Exclusivity, 'Wow,' and Valuing Products Are Keys to Price Hikes and Upsells

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Elizabeth Green (pictured), CEO of Brief Media—a leading publisher in the veterinary medicine field—once delivered a dynamic keynote at BIMS titled Disrupting Goliath: Tales of a Small Cap Media Innovator. "I've spent my entire tenure as a publisher watching Goliath," she said. What she learned helped her to build one of the top brands in the field.

 

 

"Adapt and choose an unconventional strategy, and the tables flip," Green told us, meaning David can come out ahead. During tough economic times around 2010, she raised the cost of print ads 20%. The strategy worked. Their print advertising dollars went up 40% the next year. "We went to see our clients to explain why," she said. "The key was the exclusivity and valuing of our products. If you value them, [your customers] will value them."

 

Seeing customers now and print ads have certainly waned, but raising prices—at times—and focusing on upsells should not. Here are five examples:

 

Ask with confidence. “Renewal time is also a great time to upsell or raise prices," Dan Fink, managing director of Money-Media, said on his SIPA webinar last month. "If you have a great product and people are engaging with it, you really need to raise the price. If you can’t do that, you have a content or product problem.”

 

Offer add-ons. Coleman Report publisher Bob Coleman once told me about one of his upsell opportunities—where a customer could purchase a data report for $95 or access to the whole database for a little more. I said, "Wow," which was just what he wanted to hear. "There are two parts to my philosophy of the upsell: The wow factor—someone telling me that it's a good deal—and if it doesn't cost me anything extra. Also, with webinars, Joseph Coleman would reach out to attendees to confirm and try to upsell with transcripts and unlimited access. They get about 20% conversions.

 

Build on something that suits the times we're in. Knowing the state we're in, Netflix recently announced that it would be raising prices for its monthly subscriptions in the U.S. A standard plan will go from $13 to $14 per month, while its premium tiers will go from $16 to $18. Greg Peters, Netflix COO and chief product officer, said that as the company invests more into both content and tech developments, they’ll “occasionally go back and ask [customers] to pay a little bit more to keep that virtuous cycle of investment and value creation going.”

 

Make it easy. In a webinar a few years ago, Adam Goldstein, publisher of Business Management Daily, spoke about their webinar upsells. After signing up for one, customers are offered an upsell to a season pass. On their website you see this language: “Save 90% on a complete year of training webinars. If you bought all our webinars offered for the year individually, you’d pay $39,400. What gets even more expensive (and dangerous) is when labor law mistakes you could’ve prevented end up in court. But for just $1,599, you can access all our webinars and get your team the HR training they need to be compliant with the law.”

 

Entice with content and gentle urging. "We use our own content to promote upsells," said Joe May, marketing director at Pro Farmer. Snippets of grain reports and online videos might bring audience in. A free download might lead to a $29 report. And the report might lead to a trial membership for Pro Farmer. This way they can catalogue people over time—if they signed up for two free trials, Pro Farmer will ask, why don't you give us a shot?

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…