The pricing strategy of your small business can ultimately determine your fate. Small business owners can ensure profitability and longevity by paying close attention to their pricing strategy.
Commonly, in business plans I've reviewed, the pricing strategy has been to be the lowest price provider in the market. This approach comes from taking a quick view of competitors and assuming you can win business by having the lowest price.
Lowest Pricing Does Not Win
Having the lowest price is not a strong position for small business. Larger competitors with deep pockets and the ability to have lower operating costs will destroy any small business trying to compete on price alone. Avoiding the low price strategy starts with looking at the demand in the market by examining three factors:
1. Competitive Analysis: Don't just look at your competitor's pricing. Look at the whole package they offer. Are they serving price-conscious consumers or the affluent group? What are the value-added services if any?
2. Ceiling Price: The ceiling price is the highest price the market will bear. Survey experts and customers to determine pricing limits. The highest price in the market may not be the ceiling price.
3. Price Elasticity: If the demand for your product or service is less elastic, you can then have a higher ceiling on prices. Low elastic demand depends on limited competitors, buyer's perception of quality, and consumers not habituated to looking for the lowest price in your industry.
Once you understand the demand structure in your industry, review your costs and profit goals as set in your business plan or financials. The low price strategy is best avoided by small business but there are conditions such as a price war that can drag a company into the lowest price battle.
Avoiding a Price War
A price war can wreck havoc in any industry and leave many businesses, out of business. In the early 90's, I observed the competitive exercise equipment market enter a price war in a large city market. Profits were plentiful but a price war took the gross margins from 42% to 12%. In less than 18 months, over 60% of the retailers were out of business while my division went national. Take these tips to evade a deadly price war:
Enhance Exclusivity: Products or services that are exclusive to your business provide protection from falling prices.