Price Is NOT the Bottom-Line

Jakob Nielsen recently published his annual Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design for 2007. Most of his advice is spot on… until we get to #10 (Not Answering Users’ Questions).

Nielsen avers that “the worst example of not answering users’ questions is to avoid listing the price of products and services.”

Nielsen may be a web site usability expert, but he’s not an expert on marketing and negotiating professional services.

Over the past several months, I’ve been talking to many, many business experts, and this is one of the questions I always have for them since it’s such a point of conversation and debate in every professional service-based business. Nearly every single expert essentially says the same thing:

Posting professional rates on your website is the quickest way to lose business.

Says Rob Frankel, branding expert, author of The Revenge of Brand X and frequent guest commentator on CNBC, CNN and NBC Nightly News, “Posting prices works for low value stuff, commoditized products–not professional services. Clients need to be educated about what you do in order to really understand the value.”

Frankel further states, “If you show prospects your pricing without any education, you’ll lose far more business, actually drive prospects away. And the ones you DO get will be price-driven, always looking for the cheapest way out. They do not make for good clients because they’re focused on cheap, not what you produce. You have to focus your clients on what’s important. If you don’t, they’ll make it up as they go along, and then everything is out of control.”

Clients simply aren’t going to get that information until they talk with us, no matter how we frame it on our websites. Once a rate is on the page, that’s the thing they zero in on to the exclusion of everything else. And you both lose out on an opportunity in the process.

I conducted a little experiment on this, too.

I typically average 3-4 consult requests a month for ongoing administrative support with no pricing listed anywhere on my site.

Once I’ve had the opportunity to talk with clients in a consultation, I pretty much have my pick of the ones I want. But during the month that I posted a pricing page, I saw all my site traffic immediately going to that one page, and got not one single consult request.

I also noted that my site visitors were spending dramatically less time on my site overall. Every bit of other information about the value and benefits and solutions was ignored.

Once I took that page down, I literally overnight saw a huge increase in not only page views, but in the amount of time visitors were spending on them. You could actually see that they were reading all of the information presented. And the phone started ringing again.

And trust me, there’s no guilt or whispered discussion about the investment–once I’ve learned what I need to know and gone over the important things clients need to know, I’m very direct about what it’s going to cost to work with me. But they need the context of our consultation conversation in order for that cost to make sense. And I can’t even begin to tell them anything about cost until I have gained an understanding about what their needs, goals and challenges are through our consultation conversation.

It should never be your intention with your website to elicit calls about price. Your website’s purpose is to establish rapport, educate about the value and how and what results are achieved, and compel prospects to want to learn more about the solutions you offer from you–a real live person–in a consultation.

It’s not the job of a website to “close the deal.” Negotiation happens between PEOPLE–not between websites and strangers.

2 Responses

  1. Jim Logan says:

    I agree. I don’t list prices on my site. And I never will. An exception is intentionally designed commodity “down-sell” services I create to attract customers in a low-risk environment to build confidence and instill trust.

    I don’t list prices because the services I provide are not commodities. I don’t sell the things I do. I sell the things I do for my customers. As such, I don’t have a “price” people can pay to secure my time.

    As a professional services provider, my time is the least valuable thing I have to offer. My greatest value is the results my customer’s realize from the things I do.

    I think that’s the issue. If you sell “things”, you have a price you can share with the world. If you sell the “things you do for your customer”, you need a conversation with a prospect in order to arrive at a price.

    Your point on the purpose of your website is spot on. As a professional services provider, your website should attract suspects and nurture them to become prospects. Becoming a customer takes direct contact….unless you’re a commodity.

    Great post and excellent points.

  2. Gillian says:

    Great post Danielle…i havent started building my website yet and this is very good insight about pricing. I was wondering about that.

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