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Do you ever offer discounts as a freelance trainer? Is it something you’ve thought about doing or something you already do regularly? Is discounting having a negative impact on your training business?
The issue of whether or not to offer discounts is something that most businesses grapple with at one stage or another. For some, discounting products and services can be an effective and profitable strategy, while for others it can damage their long-term success.
The pros of discounting your training services
On the ‘for’ side of the discounting argument, it’s true that discounts offer an incentive for people to buy from you while making a financial saving (and who doesn’t love a bargain?!). They also provide a tangible offer around which you can run a new marketing campaign.
Discounting can help to bring in bookings, and therefore money, at points in the year when your diary is usually empty and may appeal to smaller clients with limited training budgets.
The downsides of discounting
On the flipside, many freelance trainers fall into the trap of believing that they have to discount their services to secure bookings. In my experience, while this can be an effective short-term strategy, most of us should avoid using a long-term business model built around discounting like the plague.
One of the major downsides of discounting is that it encourages the attentions of people who are shopping on price alone. These clients tend to be fickle. Do you really want to work with someone who is motivated by the cheapest deal, regardless of quality? Or clients who may switch to a cheaper trainer at any given moment?
You’ve worked hard to become a trainer and deserve to have confidence in the quality of the training you deliver without haggling over your fees. Discounting invites comparisons with your competitors, with clients booking the company who comes in cheapest locally.
Regularly discounting your services can impact on your reputation too. Potential and existing clients may wonder why you need to offer discounts – Are you struggling for clients? Is your business in trouble? Are you inexperienced or lacking in confidence?
Also, there is a danger that, if you offer discounts regularly, people will come to resist paying full price because they know a discount is probably imminent. This can quickly begin to eat into your profits, and make you work longer hours for less pay, which is surely no-one’s intention when they go self-employed.
Using discounting to your advantage
Considering the pros and cons outlined above, discounting can still work for training businesses if backed by the right strategy.
One effective tactic is to only offer discounts to your most loyal customers for repeat bookings or invoices that are settled quickly, as a thank you for their ongoing custom.
You might also want to offer a client a discount as a thank you for a referral.
Some trainers offer discounts to clients who pay a retainer fee for their ongoing services. This is because, with the guarantee of a long-term relationship, it is easier to plan your finances in advance and give your retainer clients a preferential discount.
If you are keen to break into a specific niche or secure a particular client to build your profile, you might consider offering a one-time only discount, seeing the pay off as breaking into the field where you want to operate in the future.
Concentrate on value, not price
It may seem counter-intuitive but many freelance trainers find that as an alternative to discounting, their bookings actually increase when they raise their fees and concentrate on telling people about the value they offer, rather than the price of their services.
I am a huge advocate of this approach. If you can identify what makes you unique as a trainer and how working with you will benefit your clients, this can help to create a sense of scarcity that sets you apart from the crowd. After all, there is only one of you. You can use your marketing to tell people what this means. For example, if your training has led to an increase in productivity or profitability for a client, tell potential clients about this. If you are involved with writing legislation or regularly speak on issues that directly affect your clients, show them what a difference this can make to their organisation.
By showing clients what they will gain by hiring you, the price of your services may be an afterthought for them, meaning you don’t have to discount a penny to secure bookings.
If you are going to offer discounts, do spend some time identifying why, to whom, what and for how long. But recognise too that discounting puts your focus on pricing, as well as your clients’ focus, which is why I believe discounting should not be part of your long-term strategy.
We’ve talked in the past about offering free taster training sessions, which always leads to an interesting conversation between trainers, but what are your thoughts and experiences around discounting your services? I’d love to hear more in the Comments section below.