Should Manufacturers Disclose MSRP Pricing At Trade Shows?

There has always been some secrecy about prices during exhibitions and a reluctance to hand out price lists to visitors. I can understand some of the historical reasons for this; trade prices shouldn't be disclosed to end users, competitors in disguise might be stealing your confidential secrets, prices depend on who you are and what you buy etc...

But I think there is now a wider acceptance and use of MSRP and RRP pricing and generally more visibility of prices via the web, so why shouldn't manufacturers and distributors display the MSRP/RRP of the products they are promoting? Wouldn't this be more helpful to the visitors and give them better visibility of the products value positioning? IPVM always makes a point of showing market/MSRP prices for products they are reviewing to ensure comparisons are relevant.

Certainly nearly every discussion I've had with a trade show visitor about a product has included the question "how much?" at some point, usually followed by a whispered reply as though we were imparting an official secret.

I recognise that many markets want to protect channels and use covert pricing to pass on profit opportunities but in the most developed markets shouldn't prices be more visible?


The other big thing is that typically companies who can most afford to spend hundreds of thousands on big exhibits have above average pricing. As such, it's not to their advantage to emphasize price. As a sales technique, better for them to convince you on why you need to have their product and leave pricing to the end.

That said, as you mention, obviously we think price is a core issue that needs to be considered upfront to make the best decision possible.

MSRP Pricing shouldn't be kept a secret in my opinion, especially at a show. Is it really hard to find out what things cost?

John, apart from those large premium brands (I have seen MSRP prices on one large IP camera manufacturers product selector) who else has something to lose from prices being displayed? Probably installers/integrators who sell over MSRP won't appreciate it, but their real threat is web-pricing rather than trade shows surely?

Yes, there are a number of dealers who feel strongly about hiding pricing. If a user has no idea what the price 'should' be or what others charge, it provides greater pricing power.

At a trade show years ago, I 'experienced' why pricing is a taboo topic for some exhibitors. I was in a booth with two other (unrelated) gentlemen, one was an end user and the other a salesman from an integrator much larger than my own.

The question of price for a particular new product was asked - the regional salesguy answering our questions made a big mistake when the larger integrator asked if his "50 plus 5" discount still applied to the price. The end user, unable to buy directly from the manufacturer, was not pleased to learn his extended pricing was so much more than cost.

Granted, it is a little naive for an enduser to expect dealer cost, but the entire situation was very awkward for the manufactuer to handle at an event designed to cast the best possible light on the company.

Brian, interesting example, though isn't this the integrator's fault? Did the manufacturer bring up the topic of discounts or?

The manufacturer only 'made his mistake' by disclosing the discount with an affirmative answer without taking inventory first of who was within earshot.

To be clear: one simple honest answer brought two firestorms into the booth:

1) an upset enduser who felt ripped off by his integrator back home

2) an upset integrator (me) who wanted to know why he was not getting the same pricing as his competition.

Brian, I have experienced the same issue from the salesmans perspective! Most uncomfortable. But further to John's reply this was because of the whole discount/trade price discussion and the fact that the salesman may not have know there was an End User involved. Had MSRP pricing been the only price shown and discussed perhaps the scenario could have been avoided?

Sure, the savvy response would have been something like, "Let's follow up with specific discount information after the show."

So we three agree that discussing discounts at a trade show is a big boo boo, but back to my original post what's wrong with having MSRP prices clearly displayed?

I agree that sticking to MSRP pricing is smart. However, like every other potential customer, I quickly disregard MSRP as fluff information or something only schleps would pay. As soon as MSRP is discussed, I want to know how that number translates for me.

I think that most, if not all, booth visitors discussing MSRP have the same mental train of thought. "Real" pricing is an almost unavoidable consequence of bringing MSRP into discussions to begin with.

Some vendors just altogether avoid the issue to 'play it safe'.

And that raises the other problem with MSRP pricing, even if you are willing to use it, the prospect needs to be sophisticated enough to distinguish between structural discount differences (i.e., traditional security vs IT discount levels). For instance, if Sony says, "The MSRP of my 1080p camera is $1,500," and Axis says "The MSRP of my 1080p camera is $1,000," a naive user may think Sony is far more expensive despite the fact that Sony's far greater discount levels may mean the street prices are the same (or Sony is even lower). This example is hypothetical, but the issue is a real one that manufacturers with 'security discount levels' worry about.

We will usually give rough MSRP pricing at a show, and discounts any particular discounts in a more 1-1 format.

People want to know if something is even remotely within their budget, so it's helpful all around to make sure that the conversation is framed appropriately.

People generally come to a trade show to "buy", not directly off the show floor, but in terms of looking for potential new product lines and so forth (either as an integrator, or as an end user looking to solve a problem). Not discussing pricing in some manner would seem to really hinder that outcome.

Agreed - "People want to know if something is even remotely within their budget." Most people aren't haggling to close a deal here, just to get a sense if it's in the ballpark for what they have / are looking at.

Good feedback thank you gents, we will consider displaying RRP/MSRP on the stand at IFSEC next month and make sure the team is briefed on the correct way to handle the discount question. I hope the visitors find this approach useful and we don't upset any dealers!

I will feedback the response and any issues we discover.

Btw, one manufacturer did prominently display pricing at ISC West - Point Grey with their new Cricket camera. Here's the banner they had at the show: