How to Find Competitors’ Prices

The formula for “value-based pricing” is simple. Your buyer’s “willingness to pay” is equal to the competitor’s price plus positive differentiation value minus negative differentiation value. In other words, whatever your competitor is charging plus how much the buyer values what you do better, minus how much the buyer values what your competitor does better. Simple formula, but not so simple to implement.

One question that often comes up when teaching this is: “What if I don’t know my competitor’s price?” Seems important, since it’s the beginning of the formula we just discussed.

There is no magic bullet, but here are several ideas to think about.

List price. You may not know how much your competitor discounts, but if you can find their list price it can be helpful. You probably want to set your list price relative to theirs (plus or minus the value difference). Then assume they are offering industry standard discounts.

GSA. If your competitor sells to the government, their prices are likely on the GSA price list. Although I’ve never used this, I’ve heard you can find some fantastic information here.

Freedome of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Often, after a government bid is over, you can get access to the bids using FOIA requests. This could be time-consuming, but it may be worth it.

Partners. If you use a sales channel or other types of subcontractors who also partner with your competitors, they likely have the information you seek. They may not share it with you, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Salespeople. Your salespeople will tell you what they hear in an account. Often, they will learn how much the competitor is charging. Be very careful here. Ask sales where the information came from. If the information came from a buyer’s procurement agent, they are likely telling you your competitor’s price is lower than it really is. However, if the price came from an engineer or a user that’s part of the decision process, you can probably trust it.

Build a database. Consider creating your own competitor price database. Every time you hear a price, enter it into the database. Log who gave it to you and the original source of the information. Over time, you may create a pretty clear picture of your competitor’s prices and maybe even their pricing strategy.

What other ideas or techniques do you use? Please share with us, the community.

Mark Stiving

Mark Stiving

Mark Stiving is an instructor at Pragmatic Marketing with more than 20 years of experience in business startup, development, management, turnaround and sales and design engineering. He has helped companies create and implement new pricing strategies to capture more from the value they create, and has consulted with Cisco, Procter & Gamble, Grimes Aerospace, Rogers Corporation and many small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. He has led pricing initiatives as director of pricing at Maxim Integrated and as a member of technical staff at National Semiconductor. Mark also has served as president of both Home Director Inc. and Destiny Networks Inc. and as an assistant professor of marketing at The Ohio State University. Mark also is the author of “Impact Pricing: Your Blueprint to Driving Profits” (Entrepreneur Press, 2011). He can be reached at mstiving@pragmaticmarketing.com.


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