I just read this interesting post by Seth Godin about a dialogue he had with a resort marketer. She had asked him to help convince her bosses to lower room prices to facilitate company growth. He, of course, countered with the why don't you raise prices and be remarkable approach. It sounds like she didn't take that too well.
As you know by now, I'm not a proponent of the cheap route either. In fact, in almost every case, I'm adamently opposed. Discounting implies that you get less. So, unless you're actually offering less or something inferior to other choices, don't reduce the price. It's a long, slippery slope...in the wrong direction. On the other hand, like Seth points out, if you're "built" for cheap, that's different. Marriott, Hampton Inn, Motel 6 to name a few...are built on the premise of lowest price for the product in their respective segments. And, they've done well with it. Do you really think you can compete with engines like these when bringing your new "lowest price" hotel to their markets? Most probably not.
I actually took away another point from Seth and Anna's conversation. You can't convince someone to change their mind about something if they don't want to believe that there may be a different way to do it. From what I can gather, Anna and her bosses didn't want a different idea, they didn't want a remarkable consultant's honest viewpoint...they wanted someone else (preferrably someone credible) to tell them exactly what they wanted to hear...to rubber stamp their solution.
Consultants face this issue time and time again...and are faced with a brand defining choice. Do you play along and collect a fee? Or, do you take the risk of upsetting the apple cart, and stand for what you believe...to tell people the truth and what you think will solve their problem. The choice made will determine who you are and who you end up serving in the long run.
There are plenty of Anna's out there, enough to make a rather fine living. But, from my experience, working for them is frustrating and certainly more boring than for someone who actually wants to hear what you have to say.
Each time I'm faced with this "rubber stamping" scenario I ask myself these questions...Do I want to be known as someone who seeks alternatives, proposes non-traditional solutions and is willing to take some risks? Do I want to share the risk with my client to take some chances, and to create something really different? Or, do I want to spend hours creating justification for a solution I really don't believe in just to get a paycheck. Right now, I can still afford to do the former...I hope that never changes.