How to raise prices (the right way) — Podcast with Reid DeRamus, Substack

Reid DeRamus unpacks the nuanced strategy behind raising prices and keeping subscribers happy.

Sub Club podcast episode with Reid DeRamus from Substack
David Barnard

David Barnard

September 6, 2023

Have you ever considered that your health metrics could be too good?

It seems like a strange way to question strong business growth, but Substack Growth PM Reid DeRamus has a different take.

“We look at [some writers’] retention metrics … and [they’re] through the roof,” he says. “But there’s a flip side of that: [it] can also mean that your product is underpriced, or that you’re not being aggressive enough trying to grow your audience.” 

The balancing act of raising prices

So, should you raise your price? While it’s a great driver for customer lifetime value (CLV) and revenue, raising prices also requires a careful balancing act between growth and profitability. You need to carefully assess consumer sentiment to make sure it plays well with your customer base. Be sure to gauge the impact of any price increase by focusing on both existing, new and potential subscribers. While price increases often don’t impact retention as much as you might think when well executed, they will likely have a modest impact on new user acquisition rates. 

Ultimately, you need to establish a model to determine whether or not you’re leaving money on the table, and the best way to do that is to look at raising prices for existing subscribers. But don’t just go ahead and put the price up: ensure that you’re delivering more value, and that any increases are gradual and infrequent. Too much movement can aggravate subscribers and might end up negatively impacting retention.

Retention overhaul: Reid’s tips

Reid also has some tips for how to improve retention. While potentially controversial, he suggests focusing on acquisition and building consistent growth patterns in the early days. But for those with comfortable growth looking to keep users around, there are important growth tactics that help reduce voluntary cancellations. The cancellation prevention flow necessitates asking why users are canceling — and then solving their self-identified problems. Reminding them of what they lose with expiration notifications, giving (not too generous) special offers, and offering pauses can also help. 

Price tiers: an alternative approach

Offering a higher priced tier could be a great alternative to raising prices: lower tiers work well for your core user base, while higher tiers demonstrate added value for diehard subscribers when raising prices. Ultimately, cancellation rates boil down to how much value subscribers get from your product relative to what they’re paying. 

Onboarding is the most important part of the subscriber journey

“That onboarding period is the most crucial part of a subscriber journey,” Reid emphasizes. It’s easy to boost retention with better onboarding — improved by analyzing engagement of subscribers and churned users — to craft a rinse-and-repeatable experience that doesn’t bombard users while preventing future churn. If you improve retention for core subscribers, you ultimately end up driving more revenue growth. But surveys are also a key part of improving retention. You can significantly improve value delivery by better solving your customers’ problems — think 10X improvement.

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