convenience. Make house calls. Deliver when and where the customer wants it. Offer evening or weekend hours where that's not usual. Create standing orders or appointments.
  • More accessibility. Publicize the fact that you have people on staff who speak Portuguese or know sign language. Guarantee that you return phone calls within a certain period of time, or let people know that you read all of your own e-mail.

Here are a few more pricing tricks used by master marketers.

  • Institute tiered pricing, with regular and deluxe options. The higher tiers boost the perceived value of the options just below them. Photographer Denise Passaretti of Watertown, Massachusetts, noticed that she always sold the most enlargements of the second largest size available. When she made a new, larger photo size available, she sold more of the size formerly the largest.

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  • To stimulate sales without devaluing your image, offer time-specific rebates or discounts with an explicit rationale (we overbought, we finished another project early), rather than lower prices across the board.
  • Set a high price by comparing your item to something buyers know costs more. For instance, compare audiotapes to the cost of live seminars rather than books; software to the cost of custom programming; consulting to the cost of hiring an expert on staff. It works!

Copyright 2005 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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