Why Marketing Fails #4: Blindfold Marketing

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Remember the childhood game, Pin The Tail on the Donkey? You would be blindfolded, spun around three times, and a paper donkey tail would be put in your hand. Your job was to “find the donkey” and attach the tail to it, without raising the blindfold. Lots of fun!

(When you were 6 years old. Not so much today.)

In business and marketing, working blindfolded is a curse. And you’ve no one to blame but yourself. If you don’t have a business plan or a marketing plan, you haven’t answered the foundational questions, especially the ones that go like this:

  • Who is my ideal client?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • How can my audience be divided into segments?
  • Where can I find them?

If you feel like you’re running around in circles with your marketing, it’s because you ARE! Your prospects aren’t moving…but you can’t find them because you can’t see them. Pin the tail on the prospect.

Please don’t tell me that you have these marketing plans “all in your head.” Have you ever actually seen a business plan or marketing plan? These are sophisticated documents that takes several hours (sometimes several days) to really think through. It’s not something you keep in your head. Write it down.

And update it at least once a year. Times change, your customers’ needs and challenges change, technology changes. You’d better keep up or you’ll be left out.

If you do not have an up-to-date business plan and marketing plan, STOP marketing and get thee to thy writing desk! Learn how to write a business plan, and what belongs in a marketing plan. These are strategic documents that you can’t afford to be without.

You are capable of taking off your own blindfold. Make a commitment today to doing the homework necessary to building your business by building your foundation. It’s not as hard as you fear, but it takes a bit of thinking and pondering, and a little research. You’ll have a happier (and more prosperous) business once you get these documents under your belt.

Read the complete Why Marketing Fails blog series here:

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Should You Put Your Prices on Your Website? Pros and Cons

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The decision to put your prices on your site is a strategic one for your business. In some ways it can make you feel vulnerable.

Ask yourself: What does my prospective customer want and need?

Studies have shown the consumers want to see prices of products and services. Even a price range is sufficient. But many business owners have reasons why they prefer to not include pricing.

How can you decide which way to go? Here are some pros and cons to consider:

Nine Reasons to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Trust. Many customers will not do business with a company who is not forthcoming about pricing and fees. They simply won’t waste their time talking with a sales rep only to find out that the price is too high (or too low, which may feel cheap or low quality to them).
  2. Price Range. Customers want to know what they’re going to pay for your service or product, or at least have a ballpark figure.
  3. Unaffordability Beliefs. Some customers believe, perhaps incorrectly, that if the price is not shown, then it must be too high. They reason that if they aren’t shown the price, they probably can’t afford it.
  4. Efficiency. People who can’t afford your services or products will not request a prospect sales phone call. Hear me out: do you want to spend time convincing people on the phone that they can afford you, when they really think they can’t or don’t see the value you are offering? It’s hard to have phone calls with people who have unrealistic expectations because they don’t know the fees. Trying to convince them is a hard-sell tactic that I choose to avoid.
  5. Branding. Pricing is a strategic marketing decision and helps to set your brand apart from others. Are you the low-cost leader? Are you the expert who people pay more for because you’re worth it? Your fees tell the prospective customer where you place yourself among the others in the industry and which target market you want to serve. There is no right or wrong pricing strategy. The key is that you’ve developed on through your marketing plan.
  6. Discounting. For products and classes, there’s typically no negotiation in pricing: either they purchase it or they don’t. You can always create a separate page with special pricing for existing customers or special groups, or offer coupon codes that give discounts, if you want a tiered pricing approach to products and classes. Or indicate that you have payment plans, if that helps your customer with a buying decision. If you offer special pricing for nonprofits, put your regular fees on your website and add a sentence about how nonprofit pricing is available.
  7. Budgeting. If people feel like they can’t afford you, but want to work with you, they now have a price-point from which they can start savings towards working with you. I have had a number of clients who tell me that they saved for three months in order to work with me.
  8. Honoring. Your customers are busy and time-constrained. They need information at the moment when they have time to do their research. Don’t make them jump through hoops. Try to be helpful in getting them all the information they need, not just in your pricing, but in the valuable benefits you offer.
  9. Information Gathering. People who are looking for a price range so they can get some budgeting ideas may be a perfect client for you. One of the important stages your customers’ sales timeline is the Information Gathering phase when they are researching possible solutions. Get to know your prospective customer’s process for making buying decisions and plan your marketing accordingly. This is especially true when marketing to women: they do a lot of research before they buy.

Ten Reasons Not to Put Your Fees and Prices on Your Site

  1. Customized Services or Product. Sometimes you can’t list your prices, because each person gets a customized quote based on what they need from you, like a home builder or a website designer. But you can offer packages with a note that says, “Fees start at…” for each package. Or show them examples of your work and indicate what each of those project fees were.
  2. Competition. You’re afraid your competition will find out how much you charge. Bad news: your competition already knows what you charge. It’s easy for them to have a friend pose as a prospective customer and get your entire price list. Or your customers tell others what they paid. You are going to have a tough time keeping your pricing private, especially in the internet age.
  3. Value and Selling Strategy. You feel that they need to talk with you first, so that you can show them how valuable your service is, before quoting them a price. That is the job of your website. If your website is written well, it will easily show someone whether you can solve their problem and that the price they’ll pay is worth it. Then, when a prospective customer finally does call you, they’ve already been pre-sold by your website and you don’t have to struggle to convince them of anything. I figure if a sales rep needs to speak with me, it’s because they think the product or service “needs explaining,” or that they need to “handle my objections.” Neither is a good excuse to waste my time on something that doesn’t need explaining or should have been explained thoroughly on the website. Need help with your copywriting? Read my blog post on 6 Copywriting Steps for Non-Copywriters.
  4. Rapport. Your service is based on your personality and your rapport with your customers. Therefore, they need to speak with you in order to get the connection and see if it’s a good fit. I agree with this 100%. But if it’s a perfect fit, and they can’t afford you, how does that benefit either of you? Why not put some videos on your website, offer some free teleclasses or workshops, so they get a chance to experience you before the prospect call is scheduled.
  5. Price Fixing. You (or your industry) in concerned about price fixing. By definition, price fixing is a conscious agreement among businesses to keep the price of something unnaturally high or low, instead of letting free-market forces determine what each customer pays. Putting your own prices on your own website is not a conscious agreement with other businesses, it’s not a conspiracy, and therefore is not price fixing. If you’re really concerned that you’ll be accused of price fixing, consult your business attorney.
  6. Mimics. You are concerned that competitors who are less qualified than you will increase their prices to mimic yours, but offer poor service. Let them. You cannot be responsible for what your competitor does. If they charge too much and offer a shoddy product or service, they’ll be out of business soon enough anyway.
  7. Uniqueness. You feel that your service or product is not unique, but is exactly the same as what your competitor offers. This is called a commodity. But a commodity implies that what the customer is purchasing is the same, regardless of vendor (like milk, flour or gasoline). By being clear on what makes you unique, different or better than your competitor, you avoid being seen as a commodity. This is called your Unique Selling Proposition. If you don’t have one, get one.
  8. Ongoing Marketing. You’re concerned that if someone sees your prices but doesn’t reach out to you, you won’t have any way to connect with them in the long term. This is where having an offer on your website they can sign up for can help you gather a list of people who may be interested in your product or service. Think: email newsletter, teleclass or whitepaper. However, you need to handle these people differently than you would a bona fide prospect, because they’re in the Information Gathering stage of the sales cycle, not the Decision Making phase.  Establish your sales and marketing strategy and funnel, and reach out to people based on where they are along the sales path.
  9. Price Shopping and Tire Kickers. If they’re shopping on price alone, they’re probably not your ideal client unless you are Wal-Mart. People who shop only based on price will leave you when they find someone cheaper. So if you put your prices on your website, you get them to exit before they waste your time. If a prospective customers is truly *only* shopping on price, then it wouldn’t matter if you tell them the price on the phone or on your website.
  10. Not Knowing Your Worth. It’s true. Many small business owners feel uncomfortable setting their prices because they don’t truly know their value. Here’s some tips in setting your service fees.

What To Do?

Whether you put your prices on your site or not is a personal business decision. It depends on your business and marketing strategy. Just make sure you make your decision based on what’s helpful to your customer and right for your marketing plan, not based on your fears about what “might” happen.

If you don’t put your prices on your site, it may be helpful to explain to people why you didn’t include them, and explain what the next step is in the process. Prospective customers will be curious to understand why they need to speak with you first.

People often ask me, “Don’t you think you’ll lose prospective clients that way?” My answer is: I get 10 phone calls a week from people who want small business coaching/consulting from me. I’m not losing ideal client prospects by putting my fees on my website. But when my consulting business is full, and I’m referring prospective clients to my trusted colleagues, having my prices on my site implies that my colleagues will honor those prices (which they won’t). So during those times, I take the prices off my site so that my colleagues can set their own prices.

So…should you put your pricing on your website or not?

The best thing you can do it test it. Put your prices on your site for two-to-four weeks, and compare the results. If you get more inquiries, more sales, easier conversions, then you know your audience found it helpful.

You’ll never know if something works or not until you try it.

Do you put your prices on your site? Why or why not? When visiting other sites, do you want to find pricing there? Share your comments, ideas and suggestions below. We’ll all benefit from understanding the pros and cons. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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Category: Internet & Social Media Marketing, Marketing
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Great Article – 10 Ways To Grow Your Business

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As a small business coach, I’ve been spending the month of December with all my clients, helping them re-design business and marketing plans for 2006. This is a perfect time of year to take a closer look at your business, and creating ways to make it grow in the next 12 months. I encourage all small business owners to take time each year to re-visit current year business and marketing plans, and do some projections and goal-setting for the next year. Having clear intentions of what you’re trying to create over the next 12 months will set the wheels in motion to making it come true.

Karen Spaeder has written a good article that’s perfect for this time of year: “10 Ways to Grow Your Business.” You can view it here:

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/0,4621,315446,00.html

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Search Engine Marketing Survey Results

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For many small business owners, search engine marketing and internet marketing are a big part of their marketing plans and budgets. MarketingSherpa has surveyed 3,271 businesses as to the effectiveness of their internet marketing (and, especially search engine marketing) tactics for the past 12 months. The results can help you to understand which techniques are hot and which are waning. You can read the survey results here:

http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3078

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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