Costs and pricing on websites

7:11 pm Website Strategy

I’ve realised that there’s a subject that I often talk to people about but haven’t dedicated a blog to so far.  That’s the thorny subject of costs and pricing on websites.

Some types of websites (i.e. those that sell something directly) have prices clearly on display but for many business types it’s considered not important to show prices.  Those who know me will be bored of what I refer to as being ‘boot fair mentality’ …

Two stallholders are next to each other at a car boot fair and they are selling identical products.  The only difference between them is that one has everything priced up and the other has no prices.

100 people pass the stalls and they’re all interested in something.  Of those 100 people, a minority will be the type that are happy to ask prices and to haggle.  Let’s say that’s 20% to be on the generous side.

The majority of those 100 people though would fall into one of the following camps:

1.    They wouldn’t ask the price of the items on the ‘no prices’ stall because they don’t want the embarrassment of the price quoted not matching what they’re prepared to pay.

2.    On principle they wouldn’t ask the price of the items on the ‘no prices’ stall because they think the stall holder is trying to hide something from them.

3.    They would never buy anything if the prices weren’t on clear display.

I’d suggest that perhaps 80% of those 100 people would fall into the three areas described above.  The numbers don’t matter – it’s the concept of ‘boot fair mentality’ – people often won’t ask the prices of something because they feel that the prices should be made more visible to them.

If you go to the Custwin site you’ll see that all the prices of services are very clear and yes, we get enquiries because of that.  People make a judgement call on whether the price is good for the service that they need.

So why is it that so many websites, particularly in the services sector, decide to hide the pricing structures?   Some say to me: “we don’t want our competitors to see what we charge”, to which the answer is “and therefore, your potential clients also won’t know and will go elsewhere”.  Others think it’ll scare people off.  That can happen but if the website makes it very clear that previous buyers have got a strong return on what they invested in, then ‘scaring off’ shouldn’t be a concern.

There are numerous reasons that people give but it’s flawed reasoning.  Any business should take the attitude of:

“This is what we supply/do and this is what it costs you.  We believe that you are getting a good deal for that price and we have plenty of evidence that previous customers have been happy”.

There are also other ways to package pricing – for example, instead of giving a direct cost, use case studies to show how much particular work cost the client (where this can be disclosed of course) and what the return on investment was.  Back that up with a positive testimonial from the client.

It’s amusing that many in the world of marketing think it’s really clever to try and entice people into websites with freebie offers (e.g. free reports), aiming to get their contact details so that they can then take them through a process of upsell, but never saying what the actual costs of the service or product will be.   So many people won’t bother with the freebie if they aren’t given an idea of eventual costs and while there will always be some who buy, having gone through a process, the numbers will be small in comparison to what would happen if the website was more upfront about what the eventual costs would be.  In my view, it’s an antiquated way of trying to sell and people are fast becoming wise to it.

Whatever excuse you may have for not putting pricing on your company website, it may be worth you reconsidering, and certainly to ask around for people’s opinions (yes, please, ask mine too – it’ll cost you nothing but you sort of already know what I’ll say).  You sell what you sell and you should stick to your guns.   If your website statistics imply that people aren’t buying, even with pricing on display, then you will benefit from digging deeper into other reasons why your website may be letting you down because the pricing may not be the main issue they have.

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