Determining Pricing for Products or Services

When products or services are developed and ready to be provided to customers, an entrepreneur still needs to make a pricing decision. Entrepreneurs need to be careful to ensure that the appropriate price is determined since customers generally do not like increases in prices.

Price is one of the four Ps of the marketing mix, which are product, place (distribution), promotion and price. Price, further, is interrelated with other Ps of the marketing mix.

Price of the product or service directly affects the revenue of the business. It also indirectly affects demand for the product or service (level of sales). This refers to the fact that generally as price of the product or service decreases demand tend to increase and as price increases demand tend to decrease. Both of this influences of price needed to be taken into account when an entrepreneur decides on appropriate price for the product or service.

Sales revenue

Total sales revenue of the business depends on quantity sold and price. If we ignore the affect of changes in price on demand than we can assume that as price increases revenue will also increase and vice versa.

For example, if a small business owner increases its price from \$6.5 to \$7 and the demand stays the same at 150,000 units per year than the following changes in revenue will take place:

Sales revenue at \$6.5 per unit: \$6.5 * 150,000 = \$975,000

Sales revenue at \$7 per unit: \$7 * 150,000 = \$1,050,000

As we can see from the above, an entrepreneur can lose a \$75,000 annually in sales revenue by charging just \$0.5 less.

A price of the unit of product or service is the cost per unit sold plus profit per unit. To determine pricing, entrepreneurs firstly need to understand the total cost of providing product and service. This includes all costs involved in getting the product or service to customers and after sales service, and includes manufacturing, advertising, storage, delivery, taxes, salaries, et cetera. When considering costs, it is important to divide total costs into fixed costs and variable costs.

Fixed costs refer to costs which do not change as volume of sales changes. For example, assume that enterprise is renting a building. The rent paid is a fixed cost since it does not fluctuate with changes in sales volume. Even if company will not sell any products over a certain period, the rent must still be paid.

Variable costs, on the other hand, refer to costs which fluctuate with changes in sales volume. An example of variable cost is commission paid to sales personnel. For example, assume that the business sells product at \$100 per unit and pays sales commission of \$5 to its sales personnel. The sales commission is a variable cost since it will fluctuate with changes in sales volume.

Many entrepreneurs treat fixed and variable costs the same. An average pricing approach which is often used by entrepreneurs is a manifestation of this. To find average price, entrepreneurs take total cost from the last period and divide it by total number of units sold from the last period. This gives them an average cost per unit.

This approach is very risky. The problem with this approach is that it does not account for the difference in fixed and variable costs. For example, if sales of the business will be lower than last year than fixed cost will increase the average cost per unit. This can decrease or eliminate the profit margin of the business. What is even worse is that this can even lead to business making a loss.

For example, imagine that ABC Company in the last financial period had fixed costs of \$750,000 and variable costs of \$250,000. Over last period 150,000 units were sold. To determine the average cost per unit, ABC will divide \$1,000,000 (\$750,000 + \$250,000) by 150,000 units. This results in average cost per unit of \$6.7. Assume that on the basis of this ABC decided to charge \$9 per unit.

However, the slowdown of the economy led to decrease in number of units that ABC could sell to 90,000 units. This decreased the variable cost to \$150,000. However, the fixed cost of ABC was left unchanged at \$750,000. The new average cost per unit of ABC is (\$750,000+\$150,000)/90,000=\$10 per unit. Since company charges customers \$9 per unit, which is less than its average cost per unit of \$10, it is making a loss.

The above example illustrates very clearly how risky an average pricing is, especially for the small business.

Pricing changes and demand

When entrepreneurs determine pricing, it is important to consider how demand is affected by pricing. The response of demand to price changes depends on whether the goods or services is demand elastic or demand inelastic.

Elastic demand refers to demand for products and services when increase in price will result in decrease in quantity purchased and decrease in price will result in increase in quantity purchased. For example, a decrease in price of certain brand of chocolate may result in increase in quantity of this brand of chocolate that is purchased.

Inelastic demand refers to demand for products and services which do not respond much to changes in price. For example, if the price of sugar will increase, the quantity of sugar purchased will likely remain unchanged. This is because sugar is seen as necessity and the amount of sugar that is used is usually more or less fixed in quantity.

To determine whether demand is elastic or inelastic it is helpful to start from a desktop research. Desktop research refers to research that can be done at one’s desk, such as with the use of the internet. The product or service that the entrepreneur makes available is provided by other companies as well and information on their prices and volumes will be available. After some research you should be able to see if demand for the product or service that you want to provide is elastic or not.

The degree of elasticity will determine barriers that entrepreneur has to consider when increasing the price of the product or service. To decrease elasticity of demand for product or service, an entrepreneur can take steps towards making product or service more unique and more value adding compared to that offered by competitors. In other words, an entrepreneur needs to establish a sustainable competitive advantage.

Objectives and Benefits of a Business Plan

Business plan for a start up refers to the written plan of how the business will be established and developed. The biggest benefit of the business plan is that writing it forces an entrepreneur to consider all important areas of the business, which otherwise may be overlooked. Research regarding whether business plan contributes to success of the new venture shows mixed results. The key factor is not if businesses has a business plan but if such a plan was carefully prepared and if it is being implemented.

In certain circumstances it may not be needed to have a business plan. This can happen when it is vital to act immediately and there is just no time for planning or in situations when the business is very small and there are no plans for growth.

Most importantly, the goal of a business plan is to recognize and explain the new business opportunity.

Another objective is to present, in a written format, how an entrepreneur intends to take advantage of the business opportunity.

Business plans must provide descriptions of key success factors which will determine whether the business opportunity will be successful or not.

Therefore, part of the second objective of the business plan is to be a managerial tool to be used to ensure successful pursuit of the opportunity.

Yet another objective of a business plan is to allow entrepreneur to obtain funds necessary to establish a venture. Suppliers of funds usually include banks as well as potential investors.

Business plans shows to lenders of funds how well an entrepreneur thought about each aspect of the potential new business. Business plan also provides potential lenders with information that they require in making a decision about whether lending or investing funds into the venture is a suitable action.

Financing: Business plan helps entrepreneur to obtain financing for the new venture. Lenders and investors demand business plans from entrepreneurs before they would even consider lending or investing their money. In the past, business plans were mostly prepared by large businesses. In current times, business plans are prerequisites for entrepreneurs who seek funding from lenders and investors.

Indication of success: Business plan also provides an indication to the entrepreneur and other interested parties of whether a prospective new business will be a successful venture.

Writing a business plan allows entrepreneur to be certain that the prospective venture is really worth the entrepreneurs’ time and other resources. Writing a business plan also allows entrepreneurs to think through and decide on various key areas. A well written business plan is an indication that the entrepreneur researched the prospective venture well.

Identifies key success factors: Another benefit is the fact that it allows to identify key variables that will determine whether the business will succeed or not. This will ensure a more effective management of the business; as such variables can be closely monitored by interested parties.

Provides performance standards and milestones: It provides a roadmap that management can follow in implementing and establishing a new business. Business plans provide milestones and other performance standards against which actual performance can be measured.

Helps to build relationships: Well written business plan helps to build relationships with potential business partners, potential as well as current customers and suppliers. Many large companies will not even consider dealing with a small start up or small growing company unless a well written business plan is presented. Furthermore, the written plan can help small business to obtain trade credit from suppliers. Trade credit refers to suppliers providing product with agreement that payment will be made within certain period, usually 30 days or at the end of the month.

Helps to attract better employees: It allows potential employees to see that the company may have a chance to succeed and is a promising place to build a career.

Improves motivation of employees: Business plan helps to keep all employees informed and excited about where company is now, where it is going and how it is going to get there.

The Importance of Customer Relations Management

Whereas in the past companies could afford to ignore consumers’ needs and preferences, this is no longer the case. With options available to consumers due to such factors as increased competition and drastic changes and improvements in technology, consumers become increasingly more educated and demanding.

For example, Portia have to work really hard to keep consumers of Pearlparadise.com satisfied and to build long lasting relationships with them. Otherwise they will move to a competitor.

Since Portia’s business is a small business, Portia has an advantage compared to large competitors. This advantage arises because Portia can address each customer personally and superior higher customer service which will lead to greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.

It is crucial for Pearlparadise.com to keep current customers satisfied since acquisition of new customers is very costly. It costs about five times more to acquire a new customer in comparison to keeping an existing one. Current customers also tend to buy more from the enterprise and may refer their family and friends.

On average, businesses keep between 70-90 percent of customers each year. However, if retention of customers could increase by 5-10 percent per year, than businesses could double their profitability.

This statistics highlights how incredibly important it is for Portia to keep current customers satisfied. So think about this for a minute. While Portia wants to spend money on advertising, that is really a small part of the battle. Once people see Portia’s advertising, she needs to convert them into paying customers. Once Portia converts them into paying customers she then needs to ensure they are repeat clients, otherwise she needs to spend even more on advertising. If she does a poor job serving existing customers, they may write poor review of her business which will lead to even less effect from her advertising.

Moreover, customers are often willing to pay a premium for excellent customer service. Therefore, Portia could even increase her profit margin by providing higher customer service than that of her competitors.

There are three basic objectives of a business plan:

• First, and most importantly, the goal of business plan is to recognize and explain the new business opportunity.  It forces you to crystallize your thinking before you share it with others.
• Second, the objective is to present, in a written format, how an entrepreneur intends to take advantage of the business opportunity. Business plans need to describe which steps the entrepreneur intends to take to make his dream of a new business a reality. It should include various tools that the entrepreneur will be able to use in the management of the business opportunity, such as vision, mission, goals, budgets, financial forecasts and description of target markets. Business plans also must provide descriptions of key success factors where achievement of, or occurrence and non occurrence of, will determine whether the business opportunity will be successful or not. Therefore, part of the second objective of the business plan is to be a managerial tool to be used to ensure successful pursuit of the opportunity.
• A third objective of business plan is to allow entrepreneurs to obtain funds necessary to establish a venture. Suppliers of funds usually include banks as well as potential investors. The business plan demonstrates to lenders of funds how well the entrepreneur thought about each aspect of the potential new business. Business plans also provide potential lenders with information they require in making a decision about lending or investing funds into the venture.

Another important main objective of the business plan is to identify factors that will determine if the business opportunity has good potential to be successful.

***

The business plan is a road map that allows entrepreneurs and other interested parties to see where prospective or current business is today, where it is going and how it is going to get there. In other words, it examines and identifies key areas that needed to be attended to as well as how it will be attended to and the performance standards which an entrepreneur expects to maintain, such as milestones.

If you work for a large corporate you can use business plan approach to get a buy in for a new project or to explain an existing initiative. You will be surprised at how useful it is to write a business plan. It is powerful because it forces you to think through all aspects of the project. Like a true entrepreneur, it makes you accountable for everything.

The content of the business plan should cover five key factors.

• It should provide a big picture of the opportunity. This refers to the external factors or context of the opportunity such as regulatory environment, which is beyond the entrepreneur’s control
• It should also address a management team with their qualifications and experiences
• It should clearly describe the business opportunity
• It should also present financial structure
• It should indicate the resources needed for success of the venture

Structures of a business plan will differ from case to case. Generally, business plans can either be very brief, just covering main key areas and projections. Such plan is called dehydrated business plan and focuses on market issues such as pricing, distribution channels and competition. However, when people in business refer to the business plan, they are usually referring to in depth, all inclusive, business plan which are called comprehensive business plans.

Comprehensive business plan may include the sections discussed below.

• the name of the prospective venture and entrepreneur
• Contact details of the business venture and entrepreneur
• It should also include the date when the business plan was completed and a disclaimer advising that information in the business plan is confidential and cannot be used without permission
• Each copy should be numbered to keep track of the copies and for general transparency as it will indicate to investors, lenders and other parties how many copies were already handed out

Executive summary should follow. This is generally the most important part of the business plan. This is because many people who will be reading this business plan will read executive summary first and will only read business plan in-depth if the executive summary generated enough excitement.

The executive summary brings together key points from each section of the business plan. It is an overview of the entire business plan and should be written last and be no longer than two or three pages. It should describe opportunity, explain the business concept, explain which market or markets will be targeted, provide an industry overview as well as the competitive advantage the new venture intends to deploy/create. Economics of the business opportunity should be provided and the management team should be briefly described. Lastly, if external funding from investors is required, main points from the offering section should be included regarding how much of external funding from investors is required as well as how this money will be allocated.

In writing the executive summary two strategies can be used, synopsis and narrative. Synopsis provides conclusion of each section of the business plan. It is very straightforward and dry. It is about getting right to the point regarding each section of the business plan. Synopsis is easier to prepare but it may not create enough excitement in the target audience to entice them to continue explore the business opportunity.

A narrative executive summary creates excitement, generates enthusiasm and sense of urgency. It tells a story about business opportunity and requires certain degree of writing talent. Narrative executive summaries are especially relevant if there is something really special about the new venture, such as if a new market or new innovative product is to be explored. An example can be if the business intends to become the first direct life insurance provider in Ukraine. Alternatively, a narrative is relevant if the business is to be led by a well respected entrepreneur or a businessman, which again makes the new venture more special than an ordinary start up.

An industry, target customer and competitor analysis can be presented next. The main purpose of these sections is to present business opportunity as well as to illustrate that there is a profitable and big enough market to be served.

Industry analyses should describe the industry within which the prospective business will be established. This should include industry size, growth, trends and main players. Then the industry should be broken down into main segments. Lastly you should describe the niche from which the entrepreneur would specifically like to focus on or start from.

Target customers should describe in detail the target customer market or markets. It should illustrate factors that confirm that this target market is being underserved.

It should include customer profiles. Customer profile usually includes demographic characteristics of customers, such as their age and gender. It can also include psychological, behavioural and sociological information. Customer profile also includes information regarding transactions history, responses to marketing stimuli and on contacts with customer.

Based on customer analysis, the competitor analysis should be presented which should include profiles of main competitors. Such profile should include SWOT analysis, which is an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the competitors. More detailed competitor analyses may also be presented.

Company description section may follow which focuses on the type of business, its objectives, where it will be located and which form of organization will be selected.

Vision and mission statements may follow. The vision statement is a statement of the dream of the organization. What the organization inspires to be and to accomplish. The mission statement describes how the organization plans to accomplish its mission. It is more detailed. The mission statement is written based on the vision statement.

A product or service plan may be presented next. This includes description of such areas as why the product or service which the company intends to provide will be better than that of competitors. If the product or service fills a particular gap in the market – it should be indicated as such. It also should be described if any secondary target markets are available. The prospective venture’s competitive advantage should be indicated as well as if this competitive advantage will be sustainable or is it very easy to copy.

Working model, photos of the product or product prototype as well as drawings may be included. Alternatively it can indicate where such information may be found in the appendices. Investors are interested in products that already were developed and shown in practice that they can work well and is useful and meet particular needs of the target market.

It should also be pointed out if company has any specific advantages, such as patent protection and innovative characteristics of the product or service. Product or service strategy for growth should also be included.

The Marketing plan can follow. This plan points out how the new business intends to promote its product or service. This refers to how customers will be persuaded and informed about the existence as well as benefits of the product or service.

The plan should include the pricing strategy and descriptions of which distribution channels will be used. It should be indicated what would be credit and pricing policies, which selling approach or approaches are intended. The plan must describe any types of sales promotions, advertising and how customers will be found and enticed to buy the product.

The marketing plan should include sales forecasts, which are developed based on other information provided in the marketing plan. The plan should describe if there are any warranties that will be provided. If business intends to have product updates than this also should be indicated.

The Operations and development plan can be presented next. This part of the business plan explains how the product will be manufactured or service provided. This section should indicate if the operations process will contribute to a competitive advantage. For example, this could be the case if the operation process is expected to be cheaper than that of competitors. The operations and development plan descries operational aspects of the business such as how much space the business will require, if the business will require a special location and which equipment is necessary for the operation of the business. The business plan should indicate what will be bought, built, owned and operated and/or outsourced and why. Lastly, it is important to point out how quality standards will be maintained, how and from whom raw materials are intended to be obtained, if business plasn to use subcontractors and which approach the new venture intends to use to control its inventory.

The management team section of the plan can follow. This is an important section because investors often look at the quality and calibre of the management team before they even look at what the new venture’s product of service will be.  Investors want to see a well balanced management team which consists of members with complementing skills. Investors want to see that all crucial skills and experience are present in the proposed management team. For example, investors and lenders may be looking to make sure that businesses have management with relevant skills, education and experience in areas such as finance, marketing, production and management.

Next, critical risks should be discussed. Investors, lenders and other interested parties understand that any business venture has critical risks. What they want to see is if the entrepreneur is aware of it and if entrepreneur has a plan how to manage, control or eliminate such risks. One example of critical risks includes lack of market acceptance which occurs when customers do not buy product or service as anticipated. Another example of critical risk is that competitors may respond by putting success of the new venture in jeopardy. For example, if the new venture is going to compete with a very large established company that produces the same kind of product, a large competitor may take action to ensure that the emerging new competitor is eliminated. For example, a very large company may temporarily lower its prices. The new venture will not be able to offer such low prices and may go out of business. Yet another example of critical risks can be unexpected government regulation which may have adverse effects on the new venture. New ventures generally have better protection from competitor response risk if they target a niche in which larger businesses are not so interested. Another way for the new venture to protect itself from competitor responses is to have a competitive advantage which is very difficult to imitate.

An offering section can follow. This section is relevant if the entrepreneur requires external financing from investors. This section describes how much money the venture will require from investors and at which times. It is advisable to present investors with sources and uses table which describes where money will come from, such as from equity or debt and for what purposes money will be used.

The Financial plan can be presented next. This is a very important section. It provides financial forecasts of the new venture in the form of pro forma statements. It should include annual pro forma income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements for a minimum of three and up to five years. This section should also include monthly cash budgets for the first year and quarterly cash budgets for the second and third years. Assumptions based on which the pro forma financial statements have been prepared as well as clarifications of how the pro forma statements were determined should be indicated.

Specific attention should be paid to statements of cash flows. Without cash inflows the business will not be able to survive even if it is profitable according to income statement. It indicates sources of cash and for which main investments, such as equipment or property, it will be used for.

Appendices should conclude business plan. This section contains supporting documents. It can contain details on information that is briefly discussed in the main body of the business plan. For example, in the case of the management team section, brief descriptions of the management team’s skills, education and experience should be supplemented with detailed resumes of each member of the management team which should be presented in the appendices. Appendices also may contain photographs of the product and facilities, copies of signed contracts with important customers and/or research documents, patent filings etc.