Three years ago, I was negotiating a content writing project with a client. I had worked with them before and presented good results.
I proposed a fee. The client instantly responded with a single-line email that read, “This is too expensive.”
The earlier me would’ve halved his fees instantly. He would reason that something was better than nothing.
Here’s how events would unfold: The client would accept. I would begin working ‘for’ them. And then, 3 things would follow:
- I would start feeling the pinch of giving good services for dirt cheap.
- Clients would lose respect for me because I slashed my fees by 50 percent.
- Clients would expect services of the quality of a Mercedes-Benz while paying for a Kia. If I declined, they’d turn sour. So I would continue giving in to their whims and feeling crappy.
For 2 years, this cycle continued. Until I finally learned my lesson — value over price, always.
So here’s what I did with the client who said that my fees were too expensive.
I showcased how my content would benefit them. They could repurpose it, get backlinks, and republish this content on high-quality sites. All this, I explained, would help them build thought leadership and get better returns on investment for their marketing efforts.
I heard nothing for a month. And I forgot about it.
One day, the CEO called me. He said, “Vishal, I know the quality of your work. I also kept thinking about your last email. I don’t want to haggle. What’s the best you can do for us?”
I dropped my fees by 5% (yes, just five percent) and offered to give them 3 hi-res images with each article. The client agreed and we shook hands on the phone.
Why Low Price Sucks as a USP
Each time you play the price game, someone hungrier can easily undercut you. And someone undercuts them. That’s how the whole industry gets ruined.
A price-centric discussion also indicates that customers don’t really know what they want. They look at the products as a commodity which they hope will help them achieve their goals. That’s why cheap products are a safe option. If they fail to help the customer, she can take comfort in the fact that she mitigated the damage.
Here’s what you need to understand.
We’ve transcended from the era of products and services into the era of value. This is an era where buyers expect you to not just know your product, but also have answers to their most pressing questions. According to research, 60% of consumers expect brands to help them make decisions. On a similar note:
“Business buyers don’t buy your product or service, they buy into your approach and perspective to solving their problems.” — Jeff Ernst, Forrester Research Group
In other words, your customer expects you to show her what’s right for her, and to be right when you do.
Can your product address the problems that keep your customers up at 2 AM at night? Can you show your customers the solution in ways that add meaning to their lives?
If yes, great! You can engage buyers at strategic levels. If not, get to the back of the line until you slash prices to levels you cannot sustain. Then wait to go out of business.
Value is Invaluable
Enough of focusing on features and benefits. Start focusing on your customer’s most pressing problems. Show her how she can solve it, how she can be the superhero of her own story.
Enough of doing just the bare minimum to fulfill a customer’s order. Offer 5-star service, and make this experience predictable.
Then customers won’t just keep returning to buy from you, they’ll also turn into your advocates. And you’ll be okay to walk away from stubborn customers who still want to haggle on price.
This is the strategy we follow at Content Sutra. We don’t want to do work worth $100 for $20. We want to provide value worth $10,000 for $1,000. We want our work to contribute to our clients’ business goals, not just be something that we finish and say, “done.”
We don’t just earn money now. We also feel gratified. Clients include us in their content strategy discussions. They pay promptly, respect our time, and stick to the process we agreed on for ideation and inputs.
In turn, they appreciate the quality of our work and our obsession with deadlines and self-improvement.
If a prospect says we’re too expensive, we end the discussion amicably, fully aware that someone else who finds our services valuable is out there, waiting for us to connect with them.
When you offer more value than your competition, you’ll always find customers who are ready to pay a premium. Plus, the endeavor to add value keeps making you improve your startup itself.
In the age of value, the best growth hack is not funnel marketing or optimizing an email campaign by 7.47%. It’s to empower your customer so that she can make her life better.