Tips, techniques and inspiration for marketing communications from Richard Groom at Peterborough Copywriting Bureau.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Ball park prices are often better than no prices

A while back, I was delivering an in-house copywriting workshop at a B2B software company and the discussion soon got onto pricing. In particular, the marketing team were unsure about whether to mention product prices across their marketing communications.

They were often telling readers that their products were competitively priced. But the concern was that this was just getting lost in the ‘noise’ of the communications, because specific prices weren't featured.

We talked for a while about the way that big retailers approach price. They wouldn’t say ‘we can typically save you 20 percent on your baked bean costs’. They show the actual price of their beans, often comparing with rival retailers. Without the real prices they would have much less credibility.

Things aren't so easy in some markets. In B2B in particular, the trend is NOT to list actual prices, because every client and every project is different. And yes, there are definitely situations when that might be the right approach, such as when sales teams have a lot of leeway on setting a price linked to a client’s needs, budget and so on.

But the trend is changing, partly driven by technology. Software providers, for example, are increasingly featuring ways that prospective customers can build their solution package online and get a price. And even when this isn't an option, it is often possible to give a pretty good indication of price.

The case for showing prices

In most cases, people will have a rough idea of a typical price anyway. That might be knowledge they have gained through experience, or it could be as a result of careful research. So giving people an indication of price shows that you are in the industry average ballpark (unless you are specialising at either extreme end of the price/value spectrum).

Showing the price has other benefits: 
  • If few of your competitors show prices, people might welcome your transparency, trust you more, and contact you as a result. 
  • They might buy from you because they are too busy to go through an enquiry/quotation process with other providers. 
  • You might ‘weed out’ people who can’t afford you: very important where fielding multiple ‘no go’ enquiries is costly. 

B2B buyers are increasingly looking for a price ASAP

Some research by Google back in 2014 confirmed that, increasingly, people doing the research during B2B buying processes are millennials (20-35 year-olds) who have been brought up in a culture of online purchasing. They are used to Googling something and finding what they want, including a price.

Compare that with 20 or more years ago. When I bought my first car 25 years ago I went to a car insurance broker, gave him my details, and waited for a few hours for him to get back to me with a price. Nowadays, we go online and expect to see a price within minutes – or even seconds. B2B buyers are often looking for a similar experience at work too.

This trend from the B2C world is massively influencing B2B. Price - in many sectors - is not the last thing that people expect to find out in the buying process. It's one of the first, and businesses often need to take this on board when developing marketing communications.