Home > Management > To list prices online or not?

To list prices online or not?

Hello all. We are currently toying with the idea of developing an automated quote system in which our potential clients can input project details and get an instant approximate quote. Since every client's needs is unique and we only perform custom work, pricing can vary slightly depending on the project.

The question I have is:
As a start-up/small business owner looking for professional graphic design and marketing services...

1. I would be more inclined to request a formal quote after I had the opportunity to prepare an informal quote myself.


2. I would not use the automated quote system, I would use the Request a Quote feature and wait for a response.
It is about 1/2 and 1/2 amongst our competitors. Some of our competitors list their prices, others do not. None have the instant quote feature that I know of :). Of the ones that list their price - most have them listed in packages as a flat rate. We do not want to conform to package ordering and that is why we are thinking about the more detailed quote system.

If votes could be limited to only people owning a business or in a position to purchase services as ours, we would appreciate it as general votes could skew the results.

Your comments are welcome. - by EXP Creative
EXP--I think your automated quote estimator is an excellent idea. Here is my reaction to "contact us for a quote:"
  1. We're expensive. If you gotta ask, you can't afford us OR
  2. We want to see how much we think you can afford before we decide how much to charge you OR
  3. We need to give you a hard sell with the price because otherwise you will run away OR
  4. YOU contact US because we are too busy/important to accomodate your pricing needs and sensitivities.
Personally, I am on a tight budget. I need a ballpark to feel comfortable enough to make contact. No one wants the embarrassment of gasping at the price. Likewise, why waste your valuable phone time on a prospect who is not shopping in your price range? Everyone is more comfortable with some basic pricing knowledge going into a meeting.

A self-serve quote is both SAFE for the consumer and PERSONALIZED. Beautiful idea IMHO. - by RainMaker
Thank you for your input RainMaker. You touched on the same points we discussed earlier. As a small business owner, I find myself vary rarely "requesting a quote". If it is a product, I will search eBay if needed in order to get an idea of what it is worth. If it is a service, I will search Google to find out what a companie's competitors charge. But I will not simply request a quote because that means somebody is going to call me and then try to sell me. I don't want that.

That's why we are discussing this. That and we want to standardize the web design/development industry as much as we can. If our competitors feel they must model us to stay competitive, I will be honored. If our clients appreciate it enough to use us, I will be :bg.

We are still looking for more posts and have the poll posted on a couple more forums, but we are already trying to figure out what features we want to incorporate. It has got to be the best online quote system for any graphic design firm while not using any plugins or limit participation - that's the fun part :re - by EXP Creative
Hello All,

This is an interesting question. As a service provider, I go through the same thing. At this point, I've decided not to provide prices on the site. On the About page, which is written in terms of questions, here's what it says:

Why Aren't Fees Quoted on this Website?
There are a couple reasons. First, no two clients have the same objectives. Our work together is usually a combination of several types of services. Therefore, we’d rather talk to you about what you want to accomplish, determine an approach for meeting that goal, then provide a fee estimate based on the specific work that needs to be completed.

Second, we don’t like working on an hourly basis. In my opinion, if an advisor knows what they’re doing, they can prepare a fee estimate based on the definition of a particular project. And, stick to it. This approach eliminates surprises. If the scope of a project changes, or new requirements are identified, we’ll discuss the impact on fees before the work commences.

Certainly there are times when only an hourly fee is reasonable, but we don’t do the majority of our work that way.

I don't mean to steal this thread, but I'd be interested to know what your reaction is to that type of an explanation. What I have found is that the first dollar figure a prospect sees gets burned into their brain for all time.

If the scope of the project changes after you have discussed their specific situation, it is very difficult to change the fee. Well, it's easy to reduce it, but if the scope is expanded, you're definitely starting off on the wrong foot.

What do you think?

Kathleen - by KSA-Mktg
Kathleen, you have made some good points. When you provide a service that can be tailored to fit individual clients needs, it's hard to quote a price. That's why we don't have prices listed now.

However, we do bill by the project. We do this for many reasons, but an example is coding a site to be compatible with IE and FF. Sometimes this is not as straight forward as one might believe and needs to be handled differently in different cases. This is not our client's fault as it is US who came up with the design. Billing by the project is, IMO, the best way to conduct business when you are working with clients with limited budgets. That way there are no surprises.

Our quoting system is going to have to consider the same things I consider when I am preparing a quote for a client over the phone. At the same time, it needs to be straight forward and intuitive enough to handle many different scenarios. It will take some time, but I believe the benefit will out-weight the costs due to the fact that we are probably losing so many opportunities because clients think that we are more expensive than we really are. We lose our fair portion of clients because our prices are higher than expected, but we are still priced well below market value. With the experience we possess in-house, we shouldn't be. That was a decision we made when decided who our target audience would be though.

So to answer your question, I understand that response. That's what I'm doing now, however, I feel I could be losing business because of it. Do you see a large portion of your visitors browsing your site, staying long enough to read the copy and look at the pictures, go to the request a quote or pricing page and then leave without submitting a quote? I am. When we implement the self-serve (thanks for the wording RainMaker) quoting system, we will make the participant aware that the quote is an approximate quote and that the quote needs to be reviewed by an EXP Creative representative before the client will receive a formal, written proposal for services.

At this stage in the game, I believe we will implement the quoting system no matter how the poll turns out. Worse case scenario, it will be a temporary and expensive Ad A/B testing procedure but I don't think we can further the respect of the design and marketing industry without trying.

Input is still appreciated. - by EXP Creative
For a small project I would like the idea. For larger projects I'd be skeptical. :wi - by Agent Smith
For a small project I would like the idea. For larger projects I'd be skeptical. :wi
What would make you skeptical? Keep in mind potential clients will still have the option to request a quote. The self-serve quote would only be an option to people who might not normally request a quote. - by EXP Creative
What would make you skeptical? Keep in mind potential clients will still have the option to request a quote. The self-serve quote would only be an option to people who might not normally request a quote.
On a larger project, without someone taking the time to sit down with to review my unique situation I would be skeptical about an automated quote. - by Agent Smith
On a larger project, without someone taking the time to sit down with to review my unique situation I would be skeptical about an automated quote.
I think this could be addressed with clear copy. - by RainMaker
I think this could be addressed with clear copy.
That wouldn't do it for me but I'm not everyone else. :wi - by Agent Smith
That wouldn't do it for me but I'm not everyone else. :wi
You don't think both large projects and small projects could be handled in a way that is appropriate for the size from the same website by directing projects to the appropriate sales page based on size? - by RainMaker
Wow, I get to fall on my 20 years of purchasing management experience-again! I like this site!

In my experience:

If you have straight forward, off the shelf commodities (read tangible product), then yes, an auto quote system is helpful. Especially, if the buyer has been trained / familiar with it.

Otherwise, it simply takes too much time for a customer - a purchasing person or engineer - to sit down and key in all of their parameters. At least "all" that they think they need. Without a interaction (phone or face-to-face) you are not helping your customer define/determine/design what they need.

More on the "time" aspect: If the business is competitive, then what more can you offer? You can't keep reducing your margin, and cost cutting programs drain internal resources. Either way, you are trying to compete on price with these efforts, not service or quality. Service comes from, literally, doing the work for the customer. A busy purchasing/engineer will welcome somebody who will do a situational analysis for them, then offer alternative options (read quotes).

Quality comes in when the provided service (and I use service here and not product because that's what these folks posting here are discussing) performs AS EXPECTED. Filling out forms on a website will not help you determine the customer's EXPECTATIONS. Only talking to people will help you determine, then set THEIR expectations.

Remember, when all is said and done you want that customer to be satisfied, not mumbling something about "that bloody system..." Don't make it easier on yourself, make it easier for the customer. If you can solve their problem then you can command the price. - by WayneR
You don't think both large projects and small projects could be handled in a way that is appropriate for the size from the same website by directing projects to the appropriate sales page based on size?
I guess if all marketing projects, large or small, are nothing more than ordering off the menu then this will work just fine.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not the case however. :wi - by Agent Smith
Maybe I'm not picking up on the responses right, but I have a feeling that what we are trying to accomplish is being miss understood.

What we do:
EXP Creative is professional (read: formal education with experience in firms) graphic design and marketing firm that caters it services to suit start-up and small business needs. EXP Creative offers only custom solutions for its clients.

Goal of the automated quote:
To provide small business owners that do not want to submit a quote, wait for a response and try to be sold a service that is beyond their budget an idea of what our services cost. The pricing in our industry varies so greatly that I feel our potential clients are overwhelmed when they find out that prices in our industry can vary by 400%! Small business owners who are not internet savvy may not realize what their money is buying them. We are priced below market value - but slightly below (definately not 400%!). We knew we were going to have to be priced below market value to cater to our target audience. We are a professional company that provides professional, measurable results and we feel confident about every penny we ask for our services. Our clients appreciate services that actually produce results and makes money from the money they spend with us. There are too many "designers" out there that are hurting the credibility of the industry as a whole. I'm not saying that designers have to be formally taught and have firm experience to be classified as a designer, but they do have to have education or experience - one or the other. It is the people that buy the tools the designers/programmers use and think that they should automatically be a designer or programmer. We all know that is not the case.

I feel the automated quote will be successful reaching clients that would not have requested a quote and give us a chance to interact with them. I do see this quote system as value service for our clients because it allows them to get fairly firm numbers on their own time. They don't have to wait for my call. They don't have to wait for my email. They get it now, because they want it now.

We can't quote every scenario.

Not everyone will use the self-serve quote.

When we provide an "approximate quote", even though we will inform the client that the quote may vary slightly after we find out more specifically what they want, they will always see the lower number.

We can't inform clients of what services their business really needs until they have completed the quote process.

We can provide a quote for our most popular services by asking as few as about 35 questions (the client will not have to answer all - maybe about 12-14). We can accomplish this by only asking the questions that will affect the pricing of the project. This is not the time to find out what style the client has or what colors the client is fond of. We can ask this later.

Conversations will go smoother with potential clients after they have used the quote system because they are aware of the pricing and how it relates to them. They are not constantly waiting for the catch.

We can use mathematics to our benefit and calculate services a little higher on the automated quote to compensate for information that the client does not understand or needs to be advised on different services. Either way, the client will get the most accurate pricing from me after they have submitted the automated quote. If I provide a formal quote that is lower, I'm sure the clients will be okay with that.

No one in the industry, to my knowledge, has a detailed quote system to cater to the instant crowd. Either people have had to develop packages or simply state " request a quote ". We want to offer the request a quote feature still, but also offer the instant quote.

The quote system will primarily be used by our clients to get quotes for logo, website, business card, brochure and flyer design. Most of the small businesses we have worked with so far don't engage in full blown marketing campaigns, so we are not focusing on the marketing aspects too much in the quote system. Clients looking for a company to handle their marketing would probably want to speak with us in person anyway.

Thanks to everybody to has offered input thus far. I just wanted to give a little more information of our project so everybody understands that we are not trying to cater this automated quote to everybody. There will be custom fields and if data is input into those fields there will be a response such as: "The total estimated project quote for your website will be $XXXX.XX plus the custom features you defined as ________________________. To get a quote for the whole project [submit your quote] to an EXP Creative representative." {I haven't played around with the wording too much, that's just what came to my head. It should be something to that effect though}

Please excuse my typos it's early and sorry its so long. :sa - by EXP Creative
EXP: Good luck with your project. After its on line I, for one, would like to hear back from you regarding its successes and challenges. That will give us all insight as to the current "state of mind" of the customer - perhaps its changing.

Wayne. - by WayneR
Ok guys (and gals), we have the online instant quote systm up and running. It has actually been up for about a week now, but we have been extremely busy with a new client.

Try our EXPress Quote! (You will have to enter your contact info to go through the process, so if you want to complete the form but not be contacted - leave the checkbox on at the bottom of page 2 unchecked (if you select web design you will have the option to add comments and you could say something like "sales practice test").

I look forward to your input. I know there is an issue in the "Consulting" section with the checkboxes not aligning properly on PC's, but we will be implementing a new design soon so that is not too much of a concern right now. - by EXP Creative
I sent my specific comments to you privately, but I still stand by my original comments on the viability of the concept. - by RainMaker
If the "express quote request" is just to give a preliminary quote why is the contact information necessary? - by WobblyBox
That's a good question WobblyBox. From a business standpoint, the EXPress Quote has cost me a lot of money in development time and this is a service you will not find at any of my competitor's website. Most custom design firms only have a "Request a Quote....we'll get back to you within 24 hours" option.

To me, that wasn't good enough. For providing this instant gratification to my potential clients and helping them make a decision on their time - not mine - I do not feel I am asking for too much when I ask for their contact info. I will be changing up the form as it looks a little intimidating right now and I will also add the ability for the site to generate a nice PDF quote proposal that can be emailed as the last step of the quote request.

Marketing graphic design and web development services are expensive. Trying to buy into a Google Adwords campaign at $10 a click for top placement will run my marketing budget bone dry. The EXPress Quote offers a great service to our potential clients and also helps us provide better service through the contact information we are given. We are able to follow up via the telephone if the client chooses, via email or via snail mail if the potential visitor does not want to receive emails from us. We give our clients the option to not receive phone calls or emails from us, but the snail mail address is something we will use as people normally don't have a problem inputing their corpany's address (we are not targeting home-based start up businesses).

Did you go through the quote process? After you put in your contact info did you find the rest of the process easy? - by EXP Creative
I didn't go through the quote process "because" I had to enter my contact information. I don't think I'll be alone in that respect. The Internet is full of free information including prices from graphic design and marketing firms. If I don't find the information I'm looking for on your site, or don't enjoy the experience, I simply go back to Google and search again. - by WobblyBox
Have fun. Our clients will not find graphic design prices online anywhere else. Our clients are not looking for $500 Flash sites or $299-$799 e-commerce sites.

If you are able to get a quote for a custom site (no templates, hand coding to W3C standards, custom hand-coded content management system, 3 design concepts with 3 revisions on the final concept) instantly, please point me in the right direction.

If you don't trust my company enough to give me some simple contact info in order to provide a quote for services you are interested in, then are you going to trust my company enough to give it $5-20K to develop your custom site? - by EXP Creative
If you don't trust my company enough to give me some simple contact info in order to provide a quote for services you are interested in, then are you going to trust my company enough to give it $5-20K to develop your custom site?
You're bucking a headwind. ;wi - by WobblyBox
You're bucking a headwind. ;wi
What does that mean? :cu - by EXP Creative
What does that mean? :cu
My response was to your question, "If you don't trust my company enough to give me some simple contact info in order to provide a quote for services you are interested in, then are you going to trust my company enough to give it $5-20K to develop your custom site?"

As a consumer/ business owner, I don't like to give out my contact information to people I don't know or trust without good reason. I don't think I'm alone on this.

If we were talking about a standard "RFQ" I could understand the reasoning behind giving out the information. But that's not what we're discussing. We're discussing an automated preliminary quote.

But hey, who am I, run it up the flag pole and see who salutes. ;wi - by WobblyBox
... We're discussing an automated preliminary quote.
Ok, I've gotten a lot of feedback (both positive and negative) on the automated quote feature. I would like to clear up one major point (quoted above).

We are actually talking about a very specific and detailed quote that will be accurate unless the client needs custom programming or features not listed in the quote. Due to the nature of our business, we can't quote everything under the sun. We have however, taken the most common options and by only considering the things that will affect the pricing, been able to develop a system that will give you the same price I would have given you if you called me directly. This is more than a rough, ballpark estimate. This is my bid on your project.

I don't see how by adding this feature to my site, I could stand to loose business from it. When you go to my competitor's sites, you will not see hourly rates or project rates quoted. Sometimes you will not even see a "Quote" option. I still offer the regular/standard quote option for people that do not want to provide any info beyond their name and email address. But I also offer a solution for people to get what they want instantly. I see this as a true win-win since I am not replacing anything, but instead adding to my services. Maybe I'm just an ignorant business owner that doesn't understand what his customers want.

But then again, maybe I can tell you that "Bob" requested a EXPress Quote Tuesday afternoon at 2:30PM for the following services : web design, business card design, logo design. Then after he got that quote, he got another quote for everything mentioned about plus business stationery design. Now, I know what "Bob" is looking for. I also know that since he came back to get a quote with more options that we fit his marketing budget. I have multiple ways to follow up with "Bob" and now stand a chance to actually WIN his business instead of hoping blindly that he chooses me based on the text on my website that he skimmed in the first place.

We'll see how everything goes though. - by EXP Creative
I have very mixed emotions about it. And here is what has been working best for me:

If you have something like a mass service (e.g. cheap hosting), you will be better off just posting the price and make things as automated as you possibly can. Same with something like directory submissions. Now: when you advertise something like streaming media packages or a few advertising spaces on your site ... don't list the price. Seriously! Not all projects can be priced by the same standard.

If a client has a lot to spend, his expectations may exceed the ones you yourself expect to be placed on your service, and since those clients are used to getting results without pinching pennies, you may wind up working yourself to the ground thinking "I could and should have charged so much more".

Mike - by MikeDammann
In my opinion listing prices can have a positive and a negative effect. It is positive in that the customer can easily compare prices and quotes between businesses, the lack of prices then may deter the customer as they may have to fill out a request form. This also then means time may be wasted in replying to each request as some people will not wish to buy the product because they may find a lower price somewherelse.

On the contorary though, the customer must first place a request to begin with, this means that they can have a more personal sale with the business in question, this may then mean more persuasion by the sales staff, rather than the potential client having simply numbers to sift through to find the best deal.

On the whole though having the prices listed would be more benefitial to the business as only customers who are almost certain to buy the product or service will request a quote for example. - by Salemaster
On the whole though having the prices listed would be more benefitial to the business as only customers who are almost certain to buy the product or service will request a quote for example.
I can live with that. :) - by Agent Smith
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