Why Groomers Should Avoid Cookie Cutter Pricing

Hello hello and welcome to Greedy Bitch, a podcast where groomers stop apologizing for charging their worth.  I’m your host River Lee, founder of the Savvy Groomer, let’s talk about today's topic:

Why every groomer needs to avoid cookie cutter prices

We’ve all asked around in Facebook groups to see what other groomers are charging. This works fine for a quick thermometer check, but this is awful for setting your prices. It is awful because every groomer’s business is so different. 

I’m going to show you why you need to evaluate how your business is different and create a pricing structure that works for you.

What is cookie cutter pricing?

Cookie cutter pricing is a pricing structure that assumes what works for other groomers will also work for you. Cookie cutter pricing takes other groomers’ prices at face value and fails to consider what factors might be affecting their prices, such as geographical location, experience level, business type, number of employees, products used, and so on.

This happens a lot in community forums like Facebook groups. We ask other groomers what their pricing is and then take those prices and use them in our own business. 

Asking around can be okay for a quick temperature check, but it is important to ask for as much extra information as you can before putting too much trust in someone else’s business model.

Are they running their business out of a salon, a mobile salon, or a home? Do they have pick-up and drop-off times or do they do dogs one-on-one? Do they use top-tier luxury products or cheap products? What level of care are they providing for their animals?

If you don’t ask these questions, you are doing yourself and the industry a disservice. You really cannot base your prices off of this without considering all these factors.

An example of why cookie cutter pricing doesn’t work: My blonde moment

If you’ve been following along, you might know that I recently dyed my hair blonde. My friend also dyes her hair blonde.

She pays a lot less for her hair treatments, but her hair is damaged from it. She also goes several weeks between appointments, so her roots often show. She is fine with this, so she continues to pay the price that she pays. It is her hair and it is completely up to her what she wants and she can decide what is worth it to her.

On the other hand, I pay a premium for my hair treatments and I go every three weeks, so in total, I am paying so much more for my hair. However, my hair is not damaged. Also, I have really dark hair that I want covered, so it is worth it to me to go more often.

You might be wondering, River, what does this have to do with pet grooming? My point is, even though my friend and I get the same basic result (blonde hair), you can’t compare the services. You can’t expect me to pay the same price that my friend does when I am buying much more expensive products and am going twice as often.

A pet grooming business coaching example... Let’s look at another more relevant example. 

I have two wonderful business coaching clients who have very similar business models. They’re both solopreneurs with one-on-one grooming businesses providing similar services. However, one business is in California and one is in a rural area. California is one of the most expensive areas in the country, and a rural salon just cannot compete on those prices. 

So, it is completely unrealistic for both of these businesses to charge the same prices, even though they are so similar in other ways.

This is a great example of why asking for other groomers’ prices in a Facebook group and using those prices in your business is such a bad idea.

Besides, the market is wrong and so most groomers are not charging enough to be profitable, let alone keep up with inflation, anyhow. 

Why is the market wrong?

You can learn more about why the market is wrong in my recent blog post and live stream on this topic, but basically, most groomers are not charging enough to even keep up with inflation. 

Many groomers have been in the business for 30 or 40 years but have not raised their prices every year to keep up with inflation. 

Say you’ve been in business for 40 years. In 1980, you used to charge $45 to groom a dog. $45 in 1980 is worth $145 today — so you would need to charge $145 just to keep up with your old prices. But you also need to honor the fact that during that timeframe, you’ve become an incredible groomer with 40 years of experience. Therefore, $145 is not enough and you need to factor in your experience level and any certifications you’ve earned since then.

Also, many groomers look to big box stores like Petco and PetSmart to set their prices. What most people don’t realize is that these stores sell grooming services as loss leaders. This means that they actually lose money on grooming, but it gets people into the stores to buy their products and that’s how they make money. 

Many times the market is just a race to the bottom, which is not sustainable and hurts business.

What can we do to avoid cookie cutter prices?

As an industry, we need to make our prices match what we want in our life and business, which means no more cookie cutter prices. Stop basing your prices off of what other people charge.

To start, you should start evaluating your pricing annually. Inflation happens at an average rate of 3–5% per year, so raising your prices at least that much every year is a great place to start. But don’t stop there! There is so much that needs to go into pricing. 

Everyone is afraid of raising prices, being the most expensive, and losing clients. But you need to realize that if you do things right, you can groom fewer pets and make the same amount of money — or more! 

Calculate how much you are going to earn at certain price points. Make choices that are best for you, your family, and your business. Use guidelines to create your own pricing structure around your wants and needs. Consider things like what salary you need for yourself and/or for your employees, what types of pets you want to groom, how many pets you want to groom, how many hours you want to work per week, how much time you want to take off, and so on.

Your long-term happiness is so important. And using cookie cutter prices and just keeping up with inflation is not enough. 

That sounds great, right? But it also sounds really hard and scary, I know. That’s where The Savvy Groomer can help.

Hire business coaching services or take my masterclass!

I highly suggest you sign up for my 6-module Price Increase masterclass. This is an amazing, information-packed course where I will help you develop a personal pricing framework. 

I know that this is a diverse industry with all kinds of unique businesses, so I work hard to look at every business as an individual business and create plans that support all my different types of clients.

Key takeaways

If you’ve been using cookie cutter prices and not keeping up with inflation in your business, don’t feel badly. For a while, I didn’t know any better either. It is not our fault we didn’t know, because how could we? But now that we know, we need to stop with cookie cutter prices. 

That said, we need to strategize our price increases and make strong business plans to roll them out. Good marketing is critical and being prepared with things like scripted talking points can be a game-changer. 

It is so important to know how much your services are worth and to charge appropriately for your skillset, location, and business goals.