Saturday, January 28, 2012

Who do you ask?

Just about all businesses and industry try to expand their market. The best way to expand a market is to match products and/or services more closely to what the potential consumers want. Paintball is no different, whether it's recreational or competitive paintball (I separate the two, because for me, there is a big difference between the two. They are both paintball, but other than that, they are unique enough for me to consider them to be two different products, likely to attract two different demographic sets, with relatively minor overlap).

So how should a product or service be changed to expand a market? How does one find out what changes might entice new customers to buy your product? Who does one ask? If, for instance, McDonalds Restaurants wants customers, who are currently not coming to their establishments, to start walking in their door, how should they go about doing that? Would it make sense to hand out questionnaires with each meal purchased? That would provide information from existing customers, and would have little relevance for those that have chosen, for whatever reason, not to make a purchase.

If a paintball field operator or competitive league organizer is trying to improve the experience for the people taking part, he/she should probably ask the people taking part. On the other hand, if he/she is trying to attract new (more) people to take part, he/she should probably be asking those that aren't taking part yet. Both are important obviously. Alienating existing customers by changing a product/service to satisfy only new customers needs to be avoided. On the flip side, making the ideal product/service for existing customers, with no consideration about the effect that will have on potential new customers would be just as bad, if not worse (virtually every business/industry needs new customers to survive).

The internet, through basically instant communication, makes it very easy to gather information from existing customers in our industry. It's a great tool to have. But getting opinions from people that aren't yet, and aren't any longer customers, is much more difficult. I suspect many business operators and tournament organizers take the easy route.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


There is a thread titled "Most Overpriced Place You've Played" in the Recreational players Talk section over on PBN. It was started close to 3 1/2 years ago. It resurfaces regularly, so one could make the assumption that it is a relevant topic for many people. Mostly it consists of players submitting where they play paintball and how much it costs. Almost all the complaining is in regards to paintball prices, rather than entry or air.

But what does "overpriced" mean? When a product or service is priced at a certain level and there are enough customers buying at that level, does that not make the pricing acceptable? For instance, if a restaurant was selling $100 steak dinners and is booked up well in advance, has the restaurant overpriced their meals? If a clothing manufacturer sells their jeans at $80 each and there are hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of people buying them, are the jeans overpriced? If Skirmish Paintball is selling paintballs at $99/case and there are hundreds and hundreds of visitors every week, has Skirmish overpriced their product?

Paying what a business has priced their product or service at, assuming there is competition for the business, is a customer's choice. I don't regularly eat out at $100/meal restaurants. I've never spent $80 on jeans. But there are plenty of people who do. Do I think they are foolish? Yeah, probably a little, but it's their choice.

In my opinion there are only two instances when something is "overpriced". One is when there is no competition and a company can wilfully choose to price something for much more than it needs to be priced, just because they can. This rarely happens in a free market system, as when others see how much money someone is making, there are others who get into the market and compete to get some of the action. That generally brings prices down to a more realistic level.

Other than that, if a business overprices a product or service, it usually means they will not sell much of that product or service. If the business does it with enough of their product/service, they are usually a business that won't be around long. Overpricing means that the price is too high for the value of the product or service in the eyes of the consumer. An overpriced paintball field could theoretically be one where players are paying $40 total for entry/air/a case of paint, if the value is not there. On the flip side, if players are paying $70 for entry/air/ and a bag of 500 paintballs, but everyone is leaving with smiles on their faces, and the field is seeing hundreds of customers every week, the prices the field is charging may be perfectly legitimate.

It's always about value. Product pricing is just one element of the value.