Per Sjofors

By Per Sjofors

Your price defines the customers you get

Your price defines the customers you get 150 150 psjofors

Have you ever thought that the price of your product or service selects what customers you get? Your price will differentiate how the market perceives your company, and by what kind of customers are attracted to your products or services.

In short, you need to consider that your customers will fall into three categories:

  • The price-sensitive customer
  • The neutral customer 
  • The loyal customer

Let us start examining the price-sensitive customer. The main (and possibly only) reason why this type of customer decided to buy your product or service was because it was the cheapest. They care very little, if at all, about the features and functions and benefits of your products or services that makes it different from the competitions’ products or services. They do not value the extra work and resources your company has spent to develop a better product or service. Moreover, because they don’t really care about the product or service, they are also less likely to learn about how to use it (for a product) or understand it (for a service). The result of this is that they will clog your customer service lines with question after question on the most basic functions. They need a lot of “handholding,” and despite all the effort your company puts into meeting their ever-demanding needs, they will still be somewhat dissatisfied with your company, products, or services. So, to be clear, the price-sensitive customer is an expensive customer in two ways: they cost more to support in cash, and they are likely to express their dissatisfaction with your product or service to their friends, family, and anyone else who cares to listen to them. 

Then also, there is the “ticker” to consider – you spent lots of time and effort supporting the price-sensitive customer, and you finally think you’ve got the customer on your side. You think the customer finally understands why your product or service is not only cheap but it is better, too. But wait a minute. As soon as a cheaper alternative to your product or service shows up in the market they will switch as quickly as a flash. The alternative may not be nearly as good as your product or service, but it has one thing going for it – it is more affordable. So, all your hard work and effort to keep your price-sensitive customer happy and loyal will be for nothing – as they will disappear in a flash! You’ve been unceremoniously dumped – for a “cheaper model.” So, you are lucky if you ever made a profit from that price-sensitive customer in the first place. A lot of time and effort for little, if any reward. 

Next, let’s examine the loyal customer. This customer is the polar opposite of your price-sensitive customer. The loyal customer loves your product or service. The loyal customer does not care much about price. That’s a good thing! But they do care genuinely about the value they receive from your product or service. You need to hear that – it’s important! 

They are unlikely to use your customer support. Another good thing. In the rare occasion, the loyal customer will contact the company’s customer support function, it is more than likely to tell them they have figured out something about the company’s product or service the company itself did not know, or that they have figured out ways to use the product or service in ways that were never really intended for in the first place, or in ways to add even more value than its original design or definition had initially intended.

Whenever possible, the loyal customer talks about your company to everybody and anybody they meet. They are your most dedicated evangelist. This is worth remembering, too!

The loyal customer did not buy your product or service because of low prices but instead because it has some unique feature, function, or benefit that is particularly valuable for them. For consumer goods or services, this includes a wish to be associated with the brand’s messages and positioning.

Next, we have the neutral customer. Alternatively, maybe we should call them the “pragmatic customer.” Obviously, in their behavior, the pragmatic customer is somewhere in between the price-sensitive customer and the loyal customer. The pragmatic customer does care about the price, but price alone is not the reason for their purchasing decisions. For the pragmatic customer, it is essential that they receive what they would consider good value for money. Again, this is worth noting. 

So, of these three types of customers, which customer do you prefer, and is your pricing aligned with your preference? 

Let me review some examples:

Consider this cloud-based telco, focusing on customers in the B2B space. They started out very small and grew slowly. They decided to price very low to capture market share from potential customers. So low, that profitability became an issue. Willingness to pay research showed them there was room in the market for a substantial price increase. In fact, the company was able to, over some time, to quadruple its prices. The aforementioned price increases in itself generated to a 25% increase in sales volume which, in itself, is interesting, but even more interesting, is that with these new higher prices the company attracted a whole different set of customers. Customers the CEO described as “professional” and as a consequence, led to a significant decrease in customer support costs that further led to about a ten times increase in profit margin. 

But not all companies are so lucky as this telephone company. Consider this national seller of home-improvement products. Profit margins were slim, and the company wanted to increase prices to boost its profit margin. Their business model was in-homes sales, and they advertised heavily on TV with the central message of deep discounts. Willingness to pay research showed them that the general consumer population was not very price sensitive. With one exception, those customers who had a preference for buying this kind of home-improvement product by in-homes sales were extraordinary price sensitive. This meant that the company’s ongoing low-price marketing only attracted those customers for which price was the most import decision-driver. This led to a “big” problem for the company. They could not increase prices, because that would severally affect the sales volume among those highly price-sensitive customers. They could not change their TV advertising to a value or benefit message, as this would severely impact the number of sales leads the company received – as those customers who want to buy in an in-home sales model are those that are the most price-sensitive. The company had painted itself into a corner from which there was only one way out – start a new brand, which turned out to be an expensive and involved proposition!

So, think about this the next time you are considering your pricing strategy. The last thing you want to do is cater to the least favorable customer at the expense of your most valuable customer. Your sales volume, profit margin, and revenue depend on you getting your pricing strategy right. 

Per Sjöfors
Sjöfors & Partners