John Espirian, Relentlessly Helpful Technical Copywriter, LinkedIn Nerd
About John Espirian
John is a relentlessly helpful technical copywriter and editorial consultant who lives in South Wales in the UK. He writes content for B2B websites that explains how products, services and processes work, is a LinkedIn Nerd and author of Content DNA (publishing April 2020).
Pricing – pros and cons of publicizing
The cornerstone is understanding what the most popular questions are. Service provider or not, one of the most important things people want to know about is money or how much something is going to cost them.
You either need to share your prices or the factors that determine your prices so people can understand who they are dealing with.
It's really frustrating when you visit a website, there aren't any prices visible and you don’t even know if they are in the ball park for you. You usually don't find out until you submit an email, make a phone call, download a brochure then find out 2 hours later you can’t afford them. It could also be that they are really cheap which makes you question the legitimacy of their work. It’s really about transparency. John likes to share as much as he can.
John mentions a blog post he created in 2016 about putting out questions to his audience and asking if it was a good idea – he got mixed responses. The link is below with the links to connect with John.
Some industries are very transparent with their pricing and some industries are very secretive. So let’s chat about the pros and cons of both.
John hears from his clients and they say they can’t share their prices because of competition and the perception of what their rates are. Chances are high that you already know what others are offering or generally speaking.
People are still in the old competitive mindset where keep cards close to your chest. The problem with that is Google and the Internet has changed all that. If you don’t share your pricing and you aren’t being transparent of how you come to your pricing and where you are in the hierarchy, someone else will. If you Google that and you happen to be the only person who shares pricing in your industry, you’ll just be at the top of Google results – how valuable is that?
Mark Schaefer talks about that in his book, Marketing Rebellion, and the end of secret idea, we need to be more transparent.
Since John shared his pricing in 2016 blog post he’s been able to charge higher than market rate and there's been a lot more interest in his business. So, for John it was a really good move.
We mentioned another example of Michal Eisikowitz and the pricing conversation during her Connect the Dots interview. When you show your pricing and even have a form talking about budget expectations, it helps set expectations on what they will get and not waste anyone’s time in the process.
When you show your prices, it saves a lot of time as well. You won’t have someone schedule a call or Zoom to discuss then present pricing and realize everyone’s time has been wasted because you’re either too high or too low.
If you’re nervous about putting your pricing on your site, you should at least have those back-end processes where you have a rate card or email template ready so you can quickly triage that communication and get those people moving in another direction so you can focus on those who are willing to pay your rates.
What is your recommendation or thoughts on people who have a “What if” or “It depends” response?
“It depends” is not helpful to your reader. If you say that you risk losing them and they might go someplace else. Instead, talk about the factors that influence your price. For example, if you do X, it will cost more than X. It's good to show examples or set real scenarios “If you do this configuration, or if we work for 3 months to achieve xyz goal, or this is the ball park”. These scenarios at least set the expectations. The pricing may be completely different but the readers can self select and make the decision themselves on whether you are a good fit.
It doesn’t have to be dollars and cents but set expectations but show them where they fall in the spectrum based on real scenarios and that will help them trust you. This is all about trust. The more you hide the less likely they are to trust you. No one will say "They aren’t showing me their prices so they must be brilliant.” They might think you are a luxury brand when you are really affordable. You just have to tell them and be transparent. The more you can dial that up, the better.
Another objection John hears is, “If I put prices on my website and I get a really juicy corporate client, I could have charged them a lot more but because I published them, I’m damned.” And that makes sense. So you can have different messaging for different groups, separate website for corporations or just state your prices are ‘Starting from…’ so they aren’t a hard figure but helps give an idea of what to expect.
Competition and putting rates out there
Even with the same amount of experience as someone else, the customer will ultimately choose the person they think will work better for them. They will make a choice regardless and pricing then becomes secondary.
This is where good marketing and good branding comes in to play. John shares his rates and because it's fairly easy to get the going rates, it’s easy to see that he charges above market rate. He still gets booked up. It comes back to the brand identity he creates for himself and the content he creates on his website and on LinkedIn. Those things increase trust and shield him from price fluctuations and worries about 'the race to the bottom'.
The worst thing you can do is be the generic person in your field. Then someone publishes their pricing and they are $10 less than you then you decide to make your prices $10 less than theirs. It becomes a rat race, it's unfulfilling for everyone and it ultimately puts questions in the customer’s mind as to the value and legitimacy of your products or services.
The bigger picture is to invest some time and money in getting your overall marketing mix right. If you do that, you become the go-to person in your industry and you essentially become immune to whatever is happening with pricing in your market.
Pricing is really about knowing your value.
Some people said if it’s going to take 6 hours how much can I possibly charge for that? That’s the wrong way to look at it. John shares an example of Picasso and 30 seconds on a napkin. It’s not the 6 hours of work you are charging for; it’s the 30 years of experience. It’s distilled into the work you’re giving that client at that time. You need to understand what the value is, not the service – focus on the pain you are taking away from your client not the cost.
As a copywriter, John isn’t providing consonants and vowels - that's his deliverable. What he is actually providing is, for example, more clients through your door or more loyal customers or lower support costs or things that will potentially get you more million dollar deals, etc. That’s what he’s giving people with his work. He may be pushing buttons on a keyboard to make it happen for you but you're actually getting the end result. He's just helping you get there. When people see what that pain is or benefit is, that’s when they are likely to buy in.
It’s solving the pain point and the end result, not the in between that matters.
Having his pricing out there has contributed to getting more business. What works for him won’t necessarily work for someone else. Just try your own things and see what works for you. He knows colleagues that charge more than him and it’s working for them as well.
It’s not just one thing – the price on a website – that doesn't build trust. It’s part of the bigger mix, telling you about the behind the scenes of the business, creating content that answers your questions without being the 'salesy douche canoe' he always writes about, it’s all part of that. It’s that person who’s willing to answer the questions instead of just desperately making a sale. It also conveys a sort of confidence. And, people can’t argue with your transparency.
He’s never had someone say “I published my pricing and I lost a ton of business.” It’s all about being transparent and it's about trust.
Are you including a Pricing section in your book, Content DNA?
Pricing is a fundamental part of content marketing. The first part of the book is what content DNA is and what you stand for. The second part is more practical, you’ve defined who you are, what do you actually do with that definition. It’s about creating good content. One of those things is the fundamental things of content marketing. It’s about having transparency to answer real questions. The #1 question is always price.
Other things the book goes into is what kind of problems are you going to face, or reviews and comparisons and all sorts of other things. It really comes down to price whether we want to dress it up or not, it’s top of mind for a lot of people. So to side-step that question, you are doing a disservice to your reader by not including pricing. You’re leaving a question on the table instead of picking it up and saying here’s the answer. He doesn’t think that’s the way to be – he doesn’t advocate that approach so put it out there.
John is often asked about recommendations. The people who are top of mind, there are two things he takes into consideration:
People he’s seen on video
People he can say they cost about this much
So if someone asks for a recommendation for a marketing person in the USA, John would recommend me. Even if he didn’t know someone that well and they put pricing on their website, it makes it easier to make a decision even if he doesn’t know them. You can tell a lot about someone if you see them on video.
Final notes on pricing – objection he can understand is when you have one website and clients are across the board. He has a customer where his pricing is a $20K difference between project types. So that makes it tough to post.
What would be one main pro and one main con of public pricing?
Pro – From a British point of view, people are all about asking for pricing. If you’re face-to-face or on a call and asking, it’s awkward. No one’s embarrassed about doing a Google search to find out. Just avoid awkwardness in conversations, get it in the open and go from there.
Con – ‘It depends’ is the big down side and also in some industries it could lead to some nasty things done by your competition, people might try to undercut you. It doesn’t happen in the copy writing business, but heavy industries like engineering or manufacturing, it might – especially if they are talking about margins.
Always go back to testing and do what works best for you. You'll only know what that is by testing!
Blog Post Article
John's First Connect the Dots Interview
Where to connect with John online:
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