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Why hide your prices? How to write about money on your website

Posted by Matthew Stibbe
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Most of our clients are very reluctant to talk about the prices of their products and services. On the other hand, it’s something that readers really want to know.

Brass tacks - talking about price

I’m not making this up. Readers expect price information. This is why journalists and reviewers always give prices. Look at any magazine. (Wired, for example.) If you don’t talk about prices, you’re not playing fair with the reader.

It’s also best practice in terms of website usability. See Jakob Nielsen’s article on prices.

Why the reluctance?

  • Everything’s negotiable so you don’t want to tip your hand
  • Regulations around recommended retail prices
  • Complexity, where prices vary by spec, region
  • Yield management, where a ticket today costs less than the same ticket tomorrow
  • Competitive pressure; companies don’t want to give away their best price to a competitor
  • Prices change fast but websites and brochures change slowly
  • We’re English, money’s embarrassing and negotiation is worse

Some of these are reasonable and understandable. But from a marketing perspective, there are three overriding principles:

  • If you compete on price, you’re a complete idiot. Only one company can be the cheapest, everyone else needs to compete on quality, reputation, brand, design, service etc.
  • Respect your customers and readers. Tell them the truth. If you can’t give a firm price, give an indication or a way for them to easily get an accurate price.
  • If you're prices aren't transparent, your customers are going to assume that they are either very high or negotiable or that you'll try to charge as much as you think you can get away with. Creating any of these feelings in prospective clients isn't the best start to a great relationship.

Does anyone have any suggestions about how to talk about prices in a smarter way? This problem is so common but rarely discussed that we need to have a proper discussion about it.

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