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Affordable In, Affordable Out

If I’m looking for any kind of service, I don’t normally use Craigslist. (Though I am looking for an expandable Danish modern dining room table.) I prefer to ask colleagues or friends for referrals. It beats a shot in the dark. And referrals are a great way to share some love within your tribe.

But after asking around for WordPress developer referrals to add to my list, I was curious to look on Craigslist. Not surprisingly, many of the listings include the word affordable.

What’s wrong with affordable? After all, aren’t we always looking for a bargain?

Though I might be keeping afloat companies like Goodwill with my shoe habit, affordable isn’t my first criteria if I’m looking for a service provider. It shouldn’t be the seller’s main selling point, or the buyers main buying criteria, especially for something as important as a company website.

From a marketing standpoint, affordable doesn’t help someone seeking your services. This goes for all services—stilt walkers, interior designers, business coaches. When people are only concerned about cost, they’ll be a bad client (if they’re the buyer) or they’ll fall short on quality, reliability or some other admirable trait (if they’re the seller).

Affordable, from the sellers point of view, says, “I’m too afraid to bank on the great results I offer. Price is the only way I can get work in.”

This is almost always fear talking, and not someone who has decided they earn enough money to live on. You want to hire someone who works from a position of strength, not fear. How many of these people did thorough research to know they’re affordable? What is their cost compared to? Is it in the context of the same level of service and quality offered by their higher-priced counterparts?

You might offer services similar to those of larger operations because you keep your business lean. That’s a good selling point, but it should be the icing on the cake of all the other benefits they get by working with you.

The buyers viewpoint is, “Great, because I don’t want to spend a lot of money!”

You attract those who value cost instead of those who value what you do for them when you only advertise affordability.

When people seek affordable, they often mean that they fear you will cost to much, but they really don’t know what their budget is and they haven’t compared apples-to-apples services from more than one service provider. Keep this in mind when promoting your services.

Instead, sell the results your intended buyer will get by working with you. Yes, affordable is a result. But value is what we’re really talking about. Value is the benefit the buyer gets from the particular dollars they spent. Affordable will get you more clients you don’t want.

Get the good ones in the door, sell them on benefits, discuss cost later. If they can’t afford you, that’s okay. You will have done them a great service by helping them be more clear on what to expect to pay — thus putting them in a stronger position when they are ready to buy. It’s good karma and they may just come back to you.


  1. So true.

    By definition, affordable is what every, or at least most clients, can afford. Affordable, therefore, aims for the mass market, which, again by definition, rarely produces exceptional product or provides exceptional service. Go for an affordable service, you’ll get affordable results.

    This post also reminded me of this: If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.

    • Yes, I think we forget that whether we’re buyers or sellers, we get a chance to talk to people and either give or get more info before making a decision. I like that “affordable is what everyone can afford.” One person’s affordable is another person’s cheap (or expensive). It describes nothing.

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