About the Author

Kevin McCoy is a member of the THRIVEal CPA Network and lives in St. Charles, the first state capitol of Missouri. He watches way too many TED talks and much to the chagrin of his wife Stefanie, reads mostly non-fiction. His favorite candy bar is the Whatchamacallit.

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CPAs Your Pricing is Confusing Your Customers

Guest article by written by on Jul 4

When I walk in to Wal-Mart I know I’ll get Everyday Low Prices. Always. When I go into Gap I know I’m getting affordable quality.

Pricing is a strategy. What does your pricing say about your accounting business? Does it align with where you want to position yourself? Think about it in terms of the three basic selling propositions. How do people shop for your product or service?

Three Basic Selling Propositions

Price

This is tough because you MUST have the lowest price or you’re dead. Your customers are not loyal and might be willing to put up with less than stellar customer service. You have to have some sort of scale or excellent processes in place to consistently compete on price.

Airlines are notoriously terrible in customer service but people still fly. We have evolved to shop by price when buying plane tickets, consequently the airlines have developed sophisticated pricing techniques to maximize revenue because they know only a handful of people are willing to pay more to choose which airline they fly.

Convenience

People who buy based on convenience are willing to pay more, so your margins might be better, but convenience might drive your costs higher - more locations, longer hours, travel to the customer, etc.

In college, we had a pizza place near campus that was open late and they delivered. They could price higher than the other pizza joint a block away because they knew college kids got hungry at night, some didn’t have cars and were probably spending someone else’s money (thanks Mom & Dad!) They had higher expenses for things like utilities and payroll because of the extended hours.

Quality

Yes, people who buy quality can and will pay for it. But you better deliver because the buyer’s expectations are higher. You better focus and not try to do too much. Your customer service better be top notch.

Nearly every firm website I’ve seen talks about high quality personalized service. We have an opportunity (usually every year) to use our pricing power and act strategically. But when it comes to pricing, each customer is treated the same - a standard hourly rate billed when the project is complete. The reason the word “commodity” is increasingly tossed around in our profession is that is what we have positioned ourselves to be. If you sell a commodity, it is hard to prove quality. I believe if we have deeper conversations with customers and find out what they truly want - beyond the compliance they need - we can change lives. We will blow our customers’ expectations out of the water and they will pay for quality.

Other pricing considerations

Notice I never once talked about the business’ costs as a factor in pricing. Why? Because customers don’t care what your costs are. They are paying for a solution, not the process or tactics to get them there. I don’t care if it takes Starbucks 2 minutes or 30 seconds to make my Iced Caramel Macchiato, I just want a delicious drink.

Pricing up-front is best for both parties. From the seller’s perspective, isn’t it better to know at the beginning how much the customer is willing to pay? It sucks to do a bunch of work, bill at the end of the project and realize the customer had a wildly different expectation of how much it would cost. On the other side, giving the buyer a fixed price at the beginning removes an element of risk and gives them peace of mind.

Choosing a pricing strategy is important. You must be consistent and believe in the method you choose or customers will be confused and less likely to buy. Look at your industry and determine your competitors’ pricing strategies. Would adopting a different strategy make you stand out?

What is your pricing strategy? Does it fit with your business positioning?

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