how to grow your biz without offering discounts


I think that one of the biggest mistakes I made early in business was not valuing my business or products. I know that sounds like “Meg, do you need an antidepressant?” but in all seriousness, I had a hard time charging the right price for my products, because I felt that since I knew how to make these, that meant other people probably could, too, so they’d think I was a charlatan. So I’d constantly fuss with my pricing, and run a flash sale when I was in a panic.

And my business wouldn’t grow.
So I’d run another sale to bring in more money.
And so my business wouldn’t grow.

Do you see the cycle of suck here? By giving in for quick money (that never actually became quick money), I began training my fan base to not buy at full price. If they were jusssttt a little patient, they knew that my products would go on sale. OR if they missed the most recent sale, they knew to just wait for a little…because another sale would come along soon.

And while this seems a little highbrow to say, it was also training them not to value the work I put into the product. Rather than finding my products as special items that were made in small batches with good ingredients, they were just “oh, soap on sale.” Do you know what I mean?
So this is one of those “Learn from my mistake” sorta posts, where we’re going to stop YOU from getting into the cycle of suck. Ready? Let’s go.

Why you shouldn’t be giving discounts

Look, you work really hard on your business, right? Maybe you’re not full time yet, so you put in the hours during the weekends, or when the kids are asleep, but you’re still sacrificing your time for a labor of love, right?

Here’s what you’re doing psychologically to yourself by not charging a price that gives you more than a living wage: You’re saying “My time isn’t valuable.”

That starts the circle of suck because implanting that tiny thought in your brain starts a ripple effect that spans across everything you’ll do with your business. You’ll refuse to invest in your business or yourself, because there’s no money and because you haven’t valued your time. See where this is going?

You’ll never move forward in your business because you’ll be stuck in the cycle of suck.

Ever hear of Samsara? It’s like that, but for business.

What you should do instead

Okay, so I’ve made you feel bad about running a sale, and maybe you’re like “this is all a little dramatic, no?” If that’s what you’re thinking, try running a sale once a month and see what happens to your profits.
But what’s the reason to offer a sale, really? An influx of cash, depletion of inventory, and maybe also a thank you to a loyal customer. So let’s tackle these all with a mindset of “offering value” instead of “discount.”

An influx of cash – Money a little tight? There are always ways to make more money. If you want to keep it in the business, first figure out how much you pay yourself an hour. Now, discount that based on the sale you would normally run. How much time would you be running the sale?

Let’s say you pay yourself $20 an hour, and you planned to have a 50% off sale for 3 days. So, based on that, you’ve valued your time at $10 an hour for 36 hours (I know that isn’t technically true, but we’re working on mindsets here). And obviously you’re not working 36 hours straight, but we’re going to include all of the hours so that we have overhead taken care of.

So. This sale would need to bring you in $360. What else could bring you in $360 that wouldn’t mean devaluing your work or your time? Wholesale accounts? You’d probably spend ~6 hours total, with establishing a relationship, sending samples, and shipping the order. So why not spend 6 hours bringing in a new wholesale account instead of discounting your time by 50%?

Are you willing to go outside of your business to raise funds? I have an entire board on Pinterest about ways to earn money on the side. (What I do when money is tight? Article writing. It varies from $12 – $50 per article based on the site.)

Depletion of Inventory – This one is way easy. Adjust your batch creation to only make what you know you can sell, and when you need to grow, grow. It doesn’t help to have 50 soaps in 10 scents lying around if no one’s buying them. So reduce your production to only have what you know will sell, and then adjust as you need.

Already made too much? I know, it happens. Get out there and start hustling. Draw attention to your site by getting new press mentions, or write some blog entries that will attract new visitors and funnel them to your product pages. Do local craft shows or festivals that don’t have a lot of additional overhead fees (or ones you feel like might be a risky gamble)

Customer Appreciation – You know what works here rather than offering a sale? Actually appreciating your customers.

I would write personal emails to repeat customers just to say “thanks” and each order got a handwritten note from me, saying how much I appreciated their orders. I’d send little products and samples with big orders (which I had already accounted for in my pricing). Show your customers gratitude doesn’t have to be financially-based, you know?

So now you’ve got no excuse to have a sale, right? I know it feels hard because sending a discount is a quick fix, but try any of the methods I listed above, and you’ll be able to move to a more abundant mindset.

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Justin, Onyx Defiant June 10, 2016 - 5:33 pm

It funny, I can recognize sites that seem to solely operate on heavily discounted products. Every week it’s “get $1,200 worth of goods for only $39”. It trains the customer to just look out for those sales, which seem to be more and more common.

Megan June 10, 2016 - 6:22 pm

Totally. I think it’s an insecurity about the brand, or maybe a need to get some funds…or a combo of both! I definitely understand the allure, but I think the better payoff (literally and figuratively, I guess!) is to wait and train your customers to see the value, you know?

Justin, Onyx Defiant June 25, 2016 - 5:14 pm

I know exactly what you’re saying. Why buy at $100 when I know every other week it’s on sale for $10?


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