Over the last few weeeks I've been interviewing a number of businesses around the world who each sell a premium priced service.

(A premium priced service is one that costs $20,000 or more.)

I asked each person I spoke with to share ideas and strategies that are working really well to help their business sell a Premium Priced Service.

(And I'll be sharing many of their ideas in upcoming marketing columns in the Herald.)


In today's column I'd like to share some fascinating insights on selling premium priced services by one of my favourite marketing experts Al Ries.

Al is a legendary advertising, marketing and branding strategist and the bestselling author (or co-author) of 11 books which have sold over 3 million copies worldwide.

Including: Positioning, Marketing Warfare, Focus, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR and War in the Boardroom.

Here are some of Al's tips on selling a premium priced service.

Question: For businesses that sell a premium priced service what is the most valuable marketing strategy that you would recommend they focus on to gain profitable new clients?

Al Ries: PR. (Public Relations.)

Anyone who can afford to buy premium priced services would not be frequent users of social media, Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, etc.

A premium-priced business needs to generate "credibility" in the minds of prospects and the best way to do that is to generate publicity in upscale media. Newspapers, magazines, etc.


Furthermore, the PR should focus on customer testimonials.

Question: How could a business start using this strategy profitably in the next 30 days?

Al Ries: It should try to create a "new category." An idea or service that has never been offered in the past.

PR is focused on "news," not on "better products or services."

Daily papers are called "newspapers;" they are not called "betterpapers."


For a client of ours, we helped create a new category called "funeral concierge service" using the brand name "Everest," a double entendre suggesting a "mountain" and "death." (Ever rest.) The service sold to life insurance companies and now has 25 million subscribers in America.

The category is more important than the brand name.

It's the category that creates news.

Question: Have you used this same 'new category" strategy in your own business?

Al Ries: Yes I have. Years ago, I ran an advertising agency in New York City called Ries Cappiello Colwell.

We were young, we were ambitious, we wanted to get famous.

So the obvious solution to this problem is PR.

But how to get PR?

The best way is to create a controversy.

Controversy is the best way to generate publicity. Look at the controversy created by Donald Trump when he ran for President of the United States.

At the time, the advertising industry was in love with "creativity."

Everybody tried to create advertising that was new, different, unusual. In other words, creative. (Look what drives the art business today.)

So we created an idea called "positioning." Forget about creativity. Look in the mind of your prospect and find an open hole or "position." And then become the first brand to fill that open hole.

An ex-partner of mine (Jack Trout) and I wrote a series of articles on the subject of positioning for Advertising Age, the leading advertising publication.

Here is a typical quote from the article.

Creative people often resist positioning thinking because they believe it restricts their creativity. And it does. But creativity isn't the objective of advertising today. Even "communications" itself isn't the objective. The name of the marketing game is "positioning." And only the better players will survive.

Now many advertising agency executives wrote articles defending "creativity," keeping the idea alive in the advertising trade media.

Then the controversy spread to the general media.

Six months after the Advertising Age articles appeared, The Wall Street Journal, our leading business newspaper, ran a front-page story on positioning.
As a result, our company (now called Ries & Ries) has become a well-known consulting service for hundreds of companies over the past decades.


I really like what Al is saying about creating a brand new categorywhere you make available a new service or idea that has not been offered in the past.

It's a proven way to get positive PR for your business when you sell a premium priced service.

"A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front-page ad." - Richard Branson

Action Exercise:

What 'new category' could you create for your own business?