Recently, Netflix – streaming service giant – increased their pricing on two of their products by more than 10%. At first, media and customers displayed anger and backlash. But after the pricing increase, many customers remained at the increase was approximately a $1 difference. Plus, you have to factor in that many people are “cutting the cord” from traditional cable companies and converting to streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, for their entertainment. Netflix isn’t the first company, nor the last, to increase their pricing on products or services. But how to you manage to increase pricing without losing customers?
Increasing pricing on products is a result of various things – such as increased costs, additional services, improved quality, etc. When a company decides to hike their prices, we found that it stemmed from either two things: costs increased or they had their economics wrong in the first place. The other big one is taxes. Taxes actually increase prices. Companies that have their act together and run a streamlined operations will capture even taxes in their costs, even it is “below the line”. Be assured when taxes go up, so do prices to the end user. One of our goals when we work with clients to be more profitable is to look at their prices. Will increasing the price retain more customers or drive them away? Will there be more value added to compensate for the increased prices? When do you increase prices and how?
Timing is everything when you want to increase prices! If you time it wrong, then customers will be annoyed that they didn’t get the special or backlash because their monthly payment just increased a certain percentage. Netflix timed their pricing really well. Because they were releasing a new season of House of Cards, Stranger Things, and The Crown (all of which have been award winning and original content) within the next month or two, Netflix was able to communicate added value. For that extra $1, you will get more seasons of your favorite shows.
But what if you aren’t a streaming service? For example, you may be a Tax CPA firm. If you needed to increase prices for your services, then the wrong time would be in the middle of the tax season. Find those gaps between the rush of customers and communicate the value – even if you aren’t necessarily adding anything new. Be sensitive to price increases and avoid the “shock” factor.
When you have figured out the timing of when to increase prices, you have to answer the question, “how to do it?”. As a financial leader, this is where you cross lanes from the accounting department into the operations, sales, and marketing departments. You know the economics of your company, but if the salespersons cannot sell the product/service at that price, then it will fail. I actually had a CFO tell me that they had a “pricing problem”. Come to find out, they did not have a pricing problem. They knew exactly what the price needed to be, they had a management problem because the sales guy did not want to put pressure on his buddy who is the buyer. I guess the sales guy was afraid of losing the invitation to the annual fishing trip.
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One of the things that we have found with our clients is to add something “extra.” For example, Company ABC wants to increase their price on widget A from $80 to $150. They don’t have any other products, but they need to increase the prices so that they will be profitable. Instead of losing customers that may not be able to afford the $150, Company ABC splintered their products into three separate items – priced at $47, $56, and $89. Once a customer saw value in those smaller products, they opted-in to purchase the $150 product.
This is also a numbers game. When you provide extra offerings, you are able to capture more market. Hopefully, you will be able to promote those purchasing the cheaper products into a higher price range.
While this option isn’t necessarily increasing pricing on products, it is changing the cost structure and improving profitability. This tactic is used frequently in restaurants. Have you ever frequently visited a restaurant and your favorite meal started getting smaller… Yet, you were still paying the same price? Many companies chip away parts of the product to reduce costs, and therefore, increasing the price per plate, ounce, etc.
Think of that customer that is very price conscious and sensitive. Every once in a while, offer your products with a discount – essentially bringing it back down to its original price. This is a great way to retain previous customers that were conditioned with their prior expectations. Retailers do this all the time.
Increasing pricing on product often brings to light the fact that you have the wrong target audience. For example, one audience is highly sensitive to price due to the currency exchange. While another is less sensitive. Explore what it would look like to focus on that preferred audience. Maybe your specialized expensive item belongs in a specific industry that values your product, and not in a more general industry that maybe does not need or appreciate it.
Increasing pricing requires a lot of work on behalf of your marketing, sales, and operations team. If you are increasing pricing on products, are you absolutely sure that you will not have to do it again in the next few months? Because this process is an undertaking, do your homework and research the costs of your product. Will there be anything that could influence your costs?
When is the last time you had a price increase? You would be surprised how many times we speak to a business and they had gone years without a price increase. These companies are not evening covering the cost increase attributed to inflation.
Service companies frequently use this pricing tactic. They increase their pricing after a 6-month or 12-month membership. It’s expected. Sure, you may have customers that work around the system – finding new services, signing under a different name, etc.
While we have discussed extensively about Netflix, there are other industries, companies, and areas of the market that are having to adjust to a) the loss of customers, b) the increase of costs, and c) growth.
Before the era of streaming networks and DVRs, movie theaters or cinemas were all the rage. That was the only place you were able to watch new releases before you could purchase their respective DVDs. But as we have seen, more potential customers choose to stay home and watch on their home television instead of going out. Maybe this is caused by generational preferences. Regardless, movie theaters are having to increase product to compensate for decreased customers AND add value. Theaters are now offering fully stocked bars and restaurants, reclining chairs (or pods), and creating a high scale environment. iPic Theaters is a great example of how the environment of movie watching is changing.
Whether you are increasing the prices of your products in the next couple of months or years, it’s important to price them right the first time. Oftentimes, when we work with our clients, we find that their pricing was not resulting in profits. After seeing this so often, we developed a Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide that you can access here for free. Download the free Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide to learn how to price profitably.