Thursday, August 13, 2015

The lowest price

We all want the lowest price when we buy something, but here’s the clincher…as long as it’s for the same value on offer.
It’s obvious in the case of products. I recently went to a large furniture retail chain outlet to buy a bar stool. The one I liked was $99, with the option to buy a second one at half price; but I only wanted one. I asked the salesperson whether there was any wiggle room, and there wasn’t. I drove across the street to a Walmart and bought the same exact stool for $49.99.
But services are a different matter.
If a handyman (or woman) offers to fix your brick and spread cement over it with a spoon, it’s pretty obvious that would be a bad move.
But what about a mason who has many positive reviews on Homestars who offers a low price?
Is that a good deal?
How about a concrete (no pun intended) example?
I’ve had the same price structure since 2006, with only incremental increases until 2009, at which point I froze the price. So I’ve been charging exactly the same since 2009. Back in 2007, 08 and 09, I was booked up to a year in advance, so I couldn’t have been perceived as being priced outside the market then, could I?
Fast forward to a typical scenario today:
Me: “The price is $14,500.”
Customer X: “Ouch!”
Me: “Your friend who has recommended you to me has paid even more for a comparable amount of work back in 2009. And she’s had even more work done in 2012 at the same rate.”
Customer X: “Actually, I know, and she’s very happy with it. Fair enough, we’ll get back to you.”
Two weeks later.
Customer X: “We have no doubt at this point that you are the best in the city, the only problem is the price: one contractor came in at $7,000 and the other two came in at $4,500.”
Me: “It’s going to look like shit”.
Customer: “I’’m not so sure, they all have good reviews on Homestars.
Me: “Go see the work in the flesh.”
Customer X: “We plan on it.”
Another two weeks went by.
Customer X: “We went by to look at your work once again, as well as the other people’s work, and we didn’t like the two lower quotes at all, the $7,000 was not bad actually, but we loved yours, can we workout something?
I did have to make a concession in view of the current market realities, but I did get the contract at the highest price, and by a long margin to boot.
So what is happening?
For one thing, it’s obvious to me we are going through a recession, even though Harper doesn’t seem to have the balls to say so.
Consequently, it’s a buyer’s market right now. When the economy is rolling, prospective customers are typically complaining that contractors aren’t even showing up to provide an estimate, and they are generally thankful when someone shows up at all. Not now. No one is currently voicing that complaint, and it is evident that prospects are getting plenty of quotes (that they sure are glad to bring up in a negotiation).
As far as I’m concerned, I’ve selected to remain true to a high standard of accurately matching the existing materials so that the work, when finished, will have a time-kissed look.
It is easy to cut corners when doing brickwork restoration, and so I am in a niche market by sticking to a longer, considerable more involved process.
But there is a visible difference in the result, although not every potential customer can appreciate it.
And so it is only a buyer’s market as long as one doesn’t notice or care about the difference.
Customer X was probably surprised that I never called her back to follow up and try to close the job.
The reason I didn’t follow up is that if she and her husband couldn’t tell the difference between my work and the work of the $7000 guy, then the latter would have deserved the job, as far as I’m concerned; and I didn’t want to be pushing to take the project away from him, if in fact he would have been better-suited to do it given the circumstances and the prospect’s obvious priorities — he has a right to make money too.
On the other hand, if someone is a stickler for as close to a perfect mortar and brick replacement match as can possibly be done, then my company becomes a very viable option indeed.
I therefore find it important that we maintain our position as the premium choice when it comes to brickwork restoration / repointing, so as to satisfy that currently small cohort who sees the value in it for themselves.

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