Simon Kolz

A weblog by Simon Kolz

Price of Success

We’re all adults, and most of us probably like to think that we’re fairly well-informed when it comes to basic life wisdom. We’re familiar with the benefits of a bird in the hand over two in the bush, we know the risks of putting all our eggs in one basket, and of course we’d never dream of judging a book by its cover. Right?

Well, when it comes to books, most of us do judge the covers. If we paid no attention to them at all, the book industry probably wouldn’t bother pouring millions of dollars into cover illustrations, embossed type fonts and decorative golden swirls. A plain white paperback would do just fine if we actually followed that particular ancient adage.

In our own line of business, one might argue that there isn’t much of a cover to judge. Shareware tends not to come with illustrations and golden swirls, so authors often think that their prospective customers will dive straight in and familiarize themselves with the features and interface of their particular product. They are wrong. Prosaic as it might sound, the first thing most people look at is the price. The price of the product will also continue to remain of high importance while they browse through the website, install the trial version and decide whether or not to purchase.

Yet in spite of the fact that price is one of the most important factors where the marketing of a product is concerned, it is also one of the least understood. Many seem quite content to bluff their way through, giving little or no thought to the implications that a price tag can carry. As a result, most shareware authors make the same mistake: they sell their product for far too little.

Bargain bins may serve their purpose in some areas of business, but I firmly believe that there is little room for them in the software industry. Aside from impulse items such as low-cost games, most people need some level of reassurance that the software they’re buying is of at least reasonable quality. This is why they are not likely to go for the cheapest available option.

Think about it: ‘reasonable quality’ and ‘cheap’ are not two concepts that look overly natural placed side by side. You know it, and so does the average consumer. Cheap is alright when you buy garbage bags, writing paper and playing cards, but when it’s something that has the potential to destroy a very expensive PC system, people tend be prepared to pay that little bit more.

The number one rule when it comes to understanding consumer behaviour is simple. At times the consumer may seem puzzling and surprising, but ultimately is quite predictable. All it takes is a little bit of probing and patience, and you will know more or less what to expect. Once good example of this is the whole area of perceived pricing.

If you place two fairly similar products side by side and price one at $20 and the other at $80, you may well find that people show more interest in the more expensive application. Why? Because a higher price implies a higher quality. We know that if we spend $500 on a car, we’re not going to be as satisfied as we would be with a $25,000 model. When someone goes looking for software, their number one concern is not saving money. It’s finding a solution. And if a higher price implies a better quality solution, what message is the price of your software sending?

A sensible starting point when you want to set a price for your product is the market (or markets) that it may be sold in. First, you need to define your user bases as precisely as possible.

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