Jeff Bruss and the Digital Rate Card Discounts of Doom!



Jeff Bruss makes the case for sticking to your digital rate card for long-term sales success.

Several years ago I wrote a brief piece for the Niched Out News titled “My Rate Card Can Beat up Your Rate Card” that boldly predicted those who stuck with their rates through the doom and gloom of the 2009 print advertising recession could still remain victorious without offering discounts. So, would I change my rate card opinion now?

Absolutely not.

We learned that not only do we have to stick to a published rate, we need to recognize the value in all of our offerings. As we progress into a truly digital age, our “rate cards” are more important than ever before. Our advertisements are not commodities like oil or gold where price can be dictated by supply and demand or a tumultuous Middle East. I view price slashing as a last-ditch effort to right a sinking ship. I know of very few – if any – examples of lowering prices being an effective method to keep a business successfully operating. The prices we set must always cover our expenses – labor, printing, mailing, circulation, etc. and provide a reasonable profit – or in the end we’ll go belly-up.

Fast-forward to 2015 and now we’re being asked to negotiate rates on our digital offerings, which at first seems plausible ­– no printing, no mailing, we can shave 25 percent off in the name of negotiation, no problem! Here we go, again. We maintain a staff of eight full-time web developers, database coders and digital designers to create and maintain our web properties. We send hundreds of thousands of emails that need to be organized, proofed and laid out. We write dozens of stories, news articles and product releases that only appear online. We have a sales staff that sells digital ads. So where does the revenue come from to support these endeavors? Through our digital rate cards, of course.

When determining rates perhaps some of you are building in a buffer for negotiation. This is similar to going in and buying a new car – there’s a sticker price of $50,000, but now you begin the process of negotiating and hope that you’re as knowledgeable, thrifty and keen in haggling as the next person. I bought that car for $45,000, my neighbor got it for $44,000 while my brother paid $46,000. The average sale price is $45,000. As consumers we’re all left wondering… could I have done even better? Now, when all three of us return to buy again, we all feel like we can negotiate a fatter discount than before. I’m a returning customer, I’m loyal, you owe me a better price! Where does the average price go then? Wouldn’t a no-haggle price of $45,000 satisfy everyone? We can all feel good about that – sellers (publishers) make the same amount as before and buyers (advertisers) all play on the same level, and nobody comes back later with expectations of getting an even better rate.

If we take the time to think about all the things in life where negotiating is part of the deal, they are generally the most stressful and least rewarding purchases we make. It’s 2015 and neither my rates nor attitude on negotiating them has changed. Now, let’s go sell some ads off the rate card!!!

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Jeff Bruss is Publisher at COLE Publishing, a niche media company veteran, and a frequent Niche speaker. He’s also earned free drinks from Niche for life.

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