Building a pricing organisation

David Smith, director at Simon-Kucher & Partners, gives his take on pricing strategies for UK higher education

As noted in my previous blogs, I see growing pressure on universities to adopt more value-based approaches to pricing. 

The rationale for this is clear and the methodologies available are proven (being widely used across all other b2c sectors). The final piece of the puzzle is to ensure the organisational building blocks are in place to enable this change. Based on my experience working with HEIs, I see four quick wins that every institution could benefit from:

1)   Document your Pricing Strategy. In order to optimise your pricing (both fees and financial support), you must first have agreed your goals and the acceptable trade-offs you are willing to make (e.g. volume, quality, mix, revenue, profit, breadth of courses etc.). Too often we see differing priorities across institutions (e.g. central team vs. academics) and no overall consensus. Define your Pricing Strategy centrally and set clear guidelines within which faculties can operate to enable harmonised, more impactful, university-wide decision making.

2)   Recruit a Pricing Manager. In my experience, institutions tend to have a fees committee but these typically lack both the time and the true pricing expertise to deliver consistent value-based pricing. We typically recommend recruiting (or nominating) a Pricing Manager: Someone to take ownership of pricing (fees and financial support) and to pressure test all recommendations before they reach the fees committee. They should sit within the central marketing team and will be heavily involved in commissioning and running pricing research, working with the customer insight team.

3)   Audit your spend on financial support. In my experience, many universities have devolved their financial support (e.g. scholarships) decision making to the faculties. This is a dangerous move, particularly when goals and objectives are not fully aligned. As a result, we often see incoherent value propositions with misaligned fees and financial support. We also see financial support propositions that lack the clarity and strength of message that would otherwise come from having one, centrally managed approach. As a first step, HEIs should audit their current spend on financial support to understand what they are spending – which is not always straightforward! Once you know what you are spending you should then ask why you are spending it, whether it is aligned to your objectives and how effective it is at driving the desired behaviour.

4)   Write a “pricing checklist”. Getting the pricing process right is critical, and simple things can make a big improvement. As a first step, draw up a checklist of all the process steps and activities that should take place before fees and financial support are signed off. This involves defining who is involved in each decision and the inputs and sign-offs required.

Implementing these quick wins should provide a solid foundation on which to build a more value-based pricing approach, and should enable HEIs to make better, more efficient pricing decisions.

Thank you for reading this four part blog series. I hope it was useful and interesting. To discuss any topics raised, feel free to contract me at David.Smith@Simon-Kucher.com.

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