Providing a product at the lowest price point in your market sounds like a sure way to attract customers and gain an edge on your competition — but it’s not always that easy. The problem is that the brands with this strategy are rarely considered high-quality; therefore, customers have no loyalty and no reason to stick around. Being the cheapest option means, for most customers, that you are also the least valuable option. The best strategy is to strive to be competitive via a mix of quality and pricing. Only then will you find the right customers, profits, and brand reputation.
There are really two low-cost strategies that you can employ when pricing your product. A low-price strategy involves pricing your product the lowest in the market and then targeting those consumers who are looking for the cheapest option in that category. Think of companies like Frontier Airlines, Payless, and Suave.
These customers tend to have more problems with the products and feel little or no loyalty to these brands. For small businesses and startups, utilizing low-cost pricing can be detrimental to your long-term success. Consumers will only value you if your pricing remains competitive, and usually there will be a larger, more established company that will eventually jump in and overtake your market.
The other strategy focuses on delivering high-quality products at a lower production cost. These companies don’t target the “lowest price” market, but position themselves as the best value for high- and low-end products in order to create a distinct position in the market. Brands such as T.J. Maxx, Honda, and Amazon employ this method of best value positioning.
These companies determine the brand strategy, and then create products that match the quality and price the consumer is looking for by driving down production, marketing, and distribution costs. Brands have to be careful in the low-cost provider category. If you drive down costs so much that your retail prices stray into the low-price market, then you risk being pigeonholed as a low-end option. If you do decide to play in the low end of the market, make sure you make it crystal clear how you arrived at your price versus the competition so you don’t get lumped together.
High-Quality but Affordable
Price has always been, and will always be, a significant indicator of quality, so making a high-quality product affordable and valuable is a fine line to walk.
One way to do it well is to deliver the same product at a lower cost, and be very transparent about how you did it. Then, you become the “affordable” alternative. Before Tower Paddle Boards existed, a good stand up paddle board was $1200 to $1500. While a cheap board cost around $850, producers of those products were driving production costs down at any cost; thus, quality was falling by the wayside. Aside from casting aside any quality concerns, they really hadn’t changed anything else about their business model in comparison to their competitors.
We soon realized that a significant portion of the cost came from the traditional distribution channel all of our competitors were using. We created high-quality boards that could compete with any of the expensive brands; then, we sold them directly to the customer. We’ve followed up with great customer service, and our business is growing based on the quality of our product and our favorable price point.
Building a High-Quality Brand
Though the definition of “high quality” varies between industries, there are a few must-haves for any brand seeking this label.
Premium features: Your products must carry features that are above and beyond your competitors’. It’s imperative that these be designed into the product as talking points.
Durability: Too many products today are more or less disposable, and that’s what low-end brands target. High-quality products last as long as possible to provide the customer with high value.
Customer service: For really high-quality brands, it’s all about customer service. Think about Zappos — the first name in online customer service. Companies that really care about the customer experience, from the initial sale to follow-on support, go far in providing quality and value to the customer.
A common mistake is to equate “high quality” with “fancy.” High quality is about premium features, durability, and dedicated customer service. Fancy is much more superficial. Land Rover is a great example. The cars are undoubtedly beautiful and have an aura of wealth and class. But ask any mechanic or former Land Rover owner, and they’ll tell you horror stories about the low quality of this “fancy” brand.
High Quality Impacts Sales
When a company focuses on quality, it turns prospects into customers and then into brand advocates. Once that happens, you can slash a significant portion of your marketing budget. It’s expensive to acquire new customers, but when loyal fans do the work for you, it costs next to nothing. And when customers love a product, they are more than happy to convince everyone they know to love it, too.
It’s not just new customers, though. Those same brand advocates are more willing to make repeat purchases when they know they are consistently receiving quality products. Lower-end companies tend to turn and burn customers, cutting off any hope of brand loyalty. Their business is transactional, and nothing more. Companies that focus on high quality build a long-term asset in the form of a loyal customer list, making it less risky to roll out new products or try new things.
Think of low-quality products and brands as get-rich-quick schemes. They sound great, but they provide nothing of value to the consumer and won’t build great companies. Instead, focus on building a high-quality brand (at whatever price point) that creates loyal brand advocates. Then, you’ll know you’ve got something valuable — and everyone else will, too.
Stephan Aarstol is the CEO and founder of Tower Paddle Boards, an online, manufacturer-direct brand in stand up paddle boarding. Tower Paddle Boards was invested in by Mark Cuban on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and was named one of the top 10 success stories in the history of the show by Entrepreneur Magazine. Stephan is an entrepreneurial thought leader and online marketing expert, and he welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Google+.
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