Impact Pricing Podcast

Ep144: How Pricing Walls Impact Your Customers Willingness-to-Pay with Robert Tinterov

Robert Tinterov is a CEO at Atenga Insights Group. He is a serial entrepreneur, investor, Advisor, and his expertise are also in Sales, Marketing, General Management, Product development, and disrupting digital media.

In this episode, Robert talks about how you can explore your pricing walls and use it to increase demand for your business and scale your growth.

Why you have to check out today’s podcast:

  • Learn to identify your price walls so you can map prices according to your target audience and maximize profits
  • Find out how to ask the right question about a person’s willingness to pay
  • Learn why pricing potential needs to be raised in the boardroom and how it can be done

Learn and explore your price walls. Instead of avoiding them, work with them, use them and create higher demand for your products or services. 

Robert Tinterov

           

Topics Covered:

01:38 – How he got into pricing

02:45 – What does Atenga focuses on

04:00 – Three levels of potential users of Atenga

05:01 – People purchasing from Atenga versus Atenga selling to them

05:38 – A process they developed to help clients

07:36 – Reasons why price walls exist

08:19 – What usually is the last digit for pricing walls

09:08 – Asking a question on someone’s willingness to pay without being obvious about it

11:08 – How to arrive at the last digit that is nine and can they tell the difference in demand on 350 versus 359

12:17 – Ways Atenga finds customers

13:01 – Robert’s biggest concern

14:34 – Why is pricing not yet in the boardroom’s agenda and what can be done to

Improve on this aspect

19:03 – Pricing advice that can create great impact in one’s business

19:46 – Starting small and doing the easiest but has the most impact to the company

Key Takeaways: 

“Our secret sauce (knowing one’s willingness to pay) is like enhancing well-known processes, and then combining that with accessible, firsthand survey data, instead of looking at transactional data.” – Robert Tinterov

“I think the pricing question as such, is not being treated as it should in a lot of businesses, and hence why people don’t really take care of this. That’s why people are leaving money on the table. They’re developing features and functions that people don’t want to buy. And that won’t create sustainable companies.” – Robert Tinterov

“You can’t do everything, but you need to do something, just start doing more about your pricing in your business, and you will see effects and results quicker than you can expect.” – Robert Tinterov

Connect with Robert Tinterov:

Connect with Mark Stiving:   

Full Interview Transcript

(Note: This transcript was created with an AI transcription service. Please forgive any transcription or grammatical errors. We probably sounded better in real life.)

Robert Tinterov  

Learn and explore your price walls. Instead of avoiding them, work with them, use them and create higher demand for your products or services.

[Intro]

Mark Stiving 

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Jennings Executive Search. I had a great conversation with John Jennings about the skills needed in different pricing roles. He and I think a lot alike. If you’re looking for a new pricing role, or if you’re trying to hire just the right pricing person, I strongly suggest you reach out to Jennings Executive Search. They specialize in placing pricing people, say that three times fast.

Mark Stiving

Welcome to Impact Pricing, the podcast where we discuss pricing, value, and the quantifiable relationship between them. I’m Mark Stiving; today, our guest is Robert Tinterov. And here are three things you learned about Robert before we start. He is the CEO and co-founder of Atenga, a software consultancy. He’s actually co-founded several companies and another one was Updatum AB, a News & Media Monitoring Service. I can’t wait to hear how he got from one into pricing. And he’s an avid powerboat guy living in Sweden, he’s got tons and tons of islands to go to. And he’s got salt water in his veins. Welcome, Robert.

Robert Tinterov

Oh, thank you very much. Thanks for having me.

Mark Stiving  

Let’s do the easy question. How did you get into pricing?

Robert Tinterov  

Well, actually, I was always interested in pricing when I was running businesses and in other areas. And my interest became more concrete when I sometimes saw that pricing could have a huge impact. And I didn’t really understand why. So that in combination with new, accessible technology, created some opportunities to do something about it. So, it’s my personal interest in running businesses from other areas, combining, you know, technology, and trying to get more business to understand that pricing is fun.

Mark Stiving 

So that’s actually really interesting because, as a business owner, skip pricing for a second, as a business owner, you saw the power of pricing, which as pricing people we know is absolutely true. Yeah. And then you said, well, this isn’t done well enough, I should explore it, understand it. And then as you learned it, you said, how can I help other companies? Is that right?

Robert Tinterov 

That’s right.

Mark Stiving 

So, what does Atenga do?

Robert Tinterov  

Well, we focus on helping you know, non-pricing specialists getting introduced and to learn about how you can create huge effects by doing small changes to your price setting process. So, we’ve developed a process or a model, where we can do very precise measurements on pricing, on tools, products, and services. And the idea for companies who engage with us that they will have a very, you know, a plan so they can launch and immediately engage in the changes in pricing. So, they can have effects quickly. It’s not very pricing savvy. It’s business-oriented. We don’t use a lot of all that pricing lingo. Because we’re not pricing experts ourselves. I have, of course, pricing specialists in my team, but I think we need to get more companies to understand to have another approach to pricing than previously. Because that helped me for sure when I was running other businesses, as you said.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, so are you typically working with small and medium sized companies? And I asked that because it feels like, really big companies have their own pricing people and their own pricing teams?

Robert Tinterov  

I mean, initially, we targeted, you know, there’s like three levels of potential users of our services. So one is, of course, you know, the big companies who normally use too big for the consultancies that, you know, multimillion-dollar projects. We don’t target those. Then we have on the bottom line, we have, you know, all the guys sitting back at home, doing guesswork on Excel sheets, and trial and error never get anywhere. So, we target all the other companies who understand that they need to improve it, or they want to improve on the price setting procedures. And they don’t have a multi-million budget. They don’t have a pricing team internally, but they understand that they could benefit from doing something about it. And that’s where we come to play.

Mark Stiving 

Now that makes a lot of sense to midsize companies who, now this is always an interesting question. Do they already know they have a pricing problem, or do you have to convince them they have a pricing problem?

Robert Tinterov 

Well, I think that that’s both ends, you know, if we reach out to people, we can explain to them that they might have a problem. But normally people come to us and they say that, you know, we don’t know if pricing is the problem, or if we are selling it too high or too low? Or are we targeting the right market, or the right segment of the business? Then we can go in deep dive into that and see if we can help them. So, people rather purchase from us than we’re selling to them?

Mark Stiving 

Yes. And so, what kinds of tools? or What kinds of things do you do for your clients?

Robert Tinterov 

Well, we’ve developed the process where we do predictive demand analysis, that’s what we call it. So, we do online surveys, we run it through our engine, and we generate pricing graphs, demand curves, and a key point that are something we call price walls. Price walls are price points where a small change in price will change the demand dramatically.

Mark Stiving 

When you talk about price walls, that sounds to me like my dissertation was on 99 cents when I did my dissertation in Berkeley. And it sounds to me a lot like there are these magic price points. And it could be you know, when you go from 299 to 300, that’s a big difference. Is that a price wall?

Robert Tinterov 

It could be, it could be a price wall, every product or feature or, you know, target audience has different price walls. And that’s what makes it so important to go out and do surveys on that. So, you will have different price walls on different target audiences. And you need to know where they are and how you handle them today. So, the first thing we do for a client is we look at the current pricing, and we do the surveys. And then we identify the price walls, and then we can map the current prices towards the price walls. Sometimes it’s at 349, sometimes 369 or 379, or maybe even 429. You need to identify where it’s sitting. And then you can, you know, do that based on segmentation. So, if you want to target a specific market or a specific feature, we can, from our surveys and our studies, we can tell how that would impact the demand, or revenue, or profitability.

Mark Stiving 

Nice. And do you have an explanation on why price walls exist? Or do you just know that they exist? And you help companies find them?

Robert Tinterov 

I think that comes back to the psychology of, you know, our behavior. There are price points, like you said, the 99 cents versus $1. Like those types of reasons. But then there’s also value to it, you know. To me, it’s like low engagement or high engagement, investment or spending. So, you need to know that for some people, some prices could be high, in another audience, it could be lower. So that’s why these price points are different for different target audiences.

Mark Stiving 

Hmm, do you think a price wall always ends in nine? As in even if it’s going to be 349? Or 279? Or 429? Does it ever end in another digit?

Robert Tinterov 

It does, sometimes when you know, depending on the price. If you’re going like more expensive prices, when we do projects like motorcycles, or more expensive features or functions, then you know, the last digit might not really be as important as maybe. So, it could be 4750 instead of 799. But if you go, you know, down to 999, 995, it depends a little bit on the market audience and also the premiums of the product. So, it’s not always the same.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, that’s pretty fascinating. Okay, I don’t know if you’re going to share your secret sauce with me. But what’s the question you ask about willingness to pay? How do you know how much somebody is willing to pay for something?

Robert Tinterov 

So, what we do, we’ve been looking at different, you know, old, well-established procedures like methodologies. And we can have, using the best parts of a combination of everything. So, when enhancing things like old investment or price sensitivity meters, or conjoint analysis or max diff, we make… translate this into something that business people can understand. So, our secret sauce is like enhancing, you know, well-known processes, and then combining that with accessible, firsthand survey data, instead of looking at transactional data, which we call old data. So, we go out in the field and collect new data. And we don’t ask, you know, as in conjoint, like either or tradeoffs. It’s more like how much do you want to pay but in a much more intelligent way, of course.

Mark Stiving 

Right. So, then, have that series of questions that essentially ask how much are you willing to pay without asking that question.

Robert Tinterov 

Then being, doing this, not I say, if I’m doing sporting goods for a big brand, we do this on like, on an industrial level rather than on like representing the company to try to prevent bias. As you know, it could be a problem in this situation. So, and our engine or our intelligence is like, kind of mitigating all of those things, which is part of our secret sauce, of course.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah. pretty fascinating. How do you get to the nine? So, if I’m going to ask, let’s pretend that I’m asking the question, how much are you willing to pay? I know that’s not the right question. You know, that’s not the right question. But let’s pretend like we asked that question. And people are going to give us an honest response. Would people ever respond 329? Or do they respond 353, 33, 25 by round numbers instead of odd numbers?

Robert Tinterov 

I would say that, it’s like, it’s like you said, you know, it’s the way we think about pricing. So, I would rather say 350 than 349 if someone asks me, but I might, and our intelligence in our tools, or an engine will interpret previous questions and previous patterns in that response.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, it’s interesting. And so then, do you have a tool to get to the three- let’s pretend like it’s 350. Right? Do you have a tool to get to the 349 part? Because I’m fascinated about 349 versus 350.

Robert Tinterov 

Yeah. I mean, we can tell the difference in demand on 350 versus a 349.

Mark Stiving 

Okay, so you’re asking a different question on how much are you willing to pay on that one when you’re really asking, how likely are you to purchase at this price point?

Robert Tinterov 

Yeah. Or actually, at which price points are you likely to purchase?

Mark Stiving 

Yeah, yeah. Okay. That’s pretty fascinating. How do you find your customers?

Robert Tinterov 

Well, happy, positive, open-minded?

Mark Stiving  

Nah. That wasn’t what I meant. Thank you. How do you find, how do you get new business? How’s that?

Robert Tinterov 

Yeah. Sorry. We do everything everybody does, you know, we’re doing outreach, we’re doing like this podcast, online calls, demos, training, I’m working a lot with startups, because I tend to feel that you’re much more accessible to these types of questions when you’re in the startup phase, because you don’t have your pricing team or you don’t, you know, you don’t have anything to protect, or prevent from, you know, risking to lose. So, we do, as everybody does, but my biggest concern is to get pricing into the boardrooms, you know, I think the pricing question as such, is not being treated as it should, in a lot of businesses, and hence why people don’t really take care of this. That’s why people are leaving money on the table. They’re developing features and functions that people don’t want to buy. And that won’t create sustainable companies. So, when I see the companies are looking for, you know, chief price officers and so forth, then I’m happy because then they bring it into the senior executive suite or into the boardroom even. But we tend to see that it is treated by the marketing department or sales department or someone else. I don’t know who but someone else, that is a big problem. And it’s a big concern to me. So, I would like to make efforts to get the pricing possibilities on the agenda in the boardrooms, that’s really important to us. I think there’s a lot of things we can improve on that.

Mark Stiving 

Yeah. And I always wonder why pricing is not in the boardroom already? Because when I think about pricing, it is one of the most powerful things a company, one of those powerful levers a company has to pull. If you mess it up, you really hurt your company. And yet, I can guarantee you that no company is doing it perfectly. Right? There’s always room for improvement. Why doesn’t the boardroom care and I struggle with that. Do you have a guess?

Robert Tinterov  

I think it comes back to that, originally, you did pricing, pricing analysis or price settings in the budget processes like once a year or once each quarter, you had a screen load process for that and you looked at transactional data and it was hard to get you know, real data which is adequate and accurate. Today, that’s not the same thing. You know, everything is accessible out there, there’s a lot of data you can gather. And the other thing, which I think is a problem is that it’s a very strategic decision to change the price. So, if it doesn’t come from the boardroom, no one else in the company would touch it. And this is something that I think the pricing industry needs to work on as a whole, to get that out of the pricing forums, into like I said, boardrooms and show examples, educate them, create possibilities for people to test, and not always do a six-month $2 million pricing study project, you know, that’s the thesis of our business idea. Because that’s been going on for ages, I did myself and my other businesses, well, like I spent like $4 million to Boston Consulting Group, and got like a pile of documents like this, which were useless, you know, I couldn’t use it, it was too strategic and too, too deep. And a lot of data didn’t really know what to do with. So, it ended up being like in the bin, and has a lot of investments, but it was sanctioned by the board. And it, you know, it was completely according to the books, this was like 10 or 15 years ago. Today, I would never touch that type of study, I would go out and do a lot more and more things myself, I will use the tools that are available. And I will try to get more operational or precise for my current needs. So, I always say, I mean, you can’t do everything, but you need to do something, just start doing more about your pricing in your business, and you will see effects and results quicker than you can expect.

Mark Stiving 

I think it is such a powerful topic, powerful lever, that people are scared to use it because they don’t know it. They don’t understand it well. And so, then you go hire Boston Consulting Group or some big company, and you end up with this huge transformational report, and you still can’t transform my whole company, I got to do a bite at a time, how do we do small pieces.

Robert Tinterov 

And that’s what, the second of my take on this, I think, start small, do something about it, get it on to the agenda, you know, learn the processes, do different tests, but you will see that the ROI would be quick, it would be probably more profitable than you expect initially. And on the other side, it could be a risk as well, I think there’s differences between the US market and European market here. We’d like the mitigation of risk, you know, if you feel like, if I don’t do anything, I got, might keep my job or you know, but if I do something and I fail, I get fired. On the other hand, if I do something, and it’s successful, I will be promoted. So, I think this is something that is still a secret in business operations that can be developed a lot and taking into account all these new intelligent software applications and accessibility and transparency and the buyers are smarter than ever before, because they are well-educated. They know everything they need to ask about, we as suppliers, we need to understand that.

Mark Stiving 

You know, it’s funny, I didn’t link it when you first said it. But I think your story on how you got into pricing is almost identical to how everybody else gets into pricing. And that is they did a pricing project. And they said, wow, that was really, really powerful. I should go do that again, in some other places. And it is pretty fascinating, because that’s what you’re really describing to companies if you do something. And when you do something, you’re going to learn how powerful it really is.

Robert Tinterov 

Great, great. Agree. Yeah.

Mark Stiving 

This has been a fascinating conversation. Let me wrap with the last question, if you don’t mind. What’s one piece of pricing advice you would give our listeners that you think could have a big impact on their business?

Robert Tinterov  

Like I said, learn and explore your price walls, of course because instead of avoiding them, work with them, use them and create higher demand for your products or services. You know, that is the price wall discussion. But the other question is simple. It’s like, do something, start today, start small, get into the business.

Mark Stiving 

Do something. I often put together a chart and I’m pulling this out of my head. But I often put together a chart from customers that I work with. And I say how much impact do you think this project would have? And how hard do you think it would be? And now you do 10 different projects or 20 different projects, you can pick the ones that have the most impact and are easiest to do. Do those first.

Robert Tinterov 

Yeah, sure. Sure. And again, we tend to see that people start small sometimes and they come back over and over again and they start being you know, repeat clients to us and then it involves no other parts of the business process linked to pricing, which is very fascinating to be part of to see that happening within companies.

Mark Stiving 

Yes, we could talk about that for an hour. I think it’s inside a company. So, Robert, thank you so much for your time today. If anybody wants to contact you, how can they do that?

Robert Tinterov 

Well, either or, you know, my email is robert@atenga.com, or my LinkedIn is my name, Robert Tinterov. I think I’m the only one on LinkedIn with that name. So, they probably find me the easiest way.

Mark Stiving 

And I’m sure we’ll have a link to your LinkedIn page in the show notes.

Robert Tinterov  

Yes, sure.

Mark Stiving 

All right, thank you. Episode 144 is all done. Thank you for listening. If you enjoyed this, would you please leave us a rating and a review? And I wanted to let you know Jozie left me an Amazon review for my new book, Win Keep Grow: How to Price and Package to Accelerate Your Subscription Business. And Jozie wrote:

“I have been in the subscription business for more than a decade, and I know a lot about pricing, so I wasn’t sure if I’d learn something new reading Mark Stiving’s new book. But it wasn’t only worth the read, I found insights offered in the book eye-opening in several areas, including: Connecting the Win (new customers) Keep (customer retention) and Grow (increased revenues from existing customers) to the lifecycle of the business. For my company, this made it clear that we need to focus on Grow now in order to meet our growth goals. Specific benchmarks and metrics that can be used to prioritize different growth levers.”

So, thank you, Jozie. I appreciate the review. Finally, if you have any questions or comments about the podcast or pricing in general, feel free to email me at mark@impactpricing.com. Now, go make an impact.

Mark Stiving

Thanks again to Jennings Executive Search for sponsoring our podcasts. If you’re looking to hire someone in pricing, I suggest you contact someone who knows pricing people. Contact Jennings Executive Search.

Tags: Accelerate Your Subscription Business, ask a pricing expert, pricing metrics, pricing strategy

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