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John Hayes
By
October 04, 2018

The 6 Excuses Marketers Use to Avoid Pricing in Technical Marketing and why that’s BS

No MoneyB2B content marketers are very good at talking about the specifics of their solution – the problems it solves, it’s features, how great the quality is, etc. But do we talk about price?  No. We do not.  

Yet our prospects need to know at least a budgetary range of cost so that they can make a case to their management to buy your solution. Despite this fundamental truth, so many of us hide our pricing behind a curtain, like the Wizard of Oz, afraid of revealing that which our prospects desperately need to know. Why is the world like this?

Here are six excuses marketers use to avoid talking about the cost of their product and why that’s BS.  – I bet you will recognize one of them as the main reason your company doesn’t talk about it.

Reason #1: We’ve Never / Nobody in our Industry Talks about Price

Silence!

I’m starting with a pretty weak reason. You can recognize that this reason is silly just by reading it. If that doesn’t work, try saying it out loud. It self-evident that if we rely only on doing things the way we always have, progress is impossible. So of course, none of us are quick to admit that we don’t do something because, “that’s just the way it is.”.

Yet inertia is a powerful force, both in physics and in business. If your company has never done something, then you need courage and conviction to change that. Life is easier if you just go along.

If you believe that your prospects need to know at least a budgetary price, and by the end of this post I hope you will, then this institutional inertia, this fear of acting, may be your biggest impediment.

There is a deeper argument to, “why we’ve never done that.” People in your company may fear that disclosing pricing will lead to a race to the bottom in your industry, with every competitor publishing lower and lower prices until there is no margin left. That can be true in a commodity business, but it is highly unlikely in a complex purchase like a B2B technology product. In these cases, which represents most engineering marketing, there are so many differentiators in the product that price is only one consideration. The ability of the product to match the requirements is far more important. But that doesn’t mean we can leave price out of the conversation altogether.

Reason #2: Disclosing price early in the sales process might scare off a prospect

This may be the most popular reason of all time for not talking about cost. Marketers often want to get a prospect interested first, hopefully early in the buying process before they have established their budget. That way, if you can convince them of how perfectly your product meets their specifications, they will be able to increase their budget to include your solution.

This has a ring of truth to it. Early in their buying cycle, engineers look at lots of different ways to solve their problem. To get your solution into their consideration set you need to show how it works first, and leave the cost to a later stage of the process, right?

Maybe, but probably not. Imagine an engineer who is trying to reduce the cost and improve the accuracy of their packaging operation. They have several options. They can outsource packaging to a third party for a fixed price per package. They can call in an automation consultant to build a customized solution. Or they could buy configurable robots that can be used for several purposes around the plant including packaging.  If your company builds configurable robots, it’s important that the engineer know that the price of these has fallen so far that they represent a realistic alternative to the first two choices.

This is a common situation. Technology is always increasing in capability and/or falling in price, so new applications are bound to open up to your products. If we don’t talk about how much things cost, then how are prospects to know that your product may be affordable for them?

And what if your price really is too high for a specific customer application?  Who benefits from hiding that fact until they talk to a sales rep? The prospect doesn’t benefit, and neither does your company.

Reason #3: Sales insists on owning the pricing conversation

Salespeople like to have a reason why a prospect needs to talk to them. There is some logic to this because salespeople can do things that marketers can’t, such as talk one-on-one with a prospect to truly understand the problem that the prospect is trying to solve. In that way, the sales rep might find that the product that the prospect is considering isn’t the right match, and that a lower-cost option is better. Or they might be able to convince the prospect of the value of your solution by considering things that the prospect failed to include.  

Club Price Bouncers

For situations like this, it can make a lot of sense to allow prospects to describe their application to an applications engineer from your team. In survey research we conducted a few years ago, we found that engineers trust other engineers to tell them the truth about an application. Even engineers at vendor companies are trusted, so you can leverage that.

 In fact, sales engineers are typically so busy that their time is closely guarded, so you may want to have a web form that requires a prospect to explain their application before they can talk to a sales engineer.  To properly guard the sales engineers time, you as a marketer need to ensure that a prospect has some idea of the cost of your solution before they get access to that hallowed technical domain.

Reason #4: Engineers care about applications, not price

Many marketers have been led to believe that the engineers in the buying process are charged with finding the right solution for the application and that once they specify it, the buyers slavishly buy from your company.

That actually can happen in some instances, like electronic components. However, in those industries there are already sophisticated pricing engines that allow engineers to build a pretty accurately costed bill of materials before handing the final purchasing over to their supply chain experts.

If you have a more bespoke solution, then engineers will have to go further in their investigations before they involve purchasing people. And to do that, they need some sort of budgetary pricing, even if it isn’t the final number.

Reason #5: We sell through resellers / We have different prices in different markets

This can be a tough one. Many technical products, such as 3D Printers and industrial robots, are sold through resellers who bring their expertise to create a fully workable solution. Those resellers often want to be the ones to disclose price to their prospects.

Even then, however, some knowledge of price will help prospects move towards those resellers. One of the big deals about the first collaborative robots was how little it cost. The company making them touted this breakthrough in functionality and price – you could replace a human for about the cost of one year’s wages for a line worker. It was a huge deal, and brought many competitors. But then something happened to our heroes. They were so successful that they needed to bring in resellers to meet the market demand.

Collaborative Robots 2 Resize

And now you can’t find pricing on their web site. Instead, it’s only available through a “fill out this form for a quote” mechanism, which includes your phone number. Really?

Just at the time that the competitors are entering the market with their own versions, just when the market innovator is being challenged, they have stepped back from disclosing critical information. I can only opine here, but that looks like a decision that will cost them dearly in terms of lost sales growth.

Reason #6: Your product is so customized that no pricing information can be accurate

This argument is somewhat true for almost all B2B technology products. Often, a prospect can’t get an accurate price unless they go through a quotation process with a sales rep.

But guess what? Engineers are smart. And they understand this. When they are early in a sales process, they understand that a budgetary range is all they can expect to get without giving up the specifics of their application. All they need at this stage is a guideline to include or rule out a class of products.

So if you are selling a configurable industrial robot, for example, your prospects only need a range – it can be off by 25% and still be useful. If you don’t disclose this information, your prospects will move on until they find a price from somebody else. They might fill out your form, but more likely they will move on in their Internet search until they find a price somewhere.

If they move on, the price they find is the price and vendor they will put into their early evaluation. You want your product to be the one they use as a reference.

The Big Reason to Include Price

So those are the Big 6 reasons many marketers choose not to include price, and there may be many more. Up against all of these reasons why not, there is one overwhelming reason to talk about price in your content marketing, and that is because your prospects need to know it. Note that they don’t just “want” to know it. They need to know it. And they will find it from your competitors if they don’t find it from you.

Look at these search results for a common engineering product (micro linear actuators) in Google.

Micro linear actuators

It’s no secret that Google controls a lot of your marketing future. And Google knows that price is one of the top things that people want to know in search. So they now have a side-bar that brings price into focus for anyone searching.

Maybe you don’t have a price list because your products are so bespoke, so maybe you think you are safe from being exposed by Google, and that could be true. There is still a valuable lesson here, and that is that your prospects need to know at least a price range for a solution before they can truly consider it, and that people will investigate products from companies where that information is easy to find. The good news is that if you publish some pricing information, it’s a good bet that Google will raise your search rankings because users will find that information so valuable.

Here at engineering.com we are going to apply this desperate need for pricing in two upcoming research reports that talk about price. Often the things that are most valuable are those that people can’t easily find out on their own.

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Research Report: How Engineers Find Information
Research Report: How Engineers Find Information
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