Ask people to pay too much for your product or service and they will stop buying. Ask too little and your profit margin slides or customers assume your product is poor quality. An 'optimum price' factors in all your costs and maximises your margins while remaining attractive to customers. Here's how to set your prices
- Know the market. You need to find out how much customers will pay, as well as how much competitors charge. You can then decide whether to match or beat them. Simply matching a price is dangerous, though - you need to be sure all your costs - both direct and indirect - are covered.
- Choose the best pricing technique. Cost-plus pricing involves adding a mark-up percentage to costs; this will vary between products, businesses and sectors. Value-based pricing is determined by how much value your customers attach to your product. Decide what your pricing strategy is before making a calculation.
- Work out your costs. Include all direct costs, including money spent developing a product or service. Then calculate your variable costs (for supplies and materials, packaging and so on) - the more you make or sell, the higher these will be. Work out what percentage of your fixed costs (overheads such as rent, rates and wages) the product needs to cover. Add all of these costs together and divide by volume to produce a unit break-even figure.
- Consider cost-plus pricing. You will need to add a margin or mark-up to your break-even point. This is usually expressed as a percentage of break-even. Industry norms, experience or market knowledge will help you decide the level of mark-up. If the price looks too high, trim your costs and reduce the price accordingly. Be aware of the limitations of cost-plus pricing, because it works on the assumption you will sell all units. If you don't, your profit is lower.
- Set a value-based price. You'll need to know your market well to set a value-based price. For example, the cost to bring a hairdryer to market might be £10. But you might be able to charge customers £25 if this is the market value.
- Think about other factors. How will charging VAT have an impact on price? Can you keep margins modest on some products in order to achieve higher margin sales on others? You might need to calculate different prices for different territories, markets or sales you make online. Do you need to allow for possible late payment by customers? Consider your payment terms and keep an eye on your cash flow.
- Stay on your toes. Prices can seldom be fixed for long. Your costs, customers and competitors can change, so you will have to shift your prices to keep up with the market. Keep an eye on what's going on and talk to your customers regularly to make sure your prices remain optimal.
Get to know your customers
Understanding your customers enables you to develop marketing strategies that address your customers' problems, needs or desires. This, in turn, helps you target customers more accurately with your products and services.
But how, as a small business, can you collate, analyse and act on your customer data?
Customer relationship management systems (CRMs) record customers' preferences, spending patterns and demographics, allowing you to build a detailed picture of their tastes, needs and buying habits.
Looking for CRM software? Take a look below at some CRM software options for small businesses*.