Price Your Product So that What They Pay is What It’s Worth



What you believe your product is worth, isn’t always what the customer wants to pay, and especially if they’re a multinational corporation, and you’re…not. 


It’s often tempting for service businesses to think of their pricing as simple units of money by time, for example, and that’s what the purchasing people would like to believe. It makes it easy for them. And to be sure, someone will always price their services that way. But in a knowledge-based business, clients are also paying for your experience – your ability to understand the situation from a specific perspective, or as Steve Pulver, the speaker at last night’s #Medventions session at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre described it, your ability to “see around corners”. That’s why you need to build a value story that they can understand. You need to avoid the price spiral. It’s the same thing if you are building a complex new technology, or a medication. “Cost plus” is not the right model for either of those things.

So how do you decide how to set your price? There are a few simple rules of thumb. You do still need to start with costs. What does it cost to produce the product or service (raw materials, manufacturing, time researching, meeting, writing reports)? What are your overheads or fixed costs (rent, salaries, keeping the lights on)? Beyond that, you will need to look at competitors. Their pricing will give you a good idea of what the market will bear, unless your aim is to be much cheaper (because you’ve found a way to do that) or faster (there should be a premium for that) or higher quality (maybe, just maybe the customer will pay for that). Those are all good places to start, if there’s a known benchmark. What if there’s not? What if you’re doing (or you’ve invented or discovered) something completely new? 

Then you need to start with the costs, above, and begin to think more abstractly about your value proposition, what the product is worth, and what levers you can work with. If you have a medical device, for example, start by thinking about other similar medical problems that are addressed in terms of the incidence and prevalence of the issue, the number of patients impacted, the cost of not treating (the “opportunity cost”). You’ll need to use some triangulation if there isn’t readily available data. Then the real work begins.

Consider these questions when you’re setting your price, and thinking about what customers will pay…

How serious is the pain? Is it more like an annoying itch, or is it a raging migraine? Thinking about how serious the pain is, will allow you to think about how much the customer will pay to solve it. 


What is the consequence of not solving the problem? (How big is the risk to the customer? If it’s a medical problem, can it be fatal, or permanently disabling?)

How far in the future will the consequence occur? (It’s really hard to get someone young to understand why they might want to pay for life insurance)

And lastly, how often do they have the pain? If it’s episodic, occurring at regular intervals, but never really going away, they may not pay as much (in between, they can live with it). If it’s chronic and severe at the same time, they’ll keep paying and paying for relief (in which case, maybe a subscription model is a good idea). And if it might only occur once – but the risks of not solving it are extreme, you need to make all your money at once, and they just may be willing to pay a premium. 

It’s not always dollars by time. Pricing is a much more complex story than that. But it’s worth spending time to figure out. In fact, your business depends on it. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our customers in complex businesses to see everything they need to know to make better decisions, so they can build and grow. You can also find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Or you can sign up for regular news you can use, with the handy button below. 

Forecasting without Data? Here’s How.

It’s Thursday afternoon, just before a long weekend, and Head Office calls…

“Hey Fred, it’s Wilma. I know Monday’s a holiday in Canada, so I thought I’d catch you early.  Barney’s got a presentation to the investors on Monday in Bedrock and needs to know how big the Canadian market is for our new Bronto-vax®. Can we get that by the end-of-day Friday?”

No problem, right?  If your product is a breakfast cereal you can just go to the Nielsen data, or if it’s a retail pharmaceutical IQVIA will sell you as much information as you need. But what if no data sources exist for your particular product?

We get asked to work on these problems quite regularly and the answer is always “Let’s think about it systematically”.

Is there a surrogate marker, for example if there’s no data on popsicle sticks, but good data on popsicle sales, you can assume that, in general, sticks and finished products are reasonably well correlated. If it’s a specialized pharmaceutical product you can find data on the incidence and prevalence of the disease, population size, percent of patients treated, length of treatment for clinical trials…you get the idea.

If you have more time you can talk to a portion your target audience and use their estimates to project for the entire market…wisdom of the crowd.

So, this is a long-winded way of saying that, with a little thought and imagination, you can build a reasonably robust model along with the data sources and references to give it some credibility. Then you can continue to revisit and evaluate the model as you go forward.

When we work on this with you then you get the added credibility of a second set of eyes and the validation that “our consultant looked at the market and built this model”. We’ve done it for others, we can do it for you.

I’m Steve Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or a better frame of reference. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.


Abandoned Dreams, Big and Small

This week I was struck by the number of conversations I was part of, where business people (or entrepreneurs-in-waiting) minimized their ideas because they seemed too big, too audacious, or too outrageous. They had things they wanted to do, or to try, but they thought it would be better if “someone else did it first”. They wanted to create lists, and accountability check-boxes to go with them. They also had experienced failure before, or they were nervous about taking a risk, or making a mistake. Reflecting on this, I realized that there were three things that were consistently at the root of the problem.

The first issue was wanting accountability, instead of taking responsibility. I can’t explain this any better than Seth Godin already did in his blog, here.

The second was that even if they did set goals, they weren’t SMART goals. I’ve known about SMART goal-setting for a long time. Such a long time, in fact, that I am consistently surprised when someone fails to use this approach. Simply put, your goal needs to have each of the following elements:

  1. It must be specific – I want to increase sales in my business.
  2. It must be measurable. – I want to increase sales in my business by $1000 a month.
  3. It must be action-oriented – I want to increase sales in my business by $1000 a month by adding two new customers.
  4. It must be realistic – I am able to increase sales in my business by $1000 a month by adding two new customers, and I have already shown that I make an average of $2000 per customer per month, so this is possible.
  5. It must be time bound – I will increase sales in my business by $1000 a month, by adding two new customers, within the next three months. I have already shown that I make an average of $2000 per customer per month, and it takes me 6 weeks to 2 months of selling to acquire a new customer.

See how the language became more focused and positive? This is how we can make things happen.

Lastly, a number the people I interacted with, were willing to let themselves “dream small”, because they could only see the big audacious goal, but didn’t know how to break it into small, manageable, do-able steps. “Every journey begins with a single step” may be a cliché, but in every old adage there is truth. My top tip of the day for this is to begin by imagining you’ve achieved the goal, and work backwards to see the steps you need to get there. It’s much easier to figure out the path, if you have in your mind that the success is already yours.

What’s standing between you and your big, hairy, audacious goals? Would you like more inspiration and accountability for your business? Stay tuned for announcements about upcoming webinars, courses, or coaching programs by subscribing below. 

Give them what they want!

Do you have a global business, or are you considering expanding or exporting? You might know that we’ve been travelling this past week – to the UK and Germany. One of our favourite things to do when we’re in a new market or a foreign country, is to explore an ordinary activity, and ask, “what’s different here”?

Above is the condiments collection at a Sainsbury’s cafeteria. The breakfasts were similar, with a few different menu items (even here in Canada the big breakfast doesn’t differ that much from the Full English Breakfast). But this collection of condiments was very different than what we might receive with the average cheap and cheerful breakfast here at home. Some of the things that reminded us that every market develops in response to customers, not the other way around, included:

Condiments collections are adapted to local tastes, even in quite similar jurisdictions. Payment options varied from country to country. “Contactless” – the equivalent of our debit “tap” – was popular in the UK, but didn’t always work with foreign cards like ours. In Germany, debit isn’t an option in most places unless you have a local account. And although many products on the shelves were easily identifiable, even under new brand names, once in awhile there were packages and presentations that completely confounded us.

So what’s all this got to do with you and your customers? Just a friendly reminder, that it’s about what *they* want, not about what you want to give them. Do yourself a favour, and make sure you consider the small subtleties that put the local in your global offerings. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with you and your team to help you see everything you need to know to make better decisions, so you can find, know, and keep your best customers. You can find more content from us daily on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And for weekly offers, recommendations, and ideas, sign up for content specially curated for you. We’ve added a button below to make it easy. 


​I’d love to have my own business – if only I knew what kind of business to start!

Does this sound familiar? For me, I’m always surprised when I hear this, although I hear it over and over again. The easiest business to start is one that solves a problem, one that people will pay to have solved. Whether that’s creating delicious homemade cakes that make the person celebrating feel extra-special, to measuring air quality and helping clients to put systems in place to improve it so they can breathe better, or even providing custom home renovation services for someone with ideas but who’s all thumbs – businesses that solve problems or challenges are simply easier to sell. That’s because you don’t need to invest as much time educating the customer as to why they would want to solve that problem in the first place. They’re already actively looking for a solution!

Of course, the next step is a bit trickier: you also need to have the wherewithal to solve the problem. If you’re not a baker, or an environmental scientist, or handy with tools and building materials, none of our examples are going to be a fit for you. So what CAN you do? This is an area where mind-mapping can come in handy. The mind-map is a great tool for capturing a lot of free-flowing, uncensored ideas. Set a timer for 15 minutes – no more. This is more work than it sounds, and by then you’ll need a break from thinking. Get yourself a large piece of paper, or a white board, or a large expanse of wall and a stack of sticky notes. Start by writing down all the things you can do, that solve problems for people. Capture everything. Don’t try and narrow it down yet. What sorts of things do people ask you to do already, because you’re good at them, or you know how to do them in a unique way, or because those same people don’t know how to do them for themselves? Keep writing. If one “job” makes you think of another, great. Write that one down too. Just keep going until the timer tells you to stop. Although it might be tough to get started, I’m pretty certain you’ll be on a roll as you move toward the end of your 15 minutes. Ideas always bring more ideas.

Now, go get a drink of water, or a cup of tea, or take a little walk. Then  come back to your mind-map. It’s time to start sorting. Which ones do you really like doing? Which are you uniquely qualified to do, more than most people? And here’s the million-dollar question: which will people pay you to do? Often the things you’re best at, or that are most enjoyable, don’t obviously intersect with what customers will pay for. It’s up to you to find that intersection between work that works for you, and work that’s lucrative enough to make a living. So while I never advocate working at work you dislike every day, if something feels like a real calling, AND you feel like you’re fairly compensated for doing it, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it when your business hits its inevitable valleys.

Do you have some ideas that look like they might actually be the start of a business? Great! Next time let’s talk about ways to see whether customers really will pay what you think they’ll pay – or in more technical language, defining and validating your value proposition.

How’s your oatmeal doing?

​When was the last time you sat down and had a long talk with your oatmeal?
To those who’ve been around a while, this might remind them of a John Prine song…

But the point I’m trying to get at is: “What is the job your oatmeal is doing for you?”
If it’s a cold day, your oatmeal is warming you for the long day ahead.
If you had a too fun, late night, your oatmeal is settling your stomach, so you can reset your head.

Maybe oatmeal reminds you of those carefree mornings in the kitchen with your Grandmother.Or perhaps it’s helping you lower your cholesterol so you can increase the chances that you’ll meet your own grandchildren.

So if a simple product such as oatmeal can do all these jobs, and more…what jobs do people need your product to do?  And how can you use that understanding to develop long-term, profitable, customer relationships?
We’d like to help, and maybe even give you a legal smile!

Kudos to Clayton Christensen for introducing me to the concept of jobs your products do in his book: “The Innovator’s Dilemma”

3 ways targeting will help you build a better product

Target with arrows
Last week was jam-packed with events! We had a great time at one of them, watching startups, students, facilitators and generally-interested folks collaborate to come up with new ideas to help a young business grow and flourish. Everything was going swimmingly, until we heard this: 

“The first iteration of our product has had a great response and excellent feedback. With release 2 we hope to find out who our target market is.”

SCREEEEEEEEECH! What’s wrong with this picture? We love to work with growing companies, helping them develop and build their business model and validate their canvas. Getting them to ship their MVP (minimum viable product) instead of adding every possible feature all at once is exciting! Can you imagine our disappointment when we hear words that mean, “We came up with a solution to a problem, or helped a customer do a job that needs doing…but we don’t know who that customer is”?

If you’ve got a product or a prototype, and you haven’t yet validated that there are customers, and who those customers are, you’re investing an awful lot of effort in something that may never fly. Wouldn’t you rather have a product that really does “sell itself”, because it:

  1. Is just what your customer needs?
  2. Has a customer who is already looking for a solution, and is willing to pay?
  3. Adds value in some way that other solutions don’t?

If you’re worried that your latest product or service has gotten off on the wrong foot, and is flying around in search of a customer, we can help you figure out who the customer is, or isn’t, and validate that they want what you’re selling. Moreover, let’s put together your Value Proposition Canvas together, and get your business growing!

We’re Megann and Steve Willson, and we’re the Partners and Founders here at PANOPTIKA. If you need help to find, understand, or keep customers, and you’re a B2B (business-to-business) company, you’re in OUR target market. We’ll help you grow your business and make more money. You can find us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on LinkedIn. With a click of the orange button below this post, you can also subscribe for insights, offers, and ideas to help you see everything you need to know, to make better decisions.