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A Square Beyond Compare

AuthorFor those outside of St. Louis there is a local pizza chain that uses a tag line that is “The Square Beyond Compare”. The company, Imo’s – (I want to give proper credit to the catch phrase) makes St. Louis style thin crust pizza and they do not cut it into traditional wedges, but squares, hence the slogan.

If you are born and raised here, you love the pizza, if you come from another part of the country, the pie is an acquired taste – really no different than many regional delicacies around the country. Look at PA – the state consumes some fantastic amount of pretzels per capita – something like 2.3 million pounds per weekend. Coming back to the pizza joint that my kids seem to eat once a weekend and juxtaposed with a recent speaking opportunity I had, dealing in the print world and breaking everything down to the “square” is a slippery slope.

At this recent event, we are in the midst of a ten minute Q&A session and I made a somewhat offhand comment about how I would suggest to show a specific item in estimate form and to my surprise roughly half of the 30 people in the room stated that when preparing an estimate for their client’s, they line itemized all the graphics by square foot. I know wholesale organizations and direct B2B companies do this, but reseller to ender user was not something I expected. I was quite surprised to hear this because my first thought was that this would make things confusing for customers by giving them too much detail, but the thought which quickly followed was, in the world of “shopping”, what is the easiest thing to base a decision off of? X vs. Y in the form of $. The discussion that followed was generalized with the opposing camp taking more of a bundled price approach – hardware and graphic for this item is X and not broken apart to “be debated” as one person put it.

themeOne of the individuals who I had not met before continued the conversation with me during lunch and asked me a series of questions about our pricing model and how we combined a number of value based items within our price structure. He grasped that when we offer 23 kinds of fabric for dye-sub, the raw cost of each must be different, so by saying we sell dye-sub for X a square foot really makes his estimation job easier as he does not really have to compare materials and different price points – this is true for the most part – we use a simple approach to make estimation easy, but there are outliers like recycled materials – gross generality they are disproportionally higher. But, he then share that he understood that we skipped the fee-based approach or estimate-only approach and included many items like color matching and that the freight discounts we share are not present in other suppliers he works with. “I can buy X three blocks from my office, but it is a better deal to have it shipped in from STL as I get it faster and even with freight, I am not paying for order minimums, $100 for a proof, or $50 packaging fee.

He then made a very interesting point. 99.9% of his end clients do not know the difference between a Lambda graphic, Solvent graphic, Latex graphic, Cheesy Puff graphic, UV graphic, or Dye sub graphic. By application, he felt most knew that a hanging sign was fabric, but in many items such SEG, the client really knew nothing about the actual materials and product and with that being the case, he felt breaking his pricing down to square foot was a mistake. He said (I am going to call him “Jerry” from here out) – Jerry said, I don’t sell our extrusion systems by a per pound price for the aluminum, I don’t sell my crates by the price per board for the type of wood and Jerry said, I won’t do that because I have to deal with an uneducated to reasonably educated buyer who does not recognizes any of my value adds. No fault of their own – they are experts in their business and don’t need to understand what a Cheesy Puff graphic is – they need guidance to a problem and the best way to accomplish a solution.

Go to a garage sale and the book on the shelf is a quarter and the person who strolls up offers a dime strictly because we have a number to haggle over. Hard cover, soft cover, comic book is not relevant – is it a dime or maybe twenty cents. Totally unrelated, I bought Frampton Comes Alive (the double album) still in the plastic for a quarter a year ago – I don’t even use my turn table anymore, but the dude had something worth a lot more, but chose to slap a number on it and haggle. I paid the quarter and was happy.

The conversation got more in depth and I will leave it at that, but I pose the question, how do you estimate items and does your formula lead to a price debate or a discussion of the value you and your organization bring to your customer? Jerry and I have chatted a few times since and the latest layer of the onion he peeled back was design revisions – at what revision number do you charge for the spec Design Work our industry provides. Play on “Jerry”… play on.

About the Author

Dave Brown is the Vice President of Sales at Optima™.
He has been in the Trade Show industry since the early 90s.

  1. July 17, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    You are so right! Adding too much detail to a proposal just gives the client a reason to haggle. It is important to establish enough trust with the client that they don’t feel the need to nickle and dime us to death.

  2. Kevin
    July 17, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    i could not agree more Dave. breaking down the nuts and boils often only adds confusion…and the opportunity to be nit-picked so to speak

    on your design revision questions…this is a good topic and one we are faced with frequently as a provider of free design. We put a 3 times limit on it. Meaning the initial design (1) and 2 rounds of revisions. after that, we do charge. Which rarely happens. Once a client realizes they only have one more round of “free” left on a rendering…they tend to cover their basis more in their final request.

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