March 2nd, 2010 by Joern Meissner
There are three basic pricing strategies: skimming, neutral, and penetration. These pricing strategies represent the three ways in which a pricing manager or executive could look at pricing. Knowing these strategies and teaching them to your sales staff, and letting them know which one they should be using, allows for a unity within the company and a defined, company-wide pricing policy.
- Skimming Strategy
Skimming is the process of setting high prices based on value. Instead of basing your prices on your competition, a skimming price comes from within the company and the (financial) value your product represents to your customer. This strategy can be employed in emerging markets, where certain customers will always want the newest, most advanced product available. It also works well in a mature market, where customers have already realized the value of your product and are willing to pay for what they see as a worthwhile investment. Surprisingly, skimming also works in declining markets, as your diehard customers are willing to pay big bucks for what they see as an older but superior product with a dwindling supply.
- Neutral Strategy
In a neutral strategy, the prices are set by the general market, with your prices just at your competitors’ prices. The major benefit of a neutral pricing strategy is that it works in all four periods in the lifecycle. The major drawback is that your company is not maximizing its profits by basing price only on the market. Since the strategy is based on the market and not on your product, your company, or the value of either, you’re also not going to gain market share. Essentially, neutral pricing is the safe way to the play the pricing game.
- Penetration Strategy
A penetration strategy is the price war; this strategy goes for the deepest price cuts, driving at every moment to have your price be the lowest on the market. Penetration strategies only work in one of the four lifecycle periods: growth. During growth, your sales are continuing to expand, as your customers want the newest product but still a product that has already tested by others in the emerging period. This is when your average customer buys a product and when the sales numbers will be the biggest. A penetration strategy works here, and only here, because you’re attracting customers to a new but proven product with cheap productions. You’re developing relationships with new customers willing to try the new product but who will only come for a lower price.
Penetration strategies fail in the other lifecycle periods by leaving possible profits in the hands of the customers. In an emerging market, your product is brand new and customers who want it first should (and will) pay for that right. In a mature market, a price war will simply start the process of endless and useless competition, destroying your profit margin. In a declining market, only those who still must have your product will purchase it, and just like in an emerging period, they should (and will) pay for that right.
Knowing which pricing strategy works best for your company is an essential tool for any pricing manager and can only be found by recognizing the lifecycle of your products. If your entire sales force is on the same page in recognizing product lifecycles and utilizing pricing strategies, your company will likely see greater returns.
Posted in Pricing
Tags: Competition, Customer Retention, Lifecycle, Neutral Pricing, Neutral Pricing Strategy, Penetration, Penetration Pricing, Penetration Pricing Strategy, Penetration Strategy, Pricing, Pricing Strategy, Product Lifecycle, Skimming, Skimming Pricing, Skimming Pricing Strategy, Skimming Strategy, Strategy, Success
February 23rd, 2010 by Joern Meissner
In a price war, where competitors with similar products, designs, and incentives compete for customers by having the lowest price, the only person that wins is the customer. Always.
When allowing your sales staff to use price as their main tool to meet quotas for the month, week, or even year, you, as the executive, are actually making it harder for them to achieve the company’s goals. When competing on price alone, your customers will quickly realize that all they have to do is signify that some other company’s pricing is just a little bit better, and your prices will fall.
Don’t think this affects your bottom line? Not only will your profit shrink, there’s a good chance that if your sales team doesn’t have a bottom price range, the customers will manage to convince them that the only way to get the sale (which salesmen see as their one, main priority) is to dip below cost. Customer loyalty and all those other things the customer will promise your salespeople once that below cost sale happens will disappear the moment your competitor decides it is going to keep the war going.
So, playing the price war is a lose-lose situation for you, your brand, and your sales team, because your sales numbers may go up but your revenues will go down. You might even have happy customers – happy customers that will happily jump ship to your competitor with a lower price. Essentially, price wars are a no win situation, especially if you want to be at the top of your field.
Customers, especially in this recession era, have become very savvy at the pricing game. To them, only one thing matters in a market where everything else is equal: price. By choosing not to play their game, by pricing your products on value, your company can still win. While your competitors are eating away at their profits, focus your company on figuring out how to make your products different and worthwhile and showcase that value to the customers.
By pricing on your products’ value, your customers will realize the differences between you and your competitors. If you succeed in showing your customers a reason to pay just a little bit more, you can also create customer loyalty with a superior product. So instead of allowing your salespeople to empty warehouses below price, tell the rest of your company to create products and promotions that customers can actually see tangible value in. And avoid that price war altogether.
Posted in Pricing
Tags: Competition, Customer, Customer Retention, Inventory, Penetration, Penetration Pricing, Penetration Pricing Strategy, Penetration Strategy, Price War, Pricing, Pricing Strategy, Strategy, Success
February 16th, 2010 by Joern Meissner
To understand how to best set prices, manager first must understand that all products go through four distinct periods in their life cycles: emerging, growth, mature, and decline.
Emerging products have just been released to the public; perhaps they’re even in trial form and only available to select customers. During the next period of growth, the products have entered in the market at full-force and with each passing period, sales continue to grow at a steady rate. This is different from emerging in that your product is now part of the everyday, standard business – not necessarily the newest product on the market anymore. Once your product enters the mature phase of its life cycle, the sales growth has evened out. A large portion of your customers already own your product and only come to you for problems or repairs. And finally, your product will enter into decline – it becomes obsolete (hopefully because your company has already put its replacement into the market) and its sales dwindle to a few stragglers who are behind the times or devoted fans of your product that simply don’t want an upgrade.
Each of these periods of the life cycle change how your product is viewed in the marketplace. Unfortunately, most sales teams are not equipped and don’t even realize when each of these periods happen and the effect they have on your product and pricing. As an executive, it is your duty to recognize the shift in life cycles and to guide your sales staff in pricing accordingly.
Most executives unfortunately don’t like to think of their products having any sort of cycle to them; they prefer to think of their products as entering the market and remaining in the same growth phase forever. This simply is not the case. While it is true that you continually want your profits to grow, a single product cannot manage growth indefinitely. It is up to the executives to watch for signs that a product is entering a maturity phase, or even its decline phase, and react. New products should enter the market, starting new emerging and growth phases for your company. Without adherence to this law of entropy in business, your company will suffer.
A good example of this is the yearly nature of car manufacturers, or the ever-changing nature of Apple’s iPods. The moment one version of the iPod becomes obsolete, or even before (allowing Apple to control when a product enters its own decline phase), a new version appears on the market. Use your knowledge of product life cycles to shepherd your business into continual growth phases.
Posted in Pricing
Tags: Apple, Apple iPod, Competition, Decline Period, Decline Phase, Decline Product, Decline Stage, Emerging Period, Emerging Phase, Emerging Product, Emerging Stage, Growth Period, Growth Phase, Growth Product, Growth Stage, iPod, Life Cycle, Mature Period, Mature Phase, Mature Product, Mature Stage, Optimization, Pricing, Product Life Cycle, Strategy, Success
November 18th, 2009 by Joern Meissner
In a recent interview with German business newspaper Handelsblatt, Lufthansa’s Deputy Chairman Christoph Franz mentioned that the airline will implement several strategies so far employed by flow cost competitors (Lufthansa will Billigflieger kopieren, Handelsblatt, November 17, 2009). On certain short routes, the pitch between seats will be reduced. Kitchen and wardrobes will be completely removed to create more space for passengers. Franz mentioned that Lufthansa will have to let go of the old strategy that the profitable long haul business is subsidizing the less profitable short haul routes.
Most importantly, Franz admitted that Lufthansa has underestimated the competition by the low-cost carriers. After some initial panic following the arrival of Ryanair, Easyjet, Air Berlin and others on the scene, most incumbent full-service airlines had settled on the thought that low-cost passengers are a different bread and that their current customers will stay with them not matter what. They now realize that this leniency is dangerous.
For us this is good news, as this might spark some renewed industry interest in choice modeling in network revenue management. Doctoral candidate Arne Strauss and I have been working on improvement in this area for some time now. See for example our articles ‘Pricing Structure Optimization in Mixed Restricted/Unrestricted Fare Environments’ and the upcoming ‘Improved Bid Prices for Choice-Based Network Revenue Management.’
Posted in Pricing
Tags: Air Berlin, Airlines, Bid Prices, Cheap Fares, Choice Model, Christoph Franz, Competition, EasyJet, Low-Cost Carrier, Lufthansa, Network Revenue Management, Pricing Structure, Ryanair