Never Lower Your Price

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In a nutshell: If you want to make money, you must value your services or products. And, that means you should never lower your price; merely offer less for less. When your customer wants something at a lesser price, reduce your offering to match the price, and don’t lower the price for a greater-valued service or product. In doing so, your value stays consistent, you will attract the right customers (and conversely, repel the wrong customers) for you, and you will make more profit over the long-term. Never Lower Your Price - Web and Beyond Blog

“Create different levels of service. Some people only buy the most expensive item. Avoid losing sales: offer a stripped down version of your product or service.” ~Beth Silver (in “107 Ways to Leverage Your Small Business Through Marketing & Public Relations”)

Small Business owners early on in their business’ lives find themselves with a particular dilemma. When you are starting your business you consider that any new customer is good for business! So, when they negotiate you down a third of your billable rate or 40% off your retail pricing, you accept with gleeful resignation. You have hopes that business will be different once you have a steady stream of customers. Why? After you have all these customers, you’ll have the bargaining power to raise your rates and really start to turn a profit, right? Sadly, this logic doesn’t hold muster for several reasons: you eat away at your passion by not valuing your most important asset (i.e., you), you attract the wrong customers which develops bigger problems down the road, and you create more financial problems than you solve by operating unprofitably early on in the business.

Consistent Value Is Getting Paid What You’re Worth; Ergo, Never Lower Your Price

Starting a Small Business is no joke, eh? It’s long hours, stressful, energy-consuming, and it can also be genuinely rewarding when you focus on your passion and skills, or your desire to overcome a challenge. You started your business to provide for your family, build a product or service that you can sell with the business and turn a profit, give back to your community, to fill in a gap for your retirement needs, or whatever other reason you had. In order to get up every day and do this, you need to be providing value to your customers but your motivation won’t stay very high if you’re not getting paid what you’re worth. I always tell my clients to price themselves so they are motivated to do the work. Who wants to get subpar work from you because you don’t feel like doing the work for the pay you’re receiving? This does a disservice to your new customers and to you.

The Ones Who Matter Won’t Mind and Those Who Mind Aren’t Worth the Worry

There’s a trick I learned in my teens. You take your 10 closest friends and add up their salaries, then divide by 10; this usually works out to be your salary. It’s remarkable how this works within a small margin of error for most people who earnestly do it. You are similar to the company you keep. And, that means that when you bring in customers who are all discount seekers and not best-value-seeking customers, you build up referrals to other discount seekers. Over the months and years, your business’ value gets eroded as you accumulate customers willing to keep driving down your price, not valuing you, and telling their friends and colleagues that they too can get low prices out of you. This hardly sounds like the best value for your time and effort.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems…Uhm, No. Less Problems, Mo’ Money

For many years, I ran a commodity business. I was constantly pressured to lower prices and deliver the same great service. There were market and regulatory forces in play here that were beyond our control and so I grinned and beared it. Learn from my early mistakes in the business. Don’t lower your price unreasonably to save your business as it won’t actually save your business. I see this often now in coaching and consulting Small Business owners in this downward spiral, before I set them straight. Here’s what happens:
  1. You lose your passion and start cutting corners.
  2. You start to lose your best-paying customers who start to see the lower quality of your work.
  3. The decrease in good business makes you desperate to (a) bring in more underpaying and delinquent paying customers, and (b) not paying yourself and your own bills.
This cycle of lowering prices leads to lost passion, lost productivity, and lost good customers. The gains unfortunately are in greater customer service complaints, attracting worse customers, and more pressure on you to take on anything that comes your way. You’re worth every dollar you’re reasonably charging, so don’t let others tell you otherwise. You should get paid well to do your best work, and nothing less. And, you should work with good people who will refer you to good people, especially those that will pay their bills on time. Anything short of this and your business fundamentals are lacking. So, if you’re currently thinking of starting a business, or if you’re currently struggling, I hope this compels you to never lower your price.

Who should buy what you sell?

Part two of my four-part Marketing for the Best of Us™! Blog series, which answers the four critical questions for growing the revenue of any business.

Who Should Buy what You Sell?

If you are a typical business leader, you’d like your product or service to be purchased by scores, maybe thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people.  Whether your business is just beginning or has been operating for some time, is selling to individuals or organizations, if you are determined to excel you’ll want to maximize the number of your buyers.

After divining your answers to “What are YOU selling?” (see my June xx, 2012 blog post), what’s the best way to determine which types of customers or clients are most likely to buy what you are selling?

To find out, let’s break down this process into digestible bits.

  • Hone in on those wants or needs that (your customers perceive) you are fulfilling when they buy what you sell?
  • Identify the customer characteristics (or demographics) that best represent your buyers.
  • Determine where your customers are located so that you can craft the most effective tactics for inspiring them to buy your product or service.

Wants or Needs

Remember from my June xx blog that, in addition to your actual product or service, what you really are selling is fulfillment of your customers’ wants or needs.  The nature of your product or service determines what those wants or needs are – perhaps convenience, timesavings, or prestige.  With this understanding of your customers’ wants and needs and how you can fulfill them, you have the basis for identifying which characteristics your customers possess that inspire them to buy what you sell

Customer Characteristics

Customers who buy from you and those whom you want to buy typically are labeled as your “target market.”  Customers in this group, your target market, are those which you are, or should be, trying to acquire.

Customer types can be identified by any number of telltale characteristics, such as income level, location, lifestyle, gender, age, race, personality traits, or types of activities in which they engage, to name a few.

The attributes of your product or service foretells those customer characteristics, which ultimately reveal the types and numbers of customers who will be interested in buying what you sell.   If you sell yachts, income level, location, and personality traits are likely to be relevant customer characteristics.  On the other hand, chewing tobacco probably appeals to those having a certain lifestyle and gender.

Truth be told, this process takes time and effort if you want it to be the critical component of your marketing program that it should be.  Gather as much relevant data from as many sources as possible to complete your analysis.  Here in Alexandria, there are several rich suppliers of these data, including: our very own Small Business Development Center; the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership; SCORE; the Small Business Administration (SBA);and Reference USA.

Locating Your Customers

The most efficient and cost-effective method of acquiring customers is from referrals made by satisfied customers and third-parties (your “evangelists”).  Which means that, if they’re not proffered voluntarily, referrals have to be requested – either directly (“Do you know anyone else who might be interested in my widget?”) or indirectly (“Submit a testimonial and the names of other buyers for a chance to win a widget.”).

Additional acquisition techniques for finding customers include cold calling, advertisements or commercials (newspapers, yellow pages, radio, television, Internet, smartphones), direct mailers, brochures & pamphlets, newsletters, social media, your (Search Engine Optimized!) Website, membership directories, customer lists, public relations, holding workshops, exhibiting at trade shows, and, importantly, networking.

By developing a strategic process (I use and recommend the Prospecting Pyramid™), you can transform prospects (from your target market) into customers by converting leads into qualified prospects into hot prospects into customers.

Peter Baldwin, with over 30 years of marketing and business development experience, is founder, Managing Principal and Chief Marketing Coach of MarketForce StrategiesTM, a business coaching firm specializing in the design of more effective marketing strategies for small-to-medium businesses that will  improve performance, attract more clients, and increase revenue.