Pricing strategies that work for training courses

Getting the best price for a training course is a moving target. Price is not the main determining factor for all purchasing decisions for all market segments.

The price strategy to employ for a course is a balance between the market segment targeted, competitor activity and your unique selling proposition. Pricing strategies for training companies can involve selling different prices to different segments of the market. Discounting is only one pricing strategy that can be used to target a market segment. To maximise profit costs, market data - customer and competitor - and your marketing strategy are all important.

To achieve the highest profit for a given course it is worth considering carefully the pricing strategies, eg. early bird and last minute discounts, to different segments of a market.

Essential data required to make decisions includes a) competitor's pricing, b) fixed course costs and c) variable participant costs.

Step 1: Establish the point along the product life cycle your product is positioned.

Step 2: Get to know your customers

Step 3: Research competitor activity

Step 4: Confirm your costs; fixed and variable to work out your break-even average price

Step 5: Decide on pricing strategy to customers groups

Step 6: Monitor, modify & improve pricing strategy

Product lifecycle

Depending where you expect your course to be positioned along the product lifecycle, the pricing you can realistically charge may vary. You may want to compare against similar course topics in more mature markets, overseas or in another city, this will help when making decisions about what pricing is realistic and what future potential exists.

Do you know your customers?

Gather information about your customers (or potential customers) to answer the following questions:

  • What groups do my customers divide into, eg. corporates, school leavers, students, professionals?
  • What are my customer's training preferences?
  • What would the groups pay more for; formats, materials, tutorials?

Competitor Pricing

Track the recommended retail price, as advertised as standard pricing on their website, and discounts offered, eg. deals such as two for one, last minute discounts and early bird reductions. Look at not just competitors within your geographic location but also in other cities or countries.

Costs

A course is made up of fixed course and variable participant costs. Create a ledger of the costs for your courses. Work out your minimum average course price to ensure viability.





 




Type Item (5 day course) Cost
Fixed Marketing (public course only) $1,000.00
Fixed Venue @ $300/day $1,500.00
Fixed Trainer @ $500/day $2,500.00
Fixed Trainer flight $350.00
Fixed Trainer accommodation @ $180/day $900.00
Fixed Trainer living expenses @$30/day $150.00
Fixed course costs total: $6,400.00
Variable Text books $50.00
Variable Catering @$40/day $200.00
Variable License fees $150.00
Variable participant costs total: $400.00
Course of 10 participants total cost: $10,400.00
Average price (assuming 20% profit): $1,248.00

Once you know your costs you know your minimum average pricing point for a given profit w. Work out the maximum number in a class, eg. 10 and do the following:

Fixed costs + (Variable costs x 10) = Total cost

Assuming 20% profit the average price at full capacity is:

(Total cost x 1.2)/10 = Price per participant

You may wish to make fixed costs variable to enable entry into a new market or to survive in a highly competitive market. Other ways to choosing a base price; you can choose your base price on that of one or more competitors or use value based pricing to choose a price based on the perceived value.

Vary prices by customer group

Variable pricing structures can be based on customer groups. Some customers will provide numbers of participants so seek a bulk discount, eg. corporates. Others require certain concessions to meet their available disposable income, eg. unwaged. Other customer groups include repeat; new; established; bundle purchasers.

Price discrimination is where prices vary by customer group this can mean achieving sales to customers with a low price preference and those who are prepared to pay a premium.

Personalised pricing; based on willingness to pay and information known about each customer. This pricing is labour intensive unless automated or managed through a set process, eg, variable account pricing.

Versioning; let the customer choose the price, sell the same course at a lower price through other routes to market, eg. resellers, or sell a cut-price version with incremental additions, optional extras, eg. extra tutoring.

Group pricing: vary the price by demographics such as age, geographic location, time, income (eg. student) discounts, targeted coupons, last minute sales, unwaged.

Discounts: having a reason for the lower price ensures that you maintain credibility, eg. early bird prices & last minute, advance discounts, future discounts, bulk purchase discounts, coupons.

Choosing a price strategy

Monitor the uptake of a new pricing strategy; keeping a close eye on conversions to registrations that suggests the price is not being accepted. Take the opportunity to offer a further discount or, if a price is too low, be prepared to limit the number of further products offered at that price. Private vs public pricing: you may wish to have different pricing strategies for your private (in-house) courses to your public courses.

Profit

Estimated profit can be used to make decisions about the viability of a course. While attendance numbers are commonly used to measure viability this method is flawed if discounts are offered. Better to use costs and actual revenue to calculate profit margin as this takes into account the discounts.

Other considerations

There are alternative pricing strategies that could be used, these include “Pay what you want” auctions via ebay, Freemium; offer a free portion of your training, but to upgrade you need to purchase add-ons, eg. online training but pay for tutorials.

Terms and conditions; these can play an important part of your pricing strategy, and differentiate you from your competitors. Transfers, cancellations, refunds and substitutions can all determine if someone will purchase from you, and form part of your pricing strategy.

Further reading

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