Wow, what an exciting year. I've been learning a ton, with the help of everyone from the Small Business Administration to friends, family and advisors. Never a dull moment!
One of the many new elements for me this year has been listening to others' views on pricing and then forging my own individual path forward to ensuring the sustainability of The Dry Eye Company by establishing a well articulated pricing strategy.
Our prices will, no doubt, continue to evolve as I continue to learn. But here is where I have emerged from this process, philosophically speaking:
Pricing is all about values!
Here are some of the things that drive our decisions about pricing products and shipping:
- Sustainability: We have to earn enough margin on our sales to cover our basic costs of doing business - from product costs to software costs to payroll to rent and utilities to coffee and toner and on, and on, and on. If we try too hard to "price down" in order to compete with businesses much larger than us, we will not be able to stay in business and provide what we believe are much-needed information and consulting services. We feel we owe it to YOU to keep this business sustainable.
- Frugality without stinginess. 'Nuff said.
- Treating our vendors well: Most of our suppliers are small businesses too! Many of them, such as Eye Eco, 7Eye and The Lifestyle Company [Purilens], are producing very important products - addressing critical needs no one else in the industry cares enough to invest in. We greatly value our vendors! And, for many of them, we're an important customer, not just by right of how much we buy from them to sell to you, but because of the way we educate dry eye (and/or scleral lens) patients about their products. But we don't want to abuse that role by attempting to negotiate unreasonably low pricing from them. We want, above all, for their businesses to be sustainable too. We want to encourage everyone investing in the practical things that improve our quality of life.
- Choosing and treating our staff well. We believe in paying a living wage. We believe in being responsible members of a community. We believe in, from time to time, employing and investing in individuals who may come to us marginally employable, and helping them to become the best that they can be! We believe people matter much more than profits.
The information business: One of the greatest things we have to offer you is information and insight - about products, about dry eye, about scleral lenses, about your relationships with your eye doctors, about so very many things! We invest a great deal of time and energy into pulling together the best, most current information and trying to present it well. There's a dollar value to that time and it has to be factored into our product pricing or else we simply can't continue to provide it. Anyone can sell products. But not everyone can wrap those products in information and services. Not everyone cares to.
- Service: Speaking of! We're not here to sell commodities. We know you can buy many of our products elsewhere cheaper. And we know that if you are cash-constrained, you MUST buy where you can afford to. But we're here for service - both for those who purchase from us and for those who do not. Call on us at any time and we will do our best for you, no strings attached. That means that those of you who can afford to purchase from us, are effectively subsidizing those who cannot but who need our information and services. Whichever end of the giving or receiving stick you happen to be on at this particular moment in time, it is our honor to have you among our visitors and customers. We appreciate you.
Are you price shopping?
If you are looking for rock bottom pricing, we cannot help you with that. We are a small business.
Pretty much by definition, small businesses cannot compete on price. We have no economies of scale to make that possible. Our value proposition to you includes everything except cheap:
- Consulting (always free): We are experts in all kinds of things no one else cares enough to bother learning. We want to share everything we know with you!
- Information. Online, we provide as much detail as we possibly can. In person - phone, email, chat, text - we fill in any gaps we possibly can. If we're missing anything, tell us and we'll try to get it! Our goal is to give you all the tools you can to find everything you need.
- Personal-ness. Many of our customers are weary of the impersonal features of pharmaceutical industries and the medical system. We are real people, we care about you individually, and we meet you where you are.
- Service. We try always to go way above, and way beyond, when it comes to trying to understand and meet your needs. We aspire to make your life better! And, if we ever mess up, we 'fess up and we fix it asap. Please, call or email anytime, and we will do our best for you.
- One-stop shopping. We try hard to gather in one place all the things you might need. We're small, so we can't have it all... our shopping list is much longer than our budget is large! But if we know someone who has something better for your need, we will send you to them.
- Support system: The Dry Eye Shop is just one little bit of what we do! We have websites, Facebook groups, forums, blogs, a newsletter... We try to keep abreast of everything you might need to know. If we can do better, please tell us how!
What it means to be a small business
Funnily enough, I never thought much about what it meant to be a small business until my business got larger.
I ran The Dry Eye Company solo for many years. Then, some unexpected industry events (known to us old-timers as the Great Saline Crisis of 2016) propelled the company into unexpected and, dare I say, unwelcome growth. With growth came change and I am now acutely aware of what a small business is, as I never was before.
There are great joys and great challenges and great risks to be had in a small business. I delight in it all. I am learning constantly. I strive to leave behind the humiliations of past mistakes and push forward to new challenges. I love my independence (or maybe I just mean I love being a rebel). I love continuing to do my own thing, I love doing business different from the mainstream. Life is far too short not to put your whole heart into what you do!