business to business, crowdsourcing, growth strategy, internet, marketing, networking, online business, partnership, PricingProphets.com, services sector, Start-up Profiles, The Churchill Club
PricingProphets.com, Crowdsourced Expert Pricing Recommendations: Start-up Profiles
By Michelle Hammond
PricingProphets.com is an online service designed to help businesses answer the age-old question: what price should I charge for my product or service?
According to founder and managing director Jon Manning, the Melbourne-based business – which utilises crowdsourcing – “is possibly the most affordable expert pricing advice in the world”.
“Our website lets a panel of seasoned global pricing professionals provide their expert pricing recommendations without the large price tag,” he says.
Manning talks to StartupSmart about how he hopes his idea will change the way people do business.
What inspired the idea for PricingProphets.com?
In mid-2010, a friend and I were hunting around for a new business opportunity.
We were at the Churchill Club in Melbourne in late June listening to a panel of speakers talking about their crowdsourcing businesses, when Brendan Lewis (co-founder and chairman of the Churchill Club) asked me a question about pricing and crowdsourcing.
In the networking session that followed, someone came up to me and asked, “Hey, you do pricing. I’ve got this product and I’m about to launch another product… what price should I charge?”
I realised then and there that a) people have been asking me that very same question for over 20 years and b) this was a problem that could be solved by the topic of that evening: crowdsourcing.
Initially, the business was going to be called CrowdedPrice.com and we were going to use a “crowd of consumers” to tell companies what price they’d be willing to pay for their products.
But you don’t have to look too far to see that most of the big market research companies already can or do offer this type of service.
It then struck me that what I did know, which all these big market research companies didn’t, was a large number of pricing experts from all around the world.
Surely it would be far more revolutionary to use the power of the internet – to harness the knowledge and experience of these experts – to help companies determine what price they should charge and why.
And that is how PricingProphets.com came to be, and the problem that it solves.
How long did you work on the business before you launched it?
I spent the last six months of 2010 documenting the required website functionality and doing some proof-of-concept testing.
Early in the new year, I asked my partner to build the site in 100 days. We did it in 101 days, missing our target by one day while waiting for the Australian Tax Office to issue us with an ABN number.
We did a soft launch – commencing registration of experts – on May 3, 2011, and then officially took the locks off the site on May 23.
What is your revenue model?
Customers pay a flat fee and I take care of the payment of the expert. My cut varies by the type of product. Customers can do one project or multiple projects.
How many staff do you have?
There are two of us working in the business at the moment, and between us we cover off strategy, operations, finance and technology.
We also engage trusted consultants and contractors as required, mainly for legal and marketing purposes.
And then there are the experts. These are based in Australia, the UK, the US, Singapore, India and the Netherlands, and have pricing, marketing or commercial experience in over 40 industries.
How did you fund the business?
We’ve bootstrapped/self-funded the business to the tune of around $20,000 at this stage.
What are your revenue projections for 2011/12?
Steve Jobs and Akio Morita, of Sony, both believed that you couldn’t make any sort of meaningful projections for a truly revolutionary product, about which they both knew a thing or two.
We’ve adopted the same approach but, needless to say, we’re very happy with the early results.
How do you promote the business?
Being a revolutionary new B2B service, there are some promotional opportunities that work and some that don’t.
Print and online press is working very well for us, as are speaking engagements, networking, word-of-mouth and the advocacy of the experts, and the many people who tell us, “You mean this type of service doesn’t already exist?”
What are your points of difference?
To the best of our knowledge, we are the world’s only crowdsourcing/expert-sourcing platform devoted to the forgotten “P” of marketing.
We provide a solution to an eternal problem, which is, “What price do I charge?”
We’re also making pricing research egalitarian (accessible to start-ups, entrepreneurs and SMEs), timely (projects are turned around in seven days) and affordable.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I think our biggest challenge is also our biggest risk. Like any new and revolutionary product or service, there’s a chance that people just don’t get it.
About 70-80% of companies today think there are only two ways to set prices: use cost-plus pricing or outsource pricing to the competition (ie. match them).
Our service allows companies to charge for the value they deliver (which customers care about), rather than the costs they incur (which customers don’t care about).
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Not a thing. We didn’t do anything by the book. We asked, “Why?” a lot and we challenged every single norm, convention or rule of thumb that we heard about. We’re pleased with the results.