Books abound on pricing strategy for products and services, but ultimately what something is worth depends on how an individual calculates value. Next week I will be joining 4500 other professionals who work in or care about the association profession for our annual meeting being held in St. Louis. I have no doubt that I will benefit from my participation: renewed connections, new relationships, fresh thinking from educational sessions, and maybe some new speaking or facilitating opportunities.
The primary comparison being made is between a webinar you can watch in your office and the multiple-day face-to-face meeting asserting that you get far more value for your registration fee for the St. Louis meeting when compared to the costs of a webinar. It's an interesting choice because while many organizations still charge a decent price for webinars (including ASAE at $195), I receive several invitations a month to register for a free program, many featuring high-quality content leaders. So for some, the webinar has already been commoditized and is seen as a freebie, potentially invalidating the entire premise of the calculation being used.
But even if the webinar comparison holds true for you, not all of the costs of attending the Annual Meeting are included in the calculation provided. A webinar doesn't require me to get on a plane, stay in a hotel, take a cab or light rail to/from the airport, drive to my home airport and pay for parking. Those costs for me in St. Louis will amount to $1200. Add that to the $895 registration fee being used for comparison and now instead of saving me money compared to a webinar, Annual Meeting attendance is costing me a small amount. Ironically, the chance to meet with hundreds of business partners in the exhibit hall is labeled as priceless. But some attendees (including a few of my non-attending association colleagues) deem it worthless because it is not an activity in which they need to engage. They view the dedicated exhibition hours as time when they aren't getting education that might actually be of value to them.
Completely absent in the calculations are the increased time, energy, and psychological costs anytime we are away from work or family for multiple days: falling behind while you are gone or trying to stay caught up late in your hotel room each night, depending on your partner or spouse to assume all family household responsibilities, and much more. So the way the case is calculated for Annual Meeting attendance actually backfires when focusing primarily on cost comparisons, but it does raise several questions any organization has to consider when trying to see you on what's something worth:
- What are the total costs someone might associate with the purchasing decision you want them to make?
- How does your target audience calculate value and how can you use their calculations in making your case?
- What would your product, program, or service have to be like to provide so much value that its actual cost would be hardly considered?
So three closing thoughts:
Our communications should focus on the real value that might be obtained from our programs or services even though we must craft our message with an understanding of the true and total costs involved. After all, if you get one idea in an educational session and it could save you $5000, you just made a huge profit on your $2000 conference costs.
Consider adding one question to your valuation form that assesses perceived value in relation to total costs expended. The answers provide a simple metric about the overall state of your meeting that could be very useful in year-to-year comparisons and trend analysis.
We have to ensure that value literally oozes in every single aspect of every single thing we do. Publications should be edited ruthlessly to eliminate any text that is not meaningful. Meeting design must ensure that every educational session is top quality; that networking opportunities lead to true connections and problem-solving; and that social events are inclusive, welcoming, and make people proud to be a part of our community.
And though it probably goes without saying, let me say it anyway: the very thing that once was invaluable at almost any cost probably isn't going to remain that way for much longer if you don't invest in refreshing, revamping, or reinventing it.