Here’s a slight variation on a classic anecdote about pricing:
Guy takes his Harley to the shop. Says it’s not sounding right. Doesn’t sound like a Harley should sound.
Mechanic says she can fix it. She starts the engine and listens. She looks up and down the length of the bike for a few moments and then kicks it. The sound is back.
Mechanic hands the guy a bill for $200.
Guy says, ‘$200? For kicking my bike?’
Mechanic says, ‘The kick was free. The $200 is for knowing where to kick.’
When clients ask for new Web-site features or changes to existing ones, they often start the conversation with
Would it be easy to [fill in the blank]?
What they’re really asking is
Would it be inexpensive to [fill in the blank]?
Easy is relative. Easy for whom?
And easy doesn’t necessarily translate to inexpensive — nor should it.
Was it easy for me to fix our refrigerator when it stopped cooling? No way. I didn’t even know what to fix. But Mike, the local appliance repair guy with 25 years experience, diagnosed and fixed the problem fairly easily. His fee was not inexpensive.
The Harley mechanic and my appliance repair guy were using value-based pricing. (Seth Godin, in a wonderful blog post from 2010 refers to this as linchpin work. Do check it out — especially the anecdote about the engineering consultant.)
There’s a lot about WordPress development and consulting that must seem like kicking the bike. But before you grouse too much about your developer charging you for installing a plugin you could have installed with a click of a button, consider the hours and expertise she invested in learning which button to click.
Jay Maurice says
Thanks for the article and thoughts here Jeff, they all make sense. I’m quite happy to say that I am a client of yours and have appreciated the work you have done for me and will continue to do for me, as long as you don’t tell me to take a hike. Here is some more insight though.
I think a lot of consumers for web based work don’t have experience working with people in the industry. We didn’t watch our parents call the website builder and learn from their experiences. We don’t know how much things are. And though i haven’t called around a lot since you and I started to working together (thank you), if you can call 10 different web service providers, get 10 different opinions and most of them strong in saying, that their way is “the best way”.
As a business owner who likes to examine business models, my opinion is the web business has long way to go to understand it’s clients. Also as a business owner I understand that selling service to people who don’t know how much service should be can present an issue. I guess that’s the breaks of working in an industry that is relatively new. The advantage the non-savvy home owner has is they can always call Sears if they are Leary about which way to go. When you call sears (or any big box repair company), you know you’ll pay more but understand you have a chain of command and line of seniority to get the answers you need about your service. Who can the non-savvy web consumer call?
I know what the answer is. In another generation consumers will have a reference for their experiences and will developed a skill set to make choices about web work. Then we’ll be left with a consumer who might always complain about the bike repair guy knowing where to kick (this person will never change), and a larger group of consumers who understand what the product and service they seek is. This group will help change the way web service providers operate and provide service and information and the cool thing about all this is that’s how capitalism works!
Jeff Cohan says
Sears? Is there still a Sears?
Thanks for weighing in, Jay. Good points, all.
Very true that the Web business has a long way to go to understand its clients – and vice versa. The newness of the industry is one reason. The fact that many Web service providers come from the ranks of craftsperson (either programming or graphic design) is another.
Excellent article! So well put. Thank you for sharing it.
Jeff Cohan says
You betcha, Jill! Thanks for your feedback.
Tom Tortorici says
I read this terrific post with a sigh. I think all web folks can relate. Sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer says that if the prospect is hung up on price, that means we haven’t done a good enough job yet of proving our value, in the face of low-balling competitors. Until we find a magic answer to get paid for what we feel we’re worth, I guess we need to come up with with marketing messages that are so smart, simple, unique and benefit-oriented that they break through the price resistance barrier. Unfortunately, most folks, including web folks, aren’t particularly good at that. And even with the best line, you can’t win every battle.
In my next incarnation on earth, I need to remember to be born rich, so I don’t have to worry about this kind of stuff.
Jeff Cohan says
Ineffective marketing is part of the problem, for sure. And the good news is we can improve that.
But metrics/ROI is a harder problem to solve. Unless a Web project involves eCommerce or ad placements (or such), it’s pretty darn hard to define in concrete, measurable terms WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE.
Rarely do we Web designers/developers have challenges like the Harley that didn’t sound like a Harley or the office tower with stained drywall. Our success stories usually can’t be reduced to such simple and memorable anecdotes. But we do have success stories. We probably need to tell them better.
Good points as usual Jeff, And Jay is also right about the clients don’t know what they don’t know. What I do know is that there are a lot of bad websites out there that someone has paid for and I spend a lot of time doing them over when the client realizes the cost of cheap.
Jeff Cohan says
Thank goodness for “the rebound”! One could make a living just fixing/redoing what others fubared.
Excellent article. Well worth the read. I value your time, and I hope you know it!
Jeff Cohan says
I do know it, Ann; and I appreciate that.
By the way, I’m raising your rates.
Mike Witherspoon says
Took me forever to learn that people who know where to kick are usually the best investment around. The trick to getting the most out of that investment is making sure they know the best place to kick, not just a better place than you would have kicked.
Convince people in your marketing that you know the best place to kick (or the best chemical for covering brown stains) and the business will come in.