Bloomberg sent a letter to customers of its professional terminal last week announcing a 9.65% price increase for the next two years.
The company can do this with confidence in part because it dominates the marketplace: Bloomberg has 34% share of the market for professional financial platforms, compared with 19% for Refinitive Eikon, 6% for Capital IQ and 5% for FactSet.
But also because of a strategy adopted decades ago.
Early on, Mike Bloomberg decided to set one price for his product and raise that price at the rate of inflation every second year.
It’s worth pausing to reflect how counter-intuitive and weird that decision was as a business strategy.
I cannot think of any other company that set a price decades ago and only adjusted for CPI. It’s not what you learn in business school. It’s more like an electric utility.
Certainly, Apple doesn’t index the price of the new iPhone to the rate of inflation.
Bloomberg didn’t raise prices as much as he could have in good times and he didn’t cut prices during tough times. He didn’t offer volume discounts. And he didn’t negotiate.
What he gained, however, was consistency. He provided institutional clients with long-term visibility and stability. It allowed them to plan for inevitable increases.
Far worse in the minds of many professionals would be erratic pricing that remains unchanged for years only to suddenly double.
There is another benefit that is often overlooked: the hand wringing and time wasted on the part of management and employees debating, justifying and communicating price changes to clients.
Every two years the letter goes out. Some clients grumble. But they expect it.
Of course, not every company is able to raise prices like clockwork without losing clients.
It is, however, a key attribute of successful companies and one that more startups should consider.
Warren Buffett said this about pricing power in a 2008 interview: “The single most important decision in evaluating a business is pricing power. If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business. And if you have to have a prayer session before raising the price by 10 percent, then you’ve got a terrible business.”
(Part of a series about lessons I learned from three decades at Bloomberg LP)