There is a fear if one publishes prices on their Survey Business website, it will be a race to the bottom. Disaster will strike, you will lose your business, your livelihood and your bread and butter.
This is an article to highlight the very subject, dissect it and stick it back together. I have outlined FOR and AGAINST for publishing pricing on your survey website. I have dived into both elements giving my best non-bias look at each argument.
If you are even the slightest bit intrigued about this subject and wish for your eyeballs to be opened WIDE, then continue reading. If you are not, see you later!
I have concluded by providing you with a simple guide to publishing prices on your Survey Website, what to do to educate your marketplace and enhance your Survey business
Note: this is a world wide poll, meaning there will be descripencies between the survey profession due to different laws, regulations etc in different countries. Not all answers will directly apply depending on geographical location.
The Pricing Dilemma
Why is pricing such a controversial topic for the Survey Profession and wider Geospatial Community?
Has the way people shop completely changed?
We all know when we want answers we turn to the internet. It doesn’t matter what business you are in, we all do it. The problem is most Survey business websites do not address some of the most essential, common and easy to answer questions about their survey service and related Geospatial solutions. One of the biggest ELEPHANTS in the room is PRICING.
“Despite this reality, many business websites fail to address some of the most essential questions their potential and existing customers have, especially when it comes to the subject of pricing” Social Media Examiner
Change is here to stay.
With the baby boomers retiring and millenials taking a firm grasp of a new way of doing-business; Surveyors have a big dilemma on their hands.
Transparency is becoming clearer and clearer especially for the Geospatial Industry.
So I put this to the test by launching a poll on LinkedIn April 3, 2022. The poll stipulated a very firm question “Should Surveyors publish their prices?” The results were as follows:
Should Surveyors publish their prices? If yes, no or other, why?
Here are some of the main comments shared
“Why do so many make the claim that posting #’s leads to a race to the bottom?”
“The downfall of the community is when we compete in Price not in Quality”
“Any man and his dog can go and buy some equipment, call himself a surveyor and set to work, charging minimal prices”
“Companies are stuck in the past and don’t value their services”
“Individual survey tasks have different human hours due to the area, accuracy, method of surveying, quality”
“Been surveying for 35 years and never had two exactly the same”
“Too many factors on every survey to have a “standard price” although I’ve been asked for that more often than I care to remember”
“There’s many factors when pricing a job, but if we all started sharing a pricing schedule, it would soon turn into a race to the bottom, and not quality or what extras you do to ensure your clients are happy with your end product, just a price war”
“Personally, I publish my prices for the types of work I do. Also pay ranges on every job posting. Let’s lead the way forward together”
“Surveying is a professional service, not a commodity. There are too many unknowns for price lists or bids”
“Publishing prices educates the public about the specialized knowledge required that happens in the field and in the office.”
“No to publishing prices. It just tells you who is cheapest and drives prices down even further”
“Every job has its own issues – we aren’t pricing for a tin of Heinz Beans”
“Surveyors should publish their value”
“This is commercial information and every contract has different terms and conditions such daily rates lump sum liquidated damages etc etc”
You can see why it is controversial, so many conflicting factors but as a Surveyor owner, what should you do?
How should you handle this? Why?
Should you even handle it?
Is there something I am missing as a surveyor? Am I burying my head?
Is there a legal, ethical side to publishing in my country?
Are we commoditising the Survey Profession by ignoring the fact of pricing?
Are we ignorant?
Let’s look at the arguments for and against publishing pricing:
Arguments AGAINST publishing your Survey Prices – 54% say NO!
“Publishing prices will create a race to oblivion and the whole industry will suffer. Surveying, like many professional service businesses, should not be viewed as a commodity service” Neil Beaumont, Director of Operations at Centara Utility Mapping, UK
Richard Shepard, Managing Director, Utility & Transmission Survey Solutions Ltd explains “there’s many factors when pricing a job, but if we all started sharing a pricing schedule, it would soon turn into a race to the bottom, and not quality or what extras you do to ensure your clients are happy with your end product, just a price war”
And John Palatiello, Partner at Miller/ Wenhold Capitol Strategies LLC mentinos “Surveying is a professional service, not a commodity. There are too many unknowns for price lists or bids. Additionally, this is a state licensing board ethics violation in many states, resulting in a fine or revocation of the license to practice”
Surveying is a complex matter
That being said, Surveying can be a very complex matter especially if the project at hand is of complex and sensitive nature. Demonstrating value is crucial to this point. Therefore showing pricing on your survey website may not make sense. It will also depend on the country you are in and the legal element of that geographical state – if applicable.
For example; John (USA based) makes a valuable point “state licensing board ethics violation in many states, resulting in a fine or revocation of the license to practice”. On further investigation and checking out several statute regulators; Mississippi Conduct for example; explains ‘assurances have been given by the prospective client that factors in addition to price were considered in selecting the professional surveyor.
however the argument here is if the surveyor publishes his/ her prices – there is no assurance that the prospect has selected, on the basis of qualification and competence, one surveyor for negotiations. Therefore, a published price list is a violation of this ethics rule. Note: I am not a lawyer so seek independent legal advice here if you are unsure.
As Lisa Singer, Research Director at Forrester writes “by making pricing public, you risk turning the conversation into one about pricing before you’ve had a chance to tell potential customers about the offering’s value. However, if the offering is in an established market and buyers generally understand its value, publishing pricing may be justified”
No to publishing “standalone” pricing
Publishing pricing as a “standalone” figure with no context or value supporting it, is a sure way for the market to only go on price alone resulting in an out of control race to the bottom of a very dark hole.
Lack of market understanding
The Surveying Profession is not a known career in the wider joe blogs public, even when they become aware, the market is not familiar of the expense of being a surveyor, the education, cost of delivering a service, educational level of the surveyor, therefore the argument against publishing would be a firm NO.
However many Surveyors work alongside engineering firms, construction and other companies where Surveying is known. So this raises the question of would you publish your price on your website depending on the niche you are in?
Arguments FOR Publishing your Survey Prices – 41% say YES!
“B2B customers are increasingly expecting consumer-like experiences, such as immediate access to a product’s pricing clearly stated on an organization’s website” Forrester Research
As Nick LaFond, PLS at 1LS Surveying explains ‘why do so many make the claim that posting #’s leads to a race to the bottom? Have you actually tried it or are you assuming!”
Nick goes on to add “I think the hourly rate is less important to the client than: 1). The final cost of the survey, and 2) your ability to complete the work in a timely manner” He then says “the feedback I continue to get is that my rate is higher than everyone else but they are spending less total to get their questions answered”
As Donmarl Camua, Graduate Surveyor for Geometra Consulting Pty Ltd in NSW comments “Base on my experience in the Philippines, many clients are unaware of the processes and activities being performed in one survey project”
Let that hang there “Unaware”
“Unaware of the processes and activities being performed in one survey project”
Camua goes onto say:
“Social media has been a major tool used both by clients and Surveyor to get survey projects (mostly from private individuals). Facebook groups are used to crowd source proposals and quotations. It’s good and provides free advertisement but because it’s public, there will be trolls, unlicensed and suspicious people. I try to educate when I respond to posts in these social media groups. If the public is properly educated on the process of the survey and the warranty/guarantee a licensed surveyor will provide… charging above the industry price is possible even from individuals”
Evan Akar, registered land surveyor and director at Land Strata Surveys, NSW, Australia says “What I learnt by working for the government was transparency in all aspects of any business will protect the business. I think publishing rates or even having same rates (under a certain scheme) is not a bad idea 💡
“There is a strong argument for publishing prices, as such transparency can often accelerate the sales process and increase sales productivity” Forrester Research
Su Leone, Turning Spatial Data into Maps says “Publishing prices educates the public about the specialised knowledge required that happens in the field and in the office”
Two Factors at Play Here
What is super clear is that there are two factors at play here
1). Lack of communication of the value of a surveyor to back up prices
2). The lack of context around ‘pricing’
The marketplace (the customer, the audience) is uneducated, unaware and naive
Second, the surveyor is somewhat ignorant, stubborn and a dinosaur which is killing the Industry in more ways than one.
By publishing prices backed by content that supports that price not only educats the audience but builds trust. So my answer is YES.
Conclusion to publish or not to publish?
This choice is yours but this is my opinion:
I hear you loud and clear Surveyor.
“No two surveying projects are the same”
“There are too many unknowns”
“It’s an ethics violation in many states” (USA)
but, think of it this way; if you were the buyer, wouldn’t you want to have some idea on the price? And wouldn’t you have questions around that price?
Your market doesn’t want to hear “it depends”
2nd something drastic has to change and it needs to start now
Make it super clear
Publish or not publish but make it super clear to your target audience
- Who you are and what you sell
- Who you sell to [your niche, your target audience]
- The VALUE you deliver
Make it easy for them!
Transparency = trust
Trust = Relationships
Relationships = money
Those who embrace this will reap the financial benefits over and over again.
The conclusion is stop being ignorant that publishing your price will be a race to the bottom of a dark hole.
You are commoditizing the very thing you are trying to protect.
As Marcus Sheridan, Author of They Ask You Answer comments in the post “The act of mentioning pricing doesn’t commoditize. What commoditizes an industry is when the marketplace doesn’t understand the value proposition of something or someone, and therefore ends up choosing the cheapest option. In other words, IGNORANCE is what commoditizes an industry, and when surveyors (or anyone for that matter) don’t take the time to teach the marketplace (via the internet) 1. What drives cost up 2. What drives cost down 3. Why some companies are more expensive than other 4. Why some companies are cheaper than others — they are allowing this ignorance to exist, and the ultimate commoditization of the very thing they were trying to de-commoditize in the first place.”
Communication is the golden egg
“To begin with, stop thinking of pricing as something you need to hide from the customer, and start thinking of it as something to bring up for the sake of the customer” Hubspot
The argument is not about publishing the price-alone, it is about educating the VALUE of the service and the surveyor or business to the market.
Are you educating your market on what you do and why you do it and are you reflecting this by exaplining your price?
Are you helping the audience make an informative decision or are you making it god damn hard to understand who the prospect should or should not choose?
Have you ever lost out to Joe Blogs Surveys down the road even though you know they do a shit job?
Communication and Explanation
Communication is the golden egg. Traditional methods, the old ways of doing business reap the golden eggs of the past resulting in strong reputations and references.
Surveyors are holding onto this and are not changing to the way things are being done today!
If you don’t stand up, communicate your VALUE to the marketplace then we are going to be in serious trouble!
Chris Jackson makes a valid point “it’s quite ridiculous, people with a 1k drone are charging more per day than a surveyor with 30/40k of kit, ridiculous insurance premiums and high levels of knowledge and skill!!!”
This addresses the importance of transparency and communication on what you do and why you charge the higher premium
So what do you mean by Communication Elaine? Let’s hear what Dan Kovert, VP of Client Relationship at SJCA Inc. USA has to say
Dan clearly understands his niche and knows when a prospect isn’t right for them. He knows who his buyer is. He may not publish his prices but his clientele know the value behind why charges what he charges.
Evan makes a great comment “I do prefer transparency”.
What is interesting from the Australians compared to the Americans (some states) is every member of the public can request access to all governmental documents, which as he comments is super transparent and anti corrouption.
I have provided you with a simple guide to publishing prices on your Survey Website. It is to the point and will give you the ammo to embrace this ‘got balls’ way.
A Simple Guide to publishing prices on your Survey Website
So you are intrigued on how to embrace the pricing question?
For those willing to publish, here is a simple 5-step guide to publishing prices on your survey website in order to educate your market place.
Explain by using content marketing to back up your price. Your prospects come to your website to find answers inclduing “How much will it cost?”. Give them the price of a basic survey for example but back it up with supporting information. Your audience [prospects and customers] want valuable content that is informative, trust worthy, easy to digest and helps them make a good logical choice. It also reduces the sales cycle because 60% of your buyers have already done their research. By understanding and implementing content marketing to support your prices for your survey business – it will increase the right audience, improve conversions, enhance your brand and improve your trust factor. When it comes to publishing your prices, use content marketing to support the why behind your price.
Back up the pricing with content pieces that explain the following:
- Here is a guide to the type of technology we use and why
- Higher price than usual, here is a guide to why we are not the cheapest
- Understand what a Surveyor charges
Look into other topics that your audience may be thinking or may not necessary be aware of – like how long it takes for a surveyor to be trained (this reflects in the price of the job)
Squash industry myths, hec even have a counter argument on why.
These pieces of content will not only improve your search engine rankings but it will educate your target audience.
For more complex; bid proposal, tenders etc – which can not necessary be published but content that explains, references old projects and gives transparency will educate the marketplace
2. Know the Customer Journey
Know the steps in the Customer Journey. By understanding the full customer journey road map for your audience. You can dissect it to address ‘with content’ certain elements of that journey – making it easier for your audience to continue on their path for a solution.
Carla Johnson, author, explains the customer journey in her blog “The Difference Between Customer Journey and a Buyer Journey”
The customer journey starts with customer not aware of their problem, customer aware they have a problem, research [done by the customer], consideration then into the buying journey; purchase, retention and advocacy.
Write down and answer all the questions your audience has including price and be clear on the value they will receive. It not only gives your audience an insight, it builds you as an open honest survey firm willing to give the market the bigger picture and show transparency which results in trust.
4. Back it up
Back up your pricing with references, quotes and social proof from your current customer base. Show the ‘value’ and why clearly.
5. Focus on a niche
Finally, focus on a particular niche. If it’s the high margins you are after then this is crucial, why? No focus – you will be running around like a headless chicken trying to satisfy every element, every part of your market without giving any one part the attention it deserves, this not only erodes your margins, you become good at none of them. Another reflection of price is the niche a Surveyor is in. If you are low end, no frills, low prices – aiming to pick up the waifs and strays then price is low for that reason alone. But that may not be the niche you are aiming at. Marketing plays a huge part in educating the marketplace. Making it super clear on who you are targeting will also stop price wars and cheap Joe blogs surveys winning the business because they undercut you!
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