We recently wrote a substantial post about how to conduct SaaS pricing research that mostly focused on how to scope a research project and design methodology. We touched on the different major categories of pricing research methods and broke down secondary and primary research tactics but didn’t get particularly granular on research methods.
If you’re a founder, solo product marketer, and/or a specialized competitive or pricing professional on a small product marketing team, we feel your pain. You are (very) short on resources and time. Large primary research studies are great, but they carry costs and effort levels that you just can’t dedicate to them. You need to make quick strategy decisions using as much data as can be reasonably collected and be willing to implement, iterate, succeed, fail and start all over again.
Let our experts grade your pricing URL
Our goal with this guide is to give you an extra resource in your pricing research arsenal, and hopefully save you some time in your research process. Over the past 10 years of doing custom price benchmarking and strategy engagements, we’ve turned over a lot of internet stones looking for nuggets of competitive and marketing pricing information. This guide is your map to the most fruitful sources we’ve found (excluding internal and external primary research — that’s a separate pursuit, with separate resources and budget). This guide is for those who are short on time and budget and looking for actionable, hard-to-find insights to use in decision making.
- Vendor pricing pages
Particularly in SaaS, this one is an obvious place to start. For most market categories, pricing pages are a rich source of insights on peers’ packaging models, pricing models and starting (list) prices. FAQ sections on these pages can be mined for more detailed insights as well.
- Vendor S-1s and other SEC filings
For public or soon-to-be-public companies, SEC filings are a rich source of detailed insights on pricing models and pricing strategy trends. In particular, S-1 filings can be really valuable, even if viewed in a historical context. S-1 filings typically break down the monetization strategies of companies in detail, serving as a source of pricing model insights for companies that otherwise often don’t publish pricing information. S-1s will often also provide quantitative benchmarks on customers by plan type, customer size and other key metrics.
- Channel VAR and distributor websites
Much like vendor pricing pages and websites, channel partner websites can be helpful in providing guidance on price models and list pricing levels for products sold through the channel. We find ourselves on CDW and/or Insight’s website for probably 95% of the projects we support. These vendors have robust e-commerce capabilities and a wealth of publicly available information on vendor offerings, packaging and pricing to support their self-service e-commerce go-to-market motion.
- Vendor technical documentation and FAQs
This is one of our favorite sources, but it is not for the faint of heart. Technical documentation guides often have product overviews that share licensing provisioning information for IT teams that are responsible for deploying products and managing licenses. This type of information can be used to glean insights on the pricing models used by peers. It is particularly helpful for identifying competitive licensing prerequisites and required add-ons that aren’t widely advertised via the pricing pages on vendors’ marketing sites.
- Vendor Terms of Service
Whereas technical documentation requires you to view information through an IT lens, with Terms of Service you need to put on your legal hat. Terms of Service can be helpful in validating how metering and billing works for competitors, as well as identifying any SLAs, contractual terms, or other conditions that govern peers’ customer agreements. In a recent project, for example, we were able to confirm a nonpublished fact about term lengths via a vendor’s Terms of Service.
- Sign up for a free plan or trial
This source is relatively new with the advent of product-led growth. If a vendor’s site restricts you from use as a competitor or has terms that otherwise limit your participation in the free plan or trial, stop right there and move to the next strategy. If it doesn’t, which is the case for many, a free plan can provide a window into a product. There may also be an “Upgrade” option that can provide a window into paid plans that might not otherwise be published.
- Google search for PDFs and/or documents
Google search is an obvious tool, but the gold lies within Google searches that include a “+PDF” on the end of the search term. On nearly every project we’ve completed, document searches have proven to deliver the most relevant and detailed insights. This type of search architecture can yield a wealth of packaging and pricing information such as published price lists, go-to-market presentations, publicly available contracts and other similar resources.
- Cloud vendor marketplaces
Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and other major cloud marketplaces are a really valuable emerging source of pricing information, particularly in traditionally quiet industries like telecom where vendors are increasingly publishing illustrative pricing on marketplaces. Packaging and pricing may be specific to the underlying marketplace requirements but is still illustrative of how peers go to market. A bonus tip — marketplaces often have a PDF linked to the vendor’s End User License Agreement, which can be mined for contractual and billing insights.
- Reddit (and other social media)
Social media as a category is an obvious choice for competitive pricing but can be an overwhelming mass of information to sift through. Our favorite social media site for pricing insights is Reddit. Reddit users frequently post insightful, detailed comments and questions on pricing experiences with specific vendors, often delving into negotiation experiences and discounting. Consider the source and triangulate against other resources, but use Reddit frequently to go deeper than what is published on websites and collateral.
- G2, Capterra, Trust Radius and other buyer review sites
Like the social media resources above, buyer reviews can be a valuable source of pricing insights. Buyer reviews go through additional layers of filtering that social media sites do not, so the information provided can be a bit more guarded, but often just as valuable. We often find that buyer reviews are a strong resource to leverage for indicators of price-for-value. Buyers that have bought products and experienced them can share vetted narratives about the value captured for the price paid, while highlighting the capabilities that enhanced or detracted from value.
- Software review blogs
These types of sites are typically affiliate marketing blogs produced by third parties that evaluate software and publish their insights for the benefit of prospective buyers — think Consumer Reports for software, built by bloggers. Reviewers often try software, assess features and benefits relative to pricing, and then publish their findings. Since these sites are often affiliate-supported, they must be viewed through that lens, but they can often serve as a point of validation or rebuttal for buyer insights gathered via the review sites mentioned above.
- Software procurement vendor websites
This is a relatively new category, led by the likes of Vendr and Tropic. These are software-enabled services companies that will evaluate, negotiate and purchase software on behalf of buyers. While these sites keep the really valuable stuff (e.g., net pricing, discounts) close to the vest, they often publish general reports that can provide signals into pricing trends. For example, Vendr released a 2021 Buying Trends Report and will frequently post snippets on LinkedIn summarizing key purchasing trends.
- General industry publications and blogs
There are many of these sites out there — too many to name. TechCrunch, CRN and many others fall into this category. From time to time these sites will release reports on key vendors and/or trends in a given category that pertain to pricing. The key is to focus on the top three to five key sites within your category and set up alerts so you know when relevant insights are released. For example, when we were doing a project on hardware “as a Service” consumption models, we bookmarked Blocks and Files, a niche news site focused on that space as they published regular content related to the vendors and pricing topics we were covering.
- Local, state and federal government schedules
Like with partner websites and marketplaces, government schedules can be a valuable source of detailed pricing information, including packaging, pricing models and representative price levels. An obvious place to start is the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) IT Schedule 70, which is the foundational purchasing vehicle for IT solutions for the federal government. Other sources less-traveled but perhaps even more valuable include state and local government schedules (we recommend parsing government VAR Carahsoft’s website for that), as well as our personal favorite, the Gov.UK Digital Marketplace. You may or may not care about the actual price points charged for U.K. government sector buyers, but the site offers detailed pricing schedules, licensing agreements, offering collateral and other resources on a large swath of major cloud providers.
- Wayback Machine
For those looking to build longitudinal analyses of packaging and pricing strategy changes over time, the best resource currently available is Wayback Machine. This tool allows you to enter any website URL and deep dive into how the site has changed over time. This requires some manual evaluation to uncover takeaways, but it’s time well spent if evaluating the course a competitor is charting with its pricing page.
- Job postings
Searching a vendor’s career page and/or a popular job board site for pricing-related roles can provide multiple useful intelligence pointers. At a surface level, it can give you indicators as to how peers are thinking about building out their pricing functions. At a more granular level, insights on pricing strategies overall can often be captured. Job postings will often share insights about their strategy that are relevant to the job role(s) being recruited.
- LinkedIn job descriptions
Job descriptions of current employees at peers can often provide insights on competitors’ pricing strategies. For example, a current employee may list a responsibility or an accomplishment of his or her role that is part of a broader pricing strategy or execution goal for the company you are tracking. This is useful insight into how the peer is evolving its pricing function, and thinking about its pricing strategy overall.
- Analyst research reports
Analyst reports usually fall into the “higher-cost” category, while this guide focuses on low-cost and no-cost ways to gather competitive and market pricing insights. That said, analyst reports can sometimes be found reprinted on public websites and analysts are often producing public content such as a webinars and blogs that are based on report findings. These reports will often touch on pricing strategies and best practices in a given category.
- Competitive intelligence tools like Crayon and Klue
Crayon, Klue and other related tools fall into the “higher-cost” category, but are valuable sources of on-demand competitive pricing intelligence. Competitive intelligence and enablement platforms typically curate publicly available intelligence on peers including pricing. These tools are also instrumented to alert users when competitors make pricing changes. If a budget can support a platform like Crayon or Klue, they should be a top consideration for those trying to build a sustainable, programmatic function for competitive pricing tracking.
- XaaS Pricing
XaaS Pricing provides an on-demand pricing intelligence platform that tracks 20,000-plus companies across 40-plus packaging, pricing model, pricing and discounting metrics. We offer multiple plans aligning to different budget levels. Features enable users to access standard reports, build customizable reports, search our data, gather alerts to competitor changes, and track competitor pricing developments over time. XaaS Pricing is a low-cost option for vendors with some budget to allocate to developing a pricing strategy and/or building a competitive pricing benchmarking engine. Contact us today for beta access.
Note: We adhere to the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals’ Code of Ethics, so we rely on publicly available sources only, and we always identify ourselves accurately when collecting data. As such, this list is limited to sources that can be used within those boundaries. We don’t engage in things like secret shopping, and we’d recommend similar policies for any vendor executing competitive pricing intelligence research.