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A few months back, there was a big, heated discussion debate in one of my Facebook groups about how much a business owner should pay to have their logo designed.
The designers in the group got pretty upset when loads of people suggested that getting one whipped up on Fiverr for $5 bucks or buying one on 99Designs for a few hundred was just as good as paying thousands to work directly with a designer.
“It’s just a logo, it’s not that important” many people felt.
And naturally, these design professionals, who have dedicated years of their life to fine-tuning their craft, took offense and tried― in vain―to make the case that it’s worth paying more money for. Then one woman said something that I’ll never forget:
Look, I don’t know the difference between a $5 logo or a $50,000 logo, it’s up to you designers to explain it to me.
In this simple statement lies the key to everything when it comes to pricing your services, no matter if you’re a designer, a copywriter, a coach, marketer, strategist or consultant.
Your customer doesn’t know everything there is to know about what you do, it’s up to you to communicate your value
There are probably a lot of misconceptions about what’s involved in the service you offer, and you may have shit-tons of competitors who are competing on price and even undervaluing your entire industry too.
This is what many of us face, and yet, I’m sure you can think of many people in your industry who are booked out and charging premium prices. And those people may be less talented and hard-working and awesome than you, and the service you offer may actually be more valuable.
But if your customer doesn’t know that, you’re not going to be able to charge more.
The Problem With “Just Charge More” Advice
A lot of pricing advice sounds like this: “People don’t value something they don’t pay a premium price for, so just charge more, and people will consider it to be more valuable.”
There’s truth to this, but the problem is, you can’t “just charge more” and expect your customer to understand the difference in value. They’re still comparing you with other options and if they can’t tell the difference, they’ll go with the one that’s lower in price.
The Problem With “Charge What You’re Worth” Advice
You hear people talking about this one a lot too. To me, it sounds like, “You’re not charging enough because you have low self-worth.”
What a load of 💩.
When you have bills to pay, and somebody offers to pay you cash-money, unless you have a better offer, you’re going to need to take that money even when you know you’re worth a helluva lot more. Choosing not to have your electricity turned off has nothing to do with your self-worth.
The main problems we all face when it comes to pricing, especially when we’re trying to attract clients online, are:
- The perception that what we sell is a commodity
- Intense competition for our customers’ attention
So what do we do about it?
Brands versus Commodities
Commodities are offers that customers can’t tell the difference between
In the case of the logo design example, customers couldn’t tell the difference between a $5 logo and a $50,000 logo. To them, logos are a commodity — every logo, no matter the price, solves the same problem and delivers the same value.
When people don’t see a clear distinction — when there’s no clear reason to choose one over the other — the one that’s offered at the lowest price will win every time.
Brands are the opposite of commodities
Water is probably the best example of a commodity, at least for those of us privileged enough to live where water flows freely from our faucets.
Have you ever stood in the grocery aisle and compared the generic brand of water to Fiji or Evian and made the decision to splurge on the more expensive option?
Why in hell would you purchase a liquid that’s more expensive per ounce than wine when you could have it for pennies (or free!) instead?
You felt the premium water was different. Better.
But it’s just water, and you probably don’t really know the difference. If I put Evian in a lineup of 50 different samples of water, I bet you couldn’t distinguish it from the rest.
This is the power of the brand
It works the same way in any industry and for any business, even if you’re a one-person shop and you’re serving a small market. The raison d’être of branding — since the beginning of its inception — is to distinguish one business’s product or service from another.
Now you’re back at the supermarket and you’re faced with only different variations of generic water. You’ve never heard of any of them before and they all have the same features and characteristics. Which one do you choose?
The cheapest one, of course.
When there is no difference in perception between you and your competitors, people will make their decision based on price.
So if you’re not charging enough, I propose it may be because you simply can’t. Not because you have low self-worth (although mindset issues do come into play for sure), but it’s most likely because you aren’t clear about what distinguishes you from your competition.
If your services page is just a laundry list of “all the things you do”, and you haven’t told the story about the experience and the future you’re promising your customer, you’re selling commodities.
If you want to raise your prices, build your brand
If you’re not clear about your value and what distinguishes you from your competition, how can you expect your customer to be?
Putting yourself in the position to charge more starts with you understanding why customers should choose you over your competitors and then communicating that with relentless consistency. This is brand building.
Think “Branding” Is Only For Other Businesses And Not Yours?
Let me ask you this:
- Would your business benefit from having high awareness?
- Have you been in business for a while, but people don’t always understand “exactly what it is you do”?
- When you email or speak with prospects, do you have to do a lot of “selling” or educating about the benefits of your offer?
- Is it ever challenging for you to explain your offerings, your points of difference, and who your customer is in a succinct way?
- When you look at your marketing and communications, do you see inconsistencies in the look, message, and personality?
- Have you pushed aside taking the time to think about your “brand”? (Have you just been winging it?)
- Can you think of one reason why people should choose you?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you need branding. And I don’t mean getting a logo and picking out fonts, I mean you need the kind brand clarity that allows you to consistently communicate your value and points of difference.
Getting Brand Clarity
I know it can be incredibly challenging when you’re on your own. Questions like: “What makes you unique?” and “What’s the value you offer your customers?” are typical questions you find on any “brand checklist”… but in our heads, we start thinking:
“Who am I?”
“Who do I want to be?”
“I’m not special, there’s nothing different about me, craaaaaapppp!!!”
“I’M NOT NEEDED IN THIS WORLD! WHAT’S THE MEANING OF LIFE ANYWAY?!!”
They’re the right questions, but getting the right answers is a whole other story.
Don’t ever let this keep you stuck.
Building a brand sometimes means getting to know yourself and your customer a little better before you can narrow it down.
Just keep thinking about it, keep paying attention to the things your customers say about you (they’ll tell you what your brand is if you pay close attention).
Start with Why
One really powerful exercise I do with clients is to create a purpose statement. We tend to think a whole lot about WHAT we do (our bulleted lists of services) and sometimes even HOW we do it (what differentiates us), but entrepreneurs rarely take the time to articulate WHY they’re doing what they do to begin with.
But I recommend starting there. What change are you trying to create for yourself — and your clients, the community you live in, even the world--by doing this work? When you can answer that question in clear terms, it becomes a framework for the rest of your thinking.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
The way to attract higher-paying clients is to build a brand that allows you to communicate your value. This can be the words and visuals you use, but mostly it comes down to being valuable to your clients and giving them the VIP treatment so they’ll spread the word for you.
In what ways can you improve or add more value to your client experience? When you look at your website and sales copy, are there ways you can better communicate your value?
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.