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The hardest part of startups is making choices. Not decisions but choices. A choice is a decision between alternatives, whereby deciding to do one thing you are also deciding not to do another. Pricing strategy selection is a choice. Or at least it should be.
Compared to the other work you need to do on pricing, however, choosing a pricing strategy is actually pretty easy.
Value metric: the unit of consumption by which your users get value.
Pricing metric: the unit of consumption that your buyers pay for.
Grow: Setting a low price, leaving most of the value in the hands of your customers, shutting off margin from your competitors.
Skim: Initially setting a relatively high price to reinforce your value and capture the profit you need to invest in more innovation.
Follow: Setting price based on your largest competitor or a dominant input so that you track changing market conditions.
The Follow strategy needs a bit more explanation. This used to mean finding a dominant competitor and setting prices at a premium or discount to their price (in practice usually the latter).
In some industries, there is a dominant input that has a big impact on value propositions.
In others, it is the interest rate—pricing strategies for solutions for financial services companies are very dependent on interest rates. The price that makes sense in a low-interest-rate environment can be very different from what works in a high-interest rate environment.
Pricing strategy can change as you move across Geoffrey Moore’s technology adoption cycle (see B2B Pricing Black Magic). As you move from Early Adopters to Bowling Alley to Tornado you may want to change your pricing strategy at each phase.
Companies buy for different reasons at each phase and pricing strategy needs to reflect this. Innovators are looking at things because they are cool. They are not real buyers. They are important, as Early Adopters tend to follow innovators and are influenced by them.
Early Adopters buy because the solution gives them a competitive advantage. They expect to pay a premium and are not persuaded by discounts. In the Bowling Alley, people are buying because their peers are buying. This is a critical phase as it is when the market gets framed and anchor prices are set. Be very careful about using a grow strategy here (low prices) as you can do long term damage.
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