March 3, 2014, 5:00 am

The Darn Question of Pricing

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business
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Price it too low, and people think it’s cheap

Price it too high, and people think you are a nut job!

 

In marketing, the question of pricing is probably the hardest to answer. Unfortunately, this is a question we must face every time we want to sell something. You can’t start negotiating your price with each client and moving the price up and down all the time will not send the right message to clients and future customers. The early joiners will fell that they got ripped off if you drop your price from time to time and the late subscribers will simply wait forever until you put on a huge promotion before buying (who pays full price at Canadian Tire?).

 

ASK AROUND, IS IT A GOOD THING?

 

Before I launched my membership website about Dividend Growth Portfolios, I was very uncertain about the right price. It is a high-end product when you consider the knowledge put in place and the possible return on your investment. On the other hand, this is also a very crowded and competitive industry where giants such as Morningstar and Motley Fool offer services for just a few bucks per month.

 

My partner and I weren’t able to find a sweet spot where we felt comfortable so we decided to ask around. Based on my own experience, looking for an external point of view won’t help… much. The first problem when you ask feedback about pricing is who do you ask. Asking internet marketing specialists, they will answer: shoot for the sky. Asking friends, they will answer: price it modestly. Ask potential buyers, they will answer to drop your price as low as possible (they are not fools!). Nonetheless, this is what I did; I asked an internet marketer, friends and potential buyers.

 

THE BEST ANSWER STILL COMES FROM POTENTIAL BUYERS

 

If you ask a potential buyer what price they would pay for your house, chances are they will shoot low since they think they can get a bargain. But if you ask 1,100 people about your house, now you have a chance to hit a few honest people. This is what I did with my new project.

 

I’ve built a list of 1,100 potential buyers and told them about my project. I’ve sent a series of 4 emails:

#1 I’ve explained what it was about along with its main features.

#2 The second email was about the main benefits offered and requested feedback

#3 The third email went out asking a simple question: How much is your time worth?

 

The purpose of my investing website is to simplify the investor’s investment process. I want investors to save time and still make money being a DIY investor. I gave my readers a choice between 3 options:

#1 paying between $9.95 and $14.95 monthly

#2 paying between $15.95 and $34.95 monthly

#3 paying between $35.95 and $49.95 monthly

 

I received about 400 answers from this email. It took me forever but I personally replied to each one of them. Without any surprises, most readers answered option #1. However, I got about 30 or so (so 7.50%) answers telling me they would be okay with option #2 or #3. This is without counting numerous longer emails explaining their reasoning. I received a lot of details about the current offers on the web along with pricing from other competitors.

 

LOOKING AT COMPETITORS… WITH FRESH EYES

 

We always have the best product as the design, the quality and everything else is better than our competitors. Now that I’ve accepted that, I had to look at my competitors with fresh eyes; with the customer’s eyes. The target price was definitely between $9.95 and $15 per month. Most of them were charging $9.95 which didn’t give me much room to play with. I was happy to notice that most of my competitors offered almost too much info. And this is something I wanted to solve with my site: I wanted to have something that cut the crap and gets directly to the point. One of my competitors offers 20-30 page reports on a bi-weekly basis. Who has the time to read, analyze and take action on over 60 pages of information monthly? I know something for a fact; I don’t! My competitive advantage was to offer high value-added features only if I was going to charge as much (or even higher) than my competitors.

 

The fact that I had two years of great investment records behind the belt was another factor. Ideally, I would have had to wait until I have five years, but that will happen in three and I will be able to crank my price if I keep beating my benchmarks!

 

AVOID PRICE CONFUSION AT ALL COSTS

 

From my own experience, I notice that when you play with additional options or different price ranges, you increase the level of confusion for your potential buyers. And if they are confused, they will likely not proceed with the purchase.

 

It happened to me yesterday again when I tried to book a couples massage at a spa (I know, I’m a good hubby ;-) ). The item “couple massage” was priced per person, so I added the two items in my “cart”. The next screen was to search for availability. I selected 2pm. The system found 4 massotherapists available for that time. But, the system didn’t allow me to select two massotherapists at the same time! I had to select one at 2pm and another at 3pm. It’s like I had to create another account for my wife and reserve another couple massage under her name to get both reservations at the same time. Do you think I completed the reservation? No way!

 

Back to my membership website; I offer 2 pricing options: basic with a monthly subscription and premium with a rebate of 2 months + a free book for an annual subscription. In my case, I think it was the right choice. The proof is that I have about 50% of my members choosing monthly and the other half annual.

 

But I created additional confusion when I did my official launch with a combined offer including another newsletter. For a limited time, I offer both my services along with another investing paid newsletter for a package price. I didn’t sell many subscriptions for that package and I think I know the reason: it gets confusing if you go see the newsletter, then my website and then go back to the original offer. There are simply too many places to find information before you make the purchasing decision.

 

I thought it would be a good idea since I had run a promotion for that investing newsletter in the past with great success. There wasn’t any big package; just a plain rebate on an investing newsletter.

 

IF I HAD TO DO IT AGAIN

 

After looking at how I’ve priced my service, I thought I would have done something slightly different. Instead of going for $14.95/month right up front, I would have started with $9.95 for the first 100 members. Then, I would have increased it to $14.95. It would have created a bigger buzz around the launch (especially if I had told the offer was sent to 1,100 investors!).

 

On the other hand, I wanted to price the site for what it’s worth and I think investors are getting a lot from it. In fact, feedback is very good to date so I’m pretty confident that people are happy about the pricing. I wanted to make sure I make my money back quickly and it was the case as I’ve come to profit only 6 weeks after launching my site.

 

I just think that I could have generated a bigger buzz and gotten more members on board at first. Now, I can’t offer a rebate as I would feel unfair to my first members to sign-up.

 

As you can see, it’s never easy to come up with the right pricing strategy!

 

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Comments

Hey…I haven’t read the site in months and looks like a lot has changed. Good luck on your new model!

Are u still in personal finance for your day job? I’m impressed this isn’t a conflict.

I think your idea of offering a discount price for the first folks that signup is a really good one. This will let your “hardcore” readers in for cheaper and still extract the value from other folks that miss the boat.

by: The Financial Blogger | March 12th, 2014 (1:06 pm)

Hey DanP!

I’ve adressed this potential issue with my employer and everything has been settled. It pays to be transparent :-)

by: Zach @ Dividend Ladder | March 16th, 2014 (6:41 pm)

It’s tough for sure. The only way to really know is to test. That is what I’m currently doing by pushing it a little at the start.

Hey Zach,

how is it going so far? do you get a good response from your readers?

[...] my pricing strategy combined with my product offering was too complex and not straightforward. It resulted in only 2 [...]