If you're a marketer for training or elearning services, pricing should be a key consideration. As a result of reading this article, I hope you'll understand why pricing could be your marketing superpower. Why? Well, both as an in-house marketer, and now helping my training clients, I've seen the positive effects that good pricing has for a training business. For any marketer, taking the initiative on pricing is a great way to build your commercial reputation. So where should you start?
I recommend doing some detective work first to build insights on setting a price. Ask questions such as how has pricing been decided in the past? When was it last reviewed? What is it based on? Who should be involved in the decision? You'll also need a handle on how your customers view your service. Does the feedback indicate good overall satisfaction? What valuable outcomes do they derive from training? And what about competitors - how do their prices compare? Getting the answers to these questions helps you build a case for deciding the right prices for your training services.
Why you should review the pricing of your training courses
Why should you be a pricing champion? The best answer can be found in this classic Harvard Business Review article:
“... a 1 per cent improvement in price, assuming no loss of volume, increases operating profit by 11.1 per cent. Improvements in price typically have three to four times the effect on profitability as proportionate increases in volume.”
In short, setting the price of your training course could lead to increased revenues, and potentially without adding any material costs. But for many years, training prices have been based on a rather archaic cost-plus formula. This would typically be calculated by adding up the venue, trainer, and other costs, and adding on a 20 per cent profit margin to achieve your price. This has two drawbacks. Firstly, it often ignored other costs such as overheads, meaning the profit assumption was often incorrect. Secondly, it ignored the value of the service. The last eighteen months have seen a dramatic shift to digital learning services. This offers new opportunities, but also challenges in pricing.
How to value price for training services
Can you replace cost-plus pricing with value-based pricing? The answer partly depends on your competitors. If they offer identical products then your customers are likely to be much more price-sensitive.
Indeed a lack of differentiation can lead to commoditization and churn which leads to price discounting. I’ve seen this happen with face-to-face courses being undercut by digital course providers. So what can you charge compared to your competitors?
Having a great product that is valued by customers over your competitors is obviously important. This enables you to be a price-maker rather than a price-taker. Value-based pricing is predicated on you being able to measure the value of your services. How do you differentiate the value of your service over your competitors?
The first place to start is to understand the learning and performance outcomes you bring to customers. Take a look at feedback forms, and better still talk to customers to find out the impact your training and elearning is having. By being able to differentiate your outcomes from competitors, and understand the true value of your learning services, you’re better placed to set a price based on value.
Setting and testing your prices
The price you set on is likely to take into account what your competitors charge for similar services, and the additional value you offer in comparison. As we've discussed 'cost-plus' pricing can ignore both learning value and hidden training costs. However, calculating profits based on prices is an important test.
How else can you be confident that the price you have set is correct? One way to do this is through testing. Asking trusted friends in your market can help you get a good sense of whether your price is likely to encourage or deter customers to buy your learning service.
Asking customer-facing colleagues about prices can be useful, but should not be relied upon exclusively as there may be bias in their thinking. Discrete promotions where you offer a price to a particular segment can help you estimate how much of your market will likely buy at a particular price. Once you have set a price you may wish to review it from time to time. Again, discrete promotions can enable you to test price changes, for example to a particular renewal segment.
How to develop enterprise pricing for elearning services
If your target market includes large teams in large companies, an enterprise model for pricing may offer a great opportunity. Here, you sell a multi-seat licence rather than an individual one. This, in turn, could help you achieve recurring revenues from subscriptions or memberships.
The key here is to consider perceived value for the customer. For example, a multi-seat licence that provides online access for 50 employees, but the price of 30 individual licences, offers better value to the client, whilst increasing your revenues.
To do this you will need to identify and work with senior decision-makers. This may require a longer-term approach to sales. It also involves transforming the relationship from transactional to a partnership. This requires a deep understanding of your customer's desired learning and performance outcomes and a training service that can be shown to improve them.
How to present training prices well
I'm often asked if training prices should be displayed on client websites. The argument for not doing so is often due to an inconsistent discounting legacy. Understanding these issues is obviously important before you decide on publishing your pricing. Generally, I find that customers prefer transparent pricing, and that should also be an important consideration.
Should you decide to publish your prices, make sure you present them clearly on your website. SAAS companies have led the way with this, often providing a grid of features and benefits, often with 'good, better, best options. Often the 'better price' is your 'Goldilocks' price because it's 'just right'. Here are some examples that you might find helpful:
Semrush: This example includes three easy-to-understand options. with further information for prospects wanting more in-depth comparisons:
WordPress: Each option has a CTA button, with one labelled 'popular' to guide the prospect. This example compares each pricing bundle, with those features not included helpfully greyed out with a cross.
Marketo: This includes a useful summary statement and a list of features, all neatly laid out for easy comparison.
My recommendation to you is to be part of pricing conversations. Too often, marketers end up managing just promotion and miss the opportunity to influence the other ‘p’s of marketing. It’s good for you to have an opinion about pricing for your elearning and training services. It's much better to do something about it.
Want to learn more about pricing for learning services? If you'd like to discuss the pricing strategy for your training or information service, and how it can increase revenues drop me a line on our contacts page
MD, Achieve B2B Marketing