UPDATE: Be sure to read the follow-up post about being a commodity.
This is one of those questions asked by newbies in the biz that is asked almost as much as “Can I use popular music in my videos?” My general answer to this question is “It depends.”
If you are a lower priced service provider where pricing is one of your selling points, then yes. If you are a higher priced creative that caters to a clientele looking for quality, and your competitive advantage is not tied to price, then in general I say “no.” Understand that there is no right or wrong answer to this.
I am familiar with all the reasons why you may want to put your price if you’re in the high end. The main argument is that you don’t want to waste your time talking with people who can’t afford you. IMHO, it’s worth the extra phone calls or emails with those prospects to get the few of them who decide to hire me after they get to know about me and my work, but who otherwise might not ever pick up the phone or shoot me an email if they saw my rates online. There have been a number of times in my business where clients hired my company and admitted they originally had no (or very little) funds allocated to video. But after seeing my work and getting to know me, changed their mind and ended up investing significantly. This was more of an issue when weddings were my main gig. Since commercial work is the majority of work I do, there are no “packages” or other similar services I can list like a menu on my site.
There are ways you can mitigate the “looky-loos” without wasting too much of your time.
- Email templates. Have an email template with some standard questions that you can send to prospects after they send you that proverbial email, “How much do you cost?” Don’t get mad at them for asking this. Often times, that’s all they know to ask. Use the email template to engage them and learn a little bit more. Get them talking/writing about their event/project. I like to follow up with the question, “I’d love to give you an idea of how much you can expect to invest, but first tell me a little bit about your [project name here].”
- Phone scripts. If you get phone calls from prospects, have a script similar to the email template. Again, you want to engage them and show genuine interest.
- Be confident. When you do get around to divulging your rates, make sure you do it with the utmost level of confidence and assuredness. If you sound wishy-washy, apologetic, or unsure of yourself, you risk losing the sale or not getting what you’re worth. A savvy buyer can smell your uneasiness and use it to negotiate you down to something you’re not happy about.
- Have 2-3 referrals ready. If the prospect does decide to pass on your services due to your rates, have at least two other colleagues you can refer them to. This is good because 1) you ensure they get passed on to someone you know will uphold the quality of standards necessary to maintain a level of respect of your field (this was important in the wedding video world because so many brides get cheap, bad video, the whole industry gets hurt), and 2) helping out a specific colleague(s) builds your network and what goes around comes around.
- Do NOT meet with anyone before they know the minimum investment. I can’t express this enough. Do not have an hour long+ meeting with a prospect only to find out at the end of your meeting they can’t afford you. Make sure anyone who comes to visit you for a lengthy first meeting has an idea of the minimum amount they can expect to invest in your services. After you’ve built a rapport via email and/or phone call, give them the minimum investment amount. By then you can be confident that you’ve established that you’re more than just a price on a website.
I know some of you like to have starting prices on your website. Personally, I think you shouldn’t do that either. All for the same reasons I mentioned about.
If you do decide to exclude your rates from your site, please don’t have a link on your website that says “Rates” or “Prices,” but then don’t show them. That is so frustrating to a prospect. If you don’t have your rates on your site, don’t lead people to believe you do, only to have them find a note that says, “Call for rates.” If they like what they see on your website, trust me, they know to call or email you.
The one time I think there’s an exception to this rule (which isn’t really a “rule” per se) is if your sources for clients is strong enough that you don’t need to entertain prospects that just happen upon your website. If you’re getting more than enough business than you can handle from your networks and/or past clients, then it really may not be worth any of your time to dilly-dally with someone who may or may not hire you just because they get to know you.
What do you do and why?
Harry Simpson says
My problem us that with video I always get folks wanting me to quote a price and price is always dependent on a zillion factors. So it seems if you did post a price it would be totally a starting point at best.
Ron Dawson says
Hey Harry. I had the same problem. That’s where the email and phone templates come in. When they ask you to quote a price, you tell them, “I’d be happy to let you know what you can expect to invest in our services, but first can you tell me a little bit about your event.” I then proceed to ask them about the details. Particularly brides love to talk about their wedding. This engages in a conversation (either via email or phone). I’m getting to know about their event and learning details that will also aid me when talking to them. When weddings was my main gig, if a bride told me her wedding was at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, right off that bat I KNOW she CAN afford me if she really WANTS me and values video. If she has 20 bridal party members, that tells me a lot too. If her photographer is Joe Buissink, I’m learning more. You get my drift? I get a wealth of information. If she thinks she doesn’t want video up front and she sees my starting rate is twice the area average, I’ve lost any chance to even have the conversation. And that conversation can lead to a sale if I play my cards right and follow other well-tested sales practices.
If you do commercial work where there are no standard “packages,” it’s the same deal. I want to know about their project. What’s the video for? Who’s the audience? How did they find us? Is it a stand alone video or part of a campaign? Again, I want to be in conversation to educate them about the process (often times they don’t know).
As I said, it’s worth the little bit of extra work on the front end for the chance to win the client.
Sean Caughey says
Thanks Ron. Good advice. I started out putting prices on my website. I think it was a visit to my local PVA by Adam Forgione that changed my mind on that. I think you’re right- engaging them in a conversation about their wedding is the way to go. Doesn’t mean that they’re going to book you, but at least it gives you more of a chance.
Ron Dawson says
For real tho’. 🙂 Adam’s a smart dude.
stacie tamaki says
Great advice Ron!
For my Girl Goes Geek web design business I do list minimum pricing online because most people are referrals from past projects and I think people can see the value and quality of the services I provide when they view my online portfolio. The online pricing definitely helps to cut out inquiries from people who want to pay a quarter of what I charge.
From a different area of the wedding industry and a different perspective, I know someone who already charged more than average for their services. They’ve recently decided to put prices on their website after someone started a rumor (perhaps it was just a misunderstanding) they charged more than twice what they actually charge. The perceived high price killed their industry referrals because word spread and people just believed the super high price was accurate and never tried to confirm it. They simply decided the price was too high for their customers and the referrals stopped.
Unfortunately it took a while to figure out this was what was happening. Going public with pricing is, for now, a necessary corrective step as they don’t know how many people received (and believed) the incorrect pricing information.
Ron Dawson says
Thanks for sharing Stacie. That seems like a unique case where, as you say, including the price is important.
Michelle Loretta says
This is such a great post Ron. I agree for the *most* part. 🙂 I think it’s important for creative business owners to list a starting rate *unless* they are catering to a very high-end clientele.
If you are catering to a very high-end clientele, the range of budget on your service can be $20k-500k… listing a starting rate definitely limits you from doing some of that SUPER high-end work. In this example, when listing prices as “starting at $20,000” you may be cutting yourself off from the higher-end spectrum of that super high-end wedding. A celebrity client may want to spend much more than $20k and you’ve shot yourself in the foot. These are the same clients who buy a $10k luxury handbag. For them the perceived value is in that pricetag. It’s better *because* it’s expensive.
We should all be so lucky to have clients like this!
But we don’t.
The only other reason to NOT list price is if you do enjoy the ‘winning the client over’ of the sales process. This salesperson is sincerely are good at educating and is confident in sticking to the pricing. Your examples are FANTASTIC! (#1 and #3 are especially helpful) But not all people are confident or strong in the dance of the sale. Nor do they want to do this with everyone.
All this being said, I think it’s important for *most* (not all) wedding businesses to list starting prices. The reason is simple… as a buyer, I want to know where I start. I am willing to spend money and make the investment. Usually I have a range of what I want to spend. And, I’m willing to entertain the thought of extending beyond the upper end of my price range to for the right product or service. (God knows I did when I got married!) But, I want to know if I’m in the ballpark. And, if I don’t know that ballpark, I’m probably going to move onto the next person who can give me that information quickly. I don’t like being sold to (and so many engaged couples are fearful of this too). And, I don’t want to be embarrassed in a meeting if I’m totally out of the pricing range of that wedding professional. Nor do I want to waste my time or their time. This is how the bride and groom often see it.
The buyer just wants information before they pick up the phone to make an appointment. And starting rates are a must for most wedding businesses.
Thanks for the dialogue! Always a fun topic to debate. 🙂
Ron Dawson says
Oooh. Thanks for commenting Michelle. Let the debate begin. Ha! 🙂
Your example is precisely why I think not including the price is important for most (but not all) wedding vendors. Or maybe it’s best suited for photogs and videogs. If a bride has a price range in mind for video and it’s low (which for a lot of brides it is), if they jump to a price page and see a videog is out of range, they may not even bother to watch. But if they watch and get engaged, then call or email to learn more, they may still move on, but 1) you at least have a chance whereas before you didn’t and 2) you never know where that conversation/engagement might lead. They may refer you to another friend whose budget can handle it.
As far as being embarrassed in a meeting, as I say in the post, you should never meet with a bride unless she knows ahead of time what the minimum amount she can expect to invest is. You get to that point only after the conversation and engagement via phone or email.
I want the buyer to have information before picking up the phone for sure. But I don’t want that information to be used to keep them from calling in the first place. From personal experience I have had jobs I know I would have lost if I had posted my starting price.
Regarding the uber-high end brides who is willing to spend $50K or more on services, I think it’s fair to say the vendors in that stratosphere are getting referrals from souces like coordinators and the like, or friends of past clients. The clients who pay that kind of money typically are not randomly looking for a vendor.
Love the discussion. Thanks for participating!
Michelle Loretta says
Agreed – you make a good point with the video service being sold. Unfortunately this service is not a priority for many people. (IT’S A CRYING SHAME! A DARN SHAME!) And, there really does need to be an opportunity to educate and to woo the bride/groom. Unfortunately, like you mention, if video is out of the range they will opt not to have it. This isn’t true for photography. Almost all weddings have a hired photographer.
I think listing prices works when, like you say in your post, the wedding pro, has enough inquiries that they don’t need to entertain prospects. I’ve worked with many wedding pros that are tired of spending time on the phone with people well under their price range instead of focusing on their target market and their core clientele.
I think I still favor that most business should list starting rates, while you favor that most business should NOT. HA! So – we agree and we don’t agree on this topic. 🙂 I encourage people to try both and see what works for them.
This is always a challenging issue in our industry!
Ron Dawson says
Yep. This topic never dies. 🙂 Thanks for your “sage” input my friend. 😉
Prices on websites scream amateur hour to me. You gotta talk with your clients and see what their needs are, you just have to.
Darrul Stocks says
This is a decision that I am currently struggling with.