Just stop for a minute and listen. What can you hear? I can hear my fingers tapping on the keyboard. I can hear the heater pumping warm air into the house. I was just startled by my mini tripod falling onto my hands. The roof just creaked. There’s the whirr of the laptop fan. The wind blows outside. I admit, I often think the house is quiet late at night, but really it’s full of noise.
It’s amazing what we hear when we stop and pay attention to what is happening around us rather than what we want to happen. Now, I’m fortunate enough to work from home, but what if you’re not? Or what if you spend most of your day away from your home office? Do you stop to listen to the hum of your day? The car, the surroundings, the people?
Now here’s a thing… do you honestly believe you spend enough time listening to the people around you? Or are you, like most, busy thinking about what to say/ how to solve/ what comes next?
We are so conditioned to help. We need to be needed. We strive. We aim for the next sale. The next conversion. Hustle! We are in such a hurry.
But what if we didn’t? What if we just stopped and listened? What then?
What if instead of racing to find the solution to our customer’s woes we stopped to listen? Would we find out that instead of assuming that they needed a hammer to hang that picture frame that they really needed a level? Would that make us look bad?
What if instead of taking a deep breath when a co-worker or staff member arrives we just listened? Would we hear that the anxiety they feel isn’t because they are timid, but instead they are afraid of disappointing?
What if instead of filling our heads with all the reasons why we couldn’t or shouldn’t, we listened to something deeper? What if we listened for the story we weren’t being told. It lies just under the surface of what we are told.
These two words bring about thoughts of anger in every parent, competition in every sibling, and fear in every business owner. Yet as business owners, we need to be asking it more often than we do. To achieve more we need to be willing (and able) to step back and reassess. When dealing with difficult clients, these two words can change the way you approach the situation.
I’m not asking a question, these are the words. While I understand it might seem abrupt and abrasive; it’s this that gives them their charm but also their jolting power. You see, it’s not until we are jolted from our comfort zone that we see and achieve greatness.
So what has that power.
Customers Let’s get these out the way first. I know there were a number of times a whingey whiny customer came to me, complaining about something that really wasn’t my responsibility. Or the angry one yelling & swearing & carrying on like nobody’s business. Oh they were the ones I definitely wanted to say So what to! (and mean it with all the charm of a moody teenager)
But you really need to ask yourself So what in a few different ways and a number of times
- So what if I gave in and kept them happy
- So what if they were right
- So what if I were to step back and find out why they are so angry
- So what if I were to lose them as a client
Now the idea with these is that you need to give yourself the space to ask the questions without being angry, because that’s just not going to help anyone – especially if one of you already are.
Oh my word! Yep, I’ve managed staff. Displaced staff. Staff approaching retirement. Ugh, it was a bit of a rogues gallery. All lovely people, but boy oh boy was it rough at times. But you know what, I have learned the most from being a boss. So here are some of my of my favourites:
- So what if I gave in and kept them happy
- So what if they were right
- So what if I were to step back and find out why they are so angry
Look familiar? That’s because this isn’t about making you happy. It’s about them. Sorry, it’s true. The man thing angry people want is to be heard. If you can show them a genuine interest, you’re over half-way there. From there use what I teach in aligning values to align what you want/need achieved with their values/needs. It’s funny how quickly they are adopted as their own and behaviour improves. I’ve used these approaches on my staff and it has been used and adopted in other businesses I‘ve consulted to. The result is the same – staff buy in & improved performance. And not just to keep you quiet and off their backs, they actually believe it.
Growing your business
This is the first place I actually used these words – in assisting business owners to grow their business by determining the benefits of their service or product. I would have them ask So what.
In this instance it’s about challenging your perception of what your business is meant to look like and where you want it to go.
- So what if I decide not to do video for my business
- So what if I introduced a new product or service now or in 6/12/24 months time
- So what if I moved premises
- So what if I rebranded/changed my name
You really didn’t believe that I would let you off without asking yourself did you? We know we are our own worst enemy. Some of us can’t stand turning the mirror on ourselves, yet others do it with reckless abandon. The ones who succeed are the ones who take action.
So what kind of So what questions should you ask yourself? Here are a few I use…
- So what if I fail
- So what if it’s not perfect
- So what will this extra money mean for my family
- So what is my next step
Push yourself. This stuff was never meant to be easy, change rarely is & challenge was never meant to be. If you don’t feel uncomfortable to the point of frustration, then you need to ask yourself again So what and you may have to do this a number of times until in mental exhaustion you say ‘enough’.
These two words, while they can hurt, are incredibly powerful and used carefully can drive you and your business to places you didn’t even think possible. In fact, this is what people have said about the outcomes of me having asked these questions of them.
That she was able to cut through the clutter of my numerous thoughts and ideas and bring clarity to the situation.
I was in overwhelm - with so many thoughts about my messaging, market and how to name and use the numerous social media accounts I had in different names - that I was stuck in analysis paralysis. I was frustrated because I was energised to take action, but had no clear path forward. Within minutes she was able to pull out the important parts of what was there and help me reassemble them in a clear and usable way. The clear path appeared! Instant relief and excitement! Honestly, there were even tears...(on my end!).
While, we may be great at helping others get clarity, it is often hard to take yourself through the process objectively. Kara's experience came through in guiding me through the process, in understanding what was important and in recommending steps forward.
That she was able to bring clarity AND recommend clear steps forward.
Arienne Gorlach ,
Kara has the education & experience to get me through fear
Kara has the education, experience and ability to recognise and clearly communicate my strengths and drivers and pinpoint what was holding me back so I could move past it.
I came to her needing to know what to do with the fearful thoughts and how to change my mindset
I have tried engaging with other "business consultants" but could not connect with them due to their lack of credibility due to little or no relatable experience or education or lack of understanding of my background, industry and environment where as Kara has it all
Kara gets to the issue very quickly using her psychology education, every idea, roadblock and decision all comes from our own psychology and Kara has the keys to unlock the doors and connect with you and your potential clients. Kara is direct and yet extremely warm genuine and honest and really does have the education, insight and experience that makes you want to listen and act .
Nadine Woodhead ,
Accountability. She keeps you on track and kicks ass if you don't. I needed that extra push in the right direction.
Too many challenges and there will always be more. I am confident that Kara can and will help with them all.
I had paid soooooo much money for business coaching years ago resulting in uneducated non business owners dictating their point on wasting more money in theories that didn't work or I couldn't afford to even begin doing what they taught. I paid a heap for SEO to 3-4 different companies promising the world and each time was the same answer "SEO is a long game" yes it is but seeing no results in Australia not overseas was frustrating as. PPC was the same with a lot of money spent with minimal results or if any seemed to be attracting tyre kickers.
Kara is awesome and actually cares about your business and its results but at the same time understands life pressures and hurdles in day to day life which is great!
Damien Nayna ,
She got me organised! We set the goals, worked out when I needed to do weekly/daily to get me there. They were specific, not wishy washy.
Kara was very knowledgeable and held my hand through a "troll" incident. She was the first person I went to to seek advice. Kara has also been extremely generous in her time and information when it comes to social media, trends, how things work, best times to post. I love that is comes from a psychological point of view.
I started with no idea! Kara has filled my world with ambition, dreams and goals.
Money Money Money. Don’t worry, I won’t go on despite my inner child continuing to hum. Finances is one thing that businesses either excel or struggle with. Let’s face it, we all like more of it, but how many of us actually track and forecast finances? While I don’t profess to be an expert and none of what I have is advice – it is what has worked for me thus far in achieving my financial goals.
Before I go into tracking financial goals, the best place to start is actually in setting them.
Financial goal setting
I’ve previously spoken on goal setting, hey I’ve even added it to my course, and financial goals are no different. In fact, setting financial goals is critical to business success – otherwise you’re just bumbling along.
The key to any goal setting is not to be the SMART one but to be SMARTER. I am not a fan of SMART goal setting, it falls short of the quality assurance aspects I have grown to need over my years doing QA. Some would even say that financial tracking is the QA to financial goal setting. (They’d be right)
So just briefly, what are SMARTER goals? Specific Measurable Achievable Reportable Time-sensitive Evaluated Reviewed.
Now, I’m not going to go through this in detail as you can read it over here on my original goal setting blog post, but there are some key points you need to pay particular attention to:
Make sure that your financial goal is Achievable. I actually didn’t set my goal until half-way through my second year. That way I had some data behind me on how my sales flowed over time. Not to mention that setting unrealistic goal is a sure fire way to have your ‘bubble burst’ & to feel defeated.
Make sure your financial goal is Time-sensitive. After the first year, my goals roll over and continue. Annual financial goal setting around tax time, or calendar year, gives you some firm dates to work with. (No moving goal posts)
Make sure that your financial goal is Evaluated. This means that it is relevant and appropriate for your industry. It’s unrealistic to set sales target as if you were a real estate agent, when you’re actually a piano teacher. (Ok, a little extreme but you get the picture)
Find a way to track your incoming and outgoing finances
Don’t confuse this with the main aim of this of tracking against a goal. This step is so you know where you are, RIGHT NOW!
Perhaps it’s the time I studied accounting in high school, or growing up with a Mum being a debt collector – it frightens me how some business owners don’t track their sales and expenses and/or use their business funds as a bit of a personal slush fund.
Tracking the ins and outs of my business finances was ok on a spreadsheet, but I really upped my game when I started to use an accounting package.
While a number of people I know use Xero & MYOB, as a bootstrapped startup I needed something to record my finances and I chose Wave Apps. Don’t stress, you don’t have to go get Wave, I’m not selling it (it’s free anyway), if your shoebox/envelope/spreadsheet/MYOB works for you then I am happy as you’re tracking.
I think the thing about moving to an official accounting package was that it all became ‘real’. I had automated invoicing, credit card payment facilities, this sh*t was real! The excel spreadsheet just didn’t have the same appeal.
I admit that moving to a system and inputting the figures and seeing your surplus can be daunting for some, but it’s a fabulous reality check.
So you’ve set a realistic goal and you’re keeping track of your cashflow, now what. It’s time to put your money where your mouth is and dream big.
Tracking your progress against your financial goals
As I said earlier, I let myself work for a while before I started forecasting and tracking. Yes, late one night I thought it would be fun to project out my finances for 10 years. I looked at what my growth had been this financial year over the previous one and used this as my multiplier for the coming years. Look, it’s not perfect but past performance is a better predictor of future performance than plucking a number out of the air! So you know it was 1.8x, yes I was on track to double my business in my second year.
So, I took the 1.8 and multiplied it year on year until I got to 10 years. Yes I realise that I worked in a compounding effect. Believe me, when I saw a projection of half a million dollars and then three quarters I gasped! It triggered a massive reaction against that sort of money. Then I thought, ‘why not!’, why shouldn’t I earn that much, why couldn’t I earn that much, and then I thought ‘ HOW DO I EARN THAT MUCH’.
That was my challenge, how do I grow my business in 10 years to earn three quarters of a million dollars?? I started adding columns to my spreadsheet. I added new programs and offers. I wanted this money, the opportunities (I actually want to employ my husband) it brought. I used the same factor growth on some of these offers and others I chose a more steady linear growth.
Then I did another thing. I looked at what I would take as ‘pay’ from the business. This is actually my second business, the first is a passion business & I do it for love, and I was adamant that it would be bootstrapped and I would pay myself 30% of all business income (not profit). I am very clear that I pay myself and my debtors first. This sometimes means that I can not make larger business purchases (as a bootstrap business I have invested no personal equity), but I was clear coming into it that this business would stand alone. I understand that some may need more (or less) and some business structures allow for different payment models. I chose 30% as a starting point. So, I added columns to the spreadsheet to calculate 30% of each product’s income and this represented my ‘pay’. Now this was amazing! This was precisely what my work meant to my family. This is where my motivation took right off.
The next step was a few little lines at the bottom of the sheet that I update regularly. It has my current business income (not surplus), my projected annual income, the difference between these, then my known future sales (I have clients kept on retainer) and the difference again. At the end I have an ultimate sales target. This is the number I use to motivate my actions moving forward. Believe me, knowing what that 30% I pay myself means to my family makes that end sales target all that more special.
So to summarise:
– Set SMARTER financial goals
– Track your cashflow
– Track your financial goals and what it means in your personal pocket
Would you like a copy of my financial goal tracker (all formulae included)? Click here to access the template.
This article on 9-ending pricing follows on from my earlier piece on odd & even/0 & 5 ending pricing. The following is a summary of findings from marketing and psychological research into 9-ending pricing. They are summarised for guidance to business owners to implement.
Choi, Lee, & Ji (2012) found three ways that the 9-ending has power over consumer psychology: left to right processing (truncation), perceived gain, and price image.
Left to right processing
While only applicable where prices are, culturally, read left to right – it is one of the most commonly quoted reasons for using 9-ending pricing. Choi, Lee, & Ji described it as when we only recognised the leftmost numbers and forget those on the right. This is also called truncation, as the price is truncated (cut short).
This is an adaptation of the left to right processing, in so far that the price is perceived as being a 0-ending number with a small gain. In this instance, a price of $19 999, would be perceived by the customer as $20 000 with a $1 gain. This is probably the most reason customers know for 9-ending pricing.
This is where the 9-ending price is perceived as being cheaper than the competitor’s price and that it’s a discounted (sales) price. While Choi, Lee, & Ji gave these definitions, Schindler (2006) discovered that although prices ending in 9 were believed to be cheaper, it was often not the case. Schindler also found that 9-ending prices (and 98) were believed, by consumers, as not recently increased.
All in all, Choi, Lee, & Ji found that regardless of the mechanism, when it matches the consumer’s motivation to purchase, consumers committed more of the price to memory & were better at remembering the price (price recall was the focus of the paper).
Are 9-ending products cheaper?
Let’s start with the elephant in the room. We all believe that if we market our products with a 9-ending, the customers will believe it’s cheaper and will flock to buy it. Right? Well, in reality it’s more like a ‘yes & no’ or a ‘depends’ (oh how I love that word).
Even if we set the price believing that clients will drop off the end numbers and see it as being the cheapest product around, the reality is a bit different. So it won’t surprise you that Schindler found that although 99-ending prices were believed as being the cheapest around, they often weren’t. That said, they also found that the 99-ending was related (significant positive correlation) to a low price appeal in consumers.
Guéguen & Legoherel found that if an odd number (9 for example) followed a round number (0/5) then consumers believed that they were receiving a bigger discount. They also found that the perceived discount increased as the price increased. However, the effect stopped once the price reached FF 100. (This study was done in France prior to the introduction of the Euro) Bizer & Schindler (2005) found that 9-ending prices had customers guessing that they could buy more of an item than was actually possible. Perhaps we don’t like our 9-times tables!
Similarly, Schindler found that customers believed that both 98 and 99 price endings were not recently increased. While not necessarily an indication of being cheaper, believing that a price hasn’t recently been increased should leave us feeling that we’re ‘getting a bargain’ or ‘cheaper price’.
How consumer psychology affects the appeal of prices ending in 9
Bizer & Schindler had a good overarching finding that if a consumer is not worried about the price, then they are more likely to drop off the end numbers. So this is more likely when we really don’t have to think too much about the purchase. (They used the examples of toothpaste & paper towel)
Choi, Lee, & Ji found similar that when the store’s message fits with the consumer’s focus then the consumer sees the message as relevant and will remember the price. So, if a consumer is motivated by quality and the item has a low-price 9-ending, they won’t remember the price as well as if they were after a cheap item.
Schindler suggested that store managers add meaning (and motivation) by adding claims with the prices & help reinforce the consumer’s belief that the 9-ending price is cheaper. They added that the perceived discount, reinforced by the other visual cues, are often relied upon to grab the consumer’s attention and that consumers are learning to link 9-ending prices with low price. While I think most businesses believe this is one of the major mechanisms, there isn’t any proof for it and it removes the effect of the consumer’s motivation to buy in the first place.
Implications of this research on 9-ending pricing
Anderson & Simester believed there was a real risk that overuse of prices ending in 9 will make it less effective as customers are less likely to believe that the item is actually low priced. While I tend to agree, 80 years of use seems to contradict this.
Bizer & Schindller quoted an interesting finding from Gedenk & Sattler (1999) that for the drop off effect to be profitable, only 3% of items actually needed to use the principle. So to some degree, it seems that businesses are actually overusing the 9-ending pricing to attract appropriately motivated clients. (Though I seriously doubt that they are properly considering the motivation of their customers)
However, Anderson & Simester offered the following practical advice:
If a product had a 9-ending price and was paired with a ‘Sale’ & a ‘New’ merchandising prompt, sales increased by 3.9%.
If a product had a 9-ending price and was paired with a ‘New’ merchandising prompt, sales increased by 8.5%.
My favourite article on pricing by Nick Kolenda had me thinking about a few things around pricing. Firstly, what is it about odd vs even pricing that affects our buying behaviour and secondly what is it about that 99-cent ending?!
Now lucky for both you and I have spent a ridiculous number of years reading journal articles for research. In fact, some might think me crazy that I actually prefer to read a journal article over a book (even a non-fiction). So it won’t surprise you that I got carried away with my reading and read 11 articles in total. From those articles I actually have two and a half pages of notes on odd and even pricing and 9-ending pricing.
Before you start hyperventilating, I’m not going to go through all of the articles in one blog post. That would just be cruel and I have to be honest, too confusing. So what I’ve decided to do is to split off the topics and write them up as separate posts; one on odd & even pricing and the other on 9-ending prices. I’m going to start at the start and odd vs even pricing.
The one thing that hit me in the Kolenda article was the effect of ending on our emotional reaction to a price. This is exactly the point where I begin my research. I started with the 2013 paper of Lynn, Flynn, & Helion and their research into round numbers (those ending in 5 or 0 as compared to the remaining numbers & not to be confused with even pricing). They did an analysis of data from three studies where clients could pay with a credit card and the ‘product’ was fuel, the tip on a restaurant bill, or software. The interesting thing was that the software purchases were made in a ‘Pay What You Want’ (PWYW) style, where the customer paid whatever they chose. This research was interesting due to the increasing popularity of pay what you want promotions online.
So in general terms what did they find out about 0 or 5 ending prices?
Preference & pricing
The first finding that they had was that a 0 or 5 ending was more common across all of the studies they analysed. Why was this significant? Well, because all of the studies had the option to pay by credit card, where cash handling was not required.
People find it easier to remember (this one is key for the 9-ending article), process, & perform mathematical operations when the number ends in 5 or 0. The point is that we like things to be easier and develop a preference for these numbers. They even found research where 66% of people asked said they actually preferred those numbers.
They also discussed the finding that 0 or 5 endings are more likely when a person is guessing or estimating an amount. I believe that this harps back to a preference for the familiar & easier maths calculations.
Here’s what was found more specifically
Pay what you want pricing
Lynn, Flynn, & Helion found that more of the PWYW payments were whole dollar amounts. They were interested by this as the transactions occurred online and paid by credit card, so the dislike of calculating or handling change was not an issue. Additionally, they found that while, of the payments over $1, 13% ended in a 0 (an even number pricing) and an amazing 42% ended in a 5 (an odd pricing); both of which occurred more often than you can expect by chance.
Tipping & pricing preferences
Ok, so not really of major importance here in Australia, but certainly of interest to those in hospitality. Remember as you are reading the following that all of the payments were made by credit card, meaning that no actual cash-handling took place.
The main finding was that 73% of people left a whole dollar tip. So not overly surprising there, especially when you consider the general finding that we prefer whole numbers & our dislike of maths. Though of interest was that 25% of people left a tip where the most right-handed digit was a 5 (be that dollars or cents). Once again, that odd number pricing comes through.
For those of you in hospitality and wondering about the big tippers, here’s some news. Of the tips greater than, or equal to, $11 – 20% of them ended in a 0 (cents or dollars). Now that’s promising and reinforces our love of whole numbers and even pricing.
My personal favourite was the following.
Where the bill did not end in a whole dollar amount (there were cents), 23% of people used the tip to round the bill to a whole dollar amount when the tip was added in. This confirms that some people, need to see a round price more than their dislike of maths and their ease (or difficulty) in processing. It would be interesting to know if they preferred to round to a whole odd or even number pricing?
Our love of 5 or 0 endings
In addition to their finding that people will do maths to have a round number in the total bill; Lynn, Flynn, & Helion found the following…
These numbers were also preferred by customers purchasing fuel at a service station when they:
– paid with a credit card and received a receipt
– they only considered the whole dollar amount, and
– they only purchased fuel.
This preference for round number pricing is interesting to consider if you have a self-service product.
Perception of quality based on price ending
Lynn, Flynn, & Helion reported that the 0 or 5 ending numbers were positively linked with a customer’s beliefs that the product was a higher quality & had more sales, but this was only the case when customers were interested in buying a high-quality item. In fact, the opposite was the case and other numbers were associated with a discount or a ‘good deal’, leading to increased sales, when the customer was interested in a cheaper price or a ‘good deal’. So what’s the takeaway from this piece of pricing research? You need to know why your customer comes to purchase from you – price or quality? There’s no getting around the fact that you really need to understand what motivates your clients.
Wilkie, Manning, Sprott, & Badenhausen (2015) found similar results in their research into odd-even pricing. They discovered that even pricing had a higher perceived quality over odd pricing. Interestingly, these even priced items were also perceived as being more expensive.
Pricing and personal motivation
Wilkie et al had another interesting finding and that was around motivation.
They discovered that the intention to go and buy an item was higher for odd pricing rather than even pricing. However, the initial motivation to purchase (quality vs good deal) was an important influencer of the final perception of the product and intention to purchase.
This last piece reinforces the finding of Lynn et al, that the client’s motivation to purchase (quality vs deal) effects how they react to the pricing (odd vs even pricing or 5 vs 0 whole number pricing). I believe the fact that 0 is perceived as even number pricing has an impact on how people perceive 0-ending prices as being higher quality (and more expensive).
Bundling of products or services & their prices
Lynn et al found that when two products were bundled together, a 5 or 0 ending increased the attractiveness of the other product in the bundle. This is important to remember when you bundle goods and/or services to increase sales, perceived value, and revenue. The use of these numbers will increase your customer’s perception of quality and increase the attractiveness of the additional product.
Baumgartner & Hähnchen (2016) looked further into the pricing of bundles. They found that the customer preference for a bundle increased when both items had even pricing rather than odd pricing. The researchers believed that this was due to even numbers representing higher quality. The 2016 research found that the greatest likelihood of purchasing happened when both items were labelled with even prices and the total bundle amount was odd.(Their research was into odd and even pricing regardless of value)
Price ending and negotiated pricing
Klumpp, Brorsen, & Anderson (2005), looked into grain pricing in Texas. They found that prices ending in a 5 or a 0 were more common. Grain prices are set by the producer and then there is a handling fee added by the grain merchant, this fee can be negotiated. They found that when the fee was negotiated the effect was more prices ending in a 5 or a 0. This suggests that if your pricing is open to negotiation, consider the risk or cost of being negotiated to either of these price points, or force the negotiation to either a 0 or 5 pricing for a better chance of an agreed price.
Isaac, Schindler, Wang (2014) investigated 5 or 0 pricing in relation to debt recovery. (I have to say that this was one of the more interesting articles personally) They found that debts ending in 5 or 0 were more likely to be repaid in full. Personally, I will now consider rounding my debts to either a 0 or 5 pricing when chasing overdue payments.
So what were my major takeaways?
Even pricing of products and services has them seen as being of higher quality than odd pricing and that your customer’s intention to purchase, based on quality, is controlled by what motivates your customer.
If you value and promote the quality of your offer, you are better off using an even pricing.
The pricing of a bundle of items works best when items have even pricing but the total bundle price is odd.
If setting suggested prices for a Pay What You Want promotion, you should only use whole dollar amounts and preferably prices that end in 5 or 0.
Debts are more likely to be paid in full if they end in a 5 or a 0 and to consider this when looking to recover debts.
The next instalment summarises the papers I read about 9-ending prices. I have come across some interesting history, beliefs, and theories.