When people question our prices, dismiss our products and services as expensive, or call us a rip-off, it hurts.
“They don’t understand!”, we say.
But it is OUR job to help them understand.
What can you do?
This came to mind because of a conversation that was going on in a maker community I am part of. Someone was calling out a useful but “not cheap” product, apparently (intentionally or not) implying that Timothy, the guy who makes and sells it, was effectively over-charging.
Timothy has addressed his side in a video, but it got me thinking of the wider issue. One of the reasons I love to read these debates, even when they get heated, is for research for my content. They often spark topics for Maker Hacks or my 3D Printing Podcast, but this time it made me think of writing for you.
You see, there is some truth to the phrase “everyone is in marketing”. Everyone in the discussion talked about the issue as a “product problem”, a political issue (“this is what is wrong with capitalism” kind of argument), or at best “service versus product”, but it is more than that.
People are always going to have a certain amount of price sensitivity, but you can communicate to the best of your ability to mitigate some, if not all, of the anger.
Price or value?
If people are focusing on price then you have positioned your product in their mind as a commodity. They will shop around for the lowest price and then buy that.
There is a reason I have articles such as “Best 3d printers for under $300” rather than talk about 3d printers that start at 10x that price. Manufacturers in the making community are targeting price-points very often rather than competing on features, and the North American brands are steadily losing the mindshare war.
This is also the reason why it does not really help to tell people your ebook is 200 pages, or you have 300 videos in your archive. So what? How does that make a difference to me? Spell out what it is going to do, give, or change for me, and why that is more valuable than the price you are charging.
Perceived value versus actual value
Just this morning I offered to help a friend beta test their product. He thought I was asking for a freebie.
On my side I thought I would put in some hours to help him out, give him the benefit of my couple decades software development experience. On his side he was probably thinking “what a cheek, wanting to get my product for free!”.
I let it go because stating my case would have just made me look even more of a jerk.
Start with empathy.
This brings us to Return on Investment.
If you can tell people that their purchase is not a cost but an investment that will bring them more than they put in, then more people will listen and more of those people will take action.
Your product or service might not make people money directly but it might save them time. In the example above, the product is useful for people who make money from their 3d printers, but it is just as useful for people who do not sell prints, but who value their time.
The guy charges $70 for $15 of parts. Seems like he has a lot of markup, but in fact he has to spend a lot of time troubleshooting for customers, holding their hand, keeping up to date with configurations and software changes, and other unseen overheads. In the final reckoning I believe he will have created for himself a job that pays less than minimum wage, certainly less than his previous full time IT job.
It’s very similar to the old story about the plumber who invoiced $1,000 for 5 minutes of work.
$1 for the washer, $999 for knowing where to fit it.
He puts in a lot of time so you do not have to. Certainly more than $70 worth of your time.
Take a good look at your product and service and think what return it provides. How quickly will those returns be realized?
Once you make claims, back them up with proof. Evidence, demonstrations, testimonials, case studies.
The funny thing about that maker discussion that started with a complaint was the dozens of people who argued back that the product was not just worth the money but was even more valuable, and why.
A complaint thread probably became Timothy’s best marketing. I’m glad I ordered before it started.
Costing the alternatives
What other options are you competing with?
How can you position your option as not just unique, but own a unique advantage?
I’ve got a programmer friends who often repeat to clients variations on the following …
You might think I am expensive but just wait until I have to fix the problems your ‘cheaper’ alternative causes!
Even the “free” alternative can cost you dearly in comparison to paid options. People are often wary when something is free, but they know it has real value.
I bought a CNC Mill from Sienci Labs that is all fully open source. You can use their blueprints and source parts yourself, or you can buy their kit. I bought their kit and I am glad I did because their help and support has been way more valuable to me in my CNC adventures than the money I invested.
Show people how your option is the better alternative:
- Your software might do the job that people ordinarily pay a freelancer $30/hr for.
- Your service might be more per hour but take half the time because of your experience and proprietary tools.
- Your education might teach people how to perform their own repairs and maintenance, maybe even saving them from potential rip-offs.
- Your security system, backups, or insurance might save people from catastrophic losses.
- Your marketing might provide a more efficient and effective alternative to their existing, costly, ineffective advertising campaigns.
Aside: On the latter example, at the agency I used to work for, we once pitched an … adult beverage … company who spent more on the prosthetic goats head for their TV advert than their investment in their entire web presence.
The famous story above also illustrates a major factor and that is urgency. Was the customer supposed to say “no, I changed my mind, I would rather have a flood than spend $1,000?”. They had no choice but to go along with the invoice because there was urgency.
In many cases you will find the problem your product or service solves does not get better with time, most get worse, but people don’t see the urgency so they don’t take action until it is very urgent or too late.
Help people recognise the situation they are in and the consequences of taking no action.
Quality of life and product-market fit
The benefits might not be financial, they might not be around saving time, the benefits might not even be tangible, but still incredibly valuable to the right target audience.
Think about experiences, feelings, and taking away pain. People are willing to spend a lot of money to feel good or remove/avoid pain but they have to be able to imagine it vividly. They need to recognise they have the problem you solve.
In the case of the 3d printer upgrade example from earlier, I was happy to spend $70 to avoid the hassle of figuring everything out myself. There was a time I would relish the challenge but I don’t find that kind of thing pleasurable any longer, now I find it annoying and stressful, I just want to skip that part and get to the good bits.
One of our favourite things as a family is to go out to Canmore and cuddle husky puppies. It’s not cheap, but we love it. Other people think we are mad.
I left this last because really this item is most impactful as a supporting player rather than the headline, but if people do not know what is involved in bringing your product or service to them, do not expect them to understand how you price it.
- Do you have your own process or system? Is it named?
- Why is your approach better? Is there better quality control? Do you use higher quality parts and manufacture techniques?
- Is your product more pure, more potent, higher concentration? Is it triple filtered?
People seeing you as “too expensive” might well not be a pricing problem.