Sorry, but you can’t prevent people price shopping by masking product codes

When I see competitors’ marketing messages, I’m often impressed, inspired and intrigued – all good things that help us raise our game.

It’s rare for me to get irritated, but it’s happened; I want to explain why, and what I would change.

The marketing message in question is from ASI:

ASI Misleading Advert

It’s nicely designed, and on the face of it seems to fix a major problem distributors (or any business not selling something unique) have. Here’s my problem.

You can’t stop people from price shopping.

While masking the product code means someone can’t type that into Google, there’s nothing stopping them from searching by the product name.

To prove my point, here’s what happens when I search for a popular promotional product:

Product search resultsMy search term here was ‘Non woven economy tote bag with 22″ handles’ and there were 288,000 results.

So let’s be honest; while website providers such as Customer Focus, Sage, and now ASI, all make it impossible for someone to price shop using a product code, this doesn’t prevent price shopping.

We just hired a new marketing person at Customer Focus, and when I showed her ASI’s message, she laughed! In her previous roles she’d been the promotional products buyer for both a highly successful firm of lawyers, and a nationwide car leasing company. She always price shopped, and would have felt that she was letting her employer down if she hadn’t.

Don’t give up on this article. It’s not all doom and gloom.

I’m over my irritation now and ready to tell you what you can genuinely do to encourage people to choose your services over a competitor.

Give people a reason to buy from you

I love Amazon; it’s my go-to for just about everything. However, I recently purchased a masticating juicer (I’m planning a 10 day juicing diet after watching the ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’ documentary), and after a bit of research, chose another online store.

It was on Amazon for £179, and it was also on for £179. I bought it from the latter because they offered a free book of juicing recipes with every order. It’s a slimline little book and can’t be costing them a lot of money – but it meant they won my business over Amazon.

So for me, it was a tiny added incentive that prompted me to switch. Could you give away a free travel mug or USB power bank with every order? It’s worth considering.

For millennials – which are the biggest group in the US workforce and getting bigger – there are several things other than price that influence them.

We’ve presented a webinar on this which I’d recommend you check out, but here are some ideas for the time pressed:

Support a good cause

4 out of 5 millennials say that, all else being equal, they’re more likely to buy from a company that supports a cause they care about (source:

Whether you’re donating a proportion of profits, or you give up your time to volunteer, make sure that your website customers know about it. As a small business, this is much easier for you to organize than a huge company with dozens of employees. Here’s a great example:

Charitable causes sell promotional products

Present yourself professionally

Recently a colleague received two quotes for re-paving her driveway. The first guy turned up with a book of sample work, was on time, and he built trust by having a company branded t-shirt and van.

The following day another guy turned up; he was also on time, and similarly pleasant, but he didn’t have any examples of how the driveway could look (“however you want it to look” wasn’t helpful!), and he made my colleague uneasy because there was nothing to indicate that he was a professional tradesperson.

His quote was £500 cheaper than the first guy, but she went for the first guy because he provided her with ideas, and gave her the confidence that the job would be done well.

The same analogy can applied to websites. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an amazing looking website, but you do have to a) care, and b) spend time updating it.

Given that it’s almost inevitable that your customers will check at least one other website, you need to ensure that it’s your website that gives off the impression of being cared for, because in turn that gives your customer confidence that they will be cared for, too.

Reviews and testimonials are key

I could re-title this blog ‘One thousand and one analogies’ but they’re all relevant, so stick with me 🙂

I’ve been looking for a new internet provider. A quick online search revealed four providers in my area, all of whom offer the same service at much the same price.

What prompted me to choose a particular provider was a conversation over dinner with some friends, where they all spoke very warmly about the customer service of one, and very negatively about the customer service of another.

Needless to say I went for the one they all rated highly.

When you deliver an amazing service to your customers, they might not tell you how pleased they are, but there is a good chance they will tell their peers. That’s great, but it doesn’t help you when someone’s first interaction with you is via your website.

So start making a point of asking customers for their feedback on every order. If it’s not great, then go fix it. If it is great, share it. Don’t be afraid to share testimonials which might be a bit mixed – say “I had a problem with my order but they fixed it”. These ‘warts and all’ comments give you more credibility.

Include your customer’s name and ideally a photo or logo too – I know people have a concern about competitors calling their customers, but in my view it’s worth the risk to give that ‘social proof’ on your website.

TestimonialsSo in short, if I were ASI, I wouldn’t suggest that I could “eliminate the possibility of comparative shopping”.

Customers are going to shop around, but by offering a incentive, showcasing your social conscience, making sure your website looks great and is regularly updated, and featuring solid customer testimonials, you’ll significantly increase the likelihood that someone will buy from you, over a competitor.

Agree? Disagree? Let it all out in our comments section below.

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