Alpha Public Relations | Alpha Public Relations (PR) opinion: Gone bananas - the commoditisation of professional services
Opinion article examining the trend toward commoditisation in the pricing of professional and financial services, and suggesting ways this should be countered.
Alpha Public Relations, Alpha PR, Bury, UK, Manchester, Financial Services, Legal Services, Accountancy, Accountants, Financial Advisers, Investment Managers, Pensions, Professional Services, Corporate Finance, Fund Management, Communications, Regulated Industries, Stuart Anderson, Pricing, Restaurants, Levanter Fine Foods, Ramsbottom
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Gone bananas – the commoditisation of professional services

You are not a bunch of bananas. Nor are you a sack of potatoes, a gallon of petrol or a roll of barbed wire.

This may appear self-evident. Why, though, are so many professionals resigned to – even complicit in – pricing their services as though they were commodities?

This was brought home to me on election day, not by the spectacle of politicians selling themselves to the lowest common electoral denominator but, rather, as a result of how I filled my time. Eight hours rapt in the unalloyed pleasure of looking after my seven-year old daughter whose school had been requisitioned as a polling station.

Be careful what you wish for, my work-life balance loving friends.

Thankfully I have my coping strategies. Finding ourselves in the market town of Ramsbottom at lunchtime I felt the Anderson family had been keeping it quite real enough of late so, rather than seeking out the nearest chicken nugget vendor, I made the executive decision to indulge in unas pequeñas tapas at the aptly named Levanter Fine Foods.

When the time came to pay, the bill, while not massive, added up to rather more than I would have had to pay for pub meals for an adult and child. I did not resent this.

The ingredients were excellent but I was really paying for the quality of the cooking and service. These, unsurprisingly given Levanter’s reputation, were both outstanding.

The quality must justify it but, done well, restaurant food is not a commodity purchase. One restaurant can legitimately charge twice the amount that its neighbour does for the same prawn – what you pay for is how it is handled by the chef.

The same should be true of professional services but increasingly it is not. The recent trend, led in financial services by the regulator, in marketing by the advent of “digital” and in legal and accountancy services, at least in part, by new ownership structures, has been toward commoditisation.

The assumption in many quarters is that there is a “going rate” around which everyone must coalesce for a particular type of work, regardless of differences in quality and the results achieved. Some sectors are worse than others but it is a trend that has achieved at least some traction virtually everywhere.

Those of us who genuinely believe we offer a superior proposition should have the courage to price our services accordingly. There may be good commercial reasons to discount heavily for particular customers but, as standard, pricing a handmade Wagyu burger to compete with a Big Mac is neither rational nor sustainable.

One final thought: to help justify our pricing we should work with the media to communicate our excellence and expertise to the marketplace. I would say that, of course – but combine what you have just read with Jay Rayner’s review of Levanter here and tell me you aren’t tempted to don your eating trousers and set the sat nav for Rammy.

That is what can be achieved by a fantastic product backed up with great PR.

Pic: Aran Burton

Stuart Anderson