The Disadvantages of Cost Plus Pricing

by Sam Williams; Updated September 26, 2017
Gas prices are an example of the cost of products' influence on price.

Cost plus pricing is simple in its overall concept. A business calculates the cost to create products. From there, it determines what profits it wants after the costs of the product has been paid, and then it tacks on the profit on top of costs. It’s a popular method of pricing because of its simplicity. Even government contracts ask for cost plus pricing.

Missed Profit Opportunities

Cost plus pricing throws money out the door. In the book, “Capon’s Marketing Framework,” Noel Capon writes that companies are prone to pricing too high or too low with cost-plus pricing. In markets where price isn’t the most important thing to the consumer in their decision-making, his research shows that products are often under-priced. In markets where customers are counting every penny before making a buying decision, he shows that prices are often too high. Competitors are able to compete on pricing more easily with this method because they can predict your pricing ahead of time.

Fixed Costs

The concept of fixed costs means that these costs never change. Rent and salaries are fixed costs. If the company produces and sells a thousand more products one month and sells fewer the next month, the fixed costs don’t change. That means if costs is the main factor in pricing, then the pricing should fluctuate from month to month. Raw materials and sales commission are variable costs or costs that change from period to period. Consumers can be skeptical of pricing fluctuations and it erodes brand trust.

Efficiency

If costs of production decrease, cost plus pricing suggests that pricing should decrease. Then, you lose out on profits. It works the opposite if production costs increase. Cost plus pricing doesn’t inspire efficiency. As long as customers are paying production costs you don’t have any incentive to lower costs or find faster, cheaper and more effective ways of producing products. It’s easy for a company to become complacent. Meanwhile, competitors are taking steps to produce a better product faster, which allows them to steal market share.

Customer Value

Pricing all boils down to what consumers will pay for a product. Even if a name brand shoe only costs $4 to make, the consumer will pay $120 for it if a famous celebrity athlete’s name is attached to the show. Cost plus pricing misses this important factor in pricing and profits. In the book, “Pricing with Confidence,” Reed Holden and Mark Burton write that cost plus pricing “Ignores demand, image and market positioning and ignores the role of customers and the value they derive.” Value based pricing is an alternative method for taking customer's perception into account for pricing.

References

  • “Capon's Marketing Framework”; Noel Capon; 2009
  • “Pricing with Confidence: 10 Ways to Stop Leaving Money on the Table”; Reed K. Holden, Mark Burton; 2008

Resources

About the Author

Sam Williams has been a marketing specialist and ad writer since 1995. He has been published in magazines such as "Reaching Out" and "Spa Search." He served in various sales and marketing positions with major corporations such as American Express, Home Depot and Wells Fargo. Williams studied English at Morehouse College.

Photo Credits

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