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Subscription Pricing Is NOT a Purple Unicorn

Sometimes, I find it amusing. Other times, I find it irritating. Like most things, how I feel about it on any given day will largely depend on how much coffee I’ve had.

What am I talking about? Subscription pricing.

More precisely, I find it amusing/irritating when subscription pricing is presented or discussed as though it’s some totally new and different “species” of pricing.

First of all, subscription pricing is nothing new.

Sure, there’s a lot of new terminology being thrown around today. Of course, the payment and provisioning options have expanded and improved dramatically. And certainly, all of these developments have made it possible for much wider range of products and services to be offered, sold, and delivered on a recurring basis.

All that being said, however, subscription offerings…or what the old-timers used to refer to as “continuity programs”…have been around for well over 100 years.

But pretending that it’s something new is not what bugs me the most…

What really bothers me is when subscription pricing is viewed as something so unique and different that none of the “old rules” apply and you can just throw the fundamentals of sound pricing practice right out the window.

Give me a break!

Simply offering a subscription doesn’t magically rewire the human genome and alter eons-worth of engrained human behavior.

Do subscription buyers no longer care about value? Do they no longer evaluate how your offering stacks-up to the alternatives? Because it’s a subscription, do they no longer concern themselves with getting the best value for the dollar?

Are subscription buyers suddenly immune to price positioning and other aspects of pricing psychology? Do they no longer have certain expectations with respect to price/volume tradeoffs and earned concessions?

Do subscription buyers all now have the same price sensitivities? Are they all now willing and able to pay exactly the same prices? Does their specific situation and circumstance somehow no longer affect what they’re willing to buy and how much they’re willing to spend?


As long as you’re selling to humans…selling anything to humans…the fundamentals of effective pricing will serve you extremely well. So let your competitors ignore the pricing fundamentals, believing that subscription pricing is some kind of purple unicorn. You know better.

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