I am developing an online video instruction web site with several membership levels - Free (for a limited time period), a Basic and a Premium offering level. I am questioning how much to charge for the latter two, and how long and how much content to "show" to the Free members. I understand the concept that the less the fee, the greater the potential # of members. How do I determine the right balance between cost and maximizing membership? A variation on the question is the monthly price versus a discount for annual membership.
In my experience, and based on the way I coach my clients, creating a pricing model without first creating a business model is an indication of a poor strategy.
That said, here are my thoughts based on the information you've provided:
1. You are incorrect about your assumption of "the less the fee, the greater the potential # of clients". What you will very likely discover in practice is that there is a "sweet spot" in pricing such that any price above or below you'll see a drop off in members. In other words - any price LESS THAN or GREATER THAN your "sweet spot" price will result in FEWER members. This is one of those "non-intuitive" components you'll run into as an entrepreneur.
2. If you choose to price based on "competition" you are all but announcing that you are a commodity. Once again I'd suggest that this is a poor strategy. Instead consider your USP (or if you haven't yet done so...create one). Once you are properly differentiated YOU control and set pricing based on the VALUE you provide to the marketplace that they can't get anywhere else (i.e. Ferrari and Harley Davidson and Starbucks, etc).
3. Even with a solid strategy, a strong USP, a great product and a well-thought-out business model - you will likely still need to do some market testing (i.e. A/B testing) to find that "sweet spot" price I mentioned earlier. (I have yet to personally see anyone hit the mark right out of the gate.)
4. The last piece of info you provided - regarding monthly vs discounted annual membership pricing - would be a part of your OFFER. This is NOT the same as a pricing strategy - which should ideally be developed FIRST (at least conceptually). This is not to say you couldn't launch with the offer, but I'd suggest you figure out pricing FIRST and then develop offers based upon your deep understanding of your market.
For assistance with any / all of the components I mentioned - give me a call. And be prepared that (in my opinion) whomever you decide to enlist this is going to take several calls to work out unless you have much of the groundwork already figured out. I apologize for this assumption - but I'm basing it on the information you provided and with hopes that this response will be helpful to others.
I wish you great success!