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需求萎縮就只能靠降價了?巴菲特給出了建議

需求萎縮就只能靠降價了?巴菲特給出了建議

Geoff Colvin 2020年07月16日
價格專家們一致建議,各公司在定價時應當多一些勇氣和創造性。

沃倫?巴菲特是一個激進的定價者。大多時候,他不會過問公司經理人的工作,但如果涉及定價問題,無論是喜詩糖果的巧克力還是布法羅新聞的報紙(伯克希爾哈撒韋在1972年收購了喜詩糖果,1977年收購了《布法羅新聞報》—譯者注),他總喜歡參與其中。

他曾向《財富》雜志解釋說:“公司經理人手里往往就一樁生意,經過盤算,他會覺得,定價偏低可能沒什么大問題,但如果定價偏高,他可能會把這輩子的事業都給毀了。”巴菲特認為,這種對風險的過度厭惡只會讓他們錯過賺錢的機會,所以他經常鼓勵經理人把價格定得再高一些,而事實證明,他往往是對的。

即便在歷史性的經濟下行時期,我們依然應該牢記巴菲特的建議。許多經理人會低估定價的力量,而在經濟面臨重重問題的當下,價格專家們一致建議,各公司在定價時應當多一些勇氣和創造性。對于那些需求大幅下降的行業而言,降價可能是個糟糕透頂的主意,而且可能完全沒有必要。

在一些像洗手液這樣的特殊行業,疫情大幅提升了市場需求。但即便在這些行業,經理人在定價時也需要一些勇氣,控制自己不去5倍、10倍、20倍的加價,不去挑戰市場承受的極限。只有那些謀劃長遠的人才會成為最終的贏家,雖然這一點在危機之中并不容易做到。

和洗手液行業不同,目前大多數行業都遇到了客戶收入減少、市場需求萎縮的問題,對他們而言,第一要務就是要盡可能地避免降價,也即業內專家所謂的“維持價格誠信”。貝恩咨詢公司全球定價業務的負責人羅恩?科爾米什表示,在B2B行業,“客戶要求降價的壓力很大,這也反應了客戶并不確定是否應該繼續采購貨品。企業為了推動銷售,往往也很快就同意了顧客降價的要求,而并沒有真正弄明白為什么客戶在采購時會猶豫不決。”

有創造力的經理人可以通過許多方法在保持價格穩定的同時減輕客戶的顧慮:比如,延長付款期限。而如果客戶是擔心不確定性,那么則可以給其提供期限較短的合同,或者提供額外的服務,比如協助他們集成新軟件等。

即便一定要給客戶優惠,維持既定價格也是至關重要的。以B2C領域為例,多家四季酒店采取了與上次經濟下行時期相同的策略:為客人提供第三晚或第四晚免費住宿的優惠,既讓客人得到了更多實惠,也將賬單上的房費價格維持在了原來的水平。麗思卡爾頓酒店為部分客人提供了每天100美元的“度假代金券”,可以用于支付餐飲、水療或其他服務的費用,在沒有降低房價的情況下降低了客人的總支出。

有人會問,難道沒人看出商家是在變相降價么?如果價格不變,客戶卻能享受到更多服務,這不很明顯是在降價么?實際上,兩者之間還是有差別的,而且這種差別還很重要。在定價理論中,有種東西叫“參考價格”,也就是客戶為產品或服務所支付過的最低價格。消費者往往會記住這個價格,并將未來看到的價格與之進行比較。為產品或服務提供的一次性優惠可能不太容易記住或估價,但參考價格卻非常清晰,一旦降價,客戶就會想,我為什么要付更多錢來享受同樣的產品或服務呢?

而這只是降價危害的開始。降價的負面影響往往會大于正面效應。如果你降價20%,那么要想維持收入,你就得多賣25%的產品。在經濟嚴重低迷的情況下,增加這么多銷量的可能性有多大?要是有競爭對手匹配了你的降價幅度,那情況就更糟了。不同行業的經濟狀況各不相同,但麥肯錫的研究發現,如一家標準普爾1500指數成分股公司降價5%,那么要想收回成本,就必須增加19%的銷量,而這種增幅幾乎不可能。雖然不降價可能意味著銷量減少、利潤降低,但降價的危害只會有過之而無不及。

降價長期影響的危害性可能更大,即便只是臨時降價,客戶也會對下次降價促銷抱有期望,助長其“薅羊毛”的行為。更有甚者,降價可能還會有損品牌價值。

在以高昂價格為產品特征、品牌形象為關鍵要素的奢侈品行業尤其如此。傳統觀點認為,該行業已從2008-09年的金融危機中吸取了教訓,當時,薩克斯第五大道和其他高檔消費場所的奢侈品價格給出了低至3折的折扣。現在,這種情境又一次上演:在華倫天奴的官網上,連衣裙5折出售,而在其它地方,更是低至3折;在Matchesfashion.com上,華倫天奴的串珠禮服已從30,000美元降價至區區9,000美元。原價購買商品的消費者可能現在已經下定決心,以后再也不會犯這種錯誤。這種情況在多數產品與服務行業都在上演,甚為普遍。

即便你曾發誓絕不降價,但面對巨大的經濟沖擊,可能你仍會發現除了降價別無選擇。但即便如此,你還是可以通過要求一些回報來減輕降價對你造成的損失。比如,貝恩最近的研究發現,在要求軟件供應商減免費用的首席信息官中,有81%獲得了費用減免,而在獲得費用減免的首席信息官中,有80%提供了某種回報,比如延長合同、擴大未來合同的涵蓋范圍或者提早續約。科爾米什表示:“客戶是會愿意給你一定回報的,作為供應商,你需要表現出自己的同理心,但同樣的,客戶也能理解你是要做生意的。”

那么如果銷售的是疫情期間供不應求的熱銷產品,你該怎么辦呢?建議很簡單:不要漫天要價。即便市場承受得了暴漲的價格,你也無法承受因此而帶來的聲譽打擊。從華盛頓州到華盛頓特區,美國各州總檢察長已對多家零售商發起訴訟或下令要求其停止不正當競爭,原因就是這些零售商以過高價格銷售次氯酸鈉、洗手液和相關產品。別讓這種事發生在你身上。要眼光長遠,而不是急功近利。

定價是一門被低估的技術。沒有哪個高管的頭銜里掛著“價格”二字。Simon Kucher&Partners咨詢公司的研究發現,“只有12%的公司相信自己可以通過調整價格來提高利潤”。大多數管理者都應該對定價事宜多加關注,疫情期間更是如此,只有充分發揮自己所能獲得的每一項優勢,才能熬過寒冬。 (財富中文網)

譯者:梁宇

審校:夏林

沃倫?巴菲特是一個激進的定價者。大多時候,他不會過問公司經理人的工作,但如果涉及定價問題,無論是喜詩糖果的巧克力還是布法羅新聞的報紙(伯克希爾哈撒韋在1972年收購了喜詩糖果,1977年收購了《布法羅新聞報》—譯者注),他總喜歡參與其中。

他曾向《財富》雜志解釋說:“公司經理人手里往往就一樁生意,經過盤算,他會覺得,定價偏低可能沒什么大問題,但如果定價偏高,他可能會把這輩子的事業都給毀了。”巴菲特認為,這種對風險的過度厭惡只會讓他們錯過賺錢的機會,所以他經常鼓勵經理人把價格定得再高一些,而事實證明,他往往是對的。

即便在歷史性的經濟下行時期,我們依然應該牢記巴菲特的建議。許多經理人會低估定價的力量,而在經濟面臨重重問題的當下,價格專家們一致建議,各公司在定價時應當多一些勇氣和創造性。對于那些需求大幅下降的行業而言,降價可能是個糟糕透頂的主意,而且可能完全沒有必要。

在一些像洗手液這樣的特殊行業,疫情大幅提升了市場需求。但即便在這些行業,經理人在定價時也需要一些勇氣,控制自己不去5倍、10倍、20倍的加價,不去挑戰市場承受的極限。只有那些謀劃長遠的人才會成為最終的贏家,雖然這一點在危機之中并不容易做到。

和洗手液行業不同,目前大多數行業都遇到了客戶收入減少、市場需求萎縮的問題,對他們而言,第一要務就是要盡可能地避免降價,也即業內專家所謂的“維持價格誠信”。貝恩咨詢公司全球定價業務的負責人羅恩?科爾米什表示,在B2B行業,“客戶要求降價的壓力很大,這也反應了客戶并不確定是否應該繼續采購貨品。企業為了推動銷售,往往也很快就同意了顧客降價的要求,而并沒有真正弄明白為什么客戶在采購時會猶豫不決。”

有創造力的經理人可以通過許多方法在保持價格穩定的同時減輕客戶的顧慮:比如,延長付款期限。而如果客戶是擔心不確定性,那么則可以給其提供期限較短的合同,或者提供額外的服務,比如協助他們集成新軟件等。

即便一定要給客戶優惠,維持既定價格也是至關重要的。以B2C領域為例,多家四季酒店采取了與上次經濟下行時期相同的策略:為客人提供第三晚或第四晚免費住宿的優惠,既讓客人得到了更多實惠,也將賬單上的房費價格維持在了原來的水平。麗思卡爾頓酒店為部分客人提供了每天100美元的“度假代金券”,可以用于支付餐飲、水療或其他服務的費用,在沒有降低房價的情況下降低了客人的總支出。

有人會問,難道沒人看出商家是在變相降價么?如果價格不變,客戶卻能享受到更多服務,這不很明顯是在降價么?實際上,兩者之間還是有差別的,而且這種差別還很重要。在定價理論中,有種東西叫“參考價格”,也就是客戶為產品或服務所支付過的最低價格。消費者往往會記住這個價格,并將未來看到的價格與之進行比較。為產品或服務提供的一次性優惠可能不太容易記住或估價,但參考價格卻非常清晰,一旦降價,客戶就會想,我為什么要付更多錢來享受同樣的產品或服務呢?

而這只是降價危害的開始。降價的負面影響往往會大于正面效應。如果你降價20%,那么要想維持收入,你就得多賣25%的產品。在經濟嚴重低迷的情況下,增加這么多銷量的可能性有多大?要是有競爭對手匹配了你的降價幅度,那情況就更糟了。不同行業的經濟狀況各不相同,但麥肯錫的研究發現,如一家標準普爾1500指數成分股公司降價5%,那么要想收回成本,就必須增加19%的銷量,而這種增幅幾乎不可能。雖然不降價可能意味著銷量減少、利潤降低,但降價的危害只會有過之而無不及。

降價長期影響的危害性可能更大,即便只是臨時降價,客戶也會對下次降價促銷抱有期望,助長其“薅羊毛”的行為。更有甚者,降價可能還會有損品牌價值。

在以高昂價格為產品特征、品牌形象為關鍵要素的奢侈品行業尤其如此。傳統觀點認為,該行業已從2008-09年的金融危機中吸取了教訓,當時,薩克斯第五大道和其他高檔消費場所的奢侈品價格給出了低至3折的折扣。現在,這種情境又一次上演:在華倫天奴的官網上,連衣裙5折出售,而在其它地方,更是低至3折;在Matchesfashion.com上,華倫天奴的串珠禮服已從30,000美元降價至區區9,000美元。原價購買商品的消費者可能現在已經下定決心,以后再也不會犯這種錯誤。這種情況在多數產品與服務行業都在上演,甚為普遍。

即便你曾發誓絕不降價,但面對巨大的經濟沖擊,可能你仍會發現除了降價別無選擇。但即便如此,你還是可以通過要求一些回報來減輕降價對你造成的損失。比如,貝恩最近的研究發現,在要求軟件供應商減免費用的首席信息官中,有81%獲得了費用減免,而在獲得費用減免的首席信息官中,有80%提供了某種回報,比如延長合同、擴大未來合同的涵蓋范圍或者提早續約。科爾米什表示:“客戶是會愿意給你一定回報的,作為供應商,你需要表現出自己的同理心,但同樣的,客戶也能理解你是要做生意的。”

那么如果銷售的是疫情期間供不應求的熱銷產品,你該怎么辦呢?建議很簡單:不要漫天要價。即便市場承受得了暴漲的價格,你也無法承受因此而帶來的聲譽打擊。從華盛頓州到華盛頓特區,美國各州總檢察長已對多家零售商發起訴訟或下令要求其停止不正當競爭,原因就是這些零售商以過高價格銷售次氯酸鈉、洗手液和相關產品。別讓這種事發生在你身上。要眼光長遠,而不是急功近利。

定價是一門被低估的技術。沒有哪個高管的頭銜里掛著“價格”二字。Simon Kucher&Partners咨詢公司的研究發現,“只有12%的公司相信自己可以通過調整價格來提高利潤”。大多數管理者都應該對定價事宜多加關注,疫情期間更是如此,只有充分發揮自己所能獲得的每一項優勢,才能熬過寒冬。

譯者:梁宇

審校:夏林

Warren Buffett is an aggressive pricer. He mostly leaves the managers of Berkshire Hathaway’s portfolio companies alone, but when it comes to setting prices at companies including See’s Candies and the Buffalo News, he has often liked to be involved.

“The manager has just one business,” he once explained to Fortune. “His equation tells him that if he prices a little too low, it’s not that serious. But if he prices too high, he sees himself screwing up the only thing in his life.” Such excessive risk aversion leaves money on the table, Buffett figures, so he often pushes for higher prices. More often than not, he’s right.

Even in a historic downturn, Buffett’s instinct is worth keeping in mind. Many managers underestimate the power of pricing, and the unanimous advice from pricing experts in this troubled economy is to price with courage and creativity. In businesses where demand has plunged, slashing prices may be a terrible idea—and it may not be necessary at all.

In a few special cases—think hand sanitizer—the pandemic has turbocharged demand. Yet even here, managers need courage. It’s the courage to abstain from multiplying prices by five or 10 or 20, or whatever the market will bear. The winners will be those who think long-term, difficult as that is in a crisis.

For the vast majority of businesses—those facing strapped customers and shrunken demand—the No. 1 imperative is to avoid cutting prices if at all possible, what experts in the field call “maintaining price integrity.” In the B2B world, “you get a lot of pressure back from your customers to reduce price, which can manifest itself as hesitancy to move forward with the purchase,” says Ron Kermisch, a Bain consultant who leads the firm’s global pricing practice. “Companies too quickly move to price as the lever, without really understanding what’s driving the customer hesitancy.”

Creative managers can find many ways to allay customers’ concerns while maintaining price: for example, by extending payment terms, or by offering a shorter-term contract if the customer is worried about uncertainty, or by offering additional services such as help with integrating new software.

Even when financial concessions are unavoidable, maintaining the established price is crucial. In B2C commerce, several Four Seasons hotels are offering a third or fourth night free, the same strategy they followed in the last downturn; the customer gets more, but the room rate on the bill remains the same. Ritz-Carlton is offering some guests a daily “resort credit” of $100 to be applied toward meals, spa treatments, or other services, reducing the customer’s total cost without cutting the room rate.

But wait: Is anyone really fooled? If customers are being given more for a stated price, isn’t it obvious that the price has been cut? In fact, there is a difference, and it’s important. In pricing theory there’s something called the reference price, which is the lowest price customers ever paid for a product or service. They tend to remember it and compare all future prices against it. One-time add-ons to a product or service may be hard to remember or hard to value, but the reference price is clear. Reduce it, and customers will wonder why they should ever pay more.

That’s just the beginning of the damage that price cuts can do. They rarely pay for themselves. If you cut prices 20%, you have to sell 25% more units just to maintain revenue. In a severe downturn, how likely is that? And if a competitor matches your price cut, the pain will be much worse. The economics of every business are different, but McKinsey research has found that in a typical S&P 1500 company, a 5% price cut would have to spark a 19% volume increase just to pay for itself, and that hardly ever happens. Even if holding prices steady reduces sales and profits, price cuts may reduce them even more.

The long-term effects can be more harmful. Price cuts, even temporary ones, train customers to behave badly, always waiting for the next sale. Perhaps worse, they destroy brand equity.

The problem is especially acute in the luxury goods business, where a breathtaking price is a product feature and a key element of the brand identity. Conventional wisdom held that the industry had learned its lesson in the financial crisis of 2008–09, when some luxury items were offered for 70% off at Saks Fifth Avenue and other temples of upscale consumption. But it’s happening again. Valentino dresses are being discounted 50% at Valentino’s own website, for example, and 70% elsewhere; at Matchesfashion.com, a beaded Valentino gown has been reduced from $30,000 to a mere $9,000. Customers who paid full price may resolve never to make that mistake again. The same general phenomenon plays out in most product and service categories.

Having vowed to avoid price cuts no matter what, you may nonetheless find that in this downturn, which has been so traumatic for so many, you sometimes have no choice. Yet even then, you can mitigate the damage by asking for something in return. For example, recent Bain research finds that 81% of chief information officers who asked software vendors for payment relief received it—and 80% of those who received relief gave something back. Some agreed to extend their contract or to expand the scope of their contract in the future; others agreed to renew early. “Customers are willing to do that,” says Kermisch. “You need to show empathy as a provider, but they understand you’re running a business.”

And if you sell one of those white-hot pandemic products that are still in short supply? The advice is simple: Don’t gouge. Even if the market will bear it, your reputation might not. Attorneys general from Washington State to Washington D.C. have sued retailers or hit them with cease-and-desist orders for selling Clorox, hand sanitizer, and related products at exorbitant prices. Don’t let that happen to you. Forgo the quick profits and think long-term.

Pricing is an undervalued discipline. No one in the C-suite has “price” in their title. Research by the Simon Kucher & Partners consulting firm finds that “only 12% [of companies] believe they can boost profits by adjusting prices.” Pricing is worth far more attention than most managers give it—especially now, when you need every advantage you can get.

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