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Steve Marr Blog

Steve Marr's contributions

Feb 20

Competing on Price

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

Generally, I’ve never been a great fan of competing by offering the lowest price of all competitors because it doesn’t work well. I’ve had individuals tell me they can compete with Walmart’s price. My general response is that they are probably not competing as well as they think. Furthermore, undercutting Walmart’s price may lead people to view you as cheap rather than inexpensive.

When I was in the international trade business, we priced our services at a premium level because we felt the customer would receive good value for their money. We knew if a customer was looking for price and price alone, we would lose the business. Our business model charged a higher price and delivered a superior service. If we tried to provide the superior service for a lower fee, it would be a prescription for pushing us out of business sooner rather than later. Instead, our responsibility was to demonstrate our value to the customer and sell to customers who appreciated that value proposition.


One example had to do with a salesman who contacted me several times telling me that we should cut our price per shipping container by $200 in order to get a customer.  After several exchanges, I was irritated.  I told the salesperson to tell their customer to use their existing shipping company because I could not meet the price they wanted. The salesman responded by explaining that the customer’s “existing carrier doesn’t have any space.” I thought, ”Sure, I can be $1,000 less on a container; but I don’t have any space either.” My frustration with the salesman was the failure to market our ability to transport at a higher price for a higher level of service.  

We tend to think that price is the main factor, and at times it is. I ran an experiment once at some business events. I took a booth to see if I could connect with potential consulting clients and offered several books for sale. One conference was a complete loser for me. Then, I took a piece of paper and wrote 25¢, one to a customer, price tags.  Before this, I sold two books and picked up one viable lead.  With the reduced price, I sold one book and picked up no additional leads. Price was not the problem, as I already suspected.  I had picked the wrong venue.

There are exceptions, like Amazon. When people are on that site, you see side-by-side comparisons of the product you’ve already decided to purchase. At that point price is the only thing that matters, unless the seller has a bad review history.

Paul wrote, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15, NIV) When we are ashamed of our product or feel we don’t measure up by quality, we are left with price and price alone for competition. 

For our businesses, we need to understand the value of our product and service, price them accordingly, and aggressively communicate why the cost difference is worth the customer’s money.

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