Cheap or Inexpensive: A Look at Value-Selling
When you’re making the pitch for a product or service, it’s essential to think about what you’re saying and how that messaging will be perceived. This is a lesson I learned early on in my first college-level marketing class when I was in high school. For one of our first assignments, we had to select a business and come up with a marketing plan for it. The first step was to write a mission statement in which we would describe what the company did, how it did it and why—all attributes every business needs to know before it can effectively market itself. Being a (reluctant) fast-food employee at the time, I decided to write my marketing scheme with that company in mind.
The first line of my mission statement read something like: “At [insert fast-food place], we provide cheap, high-quality food to people in a hurry.” I worked pretty hard putting the whole project together and thought to myself, “Man, marketing isn’t so bad. I’ve got this class down.”
Teenagers are so naïve.
After giving me a bad grade, my instructor told me something that changed the way I looked at products. “Well, you blew it with the first sentence,” he said. “You used the word ‘cheap’ where I think you meant ‘inexpensive.’ There’s a huge difference. Cheap implies that it’s cheesy and ineffective. Inexpensive merely states that the cost is low.”
But isn’t tasty food supposed to be cheesy?
Cheap vs. Inexpensive
What I learned is nobody wants cheap products or services. What they want is a good value. Cheap suggests that the product is disposable or that it will quickly degrade and become useless in a short time. Cheap things are usually inexpensive, but they’re generally inadequate. You shouldn’t be cheap, and you’re not inadequate—your products and services should reflect that, so strive to provide quality products and services at affordable prices.
It’s also useful to note that “inexpensive” is a comparative description. Your products and services should be competitively priced and provide customers a good return on investment without compromising the integrity of the products and services. Don’t sell yourself short—you can be inexpensive without being cheap, and you can provide quality without breaking anybody’s bank. What you really offer is value.
Think carefully about what you’re saying about a product, service or company. It’s more likely that you have cost-effective solutions to IT problems, not quick fixes at rock-bottom pricing (which makes me think of servers held together with duct tape), so use language that reflects the caliber of your offering and makes your intent to provide quality service abundantly clear. Don’t devalue your business or services by calling them “cheap” or by saying that you’ve got “rock-bottom pricing,” because doing so makes your services look, well, cheesy.
If something is remarkably cheap, people sometimes say, “They’re practically giving it away!” But, as the Joker said, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.” It’s useful advice. If you’re “giving away” a service you’re either A.) not making money or B.) cutting too many corners. Cutting costs at every corner will degrade not only the value of your service, but the value your clients can get out of your offering. This principle applies not only to your IT shop, but to a big vendor that hands things out willy-nilly.
Smart consumers do research and really know the difference in quality–whether it’s a service or a product–and they usually stick with what works once they find what they’re looking for. They know that cheap doesn’t last, and that by calling “Uncle Freddy’s IT Bargain-Basement” for managed services, they’ll end up with low-caliber service from people with scant knowledge—low-low, once-in-a-lifetime pricing can’t make up for poor or mediocre services. (Remember, this applies to vendors you select, as well.)
Cheap also doesn’t promote healthy business partnerships. Clients getting poor service often end up calling another provider, and having learned a valuable lesson about cheap providers, those clients will want the next provider to have effective solutions at competitive prices. If you’re providing services that have value to clients, they’ll be calling you.
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