The “please pay more since you are my customer” pricing strategy

By Renae Gregoire | Customer satisfaction

Jan 20
Pricing strategies that suck

The email may as well been headed: "Hey, you already paid full price, so this deal is not for you." 

I'm so annoyed with MarketingProfs.  And a little with myself. 

I'm a PRO MarketingProfs member, which means I pay an annual fee for access to special content and events like webinars. I also get PRO member discounts for online courses.​

As someone who always loves to learn new things that will help me do better work for my clients, I find the membership valuable.​ 

A month or two ago, I signed up for MarketingProf's online marketing writing course, a 16-week program covering all things marketing writing. A lot of the content looks basic, but I'm sure I'll pick up at least a bowlful of tips and tricks that will make me an even stronger writer.​ 

Then, this past Monday, I received an email from Marketing Profs that ticked me off.​

Do you see that? 

If I had waited to sign up, then I would have saved 50% on the price of the course!​ 

You better believe I won't make that mistake again. Next time, I'll wait to sign up so I can get the fat discount.​ 

And my feelings of love for MarketingProfs have been greatly diminished.​

I feel cheated.​

The discount tactic is everywhere.​ 

I realize that lots of companies use the discount tactic to get new customers in the door. But is it the best tactic?

I remember that this also happened with Bradford Check Exchange -- you know, the company that sells checks in those weekly coupon-stuffed mailers that appear in your mailbox each week?​

The second time I tried to order checks from Bradford, they wanted to charge an exorbitant fee. Yet new customers get checks at great prices.​

Does that seem right to you?​

The price discrepancy was so huge that I even emailed Bradford to complain about it, but they sent me an email telling me, "Sorry, those offers are for new customers only."​

They told me that I should be happy because I was still getting a great deal, saving 20% off of what the bank would charge me.​

Big whoop. Thanks, that makes it all better.​

An alternative: Why roll the die? Make your customers feel loved while still selling.​

Here's an idea for MarketingProfs and other companies: Why not offer customers "the deal" for being loyal customers?

MarketingProfs has a pretty decent email campaign system. Why not send a message to current customers BEFORE publicly announcing the course, offering a special "Because we love our customers" deal? Something better than what new customers or late signups would pay, something that makes customers feel special, and good about buying?​

Consider this: Is the extra money you gain by charging current customers more money of greater value to you than preventing the sick feeling those customers get when they realize that you're effectively punishing them with higher prices for being customers? Roll the die.​

Discounting versus adding value: What others are saying.​

In a LinkedIn discussion related to the practice of discounting seminar seats, someone summed up my feelings quite nicely:

"Lowering the price punishes those who already bought, and teaches your audience to "wait for a better deal" in the future - creating the opposite of urgency."​

That discussion also provides more food for thought for companies considering the discount tactic:

  • Raise prices instead of lowering them to attract better customers.​
  • If you find that you must discount to get sales, maybe the price itself is an obstacle.
  • If price is an obstacle, maybe your audience doesn't see the value in what you're selling; can you position or promote it differently?
  • Offer early-bird buying opportunities, especially to current customers, which actually increases the value of the offer in customers' eyes.
  • Offer something that's low cost to you as a bonus to increase the value in the eyes of your customers, for instance an ebook.
  • The goal is to increase the perception of value by ADDING, not to devalue by DISCOUNTING.

The whole story: An after-the-fact disclaimer

You should know that I wound up paying only $307 for the MarketingProfs course. And that the 50% discount I griped about brought the price of the course for late arrivals down to $297.50. So I didn't pay that much more in the end.

However, I didn't remember how much I paid when I received the discount email this past Monday. All I knew was that I was peeved because I had to work hard to try to save money on the cost of the seat. I searched online for coupons over two days. When I finally thought I found the "best" deal, then I booked the class.​

When writing this post, I had to look up the price I actually paid, because it would have been lame to publish and then get an email from MarketingProfs saying, "Hey, loser -- you actually paid LESS for your seat, so what are you complaining about?"​

As you know, perception is everything in Marketing. And I perceived that I had been cheated when I received that email offering people who had not yet signed up a 50% discount. I also learned never to sign up in advance for a MarketingProfs seminar, because surely they're going to discount it right before the class starts.​

Customer perceptions are what count in the end. And that's why I urge you to consider whether discounting is the best tactic for your business.​

Image Courtesy of 29571 at Freerangestock.com​

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About the Author

Renae Gregoire is a marketing writer, editor, critical thinker, obsessive questioner, and excellent-results deliverer. Although writing is her talent, empathy is her Super Power; she combines both into a potent formula for creating content experiences that lead more people to YES!

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