Subscription Website Publishing

Using “Self-Liquidating Premiums” to Help Close the Sale

An effective technique in digital content marketing is “self-liquidating premiums”—having the value of premiums exceed the entire purchase price of your product.

For example, let’s assume you have a product, perhaps a downloadable book with a list price of $49.97. You’re selling it online at a discounted purchase price of $29.97.

Let’s also assume you’re giving away three downloadable bonus reports as part of the deal.

If you gave each of the three bonus reports a $20 value, the total value of the bonuses would be a hefty $60.


Add the $20 discount off the book, and the total savings is $80. All of this should be spelled out on the order page to help close the sale by making the asking price seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the value received.

The theory is that you’ll generate enough additional sales of the book to cover the cost of giving away those bonus reports. That’s what we call free money!

Contrast pricing: Self-liquidating premiums for the 21st century

While the concept of self-liquidating premiums in marketing is an old one, Mequoda has adopted a more modern version of it as a Best Practice for pricing multiple subscription products.

The phenomenon of contrast, or decoy, pricing was most famously illustrated by Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor of psychology and behavioral economics, in his book, Irrational Predictability. This theory takes self-liquidating premiums to the next level – not just closing the sale, but driving more sales and prompting more people to pay the highest price for multiple products.

Consider this example with three options:

  1. Digital magazine: $19.97
  2. Digital library: $29.97
  3. Both products bundled: $34.97

Now, $34.97 contrasted with $19.97 seems pricey, doesn’t it? But if you’re like most buyers, you’ll also spot the $29.97 price compared to the $34.97 price – and now $34.97 doesn’t seem so high. Hey, it’s just $5 more … and you can get what’s behind Door #1 and Door #2 for that extra $5! Might as well go for it!

How many people go for it? According to one of our content partners who tested this, roughly 55% were for the highest-priced bundled offer. About 25% opted for the next highest price, the library only. The lowest price, for the digital magazine alone, trailed at just under 20%.

Our testing of this price strategy shows that not only will more people choose the highest price, it also generates more sales at a rate of 1.3 to 1.

Another opportunity exists where you can spell out overwhelming value by marketing an all-access pass. This may include, print, digital, web library, and more. By creating an all-access bundle, you can add up the individual value of each item and tell prospective customers the full price of what’s included, and how much they’d save by purchasing the discounted all-access pass. You could write a headline such as, “You can save 60% percent when you join today.”

Finally, you can also gain benefits by implementing Six Sigma subscription marketing techniques. Through test data, we’ve seen firsthand the impact that running a well-optimized six sigma subscription marketing program can have on maximizing orders and revenues. One publisher who implemented just a few of our techniques and processes saw their online subscription revenues increase by 148% in just 90 days! Learn more about 12 Six Sigma Offers That Boost Response Rates.

The value of self-liquidating premiums and contrast pricing should be clear to you. Give it a try, and don’t stop testing.

And if it’s not clear, what questions do you have? Leave a comment below.

This post was originally published in 2009 and is updated regularly.


By Don Nicholas

Founder & Executive Publisher

Don Nicholas serves as Executive Publisher for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. He is responsible for all creative, technical, and financial aspects of these multiplatform brands. As senior member of the editorial team, he provides structural guidance, sets standards, and coordinates activities with the technology and business teams. Don is an active gardener whose favorite crops include tomatoes, basil, blueberries, and corn. He and his wife Gail live and work in southern Massachusetts surrounded by forests, family farms, cranberry bogs, and nearby beaches. Don is also the Founder of Mequoda Systems, LLC, which operates and supports numerous online communities including I Like Crochet, I Like Knitting, and We Like Sewing.

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