I get this question from time to time:
“Lincoln, is it okay to offer discounts right on your pricing page?”
Short answer: No.
The longer answer, with some nuanced yesses thrown in, along with some tactics that you can employ, is below…
First, if you haven’t read my article about optimizing your “Contact Us for Enterprise Pricing” process, read it to understand how I view Pricing Pages. Don’t want to read it? Fine… the short version is to look at your pricing page as the place to display your “retail” pricing and how to use that view to streamline your Enterprise opportunity flow, but it all starts with reframing how you view the pricing page.
Reluctantly Acceptable Discount
The typical “annual discount” is just about the only one that is acceptable for a public pricing page, but as I’ve said before that there’s a better way to do discounts.
Rather than reducing the price on something your customer is going to pay for anyway, I’d rather see you add value and charge the same price (or more).
The main reason I’m not a fan of offering a discount on your pricing page is that your prospect may sign-up for the discounted plan when they would have otherwise signed-up for the regular priced plan.
And on a general purpose, public page like that you just don’t have context to know whether they would have or whether the discount was the only way.
Why’d they Take the Discount?
Though once they signed-up, you could ask them if the discount was the catalyst or if they would have signed-up anyway. While the validity of the responses to that type of question is tricky to gauge, if you have a lot of people saying things like “honestly, I totally would have signed-up at full price but the discount was offered, so I took it” then you may have a valid result.
You can test that hypothesis, BTW, by raising the discounted price to the current list, and raising your current list prices by whatever the original discount percentage was. Then you’ll know that people just take the discount… the price isn’t the issue.
In fact, and this is why you MUST know your Ideal Customers – there are some companies out there that, especially older and/or larger companies that have a procurement policy in place that requires them to take a discount offered by a vendor they were already going to do business with. So if you offer a discount, and those are your customers, they MUST take the discount.
You can use that knowledge for profit or loss… it’s up to you.
So here are…
3 Acceptable Pricing Page Discount Tactics
Actually… there are 4… I put in a bonus tactic just for you.
1. Don’t Show the Discount on the First visit
Set a cookie on the first visit and if they return to pricing page a second (or greater) time, show them the discount on the page. Could be just a different version of the page, a different element switched out, a new element on the page, a modal pop, etc.
While the discount may get them to sign-up initially, remember to make them a one-time-offer for a discount on the next plan up, getting them to essentially sign-up for the same (or higher) price than what they would have without the discount.
2. Only show the Discount When they Leave
Do an exit intent popup that says “before you leave, here’s a discount…”
Don’t do that only from the pricing page, either… do an exit pop with a discount offer whenever they intend to exit the site.
If you can get more sophisticated, then only do a discount exit pop if they visited the pricing page and > x other (perhaps specific) pages.
You could use the same logic for offering discounts via a Live chat widget.
If you’re using a product that ties website activity to a person you’ve already connected with (and therefore have their contact info) you could send them an email after they’ve bounced around your site.
Or you could trigger an alert to the Sales Rep on the account to reach out with a Discount offer. You could use that along with the “Customer Success bot” method for even better results.
3. Retarget with a Discount Offer
You could retarget with a discount offer based on the first visit, but I’d rather retarget to get them back to the site, to learn more, to sign-up for the trial, etc.
It’s better to do discount-specific retargeting after at least the second visit. (on the second visit, kill the original retargeting cookie and set a new “discount” one… kill it if they make it to a post-signup page.)
Discount retargeting works even better to do it after interactions with several price or product-specific pages on a second (or greater) visit.
Send them back to a landing page specific to that discount
4. BONUS! Behind the Scenes Discounts
Ideally, you can build your marketing message around a strong-enough value prop to get them to try the product without a discount.
But then, once they’re signed-up, you can make them a one-time-offer, behind the scenes, to convert to a paying customer right then (again, do the discount right and grow LTV!)
The reality is, while it’s likely you could tighten your value prop, improve your trust factors or sales copy, you just may need a discount to entice them to sign-up. You can still give them their 14- or 30-day free trial… and you can start it without asking for their Credit Card up-front (the preferred method), but you can immediately make them an offer – right after they sign-up – to get them to enter their CC details, lock in the price, and not miss a beat when the trial expires.
The cool thing about making a discount offer like this behind the scenes is that you can test different offers to see what works while knowing that – to a certain extent, at least – people signed-up for your product not just to get the discount.
Discount to Grow LTV… not as a Crutch
As I’ve said before, Discounts might not be as necessary if you get the rest of your marketing and pricing in check… or they let you get away with not fixing those things but continuing to make “progress.” Or discounts might be a part of a strategic plan to drive customer Lifetime Value (LTV). I prefer the latter.
Which is why I say, no matter what tactic you use, when they go for the discount, make them a one-time-offer for a discount on the next higher plan or the plan plus a bonus of some sort, to get them to essentially sign-up for the same (or higher) price than what they would have without the discount.
And yeah, while that might be a one-time-offer for that discount, you can make as many one-time-offers as you want… though after the first offer post-signup, I’d make the next offers after the prospect reaches an early success milestone.