Discount Dilemma

One of the questions that just about every business owner is asked is “do you offer discounts?” It’s a question that makes us groan sometimes because we work hard to serve our customers and create our products, and the fact is that we have to make money! Yes, most of us have a buffer or cushion between what it actually costs to create a product and what we charge, and there are people who offer similar services for less than we do. Yes, some of us do compete based on price, that’s one of the reasons people buy what we offer instead of a similar product/service. And yes, most of us do create special offers at some point in time, or offer regular discounts for certain people, like veterans for example. Not to mention that there’s a whole “bargaining” industry where asking for a different price than what’s listed is not only acceptable but expected.

That said, I don’t necessarily have anything against offering discounts. I believe it can be a way to recognize your faithful customers and offer them discounts for continued purchases. There’s certainly an opportunity in offering “introductory offers” at lower-than-normal prices, or coupons if you’re in need of an influx in customers. There’s also an opportunity to connect with people through clearance or close-out offers.  But there’s a reason that things are priced as they are, and it’s what people have determined is reasonable based on what results are possible or what’s being offered.

So how do we deal with the discount question? Personally I address it on my website. I make it clear that if there’s a discount to be had it will be announced on social media and/or in my newsletters and that it’s not something I do often. I also clearly state that I offer regular special pricing for pastors for one of my offerings and for veterans on all of my services (and how to prove you qualify). I also offer levels of service so that I can help people whether they can afford $20 or $2000, and some payment plans.

So what if someone doesn’t clearly state they do/don’t offer discounts but you really, truly can’t afford their prices, and you really want to work with or buy from them? As with so many other things in the industry these days, the best thing you can do is contact them and be specific about why you want and deserve a discount or special pricing. Saying things like “I’ve got tons of people I can refer you to” or “I’ll absolutely buy again in the future” aren’t valid reasons in my book. You have to give a good enough reason why you should be given a discount when [almost] everyone else pays full price, preferably a reason that can be backed up or easily verified. If they can’t offer a discount, maybe they’re willing to work out a payment plan, offer reduced hours/access, have something similar they can offer at the price you can afford, or can recommend someone/something that does fit your price range.

What are your thoughts on discounts and how do you handle it when (potential) customers ask you for them?

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Customer Relationship Reality

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it takes to really be successful in business.  Now, there are many ways you could be successful, several of which I strongly advise against.  We all need to find what works for each of us, not everyone can be successful with a blog or selling door-to-door (or the 2016 equivalent).  But one of the biggest divides is between those who have regular interaction with their customers and those who don’t.  For example a personal trainer has lots of interaction with clients, but the company who created the cookies that you bought at the grocery store last weekend isn’t likely to talk with hardly any of their customers.

That said, in 2016 I don’t believe you can really be truly hands-off with customers.  Even taking the simple example of social media shows that there really isn’t distance between a business and their customers any more as the companies interact directly with their customers through social media.  It just reinforces my understanding and belief of business as a relationship between people (even if there are machines and technology between and/or connecting you).

What I’m seeing, what the research is saying, what other businesses are saying, and what the customers are saying is that there needs to be some change made so that people are at the forefront of the discussion.  Do you really think about what’s best for your customer when making decisions or are you just looking at the bottom line?  Do you even know if what you’re considering is needed and/or there’s a market for it (or reasonable proof seems to indicate there is)?

Business no longer means you can have distance from your customers.  The best thing you can do is begin cultivating a relationship with them.  Get to know them, let them get to know you, don’t dread customer service calls, retrain your employees on proper customer communication and relationships if necessary and consider all the benefits of knowing your customers better.

Attracting an Audience

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things, including how I can better serve you (I’d love to hear your requests, you can post them in the comments below the post).  A lot of business owners I know and work with struggle with finding or speaking to clients.  As you know the statement has always been “build it and they will come” and the fact is that people will find you.  But you have to ask yourself if they’re the people you really want to find you, or if they’re just a big waste of your time and a headache or two besides.  If it happens that they are people who would benefit from and need your offerings do they understand what you’re offering, does it convince them to buy and can they easily buy?  Let’s talk about a couple aspects of these thoughts today, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and struggles too.

1-headaches: yes, you will meet people who think they’re interested in your offerings and end up being way more trouble than they’re worth.  If you work with select individuals it’s easier to weed these out frustrating cases out than if you serve a wide audience.  When people come to you and ask lots of questions it’s important to determine as quickly as possible if they’re just seeking clarification and reassurance or if they’re out to challenge you and what you know, believe and offer.

2-do they understand?:  this is one of the biggest reasons that I believe people ultimately don’t buy stuff: they don’t understand what you’re offering, it isn’t shared in language that speaks to them, or it isn’t clear why they should buy from you as opposed to the other many businesses that offer similar things.  This is one reason why it’s so important to have a couple people, including at least one completely impartial individual like a coach or consultant, look at any marketing/website work that you put out.  These other people will see things that you totally missed because you’re too close to your business.

3-getting the contract: is there a secret to making more sales than not?  Yes and no.  Part of it, as we’ve already discussed is making sure what you’re offering is clear and understandable, and you’re available to answer questions.  Another part of it is showing that you offer something unique, special or better than the other options.  Another part is the importance of offering different levels of service so that people don’t have to dive in with the big bucks right away.  Finally, when you do get people into conversation with you to buy your offerings asking the right questions to them to help them understand that you really can help them and truly care about their goals and life and it’s not just about the almighty dollar for you.

So this week I encourage you to get someone to give you an outside perspective on what you’re offering so you can start resolving the issue(s) of why people aren’t buying as much as you think they should be.