Like you, I buy a lot of office supplies.

And I am betting that you--like me--haven't paid full price for them in years.

One of the world's worst kept secrets is you can always find a coupon--that can be used in the store or for orders via the web--for Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot. It is easy to get $20 off a $100 purchase, and if you are willing to spend a bit more time searching, you can usually do better than that. (I have gotten 40 percent off on more than one occasion.)

When you consider that you always get free shipping on orders of $50 or more from these three chains, it works out to be an extremely good deal every time you order.

Why are we talking about office supplies? That's easy: Staples, Office Max, and Office Depot have trained us to always look for a discount on their products--and you may be doing the exact same thing.

--Do you always run sales?

--Is there always an online coupon available?

--Are your sales always at the same time (e.g., the third week of the month)?

--Are the discounts greater at a certain time, like at the end of the quarter?

Whatever your policy, you can bet that your customers have noticed--just as you and I have noticed that the office supply companies always have coupons available.

Sure, you can hope that they don't notice.

And, of course, you can hope that they will need to buy during a period when you don't have a sale.

But hope is not a strategy. (At least not a very effective one.)

We live in a competitive world. Very few people have money to waste, so they will always be looking for the next deal, a good deal, and for people who are always willing to give them a discount for things they would buy anyway.

If you have sincerely thought through your pricing strategy--and the occasional discount or sale fits with what you are trying to do--then good for you.

For some organizations the promise "we won't be undersold" or "always the lowest prices" is pivotal to their positioning.

But if you haven't really thought about your discounting policy, now is the time to do it.

Or you simply can resign yourself to always having lower margins than you need to.

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Published on: Dec 18, 2014