Friday, May 6, 2011

Marketing: Never apologize for your price

Never Ever Apologize for your Price!

I don't know if I would classify this as Rule #1 in marketing, but it is extremely close the top of my list. This is one of my biggest pet peeves when I'm training for marketing.  A customer will say, "Your food is too expensive. I can't afford that." and the sales person responds with, "Oh, okay, I'm sorry." Then they will hesitantly add, "...but it's better quality."

Are you kidding me? Quality is everything! You get what you pay for. If you buy my food, think of all the places where you won't have to spend that money - Doctor's offices, supporting the animal concentration camps (CAFO's), soil amendments because of depleted top soils, pesticides, antibiotics, and the list goes on.

At Polyface, we set price to cover our overhead expenses - including labor, processing and packaging. There is no need to apologize for wanting to make a decent living. We are not talking about gouging the customer, we are talking about making a decent living. Do not use my words against me here. (smile) However, to those who set their prices astronomically high, I have this to say: It's a free country, nobody is forcing you to buy it. And certainly not many people will.

To better explain my point, I'll draw from Joel - this is an excerpt listing Model Polyface Patrons from one of our newsletters.Characteristics of a Model Polyface Patron (#8 of 8):

Wealthy farmers.  Yes, we thought that would get your attention.  At Polyface, we want wealthy patrons.  We like folks who have enough money in their checking accounts to pay for groceries.  We like folks who own computers.  We like folks who have a cooler.  Model Polyface patrons also want farmers to be wealthy.   At least to make a good living.  The stereotypical redneck hillbilly D-student farmer relegates stewardship of our food system, soil, air, and water to the nitwits of society.  We can never change the food system until the best and brightest find romance and reward in this foundational agrarian vocation.  And anyone who thinks farmers don’t deserve to live as well as any urban upper middle class family disrespects the very essence of their dinner and the landscape their children will inherit.  At Polyface, we go to great lengths to be frugal, to be efficient, and to be economical.  But we do not apologize for the self-respect and personal pride in due compensation for a job well done.  And model Polyface patrons envision a day when their farmers can drive cars like their patrons. ~Joel Salatin

Your turn:
Do you think we are being egotistical when we say to never apologize for price?
From the post last week, does your price make a difference to the clientele you are targeting?

Food Buyers: 
What price is too high? 
Where do you draw the line? 
How much does quality play a part in what you will pay for something?  

Questions? Let's talk.


Greenacresmama said...

Right now, we're buyers (planning on one day selling eggs, beef, and fruit). Since we're a family of four living on a teacher's salary, price is a factor, but we insist on buying good food and have found ways to make it work for us. For example, we'll buy the whole chicken because it's more bang for your buck, and ground beef instead of fillet mignon. Instead of buying pricey organic cereals, I make my own muffins, granola, you could say I draw the line at expensive, processed organics but will pay more for fresh foods that were raised as God intended. The benefits? WE RARELY GET SICK. Seriously, think of what you could buy fresh for the cost of a copay or trip to the ER. We also mamage to have a savings account...not enough to buy a second home, but if a car died, I think we'd be okay. Anyway, I hope this answers some of your questions and provides encouragement!

Anonymous said...

If I feel that the product I am considering buying is of a higher quality (that I can identify) than a less expensive product, I will buy it. Example I love wine but my palate is not as developed as some. I will pay more for a bottle that I can appreciate but I will not pay more for a bottle if the nuances are beyond me. I will pay more to buy meat from a farmer who treats his animals well. I am not a vegan but there is no need to be mean to animals before we harvest their products or slaughter and eat them.

I will not pay more for a "label" that tells me the product is better. I will pay more for high quality ingredients and spend the time to make things myself ie: soap; pasta; bread, vinegar etc.

I will pay more for a locally produced, quality product because I think that is an important benefit. I will pay more for a product if the alternative is a product from a company who I disagree with, ie: growing practices; labor practices, country of origin, etc. I expect everyone to be able to live a comfortable life, including the farmers and food producers that supply my food.

Wit's End said...

I could have written the post by Greenacresmama! Yes, we will spend more for real, quality food. Knowing what goes into growing food and caring for animals, NO, you should never apologize for your price. If it is really too costly, people won't buy it.

I also wanted to say that I have been thoroughly enjoying your blog!

Jordan & Laura said...

Hi! Jordan Green here from J & L. I agree that you should never apologize for price. If no one is questioning the price it is probably to low. What we do at the farmers markets we attend if some one complains about price is say something like " yes, that tenderloin is expensive ( don't get caught in a debate about the definition of "expensive ") and has beautiful rose coloring and exquisite taste. What dish are you wanting to prepare? " This usually leads into a conversation about dinner and how good it is. Usually they will buy at this point or if they are swinging away suggest a alternative cut that is cheaper and would still work for their recipe. 9 out of 10 times they will buy the "expensive" cut within 2 weeks if not right away.

Tom Colbaugh, Happy Farm said...

Joel is %100 correct. I have used his diet pepsi analogy many times. I once had a gal at market get very upset that her chicken was $13.25 and I asked her what she would charge for the world's best chicken. She has been a customer ever since. Stick to your guns, never apologize and if you have staff representing you make sure they are as compassionate about your food as you are.

Alicia R. Ambler said...

I sell granola made out of my home from the best ingredients. It's expensive (7.99 for 10 oz.) but it's made in small batches and with great care. It's something that starts my customers' days, and they want the best. I love that they're willing to pay for it, and I love that I have the freedom to charge a reasonable rate for it. That's why I got into small business!

EllaJac said...

Oh! Blogger ate my comment!

I would be interested in seeing how one can adjust their paradigm on this. I value a good product - enough to raise and process my own - but with four kids on a blue-collar income, paying $3/lb for a whole chicken would just be absurd! Because I feel this way, I also have a hard time asking others to do what I really could not do myself (and I have others asking to buy some of my chickens, but I have NO IDEA how to price them!). I'm afraid I wouldn't just apologize - I'd cringe! :]

I would also be interested in a post about the balance between "organics can (and should) feed the world" and "some patrons just won't qualify." There seems to be a lot of debate about whether organic food is 'elitist ' (eric schlosser did a recent live chat about that). I'm perplexed by their arguments that it's NOT - Pointing out that a whole organic chicken can make 2 or 3 meals only speaks to those who are buying expensive cuts or pre-made/processed stuff. To those families who are ALREADY making 2 or 3 meals from a factory farmed bird, the argument is absurd. Giving up pepsi and lattes doesn't help the person who already foregoes those.

Jennifer Apple said...

We are not wealthy by any means (unless you count health and love in our family). We struggle paycheck to paycheck because of the high cost of living in the Washington DC region (where the jobs are, unfortunately). However, we are probably your biggest fans because we value food that is connected to the land and that is health-sustaining and enhancing. Many of the wealthy people I see in this area buy Polyface because it's a fad to them - the exclusive thing to do. No poor people allowed. You should not assume that they have altruistic reasons behind their purchasing decisions. Many are just quite shallow and will go to Balduccis or a boutique butcher just the same, regardless of where the meat came from, as long as the exclusive factor is there.

My family makes choices to be able to afford Polyface, and we do not buy everything you offer due to price and our budget to feed a family of five. However, we gain each time we consume your products - we gain health, vitality, and higher vibrations (animal karma perhaps becomes ours when we eat them.)

I wish more people would opt-out of the CAFOs and opt into their local foodsheds! How much better off we would be with many more Polyfaces and CSAs, selling direct to consumers and local stores. Certainly, the entire community would be more resilient with such an economic model. Globalization, centralization and standardization has failed us.

Kristin said...

Great post Sheri. Love the discussion!

Lorie said...

I am guilty of apologizing for the price of our eggs and pork. We live and work in a fairly economically depressed area. It is also very rural, and very small (small, poor customer base!). It makes marketing good, wholesome food difficult. We raise the food because we love to do it, but are both forced to work off-farm to support our "habit". Properly feeding and taking care of animals is not cheap, but people seem to think we should give away the fruits of our labors for free, or near free.

I guess ideally we should move closer to a wealthy urban setting if we want to make a living with our farm. However, the trade-off of living in that situation does not appeal to us. so we will continue to push along where we are and do the best we can!

BTW- I love reading this blog every day.

Mundt Farms said...

We raise grass fed beef, and have heard potential customers say that our prices are too high compared to the grocery. Rather than apologize, I tell them firstly, it takes longer to get a calf to market weight on grass alone, so by the time they get it, my animal has eaten twice as much as a grocery bound calf. Secondly, I tell them that they will never buy beef in a grocery with the health, ecological or taste benefits of my beef. I had a recent customer tell me I needed to raise my prices!

Sophie said...

I am willing to pay more for food that I know is good, all the way from the soil up. I pay $5/lb for fresh chicken, $18-20/lb for choice cuts of beef, $4-6/bag for fresh greens, and $9/gallon for raw milk. I know all of my farmers and how they produce their food and feel that I am getting the bargain since I lack the talent for producing my own food. I want my farmers to make a fair and decent living. I would never try to bargain them down in price--good food costs time and money to produce. If they cut the price, where will it be made up? I want the food to be as nutrient dense and safe as it is.

I am neither rich nor poor--somewhere in the middle. I don't buy chips, soda, cookies, or anything else processed. According to my family, I need new furniture and better window treatments. I think I need to stick with the good food.

I also spend more time learning about, collecting, and preparing this food than my contemporaries. I'm okay with that too.

KMD said...

I have no problem paying what you charge for your food. However, it's what others charge for Polyface products that drive me insane.

$6.00/dozen for eggs at Ellwood's here in Richmond.

Walter Jeffries said...

I like wealthy buyers. They buy quality and are willing to pay for it. I produce quality. It is a limited resource. It has always been this way, there are people willing to pay for quality and they support those who produce quality.

I was referred here to your excellent post by someone who had just seen a post I had made about my recent post on piglet pricing.

As you say, I make no apology for quality or the price of it.

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