5 Ways to Optimize a Pricing Table

Presented live on Tuesday, September 15, 2020

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In today’s tutorial, we’re talking about overcoming pricing objections because it’s one of the biggest objections we have to overcome as copywriters, marketers, freelancers or small business owners.

If you want to get visitors to buy more and you want to increase average order value, then start optimizing CLOSER to the point of conversion. Here’s what’s inside:

5 Ways to Optimize a Pricing Table: – The Goldilocks Principle – The Ugly Jerry Effect – Primacy Effect – Recency Effect – Contrast Effect

Plus Jo’s dishing on 3 ways she counters price objections. This tutorial is stacked!!


Introduction [00:00]

Joanna Wiebe: Today, we’re going to work on pricing. Pricing. Pricing objections – one of the biggest objections that we ever have to overcome as copywriters or marketers.

So Andrew Yedlin. Andrew if you’re here, hello. Andrew did a really awesome post for us last week. It was many months in the making. But it worked out really well and I love it so much. 

It’s on copyhackers.com right now. It is all about how to write a SaaS website, but it’s really talking about homepages. Some targeted pages as well, but what we didn’t talk about in that because it’s such a big topic, of course, is how to write a pricing page. 

What to Expect in This Tutorial [00:49]

And now we’re going to be talking about countering price objections today. And that doesn’t only mean working on your pricing page. And we’re not gonna be able to cover all things pricing in a tutorial but we wanted to give us a nice intermediate-level discussion of countering price objection. 

So we’re going to dig into that today. This is being recorded. If you have any questions you would like us to cover before the end of today’s Tutorial Tuesdays, go ahead and put those in the Q&A area. Otherwise, feel free to chat to each other as you’re already doing. Chat to us. Whatever feels right and I am going to share my screen and get cracking on this very important topic. 

Now pricing pages are my favorite thing in the whole wide world. As a conversion copywriter I naturally really, really, really love working on anything that is so closely tied to getting a conversion. It’s probably why I loathe home pages so very much because they’re so far, in most cases, from getting an actual paid conversion.

Unless they act like a long form sales page which we can talk about another time. Okay.

We want to counter price objections, so that’s what we’re going to talk about. I’m going to talk with three different ways to counter price objections today. And then part of the third way is including these five persuasion techniques. So there’s a lot of numerals on the page.

Price is Always THE Objection [02:07] 

And what really matters here is we’re talking about countering price objections. So, know that price is always THE objection. Yet almost never an actual objection. So it’s almost worth disregarding in most cases, that’s kind of my take on it.

People will always have price objections. When you’re going through the data and you’re asking people, what kept you from…? Or what would have kept you from…? Which is a terrible question to ask. But what almost kept you from buying? What got in the way for you? Price will come up really, really regularly and if you’re used to interviewing for this, then you’ll want to be able to push past that mass, to the next layer.

Because what’s really going on is, it’s not actually typically an objection. If you’re buying a Porsche, you want to buy a Porsche, and you’ve got Toyota Camry money, then price is an objection, but it’s like a legitimate objection there. In most cases, we’re not selling $200,000 cars.

We’re moving someone from spending $40 a month to spending $80 a month on something. And that’s where the real objections typically are. But how do we actually get them to the point where they don’t care so much with the $40 they’ve just been spending and they start to see $80 a month as a far better investment.

That’s the kind of thing that we need to do as copywriters, as marketers, as people who are running businesses, and that includes you if you’re a freelance copywriter. You have major price objections, very often, and that’s in hiring you as a freelance copywriter. 

Because there are others out there who will charge very little money and make the rest of us weep and just want to hide in a corner. But we have to be really good at overcoming those objections.

3 Ways to Counter Price Objections [03:49]

  • Increase the Perception of Value
  • Do the Math
  • Intentionally Order the Pricing Area

Increase the Perception of Value [03:50]

The first way to do this is, of course, to increase the perception of value The more value it feels like your solution has, the less people think about price. We all know this, right. But how do we actually do that. There are so many ways. Basically all the ways that we write copy are meant to help increase the perception of value in one way or another. 

Some ways are very direct. Others are indirect, right? For example, how things look and feel, how the brand sounds, that sounds expensive. If your word choice is leaning toward things that feel more expensive for your audience without leaning heavily on luxury, and crap like that. I’m not saying that. 

But, going really minimalist or maximalist. So we’re going to get into some ways to increase the perception of value. Now this is basically your whole job as a copywriter to increase the perception of value of the thing that you are trying to sell.

Know The Product [04:43]

It definitely requires that you know the product. So I know a lot of copywriters, sadly, will write for a product that they don’t know that well. And that’s not always the copywriter fault. When I worked writing copy for QuickBooks and Turbo Tax, I could write a lot more easily for Turbo Tax because I used it. I know what those moments are in using the product. I knew it very, very well. 

I wasn’t a business owner at the time, using QuickBooks meant nothing for me. I don’t know. I didn’t know at the time, what a small business owner was going through and so you rely a lot on research, of course, I understand that. But that doesn’t help you know the product.

So it’s the more you can know about the product, the more you can increase that perception of value. So wherever possible. If you’re a freelancer in particular, make sure that when you say yes to working with a client. You also don’t start working with them until you have received a copy of their products. 

That means sign in details if you’re writing for their SaaS. It means if you’re selling a water bottle, they ship you the water bottle so you can try it and experience the whole thing. Know the product, document the product. You’re going to need that in order to do some of these things.

What is a Value Prism? [05:55]

So I don’t know, who knows what the value prism is here. We talked about it sometimes but

we don’t talk about enough. There’s so many things that we talked about on repeat, like voice of customer data, which is great and very, very useful. 

But there’s so much more that we don’t ever get a chance to talk that deeply about. And for me, a value prism is one of those things. It’s really digging into the little known stuff that other copywriters just disregard, and a lot of marketers disregard but that can make a big difference for your prospects. 

So, value prism, and you don’t have to take away everything, but take away one thing from this tutorial. What’s one thing you’re going to do differently and maybe it is the value prism? And the idea here is you look at your products. You kind of imagine holding the product and that could mean service. I’m just going to say product but it means all the things we sell.

Imagine holding it up to the light and the light shines through just like it would have the prism and you get this refraction. But you get you start to see everything coming out of all of the wonder that was inside of it kind of gets shined, shined, sheeened out of if. out, none of those words. 

Nonetheless, but all of the stuff that comes out and you can see, oh wow inside that prism, there was this color and that color, and that’s what we want to do here. What’s hidden inside the product that you don’t talk about? And that’s like, move beyond features. Move beyond that stuff. 

Once you’re at the product awareness and you’re moving someone towards the actual point of most aware, we often just talk about features. But there’s so much more to it than that you could talk about the education of the creators, the work history of the creators. Where it was made. Was it in a factory or if it was like on the island of Crete? I think it’s an island. I don’t know my brain isn’t working out well for random facts today.

But all of these other details about the making of the product. What’s behind it, what’s inside of it, all of that kind of stuff, can be really interesting to your prospect and help them better understand what goes into it.

And if you’re not sure this is true. This is how Dyson, the vacuums, sells so well. They have this super team of engineers that they don’t hide. They talk openly. They talk openly about their patents, about everything that goes into something that is otherwise just a vacuum.

So you can sell a vacuum for $1,000 in a market where most people would rarely spend more than $200. Because you show, you increase the perception of value by really having a prismatic look at the value. 

Showing here this timeline of growth showing below is from BaseCamp’s pricing page. This is, I think it’s at the bottom of their pricing page. And this shows the timeline of their growth and they had just 45 paying users, 16 years later they have 3.3 million accounts signed up. 

So this is something that few people actually talk about, even startups that have been in business for years and years. And having 100, 200 thousand or 500 million people using their solution, but all they say is, join 100,000 users and leave it at that. When there’s so much more you could actually do. And this is where our value as copywriters comes to life. 

Right, a marketer would say, oh just say join the hundred thousand users. Cool. Now, everybody knows. But when you show a timeline like this, you show more what’s inside of it. Now you’re increasing the perception of value and that can help overcome those pricing challenges. 

Do The Math [09:24]

Do the actual math. This is technique number two of the three that I promised for you, do the math on the page. We have done this repeatedly but Basecamp, I wanted to stick with Basecamp as an example here, we often assume that, oh, people just remember. People will just do the math themselves. They’ll figure it out. No, no, and no. Never. People almost never. Even when you think like, oh, but I’m targeting engineers, or astrophysicists, or people who are more likely to be very logical, let’s say, do the math themselves. No.

Never expect that your prospect is going to do any level of work to help you with your job. Your job is to help them understand the value so that they say yes, do the math. This is a really good example. This is also on the pricing page for Basecamp, if you’re unfamiliar with Basecamp.

Most people in the software world are extremely familiar with Basecamp and have been using the Basecamp website as a giant swipe file since the beginning of time. So if you’re not familiar, go over and reference Basecamp the way maybe you already do reference Apple.com and things like that.

Do the math on the page. Help people really see the value $99 a month flat versus all of these other things off to the side. When you do the math on the page, people who are considering your solution are far more likely now to make a more informed decision toward the yes. Okay, so those are two techniques.

Intentionally Order the Pricing Area [10:52]

Now we’re moving into the third and this is specific to pricing pages where we’re actually intentionally ordering the pricing area I have, sadly, seen people when they’re submitting copy for review for us, they’ll put the write like “pricing page headline” and “the subhead” and then they’ll put like “pricing table goes here.” And then they have FAQs below. 

And I’m like, Oh Lord, the pricing table is the greatest opportunity here on a pricing page. So we want to study persuasive architecture and apply what you learned. It is not that hard to study this simply because there’s only so much information out there and you can become pretty smart on the subject, pretty quickly, just by taking a week. 

Let’s say if you want to write for SaaS anyway, take a week. And that doesn’t mean 40 hours. That means like three hours a day where you’re going to go study something else about optimizing pricing pages and pricing tables.

You can do this. I mean, you can just take the five things I’m about to show you right now and just dig deeper into them. Okay, so let’s talk about intentionally ordering the pricing area.

5 Persuasive Architecture Techniques [11:54]

  • The Goldilocks Principle
  • The Ugly Jerry Effect
  • Primacy Effect
  • Recency Effect
  • Contrast Effect

The Goldilocks Principle [11:55]

Step one. One technique you might be familiar with already is the Goldilocks Principle. This is like the good, better, best, kind of thing. But what’s really happening here with the Goldilocks Principle, is you have an odd number of options, three or five typically, not seven because that’s a lot for your brain to have to deal with. 

Oh, I didn’t mention this on the last one I just kind of glazed over it. Hang up one of the most foundational principles here to keep in mind is that the lizard brain that’s what we’re typically tapping into a lot of the time.

The lizard brain loves to create options sets. Okay, so it loves to take a big group of something and figure out ways to whittle it down to a smaller group that it can make really easy sense of. So your lizard brain feels safe when it eliminates options and tries to just compare two against each other. 

So when you think about it that way, know that it can get very overwhelmed with too many options, but if you give that lizard brain a few options where it can cut options away. That’s actually a good thing in decision making. Having the ability to say no to something helps it focus on what to say yes to.

So when we’re talking about the Goldilocks Principle. Here we have three or five options and we want to of course optimize for the “just right” option so not too soft, not too hard, it’s just right. And that’s typically the one in the middle. So, of course, and a lot of us know this, but when you’re actually talking to your team or your clients about how to optimize or rework the pricing table on a pricing page, actually referencing and calling it the Goldilocks Principle can immediately elevate your value as well. 

So never underestimate the power of using the right term, in that moment, to get people on board with you. But this is what it really means really means. Look, I’ve got three options to look at here. The design of this page separates freelancer out, so it’s distinctly outside of this world, where the lizard brain looks at it and goes, Okay, there are three options which one can I eliminate to get down to two? And then I can compare and contrast those against each other.

 But the Goldilocks Principle has the middle one, is the one that we always always go toward. And once you know that, of course, we do know that but call it Goldilocks Principle.

Once you know that then you can start saying, Okay, well, if we know people are going to the middle option, what can we do with the other options to make them draw the person and that lizard brain more closely to that middle option, where they’ll feel really good about it? And we’ll get into that with the four other techniques. 

The Ugly Jerry Effect [14:42]

So we’ve also got ugly Jerry effect. I talked about this in 10x Web Copy. I love Ugly Jerry and Ugly Tom. If you don’t know about this, go Google Ugly Jerry, Ugly Tom, it’s a wonderful study, You’ll love it! So, Ugly Jerry is about taking three different groups, three different options in a single set just like Goldilocks principle. 

But when you’re trying to get someone to choose one, and this is what persuasive architects actually do. Persuasive architects go in, and that’s our job too, go in and say, Okay, which one do we want to sell?

So we want to sell “Standard” right here, that’s what you’re looking at right now, that’s the one to go for. How do we make people look at that one and say yes to it. Ugly Jerry here holds that you’ve got two options that look very similar, and one that looks completely different.

And the one that looks completely different is the one that the lizard brain knocks away and says, like no big deal. Don’t worry about that one. We’re only going to look at these two that look very similar.

And that’s what’s happening here in the middle. “Premium,” $299 over there, that is Tom. So, Tom and Ugly Jerry, you’ll figure out when you go Google it. But it’s the one that looks different. Then we have these two here: we’ve got Ugly Jerry and Pretty Jerry. And that’s what we’re really trying to get people to figure out. Pretty Jerry is basically a prettier version, it’s more attractive here. 

That doesn’t mean that’s always the case for that. But this option is the one we’re trying to make look good. So next to it we put one that looks similar, but not as good. So this becomes our Ugly Jerry. “Essentials” is Ugly Jerry. Standard is Pretty Jerry. And then this one over here, we totally disregard. You could actually just put anything there. And the job of this one, “Premium,” is to make you look at the other ones. That’s the whole way that Ugly Jerry effect works.

Rarely do we see people actually do the most expensive one as Ugly Tom. More likely, as Tom you would have the two most expensive ones be the ones you want to compare side by side. But you can talk to your clients about that when you do that. 

Primacy Effect [16:50]

Okay primacy effect is also at play on this same page. So we have primacy and recency, we’re going to talk about too. Primacy, the first thing you see is the thing that sets your expectations for what follows. So when I land here, I see. Holy shit, $299?? That’s what this thing cost? But then the very next one is $14.

Now $14 doesn’t seem so expensive versus if you open with “Essentials at $9.99, if that was the first thing I saw, thing on the left is typically the first thing for Western people. The first thing that you pay attention to is the thing on the left.

That sets the expectation. It looks expensive. Anything that follows that, if it looks dramatically cheaper, now feels inexpensive. Versus if “Essentials” was the one on the far left then, $14.99 will look more expensive than “Essentials” and now we’re in a bad place. 

Recency Effect [17:44]

Typically, but there’s also Recency Effect too, where you want to think about the last thing that they saw. So in this case, the first thing I see is something very inexpensive, I start comparing my options.

And it goes all the way to a very expensive one. So, what we’re talking about here with primacy and recency is some people will pay attention to the first one. Some will pay attention to the last one. The thing that sticks in your head is what we’re trying to optimize for when we are optimizing pricing tables. So do we lead with the most expensive product and tap into Primacy Effect where we know that the first thing they see sets expectations? 

Or do we put the most expensive one last tap into Recency Effect because we know that the last thing they see is the thing that sticks with them. So the last price that they see here is the one that sticks with them. 

There is no answer to this, by the way, it’s not like, oh, all humans always default to Primacy Effect. So do that. This makes for a really great split-test of increasing average order value,

in particular, because that’s what really primacy and recency are all about. So if you work with a client or if you work for a software company. And it’s like, guys, we got to increase conversions.

Pricing Page is the best place to do that outside of onboarding and sales emails. Let’s go and do it now. You can have a discussion about Primacy Effect and Recency Effect and maybe do an A / B test where your control is usually what we’re looking at here with Recency Effect and you test the Primacy Effect against it. Which would really mean you open with $115 on the left and then move down from there and see which one increases average order value. It’s always fascinating, you will love this test.

Contrast Effect [19:21]

Contrast effect is the last one we want to talk about here. These have been 5 persuasion persuasion techniques used on pricing tables. Contrast Effect is really what’s happening across the board with everything we were looking at. Knowing again, that that lizard brain is always contrasting in order to try to make decisions really quickly, and in a safe way.

So Contrast Effect, what’s going on here. We already know, but we want to talk about it and use the right term for it. So they’re trying to sell “Professional” here. They’re opening with the least expensive product. I would hypothesize if they took the $15 a month one off entirely, they would keep conversions high because you still have these three to test against or to compare and contrast and increase average order value. So that’s a discussion that you can have with your client or your team.

But what they’re doing here is they’re leading with the least expensive version. They have four options here. Difficult for the lizard brain to figure out, because there’s four. It’s not easy to know which ones to eliminate. So to do that, they’re more visually contrasting here. We’ve got these four options. The one that we want people to look at is the one that has the greatest contrast against everything else on the page. They could take it further and we’ve tested it further.

And actually make the sign up now button which is currently blue, turn that to an orange color or something that has very high contrast. Contrast Effect means, of course, that your lizard brain looks at the thing that is most different and either takes it as a sign of safety in helping to make a decision, or as a sign ignore this. It’s terrifying. And that could be if this was spinning or flashing at you, the lizard brain could freak out. 

Yes, it’s high contrast, but it’s also introducing fear for me and anxiety. So I’m going to leave now, and keep my human safe. And in this case, right, we’ve got it nicely contrasted here and you could contrast it further, but you’d want to be careful not to go too far over that by adding spinning or a vibrating starburst, or something like that. 

That would terrify your little lizard brain. So those are the 5 techniques. We also want to just finish off this tutorial. It’s a big subject. That’s why there’s 25 minutes in. 

Take Their Mind off Their Money [21:37]

  • Remove dollar / currency symbols from the price
  • Make the numerals for price physically small
  • Make the color, weight, etc for the price font unremarkable
  • Break the price down to its smallest form (e.g. daily)
  • Offer massive savings and a healthy refund policy for paying now (vs taking a free trial)

I want to take their mind off their money too, right? It’s very easy. Especially if you’re somebody who is conscious of what things cost in your own life, it can be easy to think like, Oh, wow. No one’s ever going to spend this much money on something.

Remove Dollar / Currency Symbols From the Price [21:48]

No one’s ever going to spend $1,000 on a course. Why would they do that? People do this, so you have to take your own mind off money but also take their mind off their money. Let’s do our best to de-optimize money on the page. So that means remove dollar and currency symbols from the price of the thing that you’re actually selling. 

Make the Numerals for the Price Physically Small [22:11]

Make the numerals for the price physically small. I can’t tell you how many pricing pages. I see where the price is like in a giant font compared to everything else on the page. Like it’s bigger than the headline font. It’s so huge. Just like well, when you make it physically larger, the brain reads it as big and that’s the last thing we want the brain to think about, the price. So make the numerals smaller and you can talk to your designer about this too.

Make the Color, Weight, etc. for the Price Font Unremarkable [22:37]

And get them on board with that, like, it only makes good sense, make the color, weight, etc.for the price font unremarkable. By which I mean, sometimes we will put a different color for the price. Like, it’s $97 and everything else on the page is blue and white and now they make it the color green.

But don’t draw attention to it. We don’t want people thinking about money on a pricing page. It sounds counterintuitive because while they’re here for the price. But they’re really here in order to understand if they should say yes. And what they should say yes to.

Break the Price Down to its Smallest Form [23:09]

Break the price down to its smallest form. This is a really old school, you know,”for the price of a cup of coffee a day,” kind of thing. But break it down to that and see what you can do there. 

Offer Massive Savings and a Healthy Refund Policy for Paying Now [23:18]

And then, of course, another way to optimize and take their mind off their money is to offer massive savings and a healthy refund policy for paying now versus taking a free trial. QuickBooks, actually QBO. If you go to quickbooksonline.com these days, you can see that you either get a free trial or you can switch it to get 50% off for paying all at once. And it’s like, very interesting. 

Okay, we are out of time here. I know there are other questions, but if you have them feel free to post them over in the Word Workers group and we will do our best to get to them. Hopefully, what I’ve shared with you today helps you as you think through optimizing pricing tables. 

It was an overview of it. There’s much more, but more than anything. Those conversion tricks are great at the site of conversion but increasing the perception of value, always, always, always, always pays off. So work on that.

Thank you, everybody. Thanks for coming today and we’ll see you in our next Tutorial Tuesdays next week, hopefully. All right, stay safe out there. Bye, everyone.

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