There are many approaches to pricing. These include cost-based, going-rate, target profit, cost-plus, and break-even approaches. When you think about it, all of these approaches to pricing a product are based on the company and its cost structure or on how the competition prices it products.

The Economic Value to the Customer (EVC) approach focuses instead on the customer and how the customer perceives the value of a product. With this view, the purpose of price is not to recover costs, but to capture the perceived value for the product in the mind of the customer.

One way to think about this concept is as follows:

Price Ceiling
Perceived Value
How much of the value-cost gap can you recover?
Price Floor

At the highest end of price is the perceived value of a product to a customer. This represents the price ceiling. Clearly, you can't price a product for more than a customer values it (except in perverse circumstances). At the other end is the price floor, and this is represented by the firm's costs. You won't want to price a product below costs (again, except in special circumstances, like when you have patient venture capital).

The question becomes how much of the gap between the perceived value and the costs you can recover? As you will see, this depends on a number of factors, including the prices of competitor's products and the extent to which customers have information.

Identifying the firm's costs is relatively easy, and one could (and should in many cases) use the variable costs of producing a product as the price floor. But how do you determine the price ceiling, or the EVC? A simple example will help illustrate this process.


Imagine you have a technology that perform a function. An example might be a splicing tool that joins cable together (think about your cable company that needs to repair breaks in their cables from time to time). With this tool you need to buy splicing rivets that are inserted between the cables and then the two cables clamped together via the rivet with the spicing tool.

Consider an old technology for doing this, and assume that the useful life of the splicing tool will allow for 16 splices. The lifetime costs to the customer consist of the labor to use the technology (assume this is $48) and the price of the splice themselves (assume this is $16 for the life of the splicing tool, thus the rivet cost $1 each). Assume for this example that the costs of the splicing tool is negligible (remember, this is an example).


Labor to Use Technology
Old Technology
New Technology


Now consider a new labor saving technology for doing the same function, and think about the costs to the customer for the 16 splices. Assume the labor to use the technology is $22 (remember this is a labor saving device). The question becomes what is the maximum a customer should be willing to pay for the rivets?

Looking at the figure it is clear that the maximum the customer should be willing to pay is $42, since were they to pay $42 the combined cost of the new technology ($42+$22=$64) is exactly the same as the costs of the old technology ($48+$16=$64). This $42 is the EVC. So the most a customer should be willing to pay for 16 rivets is $42/16=$2.625 each.

Well now this is fine from the customer's viewpoint, but what about from the seller's viewpoint?

Let's assume that the cost of the rivets (again, we're thinking about 16 of them) is $20. Then, the least a seller should sell the rivets for is $20. So $20 is the floor and $42 is the ceiling. One possibility is to give the customer an inducement of $18 to switch to the new technology by charging them $24 ($20 + $4), thereby providing the seller with a $4 profit.

$18 Customer Inducement
$4 Profit
Seller's Costs


1. The EVC is not necessarily the perceived value a buyer would place on a product. For example:

  • a buyer may be unaware of the product
  • a buyer may be more influenced by price (i.e., in a price sensitive segment)
  • a buyer may be unsure of differentiating benefits, or unwilling to learn
  • other reasons may affect a buyer, such as prior commitment or inferences they may make about the product beyond the seller's control

2. The EVC is "value-in-use", not market price. Generally , the market price will be something lower than the price ceiling, due to competitor's prices.

3. Different customers, depending on their costs, will have different price ceilings.

4. Finally, many firms price their products too high and lose business as a result. But many firms price their products too low and lose revenue as a result. The EVC is useful for making sure a firm understands how benefits translate into a price ceiling (by reducing a customer's costs) and avoids the problem of pricing too low.


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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is founder, CEO, and Positioning Practice Lead at MarketingProfs. Over the years he has worked with companies such as Texas Instruments, Informix, Vanafi, and EMI Music Distribution to help them position their products defensively in a competitive environment. He is also the founder of Insight4Peace and the former director of Mindful USC.