A few months ago, a software company with a similar product contacted us and asked us to remove information about their pricing from our website. (We have a webpage where we compare Wild Apricot’s pricing to several similar products.) Obviously we do that because we offer a great price -- Wild Apricot starts at just $25/month. As one client told us in a recent survey, “...The main benefit for a non-profit association like ours is that it is 1/10 of the cost of our previous site. The other benefit includes ease of use for administrators as well as general public.”
Anyway, my first reaction to their request was that the pricing is public information, which we’d actually taken from their website, so we are within our rights to mention it. But first, I decided to check to ensure that the pricing we show is current. Well -- I was in for a surprise! Their website no longer displays pricing, just a cheerful invitation to “Contact us”. So we went ahead and removed them from our price comparison table.
Why withhold pricing information?
Now, why did they remove the price? Obviously, I can’t know for sure. Most likely it was driven by their sales and marketing team. In the past, I’ve heard many arguments from marketing people about why it’s good to withhold the price. For example, they’ve suggested it can...
- provide flexibility to sell at full price where possible, or discount as much as needed when appropriate
- give a prospective customer a reason to contact you so you can get them into your database and maintain a dialog
- offer a chance to explain and demonstrate all of the benefits first, before losing some people who consider the price too high
I don’t buy any of this. The web has changed many things, and a huge change was shifting the power from sellers to buyers.
“Old school” sales and marketing believed in withholding as much information from the customer as possible, so that cunning sales people can manipulate and exploit those prospective customers.
The new and much more exciting model -- as Gerry McGovern puts it in his article “Why They Won’t Tell You the Price” -- is “treating the web customer as an intelligent stranger”.
Back to the three arguments above:
- Do you think customers that buy at full price would like your business very much if they later find out that someone got the same product at a much cheaper price?
- As a prospective customer: do you really want to be in some database and contacted by persistent sales people, or would rather understand the price first?
- Do you think you are not intelligent enough to figure out the great benefits of a more expensive product without being bamboozled by some sales guy?
For me the choice is clear! So from day one we decided to provide to our prospective customers as much information as possible:
- Very simple pricing (5 fixed pricing plans to choose from) published right on our website
- Instant trial: our free trial sign-up only asks for three things: your name, your organization name and your email (and I’ll tell you a secret -- we don’t validate emails, so if you don’t want to trust us with your real email, go ahead and open a trial with a fake email address!) We don’t ask for your credit card in advance, and you will only need it if you like the product and decide to upgrade
In fact, our whole philosophy of sales and marketing is based on “pull” rather than “push”.
Some people are surprised to find out we don’t employ a single sales person! We don’t do RFPs and we don’t do individual demos. (Frankly, whenever I deal with a pushy sales person trying to peddle me their product, I start wondering why they have the margins in their sales price built-in to pay for the sales force? And then I start looking for lower-priced self-service based options!)
But while we don’t have sales people, we do have plenty of other things though:
So while we’ve removed that software company’s pricing as requested, we’ll continue to publish our own pricing and offer as much information as possible to ensure that organizations that choose our software have made a well-informed choice.
P.S. I’ll let you in on another secret -- if you’ve published something on the web, it’s very hard to “unpublish it” -- savvy consumers will find a way to look it up, for example via the Internet Archive Way Back Machine -- so good luck to these guys purging the pricing information :-)