The Art and Science of Product Pricing

Product pricing is a touchy feely subject, hence the following disclaimers for I get into it…

  1. There is NO one-size-fit-all solution to your pricing problem.
  2. Don’t look for a one time silver bullet for product pricing.
  3. Pricing varies drastically between verticals, products, company stage, etc.
  4. This article is meant to give thought frame work around pricing and not a meant to be a perfect solution to your product-pricing problem
  5. Hence read this article and make it your own for addressing your product-pricing needs…

Getting the product price right is one of those ever elusive goals that almost all product companies are after. Companies undertake product-pricing activity for many different reasons, for example:

  1. New product introduction
  2. Updates to existing product
  3. Changes to sales / revenue targets
  4. Changes to product costing
  5. Changes to competitive landscape

Just like other product related activities such as product management, product development, support, etc., product-pricing activity should also be given its due time, resources and priority. Without thorough data driven process companies will find themselves not convinced about product pricing and end up going to square one again.

Hence before beginning on the product-pricing endeavor, here are some of the steps that companies should think about.

Again, a word of caution before I delve into various aspects of the framework given below… this is a simple framework, and companies should pick up the pieces that are applicable to them, as opposed to strictly following the process. I’m not a believer in blindly following any framework and neither do I promote it. I encourage companies to study various frameworks and then pick the one that they believe will benefit the most for their specific situation and then look into the application of it. I recommend that companies should not look for silver bullet or ‘one size fits all’ approach cause there is none!

Having said that, the first step in product-pricing exercise is to really nail down the reason for undertaking the exercise. Instead of CEO, Business head, Sales head initiating the conversation, it’s recommended that once a quarter there should be a pricing check point. There are a couple of benefits of doing that:

  1. Sales head can provide you with the market pulse on the manner in which competitors are positioning pricing and customer input on pricing
  2. Product Marketing Manager can share insights on changes in competitive pricing.
  3. As a team, companies can determine the circumstances under which pricing needs to be looked into on emergency basis. For example recently airlines suddenly started cutting their ticket prices, telecom operators slashed priced of Internet usage, etc.
  4. Identify any data collection tools that need to put in place or updated so that right data is collected on ongoing basis so that it can be used for objective decision making.

The discipline of having these conversations periodically helps companies keep an eye out for any ecosystem changes that might force them to think about changes to product pricing. In case the company has multiple products or product lines that are related to each other, then it becomes even more imperative to have these periodic checks. Through these meetings companies should be able to nail down if product-pricing changes are required and if, yes, what are the reasons for those.

Pricing Process
Pricing Process


It always helps to keep track of various industry best practices around pricing. This is an ongoing exercise. It helps you in understanding the following:

  • Industry rules and regulations specific to the industry vertical that company operates in. For example recently SpiceJet was pulled aside by government for selling tickets for Rs. 1
  • Accepted pricing norms in the industry.
    • Who pays for what?
    • Acceptable price range
    • Things that can be included or excluded from pricing perspective
    • Pricing transparency norms, etc.
  • Pricing models that customer / consumers are familiar with and can relate to.

The idea here is to get pulse of the eco system and understand what’s working and what’s not.

Know thy Customers! Understanding your customers purchase psyche is extremely crucial. You should know atleast the following things about your customers:

  • Customer’s perception about value of the product category
    • Is it a must have or a nice to have?
  • Buying process: The end-to-end process that Customers go through as part of product purchase.
    • How are budgets approved?
    • Who is the buyer?
    • Who is the approver or approvers?
    • How do customers compare products?
    • How do they use the product?
    • Which features matter to them the most?
    • How long is the buying process?
    • How far in advance do customers plan the purchase?
    • Payment recovery once the product is sold
    • Objections raised by Customers in the buying process
  • Customer segmentation: All Customers are not born equal. Broadly customers can be grouped into various categories. This categorization or segmentation can help in creating pricing models based on Customer’s ability to pay for and use the product. For example:
    • Volume (High / Medium / Low)
    • Global (Users from multiple geos using product)
    • Number of users (High / Medium / Low)
    • Bargain hunters
    • Smart cookies

Each of these segments should be studied in-depth so that product offering and pricing can be tailored to them.

  • Data capture: Customer segmentation can be done successfully only if data is related to customers is captured by Sales, Support, Marketing and product teams. Without this data, Companies may be flying blind and not know what’s working for them and what’s not. Typically, the longer time window data companies have to work with the better it is. In case, the of new product release, this may not be possible, but then put the systems in place from day one so that the data is captured from the get go. Companies can use CRM systems, home grown systems, etc., but they must use some system. Otherwise the data is lost in emails and permanently lost when folks move on from organization.

Then comes the Competition, the ever changing and ever present force that impacts various aspects of your business, including pricing. In order to consider competitive impact, Companies’ should first know the following:

  1. Who is the core competition?
  2. Competitions’ geo presence
  3. Who is the secondary competition and beyond that?
  4. What pricing models do they have?
  5. How big is their product adoption?
  6. Feature comparison
  7. How long have they been around?
  8. Pricing model presentation
  9. How often does the competition shows up sales scenarios?

The key here is to really use the competitive information to figure out the real threat that the competition poses in Company’s grown strategy.

Companies should really have handle on the product costing. Many companies in the B2C space create product and put it out there based on the way their competition is pricing the product. They assume that the pricing is such that they will be profitable anyways after a while. But this approach is suicidal! Because companies then one day suddenly realize that despite of high product sales volume, they don’t have a lot of margin and to be really profitable, they would drastically need to change the pricing or increase sales or cut costs.  A number of books have been written on product costing and it’s recommended that Companies should work with certified cost accountant for getting a handle on their product costing.

Product pricing is also a function on Sales and revenue targets. This is part of the top down approach of product pricing. A company can decide that they have to reach a certain revenue goal and work backwards from there to come up with an approximate price of the product. At this point they may realize that they have to price the product much higher that what the market is ready for or the other way round. In either case, the Sales team needs to be always involved in the pricing conversation, so that they can bring their market knowledge to the table. At the same time it’s necessary to note that they don’t use pricing as the reason for not being able to reach their sales target.

Pricing Models and Analysis is the most fun part of the product pricing exercise. This is where all the data that has been gathered internally as well as from external market is used for determine product pricing. Here are some steps that should be taking as companies try to come up with pricing model:

  • Identifying the key-pricing drivers:
    • By users (Customer Types)
    • By organization
    • By product units
    • By transactions
    • By functionality

There can be many more. Ensure that pricing is in line with the value the Customer is getting out of it.

  • Impact analysis: Every time changes to pricing / pricing model are suggested, impact on the following should be taken into consideration before rolling out pricing:
    • Existing customers (to grandfather or not)
    • Sales and support process
    • Revenue and Sales target
    • Profitability
    • Product buying experience
    • Acquisition of new customers
    • Product Management
    • Product Marketing
    • Product Engineering
    • Billing related changes
  • Pricing models: When coming up with product-pricing models, ensure the following:
    • Easy to understand
    • Easy to explain
    • Easy to pay (annual payment option)
    • Relates price to value (value driven)
    • Room for Sales to provide discounts (introductory offer, seasonal discount, regular client discount, one time annual payment discount, etc.)
    • Enables differentiation (charging for unique value as opposed to commodity)
    • Has low barrier to entry of first time users (freemium)
    • Has options for attracting large prospects (future customers)

Note: Void the word ‘unlimited’ in the pricing model wherever possible. Incase ‘unlimited’ word is being used, then should be explained in the terms and conditions.

  • Scenarios modeling are very critical to really understand the impact of pricing and pricing models. To do this, take existing customers and future customers and find out before and after impact. For example with current pricing Customer was paying X with new pricing customer will pay Y. Create real looking pricing page, rate sheets to understand the visual impact. Perform this activity for every customer segment and analyze the impact. Be especially sensitive about the impact on the customer segment from which the company is making large revenues. If this segment is adversely getting impacted then, the new pricing might have over all negative impact on the revenue.

Pricing roll out is equally, if not more as, crucial as the pricing model itself. A lot of internal and external training needs to happen before new pricing can be rolled out. Consider the following as part of new pricing roll out preparedness:

  1. Overall roll out plan with departmental ownership.  Timing of rolling out of pricing changes is critical. Make sure that it’s not in or just before the time when you get the most orders (busy season, if there’s one for Company’s business). There is enough time to explain changes as necessary to the high value customers.
  2. Marketing:
    • Website
    • FAQ
    • Pricing collateral
    • Checkout process (if there is one used for online purchase)
    • Video (why is the change being made and how it impacts you – the customer)
    • A-B testing readiness
  3. Product:
    • Incase there are features that need to be added to ensure correct pricing
  4. Sales and Support:
    • Updating sales and support process
    • Training sales and support team
    • FAQ (internal and external)
    • Special process for High Value customers
    • Process for breaking the news
  • Email
  • Phone
  • In-person

5. Setting benchmarks: It is essential to capture benchmarks before rolling out new pricing, so that impact of pricing can be checked objectively. Here are some of the benchmarks to that can be captured:

  • Lead Generation benchmark
    • Number of leads / week / geo
    • Average deal size by vertical
    • Type of leads (lead mix)
    • Lead sources

6. Sales and Support Cycle benchmark

  • Time to close deals
  • Competitive references during price negotiations
  • Number of price discussions when closing deals
  • Feature usage by customers
  • Number and type of support queries

7. Revenue and process benchmarks

  • Revenue by Geo and by Vertical
  • Revenue by Customer segment
  • Changes to customer segment mix

Once the pricing is rolled out, either to pilot group, or to everyone, the impact of pricing must be tracked. There are a number of ways to track impact:

  1. Collect the KPIs and compare them against the benchmark
  2. Get on call / emails with customers to get their reaction
  3. Use the data from A-B testing to track change in customer behavior
  4. Take corrective measure as necessary
  5. Keep track of macro-economic changes as well, which may coincide with pricing rollout.

So before you take on the pricing exercise, ensure you the have time and resources to do justice to it…

Lessons on Pricing for Product Startups – Consumer and Enterprise!

Since the time Philip Kotler wrote his valuable tome on Marketing, technology has evolved so much that new pricing models like Freemium pricing are possible for both Consumer-oriented and Enterprise-oriented product startups. In addition, Free Trial pricing models and conversion to paid ones are common in both. In a price-conscious society like India, pricing can mean all the difference between a successful company and one that is not!

What have been some valuable lessons learned by companies in the recent past using all of these pricing models? If you were a product startup, what would be some of the pitfalls to watch out for?

Main lessons from using a Freemium Pricing Model for Consumer Internet Businesses

First, here are a few YouTube videos of Drew Houston presenting DropBox’s use of Freemium pricing with consumers, the lessons they have learned, and the pitfalls they encountered.

  • Use of SEO for lining up free users is very expensive
  • Affiliate Marketing is also expensive and does not work very well
  • Make sure that there are enough Paid Users that can support Free Users and you can still make money! Make sure that the Long Term Value (LTV) of Paid Users > Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) of all users. Otherwise, the more users you line up, the more you lose!
  • Build as many tools that help your free and paid users do viral and word of mouth marketing for you as you are building features!
  • Once you have given something for free, it is very difficult to take it back! But it can be done, as the videos show!

Drew Houston : Freemium for Consumer Internet Businesses, Part 1

Drew Houston: Freemium for Consumer Internet Businesses, Part 2

Drew Houston: Freemium for Consumer Internet Businesses, Part 3

Main lessons from using a Freemium Pricing Model for Enterrprise Businesses

First here are a couple of YouTube videos of Aaron Levie presenting Box.Net’s use of Freemium pricing with an enterprise product, the lessons they have learned, and the pitfalls they encountered. Their product is an enterprise collaborative portal that competes with Microsoft Sharepoint Portal but is hosted by Box.Net.

  • Tomorrow’s Enterprise decisions are made by today’s free users. So keep them happy! They are your marketers inside the company.
  • Sell enterprise freemium models to end users, not IT.
  • Unlike other models, Inside Sales will be taking calls from already existing free users – no need to prospect them. They come already qualified!
  • Conversion is key and is harder in enterprise freemium. This is purely because of the sheer larger numbers in the consumer space as compared to enterprises.
  • Understanding the difference between a “Free Trial” customer and a “Freemium” customer! Freemium customers stay on long after Free Trial customers are gone because their trial period ran out!

Aaron Levie: Freemium and the Enterprise, Part 1

Aaron Levie: Freemium and the Enterprise, Part 2

Dumb Pricing Mistakes

Here is an interesting video on dumb mistakes that people make in pricing, especially multiple tiers with different sets of features. And how to fix them!

Pricing Strategies: The dumb pricing mistake people make (and how to fix it)

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get – Warren Buffett


#FoundersMeet 3 – Collective learning of 20 Early Stage Startups

Background – I was fortunate to be invited for the #FoundersMeet 2; informal get-together of 7 startup founders last year. This time around AnirudhSidNischalDeven and I suggested to move it beyond our circle and extend it to 20 startups to come together and share our small success stories, failures and challenges. We also wanted to create a strong connect for ‘Mumbai-Pune Start-up Ecosystem’ which sort of never existed.

The 3rd #FoundersMeet happened in Mumbai on Wednesday 23rd Jan 2013 (a working day)., was expected to go on for about 7 hours, the interaction continued for 13.5 hours (yes!) with some amazing insights discussed and shared. I’m sharing this post on behalf of all the startups (& their founders) who participated.

Selling a SaaS Product:

  • International Customers are more inclined towards using self-service products. Indian counterparts expect hand holding and need assurance of customer service at arm’s length even when not required.
  • Customers in India will insist even on customizing a standard SaaS product. This tends to be service-model trap, best avoided.
  • As long as the user-proposition communicated during sales pitch or on the product is fulfilled, International customers are satisfied. They will switch the product fast if they find another product delivering more value. On other hand, Indian customers take time to switch product if a good relationship is established.
  • If a competitor is offering a product for free, users will not like to pay you for that product.
  • Sell the product to the poster-boys of the industry, rest will follow by themselves. 

Product Pricing:

  • There is a disproportionate value in the word ‘Free’. Use it whenever you can.
  • Over 90% of users will sign-up on the Free plan. When they move to the premium plan, they are most likely to use the plan that has the lowest value. Ensure that this low value plan has a disproportionate value for its price. That makes customers love you instantly.
  • When someone is making money because of your product, make sure you are making money out of it too.
  • Positioning your product / business is important. It can either be in Income side or Expense side. Always pitch / present your product on income side – “we help you generate money / your earnings will increase / your savings will multiply.”

Up-selling Product:

  • Acquire with freemium plans. Ensure enough hooks are in place that leads the customer to purchase the product post the free period or upgrade to the next paid plan.

Identifying Product Drivers:

  • A SaaS based product will not be driven by technical people, its driven by functional people. Build a product that can be installed by techies in less than 5 minutes, and can be driven by functional people without interference of tech people.
  • Sell the product to decision makers. Never pitch any product to a tech person. The tech person will always think that he can build it by himself.

User Acquisition Hacks:

  • For B2C products: Sell traction of existing users to new users. Create a feel that – Yes, there are people here, you’re not alone. That gives new users confidence about the product.
    Example – In Mumbai when you see 3 Vadapav stalls on a street, unknowingly you will go towards one that has maximum people eating and buy from there.
  • For B2C products: Show activity. Existing activities drive more activities.
    Example – IRCTC, startup folks and early adopters think the platform sucks and fails whiles booking; common people think of IRCTC to be a big corporation that there is always high demand. That leads to perception of credibility for IRCTC.
  • Use Associations for Endorsements – IRCTC mentions – ‘A Government of India Enterprise’. This is a big endorsement for IRCTC and brings credibility to it.
  • Bounce Rate Reduction – A transactional consumer site was featured in leading newspapers. When they mentioned ‘As seen on Newspaper A, B and C’ on their homepage – it boosted its credibility and reduced the bounce rate.
  • Social Proof for User Acquisition – The Facebook widget that displays people who have liked the brand also builds credibility.
  • Real People – A SaaS based startup focusing on product for Chartered Accountant features a local/prominent CA on its homepage. That quickly build credibility for itself in eyes other CAs. It was easy to acquire more customers.
  • Investor Hack – For SaaS startups, whenever any VC reaches out to you, get them to introduce to its portfolio companies. Its quickest way to demonstrate more traction and more importantly to add new customers.
  • Physical World – Example., Printed Coupons redeemed at Restaurants are social proofs in real world. Makes other users curious on how did a customer get discount / where did he get the redemption coupon from.


  • Thoughts on heavy discounting in current Ecommerce business in India, its like ‘Selling a Rs.100 note for Rs. 90′.
  • Potential in disrupting offline business is huge. All online businesses are not even 1% of the offline businesses.
  • Offline products are indeed cheaper than online. Consumers researching online and transacting offline is big. This market is ripe for disruption.
  • Ecommerce players are now less focused on doing marketing campaigns, but more focused on increasing conversion ratios of existing traffic.

User Experience:

  • UI is ‘relative’. Focus on User Experience.
  • Cleartrip is loved by all of us; but its clearly MakeMyTrip / Yatra that works with masses.
  • Make the product work 100% of time for what you promise.


  • Don’t fall in love with your product. Fall in love with being successful.
  • Things that work in west don’t work in India. Specially with funding and investments. Currency for investment in India is not traction, its revenue.
  • Be a salesman. Never miss a opportunity to make noise about your product.
  • Don’t focus on a niche market, there are very high chances of failure. Instead focus on a large market opportunity, its more likely to find success here.
  • Notice early signs if things are not going your way. Pivot fast.

Product Distribution:

  • SaaS products: Explore opportunities to integrate with large platform players – Domain Cpanels, or ecosystem creators like Shopify, BigCommerce, etc.
  • SaaS products: Label your widgets – ‘Powered by You’. They are most valuable for Inbound leads.

Product Scaling:

  • Don’t just design products for scale / growth; also ensure you design the business model for scale.

Essential Traits of Consumer Product:

  • Curiosity. Rely on Curiosity – (Example LinkedIn – 2 people have seen your profile today).
  • Build the – Theory of Reciprocation into your product.
  • Gamify some features, let users do free marketing for you before unlocking information. (Example – Tweet about something to show details).
  • Understand show-off value in your product. People love to show off on Twitter & Facebook. Capture such points to your product.

Social Media Marketing:

  • Twitter links have a CTR of 0.5% to 0.8%. Customer acquisition here happens in scale. Spend energy wisely.
  • Don’t spend time on talking to random folks on Twitter based on their conversations. Extremely time consuming and most unlikely to convert.
  • Facebook advertising does not lead to conversion. Its best suited for brand building.
  • Facebook Contests that involve sharing real pictures of users online brings lot of credibility to brand.


  • Once a user has signed up for the product; make sure it works it. Don’t bother about competition. He has taken pain to signup to your product, make the promise work.
  • You’re the only one who know about your competitors; not your customers.
  • Many SaaS verticals are getting crowded to an extent that price remains only factor to decide. Only the ones that are able to innovate will survive.


  • Founders should be visible on Social Media. Talk about the product and should be able to convince their followers about their passion. Only passion attracts initial traction.

Market Penetration:

  • If you are doing something innovative (either B2C or B2B) – you will need to spend good amount of time on educating your users / customers. Its easy to get frustrated in this loop.

Content Focus:

  • Don’t get carried away by ‘Content Marketing’ or ‘Content Sharing’.
  • Building products that have content plays is difficult – content creators are few and content sharers are in plenty (Usually 1% to 99%)
  • Look for plays that involves sharing of content already created.

Building Relationships:

  • B2B: Build great relationships with your marquee customers. Keep them educated on new initiatives, new market dynamics and help them monetize better.
  • B2C: Continuously stay connected with your early adopters and take feedback from them. Keep them informed of new updates, they’ll love you. Whenever any suggestion is considered, incorporated into the product – communicate to users.

Driving Engagement:

  • Build features that would enable discovery of relevant / contextual information – that leads to higher engagement on the product.
  • Keep users involved… the trick is dashboard views. They create the “I’m in control” feeling for users.

Search Engine Optimization:

  • Figure out what you are optimizing for & the competition on that. Example., if you are trying to optimize now for ‘Apple iPhone’ – you would be the millionth website trying to do that. Get your own niche, it works best.

Mobile Apps:

  • Discovery of mobile apps is biggest challenge for them. Notice that many apps are trying a generic name for better discovery while users are searching for any other app.
  • Integrate app with key functions of phone. For example, on Android – phone book integration, and so on.
  • There are many hurdles in mobile app development cycle, best to understand from multiple startups who have built mobile apps earlier.
  • App Ratings matters, a big consideration factor for user to download the app. Get the initial ratings by distributing the app between family & friends.


  • A press release in India goes not get you much traffic. Its great channel for visibility, but don’t depend too much on this channel.
  • International Blogs & Coverage had a higher conversion ratio for products. International users give a try to product, sign-up, explore and use it.

Mobile Advertising:

  • Despite all the hype, Mobile Advertising is still considered as experimental budget.
  • Mobile Industry – one cannot be stuck in a region or one product for more than 18 months. Fast innovation required.

Venture Capital:

  • Stop chasing VCs or attending events that have VC meets or Demo Days. Hardly any investments happens that way.
  • A VC is most likely to invest in your startup when he is chasing you.
  • Indian VCs are yet to understand product driven consumer web-plays despite traction. Skip them and move to the west, it also brings lot of traction.

Biggest Learning of #FoundersMeet: Keep Plumbing. (Those who were present would understand this!)

Note: Some of these thoughts/hacks listed above may sound very generic since we have decided not to mention the context / startup involved. Providing too much information in public domain would not be right for startups who participated. You can connect with any of them directly, the founders would be glad to help you.

#FoundersMeet 3 Participating founders:  AnirudhDevenNishcalSiddharthKunalSahil,PravinKulinSameerTalvinderGargi,

Many thanks to all startups who participated in the #FoundersMeet 3. Thanks to Nischal, Deven, Anirudh and Sid for reading/editing the draft of this post. Special Thanks to the wonderful folks at The Playce (a great co-working place for startups), Mumbai for hosting us.

Stay tuned for the next #FoundersMeet 4!

Q&A with Communication Platform Waybeo Technology’s CEO

Waybeo Technology Solutions was launched in December 2009 and was selected by Nasscom as one of the top 15 emerging, innovative companies in India in 2012. Its product, BounzD, is a global inbound communication platform enabling instant voice assistance to customers using a variety of mobile devices. In this interview, CEO Bushair AP discusses aspects of staying focused in the journey of product development. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation What was the vision you originally had for your company? 

Bushair AP: We are a young team who is a part of a movement to change how the world communicates in the new age. Our team was formed out of our never-ending passion for creativity and social contribution. We all were fascinated by the revolutions in the communication sector. Our first attempt was a global group-messaging platform, which we developed for our early European customers. This was much before we formally launched Waybeo as a company. This opportunity opened up our vision to create products that we believe will attract millions in the future.

BounzD is a stepping-stone to achieve our vision of a well-connected world without any barriers like cost and geography. Once integrated with an enterprise’s online channels, end customers would be able to connect businesses with just an Internet connection without being charged across the world.

We work with large-scale and midsize enterprises in India and abroad that have online channels as a major way of customer acquisition. We handle their voice communications with potential customers and provide business insights and analytics. Our global plan is in beta stage and releasing this month. Waybeo is based in Trivandrum with offices in Mumbai, Delhi and California. Is there a story behind your company name? 

Bushair AP: The name Waybeo was derived out of our ambition of going way beyond by exploring an inspiring way of entrepreneurship. What differentiation and business value does BounzD provide to your customers? 

Bushair AP: We connect business and potential customers across the world within seconds. Besides being cost free, we have made it easier to connect with a business located in any part of the world. Our product has helped our customers improve their customer acquisition, sales cycle and cost of sale.

We have helped various companies in industries such as hospitality and realty to reduce abandoned calls by 30 percent and achieve an increase in online visibility. Many of the large enterprises in India have told us that they “felt” their Web presence after taking our services. In the hospitality sector, we have reduced contact center cost-to-sales ratio in a drastic way. And the business insights we provide though our analytics has helped various realty segments to plan contact sector operations and customer support services. How did you determine the right pricing for your product? 

Bushair AP: We reached out to a limited number of customers with a cost-plus-margin model. From limited early innovators, we moved to value-based pricing, which had improved profitability. The business dynamics of our customer segment had to be learned during this engagement with early innovators to have a better pricing. The key realization of how much value we create for our customers had to be quantified during this period. Value-based pricing involves understanding of business dynamics of a customer’s model, customer revenue generation checkpoints and behavior of end customers.

Read the complete article at

The little Spark with great promise – Inaugural #PNMeetup on Pricing for Enterprise Sales

When a bunch (around 45-50, I didn’t keep the count) of Product enthusiasts – with experience accumulating into decades – gather at a single place to share their learning on specific topic in a compact & well-moderated session of 2 hours, it’s worth every bit. That’s how I felt coming out of the inaugural session of #PNMeetup – Pricing for Enterprise Sales: Specific & Important Topic, Quality Participation, Richness of Experiences, and Quality Conversations.

The location, Hauz Khas Village in New Delhi, carries a constant buzz and energy. Very apt for a meet-up like this. Kunzum Travel Café (Thanks for being a great host for the event!), should be happy because participants used up every nook & corner of the place. Many of us had to settle down on the carpet with no more sitting or standing space left! Of course, the snacks & coffee was great too. But, that’s not what everyone coming in was specifically looking for (especially since the last 500 yards got harder to make with the traffic and parking situation ;-)).

We were looking for some great (practical, experience based, relevant) conversations and takeaways on Pricing. And, there was plenty of it, coming from speakers as well as from the participants. As much as is possible in 2 hours of time, that is, also thanks to some great moderating & counter-questioning by Arvind Jha during speaker sessions, and Rajat Garg & Vivek Agarwal in the un-conference session.

Tushar Bhatia, Founder of Saigun Technologies, set the tone for Enterprise Products Pricing by sharing his experiences on Pricing Strategies and Sales tactics. Tushar emphasized that Pricing is not a linear decision, but a complex process and subject to assessment from multiple parameters. He also differentiated the Pricing Strategy from Sales Process. Pricing, as per him (in the context set of Business Planning, Scalability, Consistency, Standardization, and a reflection of the Value Proposition) is a guide at broader level, while on sales tactics front, one should be willing to consider the customer & geographic circumstances as well. The decision matrix for Pricing decisions typically is pretty complex, and a product undergoes multiple iterations of pricing models

Pricing for Enterprise Sales
Pricing for Enterprise Sales – Tushar

before arriving at the sweet spot. However, various types of customers may need to be assessed in their own contexts when deciding on a deal pricing, especially in the traditional Enterprise Sales scenario.

Tushar also emphasized that the Enterprise Licensing deals should consider not only the product pricing, but also the other costs (such as, hardware) and provisions (such as, for Product Support). The considerations on TCO are critical, because the customers assess the products, not only functionally, but also very critically from an operational viability perspective in longer term. Tushar also laid out few questions that need to be answered while deciding the pricing model. The detailed presentation from Tushar on “Pricing for Enterprise Sales” can be found here.

The discussion, then, veered towards the product pricing strategies in areas such as Telcos, serving also as a cue for Tarun Anand (CTO & Co-founder at Semusi) to pitch in and provide his perspective. He shared his experiences in working with the big Telcos on working out product strategies and pricing models. They tried out various pricing models, in partnership with Telcos especially, and had mixed results over time before arriving at something that seemed to work. However, pricing remains a volatile when dealing with the larger partners and in more complex ecosystems, such as Telcos.

In Tarun’s experience, one needs to ascertain that the partners in the ecosystem are ready to take your product to the market if that is the expectation. It is also important to ensure that the pricing terms & conditions are clear, and you are able to hold the customers as well as partners accountable in the operational limits as much as you can. After all, you want to focus on running the business and do not want complications of financial & legal nature. In the context of Pricing and products strategy, in areas such as VAS, as per Tarun, one needs to be very careful. “VAS is dead” in his words! 🙂

Tarun also emphasized “there are takers for product at ANY price point”. One need to clearly understand whom one wants to target, and also understand that it’s not only a question of moving the pricing point up & down in inverse proportionality with the volume of customer base. There are various triggers for the pricing, one of which is the “premium value perception”, and also the fact that once you move into a market with a particular price point, increasing it later on is almost impossible without hurting your customer base and overall strategy.

App Pricing Tactics
App Pricing Tactics – Prashant

The heat in the Mobile Apps makes the App Pricing a very sought after topic, and that’s where Prashant Singh (Co-founder at Signals) came in and provided a good framework for the high level App pricing approach. There are two clear distinct possibilities – Free & Paid. Complete Free, as per Prashant, directly leads to an Ad based model for revenue that shouldn’t be a preferred model as such for most app developers. In fact the question is not whether to go Free or Paid. Question is when is the user ready for monetization. “You hit when the iron is hot, as simple as that”, Prashant says.

Prashant provided a high level framework to judge which approach should be adopted by the App Developers, based on the two parameters: “App Life Span” and “Time to Realization of Value”. Based on a combination of the two, one can decide on the high level strategy (Portfolio/Platform/Utility/Device Embedding/Brand Apps…) and Pricing model (Advertisement, Paid, Transaction based, Freemium, Development level, and so on). Check out this presentation – App Pricing Tactics for more details.

One key point that drew interest was around the Price Point for App at the launch time. Contrary to the normal belief, Prashant says, one needs to launch the app at a price point that is higher than the Median price point for the App store. That provides the App Store an incentive to showcase the App, and it is important since App Stores control the downloads more than the “content” or “quality”, at least until critical mass. Growth Curve of the app can be maintained around Median and depending on the value prop of the App, the baseline pricing can be used at sustenance phase. Another strong point of view from Prashant came around the Advertisement model, which as per him is the last to be considered. And if Ad model is considered, his advice is to “not” let the control away – “Always have your server in loop”.

While all the content and discussion, and few laughs in between, served well to our appetites, snacks were served amidst a quick “Unconference” session moderated by Rajat and Vivek. We discussed and debated on some great points. I’m finding it harder to capture every bit here and I don’t want to be partial to only what I remember right now! I hope that if you attended and are reading this, you would be able to add your takeaways in comments section! 🙂

Overall, I had a great time. The highlight of the session, for me at least, was the richness of experience and passion for products. And I met some really cool folks! Many of us hung out until later in the night and continued the conversations, which is a great sign. A small impetus can go a long way, and I’m very excited that Avinash has triggered this spark that all of us as a community have to fuel into a passionate ecosystem around products. Great initiative, ProductNation! Looking forward to the next edition on Jan 19th 2013!

PS 1: And, there was a cake-cutting for Avinash on his Birthday! Great gesture!

PS 2: Some Tweets from the session!

Who is your customer?

Get this right and you have taken the first step towards success in your software product venture, whether on the web or on-premise.
As a corollary, if this is not clear, then no matter how sophisticated your product is, it will always be a struggle.

As many entrepreneurs are aware, the success of a product depends on the product itself, the pricing, the promotion and the physical distribution as defined by the 4 P’s.

Even in this era where pricing is irrelevant given the Free or Freemium business models, one needs to spend money to get signups or visitors and that will be wasted if the target customer profile is not defined properly.

In a software product business, getting the customer profile right is the key even to start because the specifications would depend on the type of customer.  The design and the development would follow.

Let me illustrate this with an example.
A friend of mine asked me to help market his POS Retail Software Product that he had already developed.  To better understand his product and strategy, I asked him a single question “Who is your customer?”  He looked at me as if I was an alien and said “Obviously a retail business!!”

Undeterred by his tone, I asked a follow-up question, “What kind of retail?” and by this time he was convinced that talking to me was useless.  Just to humour me, he said “Any kind of retail shop will benefit from my software”. And there started the “Spanish inquisition”.

Me: “So the neighbourhood grocery store as well as big bazaar can use it? A shop selling Bengal sweets as well as Bata? All of them fall under the category of Retail”

And then he saw the point and the implications of lack of clarity on:  

The Product itself:

  • The scope:  The small grocery shop may need at best just the billing and the receivables whereas the chain might want to network it’s branches and would like to know the traffic pattern to have the right number of staff to meet the demand.
  • Hardware requirements: A small shop may do with an assembled PC and a strip printer whereas the big ones may want POS Terminals with scanners.
  • Security: Just a simple login would suffice for a small shop while elaborate security levels need to be defined for a large outfit with clearly defined responsibilities

The Price:

  • The shop owner might be willing to spend a small amount for the PC, printer and the software and he may not give too much credence to the software.  You cannot charge him a few lakhs for the software alone.
  • In the case of a large chain, the price point must be much higher given the need for metrics, security, deployment at different locations, training, hand-holding etc.

The Promotion

  • If it is for the small shops then one case use mailers or approach a set of similar shops in an area to generate interest.  One can also use local newspapers to create some awareness.
  • To catch the eye of the chains, one must advertise in industry journals, magazines and perhaps take stalls at industry events

Physical Distribution

  • For the retail shop, a one-one approach using the salesperson may perhaps work best.
  • For the large chains, one has to go with the hardware vendors or system integrators or retail IT consultants (I hope such a specialty exists given the explosion of retail in our country)

I know that this distinction is very simplistic but I have chosen it to give an idea. Having seen the importance of defining the target customer, we will look at some parameters to do it effectively, in the next post