As the new year starts out, we're beginning to implement changes into our business models. In particular, almost every small business owner would like to increase the rates of goods and services, especially if the recession forced them to drop their rates at some point. This is not an easy thing to do, but if you begin 2011 with the right steps to make this a long term goal for your business, you can put yourself in a position for maximum success.
Here are a few steps to help you set up your business for the move to making more for what you do in the new year:
1. Set your sights on a realistic target.
This article is not suggesting that you enter into a fantasy world where you can dream that what you charge may get back to its high point of five years ago. Before you start with a plan to make more, you need to be realistic about where your current rates are in relation to your market and how much higher you could really expect to go.
2. Focus on value more than cost -- and don’t be the cheapest.
Inherent to charging more for what you do is focusing more on the value you offer to your customers than just bringing them the best deal. Very few small businesses can afford to compete solely on price when they may be up against much bigger companies who can squeeze their vendors much more than you can. Instead, find the ways to create a real value beyond just your price.
3. Build your reputation and stature in your industry.
The most direct impact that marketing can have on what you charge is based on your brand. There is a reason that Apple is able to charge much more for an MP3 player than any of their competitors and it isn’t necessarily because of any superior product attributes. Branding has a direct impact on value and your reputation -- so do as much as you can to build it up.
Create a gradual plan and forget about an overnight fix. Charging more for what you do is not going to be an overnight fix and you need to consider a gradual program for doing it. In some cases, you may need to let your current customers know well in advance. The point is, you can work towards making this change rather than thinking that everything you do needs to be a mini-announcement on January 1st.
4. Consider a tiered business model to honor your current commitments.
The one place you are likely to have the highest backlash when you consider raising your prices or rates is with your current customer base. For them, consider if there are any ways you might be able to lock in current rates with them without over committing on your part -- and of course, if you already are locked into a contact, hold up your part of the deal.
5. Be honest and consistent with yourself and your customers.
When raising your rates, you will be tempted to try and justify it by either offering more, or pointing a finger at the recession or increased costs of doing business. The most powerful reason for raising your rates is because you know that your offering is worth it, so as much as possible try to take the higher road and not get into trying to defend your rationale. If you are doing this for the right reasons, your rationale will be clear for anyone who chooses to question you on it.
6. Figure out the emotions and economics of losing on price.
When you raise your rates, it is entirely possible that you may lose a piece of business based on this fact alone. Obviously you need to make sure that your business is at a point where you can afford this, but more importantly you need to make sure that you keep your commitment to yourself and your own business to not cave in on price as soon as you feel an opportunity slipping away.
Rohit Bhargava is the author of the best selling marketing book Personality Not Included, a guide on using personality to create a more human business that employees love to work for and customers can’t wait to buy from.