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The art and science of pricing

Okay, so one of the big themes on this blog is biggification — the art of putting yourself out there and growing that cool thing you do (or want to do) — and how to do that mindfully.

And one of the scariest parts of mindful biggification is pricing.

Pricing as in: choosing or recognizing what you want to charge for the things you offer, and feeling okay with it. Or maybe even good about it.

I could probably write posts about pricing every single day for a year without running out of stuff to say about it, so I’m feeling a little unsure about how to narrow this the heck down to make the specific points I want to make today. Oh, well.

Here’s the short version:

1. Yeah, pricing. Scary stuff.
2. Comparison-based thinking will always get you down.
3. The help you need on this is internal, not external.
4. There will always be other people whose “stuff” is really, really loud.
5. It’s all about you. It’s also not about you.

Shall we?

1. Yeah, pricing. Scary stuff.

We all have issues around money that we need to work through and process like crazy in order to be happy and successful in business.

Having a business or project or some entrepreneurial something or other is the best (and hardest) therapy there is, because it throws you right in to a really intense self-work process.

You pretty much have to be in this process because if you don’t deal with your stuff — i.e. your frightened, overwhelmed, hurt, resentful, unintentionally self-destructive stucknesses — you get bogged down and can’t do the thing.

And doing the thing is part of your mission. Plus it makes you money. You want to do the thing.

So everyone’s dealing with their own personal tangle of “am I good enough?” and “I don’t want to be a jerk” and “I don’t want to undersell” and “when will I start thinking I’m worth it?” and all that stuff. A ton of fear comes out in pricing.

Naomi and I are going to be devoting a lot of energy to this theme in our non-gross self-promotion for people who hate self-promotion course, because ignoring it can cause major resistance and stuckification in your business.

Seriously, at least half the time when you’re procrastinating it’s because this stuff is skulking under the surface and you’re just not dealing with it. Avoidance patterns are normal, of course, but they don’t exactly help you do your best work.

2. Comparison-based thinking will always get you down.

So you’re craving some safety and reassurance and you start looking around to find out what everyone else is doing. You figure, “Oh, I’ll just do stuff the way they do because that’s safer.” You decide you’ll charge the same as them or maybe a little less.

Oh honey, not a good idea.

I know, it’s really tempting. And I know, it’s what pretty much all the experts say to do. And yes, occasionally it’s useful to know the range. But comparison-based thinking will ultimately leave you feeling hurt and confused.

Which doesn’t really do much for your stuck, stuck patterns.

For one thing, this course Naomi and I are doing? We’re definitely at the low end of the scale. But the scale is enormous. Prices in the internet world for a six week online course can range from $79 to $1200. Sorry, $1199. Whatever. Point is: that’s a pretty big range.

So then you’d end up going into the whole “how biggified am I compared with how biggified are they” comparison thing and it’s exhausting and bad for your soul.

You start thinking, but wait, ours comes with genius ideas and big crazy support. But wait, theirs comes with blah blah blah. But mine … but theirs … No good.

You still haven’t given your inner stucknesses the attention and love they’re clamoring for. So they’re not going to stop the yammering freak-out-fest any time soon.

Here’s another thing. Comparison takes you away from yourself. As my friend Mark Silver — wacky ultimate-frisbee playing Sufi business genius says (quoting some Sufi saying) “Comparison is from the devil.”

Devil or no devil, it’s looking to external factors for an internal answer. And sorry, inner wisdom trumps all other cards.

3. The help you need on this is internal, not external.

Your body is smart. It knows things you don’t know. Excuse me while I go into wacky hippie gobbledygook for a minute but there’s wisdom in your muscles and in your heart and in your neurons that (most of the time) you’re just not accessing.

Why not? Your focus is outside. Busy with comparison. And analysis. Actively or passively repressing all that internal knowledge of sometimes uncomfortable things you know and feel. That’s the external.

Pricing seems like it should be an external process (it’s the market, right?) but it’s actually an internal process.

Mark talks a lot about pricing resonance, which turns out to be a very helpful term. The idea is that sometimes someone else’s price feels right. And sometimes it doesn’t.

When it feels right it’s never about whether the sum itself is a lot or a little. That part isn’t relevant. $250,000 might feel right for a certain house while $2.50 might feel like way, way, way too much for a cup of tea that isn’t even very good in a really loud, annoying cafe.

Resonance is always situational. You feel it or you don’t. And your goal in setting your prices is that your right people — the people you really want to serve — feel it too. They get that “mmmmm, yeah, that’s exactly what it should cost” vibration.

Mark teaches a really, really cool exercise for testing pricing resonance and getting to your right price, whatever it is. I use my own wacky version of this exercise for my products and programs, and it’s saved me hours and days of agonizing. And yes, when your price is the “right price”, more sales happen.

So when Naomi and I started working on our course, at the pricing point I had to stop and say, “Sorry, do you mind if we do something that’s just a leeetle bit wacky?”

And Naomi, for all of her hard-ass potty-mouth ways, is totally up for wacky, even though she’ll probably smack me around for saying that out loud (bring it on, baby). She can handle the wacky.

Anyway, we went way, way internal on this one, and we got the resonance.

For this program — the one that was designed specifically for for a certain type of person who reads our blogs. For someone who will never take the $1200 version of this type of course. For someone who is so in the stuck that this would be a big, madcap, joyous, welcome space for them to do some untangling and start moving.

The crazy thing is that we worked it out separately, writing down the numbers that were really feeling right and the ones that weren’t so good … and our results were practically identical.

Seriously. We weren’t just in a resonant state with ourselves, we were in resonance with each other. We were never more than $5 apart with any possible price.

And, as it turns out, we were in resonance with our right people.

4. There will always be other people whose “stuff” is really, really loud.

Here’s how I know we were resonant:

1. The VIP seats got snapped up in less than 36 hours (we actually just decided to allow eight more people in because people complained, and three of those spots are already gone).

2. A ton of people have emailed me to say how elated they are that we’re doing this and how it just feels right. Even people who can’t afford to take the course right now are saying this. That’s resonance.

3. I can feel it. In my heart. It’s a warm, steady, buzz that is so, so right.

Now, not everyone is going to feel it. And people who have stuck stuff of their own are going to show up too.

That’s one of the reasons so many smart, creative people freak out about pricing. Because they don’t want to hear “Hey, that’s too much!” Fear of criticism is even stronger than fear of getting the pricing wrong — and that’s enough to stop a lot of people from even offering the thing in the first place.

So yeah. Though I hate to say it, there will be people who don’t like your prices. Naomi talked the other day about how to be strategic about pricing and she said we’d gotten letters from people saying that our awesome course is too cheap.

I’m not sure how much mail she gets (probably a ton), but I got exactly one email that said too cheap, one that said argh, too much, I wish I could take this but I can’t and over twenty that specifically said ohmylord this could not be more perfect.

That’s resonance. That’s the power of having done the internal work is that you can trust the resonance. You know it’s the right price. You checked in with yourself and you felt it.

It isn’t going to ring for absolutely everyone, of course — so if you hear from people who aren’t clicking with your price, that’s probably a sign that they’re not your right people.

It’s probably a sign that some part of what you do is just not right for them. Or that it’s bringing up some of their stuff. That’s their stuff.

Is their stuff having an uncomfortable effect on you? Are you feeling worried and insecure because you really need to know that you’re taking care of people? That’s your stuff. Which is okay. You’re allowed to have it. It’s part of the process and it’s normal.

5. It’s all about you. It’s also not about you.

When your stuff comes up, it sucks. Yuck. It’s also a reminder that it’s time to say hi to said stuck stuff and find out what’s going on. To remind yourself that it’s temporary and that you’re allowed to be human and have issues.

That’s the part that’s about you.

That the sign that it’s time to turn inward again and get back into your heart and body. That’s where you remember that you’re allowed to feel vulnerable. That’s also where your strengths are. It’s where you’ll remember what resonance feels like. And you’ll remember that if it’s not resonating with everyone, that’s a good thing.

You want to help your right people. That’s who your right price is for. Anyone who’s not there at this point is going to be helped by someone else — they’re somebody else’s right people. Sometimes it is about you — but mostly? It’s not.

So you work on your stuff and let everyone else work on theirs. The very worst thing that will happen is you’ll get better at trusting the resonance, you’ll practice some compassion and maybe you’ll even feel okay about being nice to yourself once in a while.

That’s it. I’m done talking about pricing.

Internet hugs to all.

And … if you want to grab one of the remaining VIP seats from the new batch — or if you just want to take our awesome, awesome class that deals specifically with these very themes, don’t forget to type havi when the shopping cart asks you for a coupon code. You’ll save $30 that way and yes, I meditated on that and it feels great.

33 Responses to The art and science of pricing

  1. steve kennedy
    Twitter: stevekennedy
    says:

    Well thought out. I jumped on a VIP membership and I thought about for about two minutes. Too much? Too little? Would I do it for that? Will I get my money’s worth?

    Bottom line is that you can have the greatest content in the world, but if people don’t sign on the dotted line, you don’t have anything.

    I appreciate the enthusiasm that I get from you and Naomi, so I figured out pretty quickly that I would get my money’s worth. I’m just really glad that you guys don’t do the fast-talking “Call 1-800-555-5555” three or four times in an row…I hate that!

    steve kennedys last blog post..Google on Google Chrome

  2. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    Oh, right on. Resonance rocks. With resonance you don’t need an 800 number or to say stuff like “but wait, there’s more!

    I mean, yeah, everyone will find his or her own comfortable spot on the sleaze-non-sleaze kosher marketing continuum, but if YOU know you’re coming from integrity, people pick up on that.

    Anyway, yay! We’re completely thrilled that you’re VIP-ing it up with us. Naomi and I were just talking about how we just have a good feeling about everyone who’s signed up.

  3. Pace says:

    Havi,

    This is totally awesome. I think Kyeli and I will get out a piece of rock and a string to make sure we’re in resonance with our pricing.

    Also, until now, we’ve been thinking only about meatspace workshops for our stuff, going on road trips and all that. That’s fun! But your last series of posts (and Naomi’s too) have inspired me to create virtual workshops too. It’s going to be awesome!

    Thanks for sharing your awesomeness and inspiring resonant awesomeness in others. (:

  4. Laura
    Twitter: lkr
    says:

    You said there was going to be wacky and then I got no wacky! What was this wacky thing you did to determine the price?

  5. Havi,
    This post is AWESOME. Reminds me of all the time I spent in school getting my marketing degree, sitting in class thinking how much BS all the number crunching was when it came to pricing. We’re on the same wavelength. I like that. I’m all stuckified on some things right now, but I have to say this was inspiring.

  6. What a timely article – between you and Kelly at Maximize… ( http://maximumcustomerexperience.com/2008/09/03/inspiration-points-how-much-money-should-you-be-charging/ )I’m totally content with the price I’m going to be charging for the workshop I’m launching Monday.

    Yay to wacky hippie gobbledygook-ness

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Practicing Flexibility to Remain Steady – Full Text Answers

  7. Mark Silver
    Twitter: MarkHeartofBiz
    says:

    I am SO pleased that you used the Your Right Price exercise for this, and that Naomi is up for wacky, too.

    I’ve been working that exercise with clients and workshop participants for years now. And there is nothing more gratifying than to be in a roomful of strangers, to go through the exercise, and to have nearly everyone come up with the resonant price, and more.

    One story I like to tell (out of many) is a participant in one of my workshops several years ago was doing this exercise, and we all came up with a number for her services that was higher than she was charging. Then she suddenly she stopped, and covered her face. It took a few minutes, but then she was able to tell us that over the last few weeks she’d had several clients who had tipped her additionally… right up to the resonant price. On the nose.

    I have the exercise as a pdf- it’s a little old design-wise, and I haven’t updated the look of it- but the exercise is there. I’ll go post it there now.

  8. Havi, first let me say I found you thru a Pam Slim Twit (try saying that 5 times fast)– love her! Enlightening and funny post!

    For me I sell custom photo buttons (one at a time– I leave the big big volumes to the button factories) for people doing charity walks — $5 each and $1 from each button goes to the charity of your choice — pretty fair deal I think and you get an individually packaged button button(no scratching)plus! a free hope button — free prize inside!

    Havi so here’s the thing about ecommerce pricing, a conundrum in a store you can see the Buttons of Hope competitive advantages — but online you don’t get that remarkable experience until you get your buttons — for me my advantages are invisible online and I probably look like an overpriced buttons maker relatively — any thoughts from you or the crew here! is my success dependent on WOM — not sure I can wait that long!

    Michael Gibbonss last blog post..(You) Can.

  9. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Mark – OMG, awesome. I would love it if you’d put up the PDF and tell us where to find it.

    @Laura – I totally meant to bring on the wacky in this post. And then it was already at the point where I wasn’t even sure that people would even read to the end because it was so long and complicated.

    Was going to post in the comments but if Mark’s going to link to a PDF, then will skip it. The way my version differs from Mark’s is that I use tapping on facial pressure points and breathing to access the meditative state. But I can put up a PDF of that too.

    @Alex, Brandon – Awesome. Love it.

    @Pace – Yay! And yeah, online courses are so, so great. It takes out a huge amount of detail-management, as well as, you know, all the people who can’t find parking or whatever. You can teach in your pajamas (theoretically …) and the group energy is actually still really, really powerful.

    I still do live events but much less often than before. Hooray for the internets.

  10. […] today posted about resonant pricing, and how she had adapted our Your Right Price exercise to her and Naomi’s own ends. […]

  11. Mark Silver
    Twitter: MarkHeartofBiz
    says:

    Okay, just posted here:
    The Wackiness of Resonant Pricing

    I don’t know if your comments allow html- I just tried it.

    There’s also a short mp3 excerpt from a class, giving a spiritual teaching on pricing and why it isn’t a transaction. Enjoy!

    Mark Silvers last blog post..The Wackiness of Resonant Pricing

  12. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Michael – PamSlimTwit! PamSlimTwit! Wow, that is hard. Even to type. Pam’s the awesomest, though, so it’s worth it.

    Anyway, your buttons of hope thing is super neat. Everyone, go to http://ButtonsOfHope.com.

    I know people will want to weigh in with good ideas here, but for starting off:

    Your main focus is going to be working with the narrative of the STORY. You’re already doing this, of course, it’s just going to take more effort to make every single aspect of your business be about giving people a way to tell the story of the people who are in their hearts the most.

    You move the whole discussion away from “price” and “value” and all those things. Your whole thing is about helping people who are hurting by giving them a sign, a talisman, something to hold onto, something to spark conversations about their pain.

    You’re not selling *buttons*. It’s not about buttons. It’s about helping people feel safe and supported in their pain. Which doesn’t have a price, but it’s something many, many people would pay thousands of dollars for. You’re charging five. That’s pretty reasonable, I’d say.

    And, having seen your blog, I can say that I can trust you’re doing everything you do out of complete integrity, so this is not about manipulating people to drop five bucks. It’s about putting out a service that will bring people some serenity and stability when they most need it.

    They don’t have to take you up on it. It’s not like you’re yelling at them on the street saying “give me your five dollars!” You’re just turning on a light so people who need you know where to find you.

    And in the context of that light you want to shift the conversation to what you’re giving and how this giving is intended to ease the hearts and minds of the people receiving.

    Your whole site should be about the meaning and the impact and the people you’re serving. And I don’t mean serving in some gross “you are a valued customer” way … this is really part of your life work and your mission and all that scary stuff.

    Oh, and link your blog to your site (not just through the image) so people don’t have to poke around and figure out where to buy a button!

    I’ll stop here before this becomes a post of its own. Anyone else?

  13. I’m just basking in the glow of your awesomeness, Havi. Just think of the healing you’re bringing to the world by posting this (okay, it’s woo-woo, but who the hell cares?).

    :) Jen

  14. Havi, I really don’t know what to say, except my sincerest thank you for your beautiful words and council. (I am continually flabbergasted by the generosity and insight of people(like you) I meet on the web!!)

    I should make clear that Buttons of Hope is a for profit business and while I want to make a million buttons for a million people — my passion some from a very personal place. I have seen the big difference these little buttons are making in people’s lives – whether they honor their Mom in a lung cancer walk or are worn as a personal billboard in the search for a missing child — the idea came to me as I did a cancer cycling event in honor of my cousin Dale who alter died — I wanted to do more than scribble his name on the back of my shirt! Over 10 million people do a walk in the US each year (WOW) and most are scribbling names

    I walk a fine line serving causes and being a business — but as you so perfectly say “your whole thing is about helping people who are hurting by giving them a sign, a talisman, something to hold onto, something to spark conversations about their pain.” I think that sums it up and hopefully the vision will spread so that I don’t have to yell at people on the street! haha

    ps sorry for the commercial it was not my intent but maybe this furthers the discussion about pricing and I would be happy to discuss this further with you or others.

  15. Jennifer I wish I had said that! beautiful.

    Michael Gibbonss last blog post..(You) Can.

  16. Kelly says:

    Havi,

    What a great post. Only a woman with a duck could sum up pricing so swimmingly. :)

    My favorite part: “You want to help your right people. That’s who your right price is for. Anyone who’s not there at this point is going to be helped by someone else — they’re somebody else’s right people.”

    Perfect.

    Alex,

    Thanks for the mention in your comment. it’s nice to have folks spreading the word–and on pricing, Havi’s right, there are so many words to be said.

    Regards,

    Kelly

    Kellys last blog post..Tip of the Week: The Swag Rules

  17. I like the idea of resonance, as it’s very much in line with cognitive dissonance.

    But it also reminds me of what it feels like when you’re playing an instrument that’s out of tune. There’s this discord between out of tune notes that causes your chest to vibrate uncomfortably.

    Yes, I just compared our emotional and psychological states to an instrument. But all three, when tuned properly, produce beauty, and when out of tune, introduce an uncomfortable harshness into the world.

    Charlie Gilkeys last blog post..How to Stifle A Good Idea

  18. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    @Charlie – Oh, yeah. I think the instrument is an absolutely apt comparison. We have all sorts of internal ways of knowing if we’re in tune (with ourselves or with external information) … and the metaphor definitely holds up and is even useful.

    And cognitive dissonance is one of those things that some of us pick up on right away, while others experience it but don’t realize they’re experiencing it for a beat or two because they’re not using the rest of their facilities.

    This whole conversation makes me think of Manfred Clynes work with syntonics: how things are attuned to each other, which is also related.

  19. Pace says:

    Havi,

    Kyeli and I just did this for our workshop pricing. We came up with a bunch of stuff, and when we hit a particular range, we both got all teary and were like “YES. This is the right price.” And it was the same for both of us.

    This could have been an hours and days-long process with much agony. Now we feel great about our pricing and we’re ready to forge ahead with verve and abandon. (:

    Thank you. (:

    Paces last blog post..I can do anything!

  20. Molly Gordon
    Twitter: shaboom
    says:

    Fabulous, Havi. I’m linking to this in this week’s e-zine.

    Molly Gordons last blog post..How Prospective Clients Can Teach You Marketing: The Surprising Relationship Between Marketing and Empathy

  21. […] from my mentors, my coach and friends, people on twitter and the thoughts in this article: The Art and Science of Pricing/ helped me solidify my […]

  22. […] learned about this via Havi when she posted on one way to find your right price, which she learned from Mark Silver. Part of that process is a practice called Remembrance. If you […]

  23. A dear friend who is starting a solo practice sent me a link to your blog. She has asked me for some advice as I started my solo practice about 15 months ago. Little could she have known, this link could not have come at a better time. I have been agonizing about pricing (apparently all my own stuck issues!) because I really believe in what I’m doing, the value I’m providing, and the different way in which I’m doing it all.
    But I am struggling with this idea of wanting to help *everyone* and the reality is, that some people would prefer to spend their money elsewhere on other things for their own reasons, and it’s not up to me to work through those issues with them or question my own fees. But it’s tough, especially for a softy Piscean who spent a long time in the nonprofit world. Thank you for this!

  24. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:

    Danielle, I’m glad to hear!

    I’m also a softy Piscean, so I totally get it. It’s really clear that you believe in what you do and are on the side of good, so it’s great that you’re finding the boundaries and structures that work for you. Yay!

  25. […] Mark covers a very interesting exercise which he terms “resonant pricing.” My good buddy Havi Brooks wrote a wonderful post about this exercise where she gives a specific example of how she applied it to a program she was launching with Naomi Dunford from Ittybiz. Read her example here. […]

  26. […] wallet at the same time that I want to be able to buy my stepson new shoes when school starts. But I’m happy with where my rates are, and I steadfastly believe that you will be too when you see the finished […]

  27. […] such—and she has, just not enough to remember always and forever, in each and every instant, that comparison truly is from the devil. Much I have learned about the importance of examining things and the joy of creating things and […]

  28. […] La marque couvre un exercice très intéressant qu’il appelle “la fixation des prix résonnante.” Mes bons Ruisseaux de copain Havi ont écrit un magnifique poste de cet exercice où elle donne un exemple spécifique de comment elle l’a appliqué à un programme qu’elle lançait avec Naomi Dunford d’Ittybiz. Lisez son exemple ici. […]

  29. […] (Psst: There are better ways to set your prices.) […]

  30. […] series on the Art of Pricing. Havi’s The Art and Science of Pricing […]

  31. […] ago, I was struggling how to find a right price to charge for something,  I remembered Havi having written about using a wacky resonant pricing exercise that she adapted from Mark’s work.  So I decided to try it.  I downloaded the exercise from […]

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