{pricing} how my 'special deal' ended up biting me in the ass

do you ever have times when the universe seems to be sending you a message? or rather beating you over the head with a message until you get it through your thick skull?

that is happening to me this week, so i thought i would share with you. we can call it a light bulb moment, like oprah does. also known as ‘duh haven’t you figured that out yet?

i decided to think outside the box when it comes to selling my thing, so i recently did some one day events in which i offered a modified, ‘more affordable’ version of my normal service, had some special prices on my products, and gave a portion of the fee to a fundraiser.

i did this as a way to get my name out in the community, to provide a service to a large group at once and to introduce another income stream into my biz that wouldn't require as much time as my 'regular' work.

before i go any further with my story, i would like to insert that these were indeed great events, and for the most part i think the clients were pleased with their service and products.

but on one day, i had a large number of problems arise from one event: repeated emails and calls asking me to do stuff for free, switched and cancelled orders, people pushing for things even after i said no, people criticising my methods because they know ‘so-and-so’ does this and offers that and doesn’t charge anything... well you get the idea. needless to say i was frustrated.

don’t get me wrong, i don’t mind dealing with client requests and taking as much time as needed to get an order just right, when clients pay the full price for my regular service. my time and expertise and attention are part of the value people get when they come to me. but these events were meant to be quick, simple and no-frills.  and it turned out to be anything but.

this is what i noticed; it seemed that the clients who were the most high-maintenance were the ones who perceived my products to be ‘cheap’. the ones who found it to be ‘expensive’ still spent their hard earned dollars on my stuff, but they never made a complaint or extra request, and are thrilled with their results.

i also found that people who knew of me from when i was just starting out and not charging much were the most difficult; i felt they did not value my work, my time or my expertise. the ones who only know me as my ‘new’ professional brand did not question my value or expertise, and treated my biz as a professional.

since that day i have had the following messages cross my path:

~ if you attract people based on price, you will attract people who are difficult (dave Navarro, the launch coach)

~ your right price has got to be enough that you are happy to do the work and you filter out people you do not want to work with (dave navarro, the launch coach)

~ when you discount you start to attract price sensitive clients who are coming to you simply for one reason, because you are inexpensive. And you are also teaching your really good clients to wait for a sale. So you are devaluing the long term value of your business and of your brand. (sarah petty, the joy of marketing, posted on MCP actions)

~ the 'give stuff away for free, make money later' strategy gives the impression that your products (and ultimately you) aren’t really valuable. (megan auman, crafting an MBA)

~ when you stop advertising low prices, those whose only loyalty was to the lowest price stop coming in (mark silver, the heart of business)

when i look back on my clients over the past 2 years i can see a pattern. the ones who were the most difficult were the ones who were there because i was offering something really cheap. they are still difficult even though i have relaunched, rebranded and repriced my biz. they still expect something for nothing.

the clients who have been the real gems to work with are also the ones who have spent the most money on my service and my products. they are not high maintenance because they trust me and they have confidence in my work. they see my biz as having value and being professional based on my prices and my brand.

ta da! price affects perception. low prices attract difficult people. the right price is more than just profits, it is branding.

in the end, i did enjoy doing those events and i think there will still be a place for them in my biz. but in the future i will be reframing the way my pricing and value is perceived by clients on that day. i will also be very clear about the service i am offering – ‘no frills & low maintenance.’ if you want the frills, you need to pay for my regular, more expensive, more value-added service. new rule. =)

what do you think? what experiences have you had when offering discounts or special deals? have you had troubles changing perception as you have changed your prices? do you agree with the statements above? i would love to hear from you!