Revealing rates online
By Mary Crosslin
Adding rates on your website can make life easier.
By Mary Crosslin
Whether or not to publish rental rates on your website has been debated in our industry for decades. Should you make your prices public for all the world to see?
Personally, I have been encouraging clients to do this for many years. I have taken the position that your website is your additional, indefatigable salesperson. But, until last year, my own company had not followed that advice. As an organization, we made many of the same arguments that I have heard from clients over the past 23 years about why it was not the right decision for us. If your company hasn’t yet made this leap, you may recognize your reasoning below.
Last year our company was simultaneously working on a new website while investigating several different kinds of software products to improve our own internal processes and this exercise was enlightening. During our research for new help desk, phone and project management software, we immediately dismissed any products that would not share their costs. Not only because it was a necessary factor in our decision-making process, but it made us feel that the company was hiding something if they were reluctant to share their pricing.
So, as we were re-writing our website, we finally took our own advice. I have heard from several clients during the past year that, internally, their organizations are also still struggling with this decision. So, I thought I would compile this article reasoning out the pros and cons and hopefully giving some of you some food for thought.
Let’s start with some of the main reasons rental businesses give for their feeling that prices on websites are a scary (or even terrible) idea.
- Prices without context will deter people. Possibly… but there are people out there doing research. They need prices. They have chosen to use your website to accomplish that research. If they were to call your store, would you give them prices? Of course, you would! So, give them the information they need where and when they are looking for it. You can use tactics like “starting at’”and “contact us for [fill in the blank: corporate, long-term, bulk, etc.] pricing”. If they encounter your competitor’s website and it has no pricing on it, then they will by-pass them altogether and move forward.
- My competition will know my rates. Who cares? First, they likely do now anyway – don’t you know theirs? If they place a “shopping” call to your store, your staff will tell them the rates on equipment when they inquire, right? Secondly, if they match your price, focus on value. You likely coach your staff to do this on the phone, you can design your website to do the same.
- My competitors don’t do it. As the founder of our company would infamously say, “That’s great!” This is even more reason to do it – this distinction will drive business to your website. It’s SEO gold! Lead, don’t follow. If you don’t believe me, check with your SEO company, and if you don’t have one, get one.
- It’s too complicated. This is a great point and another way to help educate your prospective clients and explain exactly why they need your company’s expertise. Use your website to show them options, give them details to take into consideration, and let them know that your team is standing by to assist them. Some of the very best websites I have seen use the opportunity to share their company’s expertise and show how they provide tools, experience and the right equipment to solve problems, overcome challenges, or bring their clients’ ideas to fruition. They simultaneously show how complicated their clients’ projects can be and why they are the right business partner to help them solve it.
Why should you add rates to your website?
- Your website is your 24-by-7 salesperson. Like your salespeople, it should reflect your culture, personality, and answer all the questions that your staff would answer by phone. Would you refuse to quote a price over the phone? No. So, provide today’s consumer with the same information via the method they choose to contact your business.
- Reduce friction for your client to do business with you. Your clients are busy and are often under time constraints. Give them the information they need without making them jump through hoops to get it. Their preferred method to gather data is via the web – give it to them without forcing them to call and talk to a live person during business hours. The person tasked to research pricing, options or solutions typically has no skin in the game and will simply move along to the next website if they don’t find the answers they need on yours.
- Buyers actually need the information. Any buyer is trained to search for a price as part of the buying decision. Being upfront about pricing builds trust. Not sharing pricing makes it seem as though your company is hiding something. Sometimes clients need to do this research in order to re-evaluate their budget. If you feel that your staff would do a better job justifying prices or selling the added value I challenge you to listen to your staff field the typical “shopping price” call. Further, I challenge you to find ways to help your website make the points you hope your staff are making.
- Save time. Qualify leads without the time investment. If you want a healthy and profitable business, you must make a healthy profit margin. Not every prospect is your target audience. And while we are at it, free up your staff to provide outstanding customer service and handle more urgent talks than calls about pricing.
- Promote brand integrity. Be honest and transparent about your products, services, expertise, and (yes) prices. Don’t just write about this culture on your website, show it by being upfront about your pricing.
It’s the key to the crucial next steps. Every rental store will be faced with updating their technology, not just in order to meet the needs of their clients during this unusual time, but to stay competitive going forward. In order to implement a shopping cart or e-commerce, you will need to share your rates.
I added rates…what’s next?
The next logical step is to integrate your rental software to your website and do a few different things. You don’t need to do them all at once. Stick your toe in the water of web integration and start with just one. Once you see how impactful that can be, tackle the next suggestion. Discuss with your rental software partner which one to try first. Here are a few options.
Add a shopping cart. Go from simply showing a list of your equipment (with pictures and prices) on your website to allowing clients to request a quote to reserve that same equipment. Most rental software can receive such requests, where it can then be converted to a quote and emailed to your client or prospect. This does a few things for you.
It reduces time and touch-costs while decreasing errors in re-writing a request that comes to you via email from your website when the prospect fills out a form. One click and you have a quote! Your staff has better ways to provide outstanding customer service than re-creating an order the client just put together on your website.
It leverages the features of your rental software. Just like your rental software utilizes kits, related items, specialized pricing and screen notes to make it easier and faster for your staff to write tickets, you can make it easier for your clients to compile a list of equipment and request pricing and your staff to quickly review, convert and send the quote for their signature.
It allows you to check your availability and guide prospects into equipment that will take full advantage of your inventory. If you receive a request for pricing on something that you may need to sub-rent, you can suggest an alternative or offer an upgrade at the same rate. (Or one option I love even more: When you get the new order, offer your long-term existing client an upgrade at no charge to free up the equipment your new client just reserved.)
It increases up-selling by automatically introducing suggested items like tent liners, lighting, heating, power, safety equipment, or attachments. Think Amazon’s feature: “Other shoppers considered these items.”
It adds data to your marketing tools. Likely, you are using the data from your rental software to actively market to your clients. This will add prospect information to that data and broaden your reach.
It enables you to effectively do more while staying remote, responding to clients more quickly, and improving communication and levels of efficiency.
Level up and move from a shopping cart to full e-commerce. Once you realize how much time a shopping cart saves you, consider allowing your clients to create real-time reservations. I know, scary right? As a self-proclaimed “control enthusiast,” I had exactly the same reaction when a client approached us about writing this feature several years ago. But, trust me, you can do this – within parameters, of course! With integrated credit card processing and electronic signature capture, you can take deposits as part of the creation of the reservation. You can limit how soon ahead of the delivery you want to allow orders to be placed, you can prevent changes within date ranges and even decide which clients can place these kinds of orders.
Add a customer portal. Allow your clients to self-serve in other ways. Provide your client a way to access their account information through a secure login on your website. This can also link to your rental software and allow them to pay invoices, re-print tickets, take equipment off rent and much more. This is a great way to alleviate the time your staff is spending on processing payments, doing collections and responding to back-office and accounting inquires while improving cash flow and making your clients feel empowered.
I hope that sharing the example of our own lessons here at Alert, as well as analyzing the commonly perceived negatives about posting rates has taken some of the nervousness out of the prospect. I further hope that examining the clear advantages will help you reconsider some of your own perspectives and re-think some changes to your website. I look forward to hearing how the changes that you make this year allowed you to meet your prospects where they live and give them the data that they require. Reduce that friction!
Mary is the COO/co-president of Alert Rental Software and can be reached at Mary@AlertRental.com and on twitter @MaryFCrosslin