Monday, February 26, 2007

Strategic Planning - Pricing for profit

This is the ninth in a series of articles about how to get more out of your strategic planning.

9. Don't Underprice

It's hard to push the idea of charging for value when some of the most notable strategic success stories of recent years have been commodity players. After all, if low prices worked for Southwest Airlines and Wal-Mart, shouldn't they work for everyone? The answer is NO. In any industry - any industry at all - there is only ONE winning company that follows the low price strategy, and that only occurs if that company has a real, tangible, differentiating advantage in cost (not price - cost). In many industries, what this means is that there is a crowd of bottom-feeders all thinking they will be the next Wal-Mart - with none of them succeeding. I can think of very few more certain recipes for failure than to pursue the low price strategy without a serious cost advantage based on strategic competency.

It's a hard fact that 90% of pricing mistakes are underpricing. The reason is quite simple - we are reluctant to lose customers for any reason, and - often - we have trouble believing in the true value of what we are selling. To succeed, we have to escape this trap. There are two essential ideas necessary for this:

1. Understand your true value and be confident in it. - it's much easier to hold your ground on price when you know what your added value is worth. The sale makes more sense to everyone - pay X get Y value, or pay less and don't get it.

2. Be willing to lose customers on price. Good products, high quality and excellent service are not for everyone. What this means is that some customers just aren't willing to pay for anything more than the minimum value. Your task is to get those low-value customers to but from someone else, so you can focus on the customers who value what you do well.

This is one of the hardest tips I've given, because it's terribly difficult to watch customers go somewhere else. Just remember, at the end of the day, it's not how much you sell, but how much you make that really matters.

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