Subscription or fixed price? Choosing the right pricing model for your learning products


When we meet with clients for the first time, we often get asked:

“How should we charge customers for our course? One off? Or should we sell it as a subscription? What’s the best option for us?”

It seems a pretty fundamental question, right?

In our experience, there are real advantages of subscription over one-off:

  • It provides you with a pipeline of future income (great if you are looking to increase the value of your company, or just sleep better at night knowing there are revenues to come).
  • It allows you to offer a lower initial price point, that may help conversion to sale. Yet the lifetime value of your customer has the potential to be much higher than what you’d receive as a fixed fee.
  • We believe it forces you to build closer relationships with your customer (which we’ll come onto next). This close relationship, if capitalised on, can provide you with key insights to improve your business and products, help you spot opportunities to cross-sell, and gain a deep understanding that can improve your business in many ways.

However, you have to earn the right to be renewed. You’re going to have to work harder to deliver immediate and ongoing value to your customer – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

You’ll also need to consider the nature of the learning product you’re delivering. Can it be completed within 2-3 subscription cycles – do we have any past experience that will give us a steer on this? If so, then a fixed fee may be the right route. Alternatively, you may be able to ‘drip’ content into the training over time – but make sure expectations are clear on this to the customer prior to purchase.

Consider the desired outcomes of your students from your online course too. Are they looking to develop a skill over a period of time, or are they primarily focused on the certification and credentials they will achieve upon completion?

If it’s the latter, it may be more difficult to retain subscriptions once they have achieved their goal. You’ll have to figure out a really compelling reason for them to get real value from you after they’ve finished – not impossible but the intentions may be already set from when they looked at your product.

As you can see, there’s plenty of factors at play. We’d argue that when you first start thinking about developing a digital product, consider the pricing model. Ultimately this may have a significant bearing on the choices you make about the format and nature of it. And if we can help you with conversation, we’d love to hear from you!

Andy Jack

Andy Jack

Andy loves helping subject experts, authors, speakers, coaches and key persons of influence to monetise their expertise with online learning. When not on his laptop, he'll usually be found up a mountain!

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