Successfully integrating pricing strategy and communications strategy relies on a focus on two broad areas:
- How do we make ourselves look attractive to prospective customers so they will buy our products and services?
- How do we make current customers like us enough so they will continue buying our products and services and speak favourably of us to others?
How do we make ourselves look attractive to prospective customers so they will buy our products and services?
Pricing appropriately means understanding the customer segment we are targeting and the value proposition we will be using for that particular segment.
- If the customer segment being targeted has a limited budget and expectations that are not excessive, the pricing and associated value proposition that is communicated will reflect the value that they are receiving.
- If the customer segment being targeted is not necessarily on a tight budget, but has other expectations that require more features, the value proposition that is communicated will discuss these and not necessarily focus on price.
No rocket science here you may argue – and you would be correct! But what are some of the insights that so many marketers miss in this process?
- Know who your targeted segment is and understand what drives them. This is critical so you do not become fixated on talking about low prices when you do not need to. To some customers, this will be a turnoff. Some of WisdomInc’s analytics projects for clients clearly demonstrate that price does not always drive sales and should not be reflected in communications.
- Know who you are competing with. If you have strong competitors, you need to make some choices. Sometimes you will choose to compete on price, but with a bit of thought you may find a way of differentiating your offering. This has been achieved many times simply based on well-considered communications that enable perceived differentiation of your brand, irrespective of whether this is real or not.
- Try to understand how certain factors change the playing field to your advantage. These could include exclusive channels, location, availability by time of day (or night), etc. Once again, our analytics for clients have demonstrated how clients using one channel buy on price in specific regions, but seem oblivious to price in other regions. These are real opportunities that are ignored at your own peril if they are not capitalised on in your communications!
- Consider how flanking products and flanking brands within your portfolio -if you have this luxury – can be used against price competitors. If you do this right, your communications strategy can be more effective by boxing competitors in a smaller market space than they had previously enjoyed.
How do we make current customers like us enough so they will continue buying our products and services and speak favourably of us to others?
In addition to delivery of what you have promised to a customer, customers tend to be more appreciative if they recognise that they are gaining more from the deal with you than what they are paying for.
Put more simply, it means that your communications strategy can make your pricing more appealing if communications emphasise the value that customers are receiving. Let’s see how this works in practice:
- We know that customers are more attentive to your communications when they are doing business with you, rather than when they are merely prospects. Research bears this out. This means that communications shouldn’t just be about focusing on acquisition mode, especially given the availability of relatively low-cost digital communications channels. It is also easier to persuade an existing customer to buy more from you, than it is to get a new customer to sign up with you. This has clear economic consequences for how you allocate your communications priorities and budget.
- We have all had that experience when, after signing up for a new product or service, we get that weighty manual or welcome pack which we often choose not to read. The point is that we end up ignoring the added value with our purchase as we are unaware of it. To this end, it is worth communicating this value with customers on an ongoing basis in small bite-size chunks that are easily absorbable given a limited attention span. It also makes a welcome change to dealing with suppliers that only bother communicating with you when they want to sell you something else.
- As much as this may sound painful to do, if you are offering a customer a service on an ongoing basis and notice that the service is not being used to a large extent, it is sometimes worth considering whether the customer should be put on a cheaper package, with their permission of course, to save them in the long run. This is something that tends to be difficult to do but provides you with the perception of being a fair partner that can be trusted. It also provides you with a customer who is more likely to stay with you. Should you not do this, you will possibly find yourself in the position that the customer comes to this realisation on their own one day, or when approached by a competitor, and will simply leave, possibly never to return. Now think about the cost, time and effort it would take to replace this customer. What makes the most sense to you?
About the author
Alan Ohannessian started WisdomInc in 1999. WisdomInc focuses on Pricing Strategy, Brand Strategy and Analytics. He has consulted to over 70 global and local brands across 15 industries during this time.
Prior to this, he started a Customer Relationship Management consultancy within the Ogilvy Group in the mid-1990s and worked within the Ogilvy Group over a 5-year period. He was also lecturing Marketing Strategy, Consumer Behaviour and Retail Marketing during the early 1990s at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.
He has a B Comm. (Hons) from the University of the Witwatersrand in Manufacturing Strategy where he focused on how to mass customise products at competitive prices. He also has a Master of Commerce degree from the University of the Witwatersrand which focused on distribution channel strategy and logistics.