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With one of the world’s highest failure rates for small businesses, the South African socio-economic landscape presents a formidable challenge for aspiring entrepreneurs. Amongst the main challenges that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) reported in the Quarter 3 2021 SME Index conducted by SME financier, Business Partners Limited, were related to a lack of skills, and limitations around marketing. This can arguably be tied back to the importance of proper market research and astute financial planning; a part of which is making sure that goods and services are priced accurately and in line with a business’s strategic objectives.

This was highlighted by Business Partners Ltd Managing Director, Ben Bierman in a recent column published in Business Report, wherein he advocated for small businesses to focus on pricing their goods and services correctly from the outset to avoid issues around competitiveness, market share and sales volumes, later on in the business journey.

Rene Botha, Area Manager at Business Partners Ltd supports Bierman that: “The pricing of goods and services is so crucial that it has produced a whole industry of pricing analysis specialists. These experts build pricing models based on market trends, statistical analysis and strategic positioning. Finding the right price point to enter the market competitively is no small feat – it’s more of a science. As an SME owner, whether you’re consulting with a specialist or basing your decisions on market research, pricing should be at the very top of your priority list.

Botha emphasizes the following three tips for small businesses to follow when making decisions around pricing:

  • Don’t build your competitiveness on pricing alone

One of the biggest mistakes that small business owners make with regards to pricing, is believing that the lowest price is the most competitive price. This oversimplification is a common mistake among business owners who base their entire business strategy on it.

Regardless of how niche your product or service is, large corporate competitors will have the budget and market influence to undercut your pricing. Therefore, relying on pricing alone as a competitive benchmark is very risky. In addition, setting your price too low can create the impression that your business is offering an inferior product to that of your competitors, and may result in consumers undervaluing your product or service. Finding the balance between charging what your product or service is worth and charging a price that is relative to your competitors, is not easy, but it’s an exercise that’s worthy of a significant investment of both time and resources to ensure you are able to build a sustainable business.

  • Understand the true cost of your product

Minimising costs is often a key focus for business owners, who are called upon to “wear multiple hats” or bootstrap their way through aspects like accounting, marketing and recruitment, in order to do so. What entrepreneurs need to bear in mind is that time and effort also come at a cost. Every hour spent working on developing a business equates to an opportunity cost, or time that could have been spent elsewhere to generate revenue.

All costs need to be factored in when determining the price of goods and services in order to avoid running at a loss. There are a few hidden costs to consider, including equipment depreciation, water and electricity, mileage and licensing fees. These costs add up over time and their sum total can be deceptive. It’s important to weigh up the total cost of running a business in terms of time, labour and output cost – rather than just the monetary cost. This will allow you to determine your profit margin more accurately.

  • Optimise the law of supply and demand

The capitalist system in which we live is governed primarily by the law of supply and demand. This law is an economic theory that demonstrates the relationships between these concepts. Supply and demand have a profound effect on pricing – the price of your goods or services should always reflect the market conditions in order to remain competitive. When supply is high and exceeds the demand for a good or service, the price usually drops, while on the converse, prices will rise when demand exceeds supply.

Understanding this synergetic relationship is key to ensuring your pricing model will deliver margin – albeit tighter – even in a depressed market. Time spent on market research to determine the need for your product or service in order to build a viable and sustainable business, is never wasted.

“Pricing your product or service correctly, and this may need to be re-evaluated from time-to-time to remain aligned with changing market conditions, is therefore the very foundation of a business that can stand the test of time,” concludes Botha.



About the Author: René Botha

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René Botha is the Regional Investment Manager for Gqeberha, George, Stellenbosch and the Peninsula region. René is our go-to-spokesperson for all things business finance and women entrepreneurship and is currently also managing the Energy Fund for SMEs, offering finance from R250 000 for solar and battery systems, generators and other solutions, showcasing her commitment to sustainable business solutions.