How (Not) to Price Your Products & Services – 5 Mistakes To Avoid
Setting the wrong price for your product or service can be catastrophic for your business.
If you've ever launched a new product, you're familiar with the agonizing questions about the price you decide on. Is it too high and no one will purchase? Is it too low and you're leaving a lot of money on the table?
How the heck do you figure out what the "right" price for your offer is, anyway?
Read this post to find out what the top 5 most common pricing mistakes are and how you can avoid them.
Watch the video above to discover the top 3 worst (and most common) pricing mistakes. Read on below for a summary of the pricing mistakes, plus 2 additional pricing traps you need to avoid, starting here.
Mistake #1: Competing on Price
It seems like a logical choice: you take a look at what competitors in your space are charging and you simply charge less.
This will give you an instant market advantage because everyone loves to spend less, right?
By setting your prices too low, you're undermining your chances of making a profit.
I can guarantee you that once your business is running, there will be unexpected expenses, product returns, refunds, etc. What you thought was a decent profit margin suddenly disappears into thin air.
The end result is that you will be busy with all the work around selling your product (customer support, bug fixes etc) while struggling to make enough money to get by.
What's worse, setting a low price can also hurt your credibility. Price implies quality, after all. Charge way less than your competitors and many of your visitors will simply assume that your product or service must be of lower quality as well.
Mistake #2: Product Focused Pricing
It's a mistake to set your price based on the cost of your product. In fact, you shouldn't focus on your product or features at all, when setting a price.
- You set a price by "gut feeling". You look at your product and give it a price that seems about right.
- You look at similar products in the market and set a similar price.
- You calculate how much it costs you to deliver the product and add 20% margin (or similar) on top of that.
Why is this a bad idea?
Because instead of focusing on your product, you should focus on the value your product delivers to your customers.
You can ask yourself two questions that will help you avoid this mistake:
- How much value does my product bring to my ideal customers or clients?
- How much can the market bear i.e. how much is the maximum my customers or clients are willing to spend?
This value focus explains why in every market, there are different products and brands that appeal to different market segments, at vastly different prices.
An example of this are wristwatches. Some people buy a $40 Swatch because they want a convenient way to tell the time. Some people buy a $15,000 Blancpain because it's a fashion statement and status symbol.
Different people buy the same kind of product for different reasons. And the same kind of product is worth vastly different amounts to these different people.
Let's examine another example in a bit more detail. All three of the follwing products are KPI (Key Performance Indicator) dashboards. They basically do the same: you can collect data with them from various sources and then display and work with that data.
The first solution, Cyfe, offers an unlimited free plan for its users. For more features, you can upgrade to their premium plan for just $19/month.
You can get a free trial month from Geckoboard, but if you want to keep using their service, you need to pay at least $25/month. This plan is very limited, though, so most users will end up upgrading to the $149/month plan. There's also an even higher end plan for $599/month on offer.
3. Tableau Online
You pay $500/year for Tableau Online - per user! The target client for this solution are large enterprises, where entire teams of people need to access and work with the dashboards. We can assume that Tableau bills their typical client many thousands per year.
Why the Different Prices?
If these three products essentially do the same, why is there such a huge difference in price?
These services made for three entirely different segments. A KPI dashboard doesn't bring much value to solopreneurs who work on their own and don't have much data to work with.
Big businesses, on the other hand, with many employees and multiple different projects running at the same time can get a lot more data into and a lot more value out of such dashboards.
This is where the reason and justification for the vastly different prices (mainly) comes from.
Mistake #3: Not Giving People the Opportunity to Pay You More
If you choose Cyfe, even if you have a lot of data, dashboards and users, and absolutely love the service, you still can't pay more than $19/months for a better plan.
Geckoboard has a much better pricing setup. For customers on a small budget or those unsure about whether they need a dashboard or not, the lowest price point is ideal.
But once someone's on board with the idea and if Geckoboard does a good job of turning their customers into fans, there's a $149/month price plan to upgrade to. It's a high price point, but one that real fans and highly engaged users will gladly pay.
And finally, for those very few super-high-end users, there's an even higher price plan waiting. $599/month might seem ridiculous for what amounts to glorified spreadsheets - but some customers are paying it gladly.
The simple solution to mistake #3 is:
- Have more than one price point or pricing plan.
- And/or have more than one product in your funnel (think: upsells and cross sells).
The point is that if someone loves what you do, give them the chance to buy more from you.
This is exactly what Sacha Greif talk about in this article: as it's hard to know how much someone is willing to pay and how much, it's best to offer different prices and let people select the one that's best for their needs.
For example, if you're selling an e-book and sell thousands of copies, most people will be happy with the product the way it is. But, there will be a small percentage of people who will love it so much that they will want more.
You can create a higher bundle for these people - e.g. an audiobook so that they can listen to your book while they are driving or a coaching session with you.
Don't take the opportunity away from your super fans who want to give you more money.
Mistake #4: Not Testing
If you avoid the first three pricing mistakes, you already have a good chance of setting your business up for success, with the prices you choose. So, now you can just follow this advice and publish your new prices on your site, right?
If you do that, you're also making a critical mistake. The only way to really know what prices work best for your site and your audience is through testing.
There are two things you absolutely must test, related to pricing:
- Test the layout and presentation of your pricing page and/or pricing tables. Should you have 2 or 3 price points? Should you show the highest price or lowest price first? Place the prices above the fold? The only way to find out is to test.
- Test your pricing and offers. Should you add a higher priced offer? Should you have a free trial? Offer monthly, quarterly or annual options? Again, only testing can tell you the answers.
The best approach is to create your best attempt at a perfect pricing page and then create a variation that has just one major change. You should avoid testing multiple changes at the same time, since then you can't tell what exactly caused an improvement. You can learn more about how to A/B test in this post and find instructions on how to run an A/B test with free tools, here.
Mistake #5: Fake Special Offers
This one should go without saying, but if you make a special offer or use scarcity marketing, it should be the real thing. A countdown timer that resets when you reload the page isn't a good example of scarcity marketing, yet it's surprisingly common.
The same goes for advertising a "just-here-and-now" special offer or limited quantities, when there is no real special and no actual limit.
Tactics like this may lead to a short-term boost in sales, but your business' credibility will take a hit.
As soon as people find out that your limited time offers don't have an expiry date, you can't create the sense of urgency you were trying to apply in the hope of more sales.
The solution to this mistake is not to avoid special offers. Limited time offers work like magic, as long as you keep your word. Meaning: if you say that the current price is only available for 3 more days, don't show it on the 4th day just because you sold more than what you expected.
At Thrive Themes, we offer a special price every time we launch a new product. The special price is available to everyone for a certain period of time after the launch, but once the offer expires, the offer never comes back. In other words, our limited offers really are limited and in the long term, we've benefited greatly from this.
Become a Product Pricing Master With these Resources
Want to learn more about pricing? Here’s a list of links that can give you more insight into the topic:
Pricing Case Studies
- A practical case study on pricing can be found here: How Perfect Pricing got me 1500 Sales in 2 Days
- And another case study on how pricing can affect sales: An eBook pricing model that resulted in $100,000 in sales
- What order should prices be displayed in? Here's a case study with a possible answer: Price Testing: Order of prices increases revenue 51% per visitor for Portland Trail Blazers
- And here's a collection by ConversionXL, with even more price tests and case studies.
Psychology of Pricing
Beyond the technical, there's a psychological factor to pricing. In fact, one could argue that pricing hinges entirely on the irrational quirks of the human mind. These resources provide fascinating insights into this topic:
- Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value is a wonderful book on the psychology of pricing, with a strong scientific foundation.
- A quick read and introduction to how irrational pricing can be comes from Dan Ariely: The Significant Objects Project
- More on pricing, by Dan Ariely, but this time in the form of a TED talk: Are We In Control of Our Decisions?
80/20 Sales and Marketing is a book by Perry Marshall. Read this to gain a deeper understanding of why you need more than one price point and how prices and people's willingness to pay them scale across a population.
Your Turn to Discover the Perfect Pricing
With all this, you are now well equipped to set and test ideal pricing on your website. Now, we'd like to know from you: what's your biggest struggle when it comes to setting a price? Which of these tips and strategies will you apply to your business? And which ones don't appeal to you?
If you have any questions about pricing or a story to share, leave a comment below!