I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Sarah Petty.

Sarah is a highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca-Cola Enterprises and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. It was at this ad agency where she taught small businesses the value of a strong foundation and how they would grow with a strong brand. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand.

Regardless of what industry you are in, you probably struggle with having a competitor that is willing to do what you do (or claim they do) for cheaper. But how do you make sure price isn’t a sticking point with your clients?  It starts with having these five key ingredients right in your business and following the boutique business model. It’s a model that works in nearly every industry from insurance and retail to fitness and real estate.

Ingredient 1 – Protect Your Brand

Most small businesses fall down here. They have something wrong with their brand that attracts price sensitive buyers from the start.

Your brand is more than a logo. It’s how your ideal client feels about you. Your ideal client conjures up these feelings when someone mentions your business name. YOU are an integral part of your brand thanks to the enthusiasm, personal flair and individual attention you present to each of your clients. From your identity (how your clients recognize you) to your consistency, your niche, your reputation and your gush-worthiness, having a positive brand goes a long way to charging what you’re worth.

Ingredient 2 – Understand Your Numbers

There are a lot of ways to price your offerings, but most just don’t work if you want to charge what you’re worth. Copying your competitors is not the answer. Start by understanding the cost of each sale you make: this includes any packaging, merchandise and labor. An accountant can help you with this. You then mark up your costs based on industry standards. Once you understand these numbers, you have your bare minimum price. Then you can look at setting a price based on demand. The key is to create demand the right ways to attract clients who love what you do, not by attracting the wrong price-sensitive buyers with discounts.

?Ingredient 3 – Make Marketing Decisions That Thrill

To charge what you’re worth you must have offerings that are not easy to imitate. Marketing starts with products and services that your customers can’t easily get elsewhere. Your clients should go gaga over you if you want them to pay more for you. To do that, you need to have offerings that are extra special, custom, unmatched, interesting or even shocking. They need to be special enough to make someone want to talk about them, and not just because of the price. Instead of searching for ways to raise prices, slash costs or become faster instead find the empty place for your ideal client where you can add a thrill for them. The more customized your offerings are, the more difficult it will be for anyone to copy you and your perceived value will continue to rise.

Ingredient 4 – Promote Differently

Promotion is what you do to tell people about your offerings – and it goes beyond paid advertising. For the most part, boutique businesses should steer clear of traditional advertising and focus not on reaching the masses, but instead reaching the right people who may be drawn to what you do. Boutique ideas for promotion include giving a presentation or educational session that highlights your expert status, partnering with other businesses who also reach your target audience to host an event or create a unique product, working with charities to help elevate their cause while attracting new clients to your business and developing a promotional piece that makes your ideal client gush about you to their friends.

Ingredient 5 – Sell Better

Boutique selling isn’t about schmoozing, high pressure or manipulation so if that’s what you’re doing this may be where you’re going wrong. In boutique selling there is high engagement between you and your client. You need to build rapport, get to know your customer and spend time educating them. Your first thought should be ‘What problem do they have?’ ‘How can I help them?’ The sales process should be relationship based and the service and experience should continue after the transaction. Instead of giving them a smooth talking sales pitch, you’re searching for solutions that will absolutely, positively satisfy their needs and bring them joy.

Image Credit: dougbelshaw

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  • I’m so glad that you mentioned that charging appropriate (higher) prices is an important part of protecting your brand! This is such an important issue that so many forget when they try to reach a broader audience.

    My alma mater actually doubled their tuition fees recently because they realized that the low (retail) tuition fee was scaring off top-notch students who assumed it must have been lower quality. Fortunately, the price people actually paid did not go up (because they simply granted more generous scholarships and financial aid).

    • Great post, Sarah, and I’ll agree with Andy that finding that right pricing point is so important and certainly has an impact on which type of clients we attract.

      Cheers, Brad

      (Enjoy the break, John! Lucky you!)

      • Thanks for posting Brad! Price is one of the number one places that all entrepreneurs struggle. I like to take the focus off price and put it on how we can earn the price we want.

        • Interesting, Sarah. Marketing is such a dynamic game that, I’ll agree sometimes the problem isn’t on the pricing (though we think it’s there)… time to go back and check out the other 4 Ps! Cheers 4 the reply.

    • Andy – That is so true about people feeling like they are getting more when they pay more. Often, they do get more and the price is what allows the great service. We gave a case study in our book about TCU being able to do the same thing for their business school. The higher fees afforded the students so many opportunities that they wouldn’t have already had, like internships and travel abroad.

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  • Bob Gaynor

    Sarah: a great post about the importance of standing out in different ways. I will definitely keep this one.
    John: I hope there isn’t too much waste in the river that you are standing waist-deep in. That would not be a fun experience.

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  • Your last point, “sell better” is key. I know my clients who have a STRONG pipeline of qualified prospects have less trouble charging what they are worth than those who’s pipeline is weak.

    Getting out there and generating more leads is the best way to build your confidence and your income.

    • I agree! Many people are scared to sell but building relationships and influencing people has to be the foundation of a great business. Thanks for commenting!

  • Sarah this is a great post and one thing i’d love to add about point #5 is that most entrepreneurs even though they are so passionate about their product don’t want to sell, when i’ve been coaching and When i’ve dug deeper it almost always comes down to one of two reasons

    1. A lack of confidence; or
    2. A feeling of being above selling, why do i need to convince you!

    Both of these are problems and people should address them, if you believe and are passionate about your product then building a rapport with your customer should be easier than a person being paid to ‘try’ and build a rapport with them. Thanks for your insights.

    • Thanks for posting Nathan! I had a workshop attendee tell me once that she hated to sell because she didn’t want to make people do something they didn’t want to do! I agree with your two reasons:-)

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  • A unique offering is exactly what is missing in this over saturated market. Totally agree with your point to have a very interesting and unmatched offer to attract consumers and make them want to stay with your company longer. http://bit.ly/ayeen8

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  • Terri L Maurer

    Awesome article, Sarah. Solid ideas that are not complex to grasp, although many small businesses and solopreneurs still don’t get it at all. If you aren’t different and worth more, people will always find someone else to do the same thing and pay less. Branding and differentiating from competitors is crucial, but getting friendly with that ugly 4-letter word ‘sell’ is at the top of the list.

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