Is it D-Day for Pricing in Europe? Has pricing fever landed in Normandy?
After participating in the largest gathering of pricing minds in Paris (#IPF2019), which occurred last week coincidently on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, I caught myself asking: has Pricing finally landed on the beaches of Normandy? Have European board rooms and executive committees caught up with America’s pricing fever?
Well, while European companies may not be spending in pricing expertise and tools quite as much yet as American companies (I predict that day is not very far), I can safely say that there is on this side of the Atlantic as much pricing talent, passion and thought leadership as on the other side. Looking for a proof? Look no further than the panel of the heads of pricing of #Philips, #Pernod-Ricard, #SchneiderElectric, and #PPG that I had the privilege to moderate last week during IPF 2nd edition. Attendees came from across Western Europe to learn first-hand how world class leaders deconstruct customer value, monetize intangibles, provide confidence to their sales force, shape the innovation cycle, boost the bottom line, enhance brand equity and manage to build sustainable pricing power against the relentless forces of commoditization and deflation. Laurent, Ann-Sofie, Loon and Jean-Christophe are starting to have as much impact in their organizations as their counterparts at my former US based clients such as #Microsoft, #Walmart, #UnitedAirlines and #GeneralElectric. As a European-born pricing pioneer who went up the Gulf Stream two decades ago to eventually become the founder and global leader of pricing and profitability practices of #Deloitte and then #Accenture, I had to wait that long to see this day.
All four panelists have demonstrated strong, often spectacular, results. They have CEOs that “get it”, investors that start to make the connection between #pricingpower and sustainable #shareholdervalue. They also have salespeople that think twice before discounting value propositions that are now better crafted, all of that while immersed in an unforgiving new world of digital price comparisons that bring #pricetransparency to B2B2C and blur traditional boundaries between B2C and B2C. Interestingly it is not just by generating significant margin increases or double digit ROIs that world class pricing directors turn heads; equally importantly, they bring together marketing, sales, finance, supply chain and IT, across the divisions and across the global operations, by embedding true #PricingGovernance permanently into the organisation. After starting with cross-functional pricing committees at the operational level, they quickly add the decisional level, for strategic arbitrages between growth and profit, between control and empowerment… When I challenged them to share with the audience concrete quick wins along with visionary plans, their rich responses reflected their personal and palpable passion for value Creation, value Communication and value Capture, what I call the 3 Cs of Pricing and Value.
Beyond my panel itself and throughout the rest of the conference (organized by the Club du Pricing Francais with the theme of “Quick Wins: Big Picture, Baby Steps, Huge Impact”) it became clear that virtually every Pricing Director, Chief Pricing Officer, Revenue Growth VP or Commercial Excellence Executive that I chatted with has been hiring people, investing in tools and embarking into ambitious transformation programs. Previously I had only witnessed that fever in San Francisco, in Chicago, in Atlanta and in Las Vegas, where the American pricing conferences have been taking place for 20 years… Some European leaders have now been applying #ArtificialIntelligence (with incidentally a fertile soil in France) to pricing. Others are first focusing on making their pricing rules more consistent and more transparent… Regardless of their first steps, full fledged pricing departments have now been created where, two years ago, there were often only part-time, neglected and overworked pricing managers. They no longer need to fight to get higher visibility from the C-Suite. Be careful what you ask for, you may get it! Senior executives now walk into the pricing directors’ offices because they in turn are getting higher attention from shareholders on that topic. Here is a very meaningful fact: a few years ago, I researched the proportion of times that a pricing related question gets asked by financial analysts during the quarterly earnings conference calls of Wall Street. What is your guess: 1/10? 1/4 of the time? Try again: two thirds of the time! No wonder CEOs get “interested” in the topic… By the way, does any of my 11000 followers want to research the equivalent statistic for CAC 40 of FTSE 100 companies? It would be an interesting metric to track.
Here are some examples of the pricing questions your CEO or CFO are being asked: “how are you getting ready for when #AmazonBusiness enters your high-margin B2B market? Can you demonstrate the pricing power of your brand? How will you respond to pricing wars? What is the portion of subscription and predictable revenue in your sales? How are you planning to monetize data and customer relationships? How fast will the company you just acquired be brought in line with your current pricing practices? Etc…” My question to you: what are YOU doing to help your executives answer those questions?
Yes, pricing has landed in board rooms, executive committees and digital platforms near you… But is there more ground for pricing to cover in Europe? Absolutely! Want examples? Too few CEOs and Pricing Directors, in my view, are fully aware how #BehavioralPricing, #PersonalizedPricing, #DynamicPricing, recurrent #SubscriptionRevenue and #BusinessModelInnovation, to name a few, are inexorably coming to THEIR industries, often through entrepreneurial disrupters or large platforms who, unlike large incumbents, actually use pricing innovation as the foundation of their business model, not just as a competitive competency or, as it is too often the case, as an after-thought.
How fast will European CEOs (or global CEOs for that matter) embrace the new levers of growth and monetization that investors expect, omni-channel customers adopt, competitors leverage and technology now enables?…The next few years will help sort out winners and losers. But one thing is already sure: Pricing is a solid beach head for the rest of the battle… and will be there to help win the war.
Happy Pricing D-Day!