To list prices, or not to list prices, that is the question.
This question came in over Twitter from @themartin. I hear from a lot of web designers who are uncertain about publishing prices on their websites. So before I get into my personal opinion on the matter, I want to preface a bit by getting into the motivator for such things.
There are three motivations for price:
- Qualifying prospects
- Educating prospects
- Getting the insta-buy
Knowing which of these motivations is yours will help you decide whether or not you have any business listing prices on your website.
Qualifying In & Qualifying Out
The thought process goes something like this:
“If I put 3 packages on my website, with the first one starting at $3,000 and the top one at $10,000, then no one will ask me for a website for less than $3,000 and I will be able to finally win $10,000 projects.”
Or so you think. Either way the objective here is not to sell someone a website for $3k via your website, but merely to make sure that no one calls you up with a lowball offer. The problem with this approach is that qualification is more complex than price. For instance, you don’t want a client calling you up, asking for a massive build, and assuming that it is going to cost $3k because that is what your website says. You don’t want your potential to think, “I can get a full featured website for $3,000.”
And not all clients understand why they should spend $3k on a website project to begin with. A business owner might believe that what they want should only cost $2,000, but once they are educated on your value, they might consider spending more. This approach of listing your prices might force them to self-qualify themselves out of ever calling you.
Listing a range will create a cap to qualify out clients that you would have otherwise loved to pursue. If a prospect is sitting on a $20,000 project and searching for a company, they might just pass right over your company even if you would have been a great fit.
The More You Know
Most business owners are still learning about the web and all of its nuances. Part of your job selling websites is to educate your prospective customers about all of the online opportunities for their business. Listing available packages on your website might be a good option to help you on this journey. Being able to easily point to a page on your website and say, “here are some packages that I offer,” can help provide bearing to your ideal project.
This also might help your prospective customer learn about different features and the costs associated with them before they ever call you.
The downside of trying to educate your customers publicly on your website is that you might actually end up qualifying them out of your service in the process of educating them. This of course is a negative side effect, because if your objective is to educate, qualifying is an unintended consequence.
If your objective is to educate your prospective customer base, then my recommendation would be to make your pricing an orphaned or private page on your site. This way you will be able to control at which point in time your customer sees this pricing–ideally as a resource during that part of your sales process.
The Elusive Service E-Commerce Experience
We’ve all been there. Create the page with service offerings packaged up like a neat little Amazon product with a clear “Add to cart” button. There in that moment, we pull out our calculator and start doing a little math: if I get 100 visits to this page, surely one of them will buy for $3,000, but I will advertise on Google and get 1000 visits, which will mean 10 sales and $30,000 for my business next month!
This type of calculator game is rarely a useful exercise for you or your potential customers. In my experience building web design businesses, I have only achieved the e-commerce-style buy with one type of effort: highly focused and targeted vertical marketing.
If you are a general practitioner, building websites for a variety of client types and markets, you should kiss this type of package listing good-bye. It’s a valiant cause to make buying a service as easy as buying an e-book, but in reality it won’t work.
On the other hand, if you are focused on a specific market, building a buy-button-style experience is most definitely a possibility. In order to get customers to enter their credit card details they need to know other customers, just like them, that have done the same thing. Otherwise the risk is too great. You can do this by becoming a trusted resource in a vertical and by having other customers, who can vouch for your “packages,” show off your great work to their friends. Then and only then will you be able to wrangle in this unicorn.
Final Word On Listing Price
As a qualification tool, it is weak. Price is only one aspect of qualifying, and, by listing price, you auto-qualify a prospect. It also doesn’t give you the ability to do what you need to do: sell. The art of building value is best done one-on-one.
As an education tool, it is wrongly placed. Education needs to happen in a sell-free-zone, which is not your services page. Perhaps you can write a few blog posts on your website that talk about the types of projects you take on and include budget as part of that conversation. Then it will feel less like, “buy this package,” and more like, “here’s an example of something I recently did and what it cost.”
As an e-commerce tool, it is rarely successful. A website scope of work is not usually apples to apples for each and every client. Including an item in your package scope like “Custom Web Design” might mean one thing to one customer and another to someone else. By trying to sell your services through a one-click buy form, you might be getting yourself into more trouble than you want.
Unless you have a highly focused market, marketing message, and service offering, I recommend against publicly listing your price. I have yet to see a general web practitioner who’s marketing comes even close to accomplishing what is necessary to make listing price worthwhile. Most of the time this practice works against them.