Self-Employment

#PRICING

Pricing image by Inkling

Pricing image by Inkling

It's been a cold and snowy / mild and warm / damp and rainy winter. When our weather system is unable to make up it's mind, it might be asking a lot for business owners to effectively research and implement a proper pricing strategy.

Decision making related to pricing causes contention and confusion for many start-ups and growing businesses. It is such an important part of starting and running your business, but many business owners are unsure how to even start the process, much less how and when to increase pricing, how to be competitive, how to make sales, how to get and keep customers, etc.

So, while we're waiting to figure out what season will rear it's head tomorrow, it's a perfect time to learn about pricing and review the five most popular pricing questions/challenges!

Question/Challenge #1

Two very common comments that I hear from start-ups: "I'm a new business so my prices should be lower than my competitors" OR "I need to build my portfolio so will offer some services for free, just to get started".

What customers/clients think?

When a customer sees a product or service priced lower than the competition, they typically think one of two things:

  1. Sweet - I'm going to save some money.
  2. Why is this price so much lower? Is something wrong with it?

In the first scenario, this customer is excited to take advantage of your lower pricing. They may not have formed a judgement towards your product/service or business. They may simply think they are getting a good deal!

In the second scenario, the customer is questioning the price and why it is so different from other similar products/services. This can lead to a customer second-guessing the quality or lifespan of your product/service, second-guessing the intentions of the company, and/or second-guessing the value of the purchase.

This customer may walk-away from purchasing altogether or decide to choose another product/service that is known to be reliable (they've used it before).

In this scenario, your lower price did not encourage the customer to "try your product" or to "take a chance". It scared the customer.

When you under-value or under-price your products/services, customers may associate your lower prices with a low-value purchase. This is not the way to attract customers, especially new ones.

Value vs. Price graphic

Value vs. Price graphic

Pricing Lesson:

Don't undervalue yourself or your business. Even though you are new to business, it does not mean that you need to reduce your pricing to enter the market. 
Starting a business with pricing below the competition can lead to potential customers questioning the value of your product/service or the value that you, as the owner, bring to the business.

In addition, do not feel obligated to offer discounts or freebies to family and friends. Once it is offered, it is hard to explain to them why you are charging more next time.

Start-up Tips:

  1. Ensure your pricing is within the range of your competitor's pricing.
  2. You can say 'NO' to family and friends who ask for a "favour" or reduced pricing. You started a business to make money and be sustainable. Your friends and family should respect that.

 

Question/Challenge #2

"I'm new to the market, so I should offer and promote sales regularly to attract new customers. Right?"

WRONG!

What customers/clients think?

Customers are always attracted to sales - mainly for items or services they are actually interested in purchasing.

Sale graphic

Sale graphic

BUT, a customer can become comfortable with your sale price vs. your 'normal' price. This can cause issues/challenges in the future when you quote them on a product/service that is not on sale. A customer may push-back or decline to purchase from you, if they are expecting to pay the same price as last time (sale price).

This causes a lot of new entrepreneurs to feel obligated to offer the sale price again, and again, and again. They feel threatened, and fear the loss of a sale is the worst thing that can happen to their business. Reality check - one of the worst things that can happen is you keep putting in all the time and effort to start a business but don't actually make any money. Even worse, you keep losing money because you feel the "need" to keep making sales, at any cost (no pun intended).

Pricing Lesson:

Don't feel obligated offer a lot of promotions and sales. Don't feel obligated to offer one promotion, discount or sale. There is strategy behind running promotions and formulas to consider when offering sales. Ensure you do the math - your goal is to make money, not lose it.

Start-up Tips:

  1. Do not launch or start your business with a sale.
  2. If you want to run a promotion or sale, do so based on trends or demands in your industry. Consider offering a sale when you have created a big enough following to make money, even with reduced prices.
  3. When offering a sale or promotion, ensure your receipt/invoice shows the actual price and discount taken - not just the sale price. Ensure you show your client(s) what the actual, retail price of a product/service is so they are aware of what to expect next time they make a purchase.

 

Question/Challenge #3

Many new businesses do not start with the right pricing model in place and feel the need to increase pricing within 3-6 months of start-up. This usually happens because business owners start to understand how much time and effort goes into offering and selling each of their products/services. They typically have under-valued their labour and resources that go into one sale and start to learn the concept of real value.

What customers/clients think?

Customers may think that you are disorganized or some may think that you are taking advantage of them.

This can cause a lot of repeat customers to walk away, especially if an explanation or notice was not provided prior to the quote/sale.

Pricing Lesson:

Don't change your prices more than once per year.

Start-up Tips:

  1. Do your research so that the pricing you implement is appropriate for the year, anticipated trends and customer expectations.
  2. Tell customers that your prices are changing and the expected time/date they will change.

 

Question/Challenge #4

"How do I tell my customers that my prices are changing/increasing?"

What customers/clients think?

People, for the most part, understand that inflation is a reality of their everyday life. Logical human beings understand that prices go up in accordance to trends and demands in the economy.

On the other hand, people don't like change, especially negative change. If you withhold information or don't clearly communicate changes, your customers might be angry.

Be aware of your customer's needs and the human condition.

Pricing Lesson:

When you change your prices, notify your existing customers ahead of time; I recommend a minimum of 30 days. For example, send an email out to all active customers to explain the increase and when it will come into effect. Or, when a customer books their next appointment, update the individual about the changes then.
Don't tell existing customers that your prices changed the day their payment is due. This is disrespectful. Many business owners fear telling customers about price increases because there is a chance that they will not return. This is always a risk. Reduce the risk by respecting your customers and demonstrating exceptional customer service.

Start-up Tips:

  1. Don't change your prices more than once per year. 
  2. Be respectful. Be honest. Communicate clearly and effectively. The result will be return customers.

 

Question/Challenge #5

"I made a huge mistake when I started by business. My prices were way too low and now to compensate and be competitive, I need to double or triple my prices."

For example, a hair stylist charged $40 to cut, colour and style a woman's hair and the hair length was down to her lower back. After the services are complete, the stylist may review her sales to see that for a 2-hour session, she made $20 per hour, minus the cost of the dye and other resources used for this one customer. Granted, most stylists will have other customers in between colour jobs, but that is not guaranteed for a new business (not right away anyways).

So, the stylist decides to increase her prices. Great! The next time that customer comes into the salon, she sees that the cost to do her hair is $80 - compared to the $40 she paid before.

This may be too drastic of a price increase. The customer may not be prepared to pay for this significant increase in cost or might not have been notified about the price increase and may choose to walk away. As mentioned above, customers expect prices to increase but they may feel blind-sighted or taken advantage of if they see the price change significantly.

I understand that you need to increase your prices to compensate for the loss money and appropriately charge for your product/service. Unfortunately, the process may take time to recuperate. It is unfair to start doubling your prices and expecting your customers to pay the difference.

Remember: people don't like change, especially negative change. If you withhold information or don't clearly communicate changes, your customers might be angry and they have the right and ability to walk away if they are dissatisfied.

Pricing Lesson:

Do the appropriate research to identify the right pricing model for your business, industry and community BEFORE promoting or selling your products/services.

Start-up Tips:

  1. Be respectful of your clients. Don't do massive jumps in pricing.
  2. Be honest. Communicate clearly and effectively. The result will be return customers.
Zig Ziglar Quote - Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.

Zig Ziglar Quote - Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Pricing is essential to the sustainability of your business. If determined appropriately, your business will be competitive within an existing market, customers will see value in your products/services, your business will attract new and repeat customers, as well as your business and you will make money.

Here are a few additional tips and benchmarks to consider to help your business grow and be sustainable:

  • Review and update your sales and expenses every month. You are more likely to spend or lose money if you are not properly identifying the money coming in and going out of your business.
  • Are you making more than minimum wage? The current minimum wage as of January 1, 2018 (in Ontario, Canada) is $14.00 per hour. If you aren't, schedule an appointment with a business consultant, bookkeeper or accountant.
  • Identify when your business will 'break-even' or start making a profit.
  • Identify when your business will make a profit. What will you do with this profit? Will you purchase assets/reinvest it in the business? Save the money in a bank account?
  • Identify when you (the owner) can start drawing a salary/wages from your business.

I hope this article was helpful!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out at jodi@wordstock.ca

Avoid the Spam Folder: Make a Proper First Impression When Using Email to Communicate with Clients and Prospective Employers

Email is used every day to communicate with friends, family, colleagues, and clients/customers.

Spam Folder Image

Unfortunately, every day, email users make mistakes that family and friends may overlook or excuse but customers, clients and colleagues may take exception to the fact that you didn't put the effort into the content you are sending them.

Here is a quick list of important email etiquette to review before sending emails to people who may hire you, pay you or refer you:

1. Use the From Field Appropriately

When I open my Inbox to see what new emails are waiting for me, the first thing I see is who sent me an email and then, I look to see what the email is about (subject line is discussed next). The From field is supposed to clearly identify who sent the email. It is one of your first impressions, especially if you are cold emailing.
Your From field should show your first and last name, or company name, written in a proper format using correct spelling and grammar.
For example: my From field contains the words 'wordstock documents' with 'wordstock' inputted in the First Name section and 'documents' inputted in the Last Name section.
If you are applying for an employment position, I should see the same first and last names in your From field as written on your resume/cover letter.
For example: if Sheila White is applying for a job, I should see the name Sheila White in the From field, as well as written at the top of her resume/cover letter.
I should NOT see in the From field:
- SHEILA WHITE (all caps represents yelling and laziness)
- S WHITE or S White (unclear who is sending the email)
- Sheila & Steve (unprofessional - a lot of couples combine their names when using their personal email; I recommend creating a new email address when job searching and/or contacting clients for your business)

2. Write a Clear and Concise Subject Line

Take a minute to tell your reader what the content of your email contains. Your Subject Line should contain a few words/phrases only; leave the majority of your content to the body of your email.
For example: Pete's Automotive - Brake Quote Requested OR Follow-up from Last Week's Chamber Meeting. Both of these examples are brief but detailed enough to know when I click on the email, what the body content should include. 
For job seekers, I encourage clearly identifying what position you are applying for in the Subject Line. For example: Application for Full-Time Office Administrator Position (ID #5698740). Double-check the job posting before sending; sometimes it will outline what content the employer wants you to include in the Subject Line.
The Subject Line also helps me to identify the level of urgency for an email. Do I have to open it now or can I take a look at it later today?
Remember, the Spellcheck or Spelling and Grammar tool in email programs does not typically apply to the content in the Subject Line. Ensure you use proper spelling, spacing, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.
Finally, leaving your Subject Line blank or with content such as Fwd: or RE: will typically land your email in the receiver's Spam/Junk folder. Without appropriate identification and details, the recipient may overlook your email or simply delete it.

3. Clearly Address the Person You are Contacting

By addressing a person by name, it creates a connection and starts to build a relationship. Regardless of why you are emailing, be respectful and address each person appropriately based on the type of interaction.
For example, if you are applying for an employment position and have never met the hiring manager, I recommend keeping it objective and professional:
Mr. Smith or Ms. Smith or Angela Smith
It can be off-putting for some people to receive a job application directed to just Angela when you have never met this person before. 

Using To Whom It May Concern or Dear Sir/Madam means that you didn't take the time to do a little research. By taking a few minutes to identify the right person that you are sending an email to goes a long way. Go onto a company's web site, search through the directory, call the company, etc. It can help you stand apart from another applicant.

When networking, it is easy to ask a person for a business card. You have their name and contact details, so use them.
When following up, it is assumed you have personally interacted with them; so in this situation, you can direct the email to the person using their first name, if you choose.

4. Remind the Reader of How You Met/Know Each Other (if applicable)

The title says it all. Use the first few lines to remind or re-engage with the reader:
Hi Angela,
My name is Jodi and I own a local company called wordstock. We recently met at last week's Chamber meeting, and I am just following up from our conversation about your bookkeeper.

If this is a first introduction or cold email, you need to introduce yourself and explain why you are contacting them. Be clear and concise.

5. Be Mindful of the Content Length

Get to the point! Everyone is busy and everyone has multiple emails to go through in a day. 
I should be able to identify who you are and the purpose of your email without scrolling (general rule for smartphones).
Keep your email to two paragraphs (unless your reader is expecting a detailed and lengthy email).

6. Be Respectful of the Size of the Email

By sending multiple attachments, it increases the actual size of your email. All email programs have limits, even Google, and the size of your email can impact the actual length of time it takes to send your email, whether the recipient has enough available space to receive your email, and/or whether you have enough space to send your own email.
There is a difference between attaching and embedding documents and (especially) images. 
I personally recommend attaching vs. embedding because it keeps your email size smaller and allows the recipient to choose the option of downloading an attachment vs. being 'forced' to view it upon opening the email.

7. Include a Call to Action

As mentioned above, people receive multiple emails a day. If you don't tell me that I need to follow-up with you, I likely won't. 
By including a Call to Action, it can help communication continue between both parties. For example, tell your reader if you need a response by a certain day or explain how to sign-up for an event or at the least, how to contact you if they have any questions.

8. Create and Use an Appropriate Email Signature

Think about who you are contacting, why are you contacting them, and what email address you are using to send the email. Now, think about how you should end your email. Is it informal and only requires your first name - such as sending an email to you friend? Or are you applying for a job and should sign off with your full name? Or are you communicating with a potential client and should sign off with your name and business contact details?
Always remember your audience and identify what level of professionalism you need to include.
Also, remember that hiring managers and potential customers may not be impressed by you including a cute animated GIF or famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote at the end of your email.

9. Proofread and Edit Your Content Before Sending

Just because you are done writing the email does not mean you are ready to hit the 'Send' button. Take a few minutes and review your Subject Line and content.
Double-check for spelling and grammatical errors. Read the email content out loud.
If submitting a job application, did you follow the application guidelines? Did you attach your resume? Cover letter? Have you addressed the email to the correct email address?
If emailing a quote to a potential client, did you remember to attach the quote? Did you address the email to the right person?
Forgetting to include an attachment and sending an email to the wrong person are the top two mistakes that people make when emailing. These errors can be prevented by reviewing your content before sending. Don't rush!

10. Avoid Landing in the Spam Folder

You have one chance at sending an email and making a positive first impression. Follow the suggestions above and your email should avoid the Spam folder.
As a back-up, you can always follow-up with the recipient within 24 hours to ensure they received the email.
Please don't call within 15 minutes of sending your email. Technology can sometimes take longer than 15 minutes to process your email, plus the recipient may not be at their desk at the time that your email is sent. Be patient and respectful, BUT do make sure to follow-up!

Email is an important medium that we use to communicate multiple times a day. By identifying your audience and purpose of your email, you will be able to structure your email and include the appropriate content to fit each sender.

Good luck and happy writing!

Jodi

Happy Labour Day Weekend!

Labour Day Weekend.png

To celebrate the last long weekend of summer, wordstock is offering 20% OFF all editable PDF projects.

Offer valid until Tuesday, September 5th.

Connect via jodi@wordstock.ca to discuss your editable PDF project!

#writing #smallbusiness #editabledocuments #grammarsaveslives #Hamilton #Brantford #hamont #celebratesummer #welcomefall

Let's Get Editable.png