Perceived Value Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

by Tim Knox
Copyright © 2005

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Q: My partner and I are having a hard time coming up with what we feel is the perfect price for our new product. We know what competing products sell for, but we don't know if it's better to price our product cheaper than theirs or charge more based on what we think is a superior product. What is the best way to determine the perfect price and what is the rule of thumb for raising prices later on?
-- Jennifer L.

A: Like the perfect man, the perfect plan, and the perfect murder (not sure what those three have in common, but there is a link there somewhere), there is no such thing as the perfect price. There is that mythical price that gives the customer excellent bang for his buck and the company excellent profits for its efforts, but even that price point can't be considered the perfect price. That's called compromise, not perfection.

Pricing is an important aspect of every business because price is used to create financial projections, establish a break even point, and calculate profit and loss.

It's also important to establish a good price point from the beginning because it is much easier to lower prices than to raise them. If you introduce a product at $100 and make no sales, you can easily lower the price to $75 without attracting much attention. However, if you introduce the product at $75 and it proves popular and you raise the price to $100, you may face irate customers and even be accused of price gouging. So it's better to start high and adjust down, if need be.

There really is no rule of thumb when it comes to raising prices. Price is never set in stone and consumers expect prices to change with the times. You might raise prices to cover an increase in the cost of manufacturing and other production costs, or in response to market demand (the greater the demand, the higher the price).

You can also justify a price increase when you improve a product's quality, features and benefits. The buying public is generally price conscious, but if you can show that the value of your product has increased by the addition of new features and benefits, then the public will usually not balk at an increase in price. Keep in mind that price increases should be done in small increments over time, not by significant amounts over night.

Though price may be determined by any number of factors, basically there are three ways to establish the price for your product.

The first way to determine price is to perform a comparative analysis on similar products sold by competitors. Are the features and benefits similar to your product's? If so, use the price of the competing product as a possible price point for your product. If your product is superior in quality, features and benefits, then you might be able to justify a higher price and still be competitive. If your product is inferior, then your price point will be less.

The second way to establish pricing is to calculate the total cost to produce and deliver your product, then figure in an acceptable margin of profit to calculate the final price.

The third way to establish a price it to use what I call "The David Copperfield Method." Named after the famous magician who made the Statue of Liberty disappear on national TV, this method of pricing simply means that you pull the price out of thin air. Believe it or not, this is the method that many companies use to establish pricing. It's also the reason many companies disappear.

It's easier to understand the allure of the Copperfield Method when you realize that more often than not, product pricing comes down to one thing: perception.

Perception, or as it is more commonly referred to in business, perceived value, is one factor that most entrepreneurs use to determine product pricing. As entrepreneurs, our products are our children. We create them, we nurture them, we grow them and we love them. And often we perceive their value to be much greater than the market perceives it to be.

It's all about the perception of value. What makes a $10,000 Rolex watch more valuable than a $10 Timex? Functionally both are watches and both perform the exact same function: they tell time. Why then does one sell for a thousand times more than the other? Perceived value, nothing more.

An expensive wristwatch can not make you better looking, smarter, healthier, or more popular with the opposite sex. But the perception is that if you have a Rolex on your arm you must have something going for you that the wearer of a $10 Timex does not.

By the way, does anybody have the time? My Timex seems to have stopped...

Here's to your success!

Tim Knox For information on starting your own online or eBay business

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