Event pricing strategy is a tricky business. Setting the right ticket price can ensure a sell out event. Conversely, if you price tickets too high or too low this can directly impact on final attendance numbers.
Event pricing is a tricky balancing act that many event planners struggle with, whether it is finding the optimum ticket price or costing out event planning services. How much should you charge? What is it worth? What will people pay?
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There’s an old event pricing strategy that goes something like this:
Know when it’s time to raise event prices?
When the event sells out in minutes and there’s a line still waiting.
In reality, we all know there’s more to it than that. Popularity is a component but so is current price, competition, offerings, and more. There’s a lot to consider with pricing and getting it right is critical to attendance and profit.
This article will cover the intricacies of event pricing strategy including early bird strategies, ticket selling strategies, special event pricing strategies, event pricing ideas to sell more tickets, and value-based pricing. You’ll learn event pricing methods you can use for greater success and the psychology of event pricing.
Finally, we’ll cover event planning pricing including event planner pricing, freelance event planning pricing, virtual event planning pricing, how much does an event planner cost and how to charge for event planning.
That’s a lot of pricing strategy ideas and info to cover, so let’s get started.
Top 10 Examples of Event Pricing
Table of Contents
Section 1: Event Pricing
Section 2: Event Planning Pricing
The monetary value or price of attending an event. What it costs to buy a ticket for an event.
Event pricing is critical to an event’s success and revenue. An effective event pricing strategy and proper pricing will increase event ticket sales; while events with tickets priced too low will struggle to turn a profit and/or cover expenses. In addition to ticket sales, event pricing influences attendee demographics and their expectations, target market, and event budgets.
Special event pricing factors in advertising, promotions, discounts, and ticket cutting in order to increase ticket sales.
What do different approaches to event ticket pricing do, when do they work, and when should they be used?
Genius Marketing Strategies for Ticket Sales
If you want increased ticket sales, you need stellar marketing. That means using a combination of all of the following kinds of marketing (or at least the ones that are most effective with your intended audience). You won’t know what works best unless you try them.
Ignite ticket sales by incorporating a mix of:
- keyboard_arrow_right Content marketing
- keyboard_arrow_right Social media marketing (organic and paid)
- keyboard_arrow_right Paid advertising
- keyboard_arrow_right Email marketing
- keyboard_arrow_right Word of mouth marketing (aim for frictionless sharing of your content, registration status, and reviews)
- keyboard_arrow_right Video and images (while these fall under all of the above, we mentioned them specifically because a visual media can be incredibly persuasive in selling tickets.)
Here are some examples:
Host a Contest Before Tickets Sales Open
Host a contest before you start selling tickets so you can get people interested and signed up for your list. This gives you a group of warm leads when it’s time to announce registration is open. It will cost you a ticket or two put will hopefully generate many more because of your ability to market to them early on.
Create Fear of Missing Out with Mixed Messaging
This conference piece sends mixed messaging to drive more ticket sales. At first, it looks to calm the prospective attendee through a direct message that tickets are still available. Yet, right below that message it alerts the potential attendee that workshop tickets are sold out. This drives ticket purchases because while tickets are still available, parts of the conference have sold out so it’s likely they won’t be available long.
Drive Ticket Sales the Old-Fashioned Way
Remember getting in line for tickets for events? This idea is very similar in that it tells you an exact time that registration for the press conference begins. Again, this uses the idea of fear of missing out to drive sales.
Prove ROI for Attendees
Last face it, many people hate to do the math. If you can help your attendees see how your event is an investment in the operation of their business or as something essential to their career, they may splurge. Look at what DreamForce put together for its annual conference.
They created an ROI calculator (scroll to where it says ROI calculator) based on what area of business you want to impact and they provide average metrics of improvements past attendees have experienced based on areas like sales, marketing, IT, and more. Then, download a ready-made letter with these stats to pass to your boss.
Examples of Event Ticket Prices
Finding the right event price can be tricky so let’s take a look at a few different examples and scenarios.
Early Bird Pricing Strategy Examples
Early bird pricing provides savings for attendees who are willing to commit to your event early, sometimes even before plans are finalized. This pricing strategy can drive interest, give you initial revenue, and be used to increase word of mouth marketing.
Early bird pricing is best when you have an established event or a major draw that would cause people to buy early. Early bird is a commonly used tactic. Our research highlighted this approach is used by 51% of event planners.
Pro tip: event planners who use early bird pricing often set aside a certain number of tickets in their mind under this pricing structure. If they don’t bring in that amount of initial revenue, they sometimes make the mistake of wanting to extend the deadline. This shows people your tickets aren’t selling and they will not feel a rush to buy. Don’t extend the deadline. Find another way to drive sales outside of the early bird discount window.
We discuss the pros and cons of early bird event registration rates here.
Give a Date
Specify the date early bird ends and clearly show the savings of booking early:
Show a Countdown
This drives the fear of missing out and becomes a motivator to make a decision:
Tell Them How Many Are Left
Add a “sticker” to your marketing showing how many spaces are left. This drives urgency to purchase.
It’s All Early Bird
Call everything before the day of the event “early bird” or “advanced” price and offer a discount for pre-registering at any point before reaching the door:
Make It Hurt
A discount of $10-25 on a multi-day conference ticket is not likely going to make or break someone’s budget enough to drive action if they’re not ready. However, increasing prices by a quarter of the ticket cost should get people buying, especially if that equates to several hundred dollars, which could pay for their airfare or hotel if they book early.
Ticket Sales Strategies
To improve your ticket selling strategies, consider these examples:
Bonuses, Not Discounts
Don’t eat into your revenue if you don’t have to. Offer other types of bonuses your attendees want but only give them to those who register early.
Offer Value Outside of the Event
Notice the things listed on this event flyer that exist after the event is over. Pay for the event, get additional value all year. This is also a great way to keep people connected to your event and thinking about you long after it’s over.
Release a Group of Sponsored (Discounted) Tickets Outside of Early Bird
Get a sponsor to pay a portion of the ticket price and release these partially comped tickets for a very brief time until they sell out.
Help Presenters Sell More Event Tickets
You should appeal to your target demographic so why not enable them to reach out to their list and see if anyone is interested in your event. This graphic makes that fun and visually appealing. Don’t forget to give them a personalized referral code so you know which ones provided the most referrals.
Offer Discounted Ticket Pricing for Kids
Some events are open to adults and children. Whenever possible, use children as loss leaders in order for them to bring their adults and their adult wallets along.
Offer Free Admission If the Goal Is Sales
If your event sells something (like art at an art exhibit) or if you will make your money up with upgrades and upsells, consider offering free general admission. The audience should appreciate the free entry and spend it on your services or items or purchasing upsells like VIP seating.
Conference Ticket Pricing
One popular strategy for conference ticket pricing is using tiers to capture a wider audience. This works well if you have a wide demographic as your target audience. Incorporate upsell techniques and lower-priced ticket options.
Employ a Sense of Humor
Sometimes the best way to stand out is to surprise potential attendees with funny reasons to attend your conference. Chances are they’ll read all the way to the end. Plus, it conveys your brand and will help drive ticket sales.
Offer Discounts for Multiple Ticket Sales
Consider discounting tickets purchased in a group. Not only do you sell more tickets at one time but when people attend events with others they already know, they’re more apt to enjoy themselves because they have a built-in network.
If you do offer discounts for groups, advertise it as this raffle does. The more you buy, the more you save. Attendees will go out looking for people they can bring with them.
Use VIP Pricing
People will often pay extra for a better, more unique experience or something they won’t get from general admission like this example with assigned patio seating, which is not guaranteed in the general admission ticket price.
Address Different Needs and Demographics with Options
If you look closely at your event, you may find that you can easily administer to the needs of multiple segments/demographics and increase revenue. For instance, you may decide to offer a limited student ticket at an industry conference or you could do what Hubspot did for INBOUND, its annual marketing/use conference.
They offer a community pass for $299 that allows attendees to network, attend the keynote, receive access to a discounted hotel room, and attend their stand up comedy show. It’s a way to enjoy the energy of the event for a fraction of the cost. It’s a good introduction because attendees who pay this basic ticket will undoubtedly meet people enjoying the full pass and will be more inclined to upgrade next year. See their pricing structure here for 2019.
Exclusive Ticket Pricing Strategies
VIP pricing is a great strategy but when it comes to exclusive events, it needs to be handled in a slightly different way.
Base Pricing on Seats
This is something a lot of events are returning to….concert-style event pricing. The World Business Forum offers event ticket pricing based on four sections or tiers based on where the attendee’s seat is located. In addition to location, they have a VIP and non-VIP price. The VIP includes lunch with the speaker, upgraded catering, dedicated VIP registration, a VIP lounge, and a swag bag.
Allow for Swaps
When it comes to exclusive pricing on business conferences, many execs may find it difficult to commit early on and yet they may want to secure a place in a very exclusive conference. The 99U conference allows for ticket holders to transfer the ticket to someone else as long as it is done prior to the deadline date.
Special Event Pricing Examples
Special event pricing is a great way to discount tickets to drive more purchases. It’s not the same as extending early bird pricing, which shows you’re not selling the tickets you thought you would. Instead, using a special event to provide a flash discount, creates a reason to make an emotional purchase. Here are a few examples:
Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale
People are already in the mood to buy and, at least in the US, are cultured into believing deals on this day/days are among some of the best all year.
This example is a one-day sale, as is the example below, but you can also use a one-hour sale or one that lasts a few hours. The point is to abbreviate the time they have for the discount.
Fundraising Ticket Pricing
One thing you want to consider in selecting a ticket price for your fundraiser is how you will make your money. Is the fundraising done (primarily) through ticket sales or an activity that happens once attendees get in the door like at an auction? If it’s the latter, you should consider a lower per seat or table charge. You don’t want someone feeling like they don’t have money to spend on your raffle or auction because all of it went into the seat or dinner cost.
Don’t Use Early Bird Pricing
It’s best to not use early bird pricing for a fundraiser. It gives off the wrong sentiment. Instead, find other ways to drive early ticket purchase such as offering discounts for selling tables of tickets instead of single ones.
Price Your Own Ticket
Thanks to technology a popular trend carried over from the travel industry into events and that’s “name your own ticket pricing.” It’s common in sports and entertainment events. This strategy can work well to drive last-minute ticket sales in that final push to sell out.
However, it’s important to note that it is very obvious to the ticket buyer that you are simply trying to move tickets. In a concert or sporting event that may not be a big deal but for a conference, that’s not ideal.
Price based Pricing (aka Value based Pricing)
Price or value based pricing is designated by the market deciding what the event is worth, not by the planner deciding what they want to charge for the event ticket.
To use value based pricing you need to consider what the event ticket is worth to the segment of the population that is interested in event types of your kind, not just any event. You must also know how your event is differentiated from others and what that differentiation is worth to them.
A more liberal interpretation of this pricing strategy is allowing the attendee to pay a non-specified amount. This may also be referred to as “pay what you wish” or “pay what it’s worth.” While you may assume most people would walk in without paying anything, most people feel an obligation to pay something.
There are a lot of schools of thought for the best way to price tickets and we’ve studied all of them. Before we cover the event pricing methods, it’s important to understand that while there are many ways to make event pricing more attractive and drive purchases, you are still likely to see that a large percentage of your tickets will be purchased the day early bird pricing closes and again about two weeks out from your event.
But you don’t want to wait for that to happen. Make sure you actively market up until the point of selling out and then switch your angle from driving ticket purchases to increasing awareness for your next event by showing everyone how amazing this event is and will be.
Event Pricing Methods
There are many ways to set your event ticket price. Almost as many ways as there are to pay for events. This section will cover pricing theories/options as well as payment ideas.
14 Event Pricing Theories and Pricing Strategies
This idea is the way most traditional event planners price. They figure out the cost of the event and add the amount of revenue they want to make. Then divide that by the number of attendees they plan on having.
It’s one of the easiest ways to calculate price.
Customers don’t care about cost as much as they do value so this calculation does nothing to put you in the sweet spot of the best price. It is based completely on what you need/want to make.
This pricing strategy takes into account what the competition is charging for similar events.
Someone else is doing the pricing strategy.
They might not have done any more research on the market than simply deciding what they wanted to charge or what sounded good at the time. You may have researched their pricing but you don’t know how they came by it. Is it viable?
This discount applies to people who commit to attending your event prior to the early bird deadline date. You can set it by date, number of tickets sold, or before an action is completed (like a website being finalized or the agenda announced).
It’s a good way to drive early sales and build word of mouth early, not to mention bring in early revenue.
People tend to ignore it until the last few days so a shorter date range is generally preferable.
This discount applies to unsold seats very close to the event. Broadway shows are often discounted on the day of to fill the remaining seats. You can adopt this same tactic for your event.
It gets people in seats.
People know you’re filling seats and it may train them to wait until the last few days to see if they can get the same discount next year.
First 100 Tickets at a Reduced Rate
This is similar to the early bird discount but instead of being date driven, it allows for only a certain number of tickets to be discounted.
No one knows when it will end so scarcity and fear of missing out are strong in this event pricing strategy.
Early bird pricing can last a long time if you don’t sell the seats.
Some event planners give discounts for group bookings done at the same time. This strategy is also employed by fundraisers when they sell individual tickets at a higher rate than buying a table (for example, one ticket is $100, while an eight-person table is only $700.)
You get more tickets sold to people who know one another.
Clicks may disrupt networking or no-shows may be greater when whole groups are unable to join.
Offering discount codes to sponsors, speakers, team members, thought leaders, industry influencers, brand ambassadors or others in order to drive more ticket purchases from the peripheral tribes of these people is a way to sell tickets.
You may reach a larger audience with the help of these groups and it makes them look like a superstar when they are able to get discount codes for others.
Some event planners see discounts as something that undercuts the value of the event. However, this is less likely to happen when they are given out by members of the groups affiliated with the event. Then it appears to be more like a well-kept secret that has leaked out.
You can offer a free event and then charge for additional add-ons or benefits. For instance, Brighton SEO offers free admission but you can pay to upgrade or secure an assigned seat.
Other options include free entrance but attendees pay for the training before/after. Or you can offer free standard admission and charge for a VIP experience. Some events make it free to bring a friend.
Everyone loves free admission and they likely will feel obligated to buy something additionally.
You must put add-ons or upsells in place for this to be effective.
Some events offer a simple cover fee at the door. No pre-registration required.
There’s no hassle for the non-committal attendee.
You don’t know how many plan on attending nor do you have any information about them. Plus, you must wait until the day of to collect your revenue placing a lot of upfront costs on you.
Gets More Expensive as More People Register
The simple economics of supply and demand show that as supply is limited or drops, demand increases. As demand increases and supply is reduced, people will pay more for items or services. In event terms, you can use this for your advantage and use a pricing pyramid.
When there are many tickets the event ticket price is at its lowest. After the first group of tickets is sold out, and there are now fewer, the price increases. The highest price being paid by those who buy tickets closest to the event itself.
It gives everyone a reason to buy early. Since no one knows when prices will increase, there’s a fear of missing out on the best price that drives action.
You will need to figure out how to handle groups on the cusp of pricing increases and requests to handle “but my friend/colleague paid this” inquiries.
Pay According to the Distance Traveled
Travel to events can be costly. Some groups offset that by offering discounts or pricing based on the distance traveled to attend.
It brings in a more diverse group of attendees and helps offset costs of travel, a nice benefit to offer some attendees.
There’s a lot of administration handling the pricing. For instance, what if an administrative assistant registers for a group. Some attendees are local and some are far away but it’s being coordinated by a local company. What pricing is in effect then?
Free Event with Paid Extras (like Food, Workshops, Presentations, etc.)
In these cases admission is free but other learning opportunities are priced as upsells. These can be offsite events or events that occur outside of the conference or upgrades people are willing to pay for like meetings with important VIPs or possible strategic partners.
The ticket price at the lowest level is affordable for everyone. Plus, attendees can pay for (or choose not to) what they’re most interested in.
Your upsells have to be of interest to your audience or those sessions will be as empty as your pockets.
Price Your Own Ticket
In this scenario, the attendee tells the promoter or ticket teller exactly what they are willing to pay for a ticket. This can be used in a discount situation to fill seats as well as establish audience perceived value of tickets.
This method gives you incredible insight into the received value of your event.
If the audience’s perceived value or worth of your ticket price doesn’t cover your costs, you’re in the red.
Pay What It Is Worth
This strategy analyzes market value as set by your attendee demographic. For instance, market researchers can figure out for you what your target audience believes a conference with a, b, and c components is worth and you can set your price accordingly.
Value is more important to most attendees than cost. Yes, most people must operate within their personal or business budgets but when it comes to making decisions, if costs are equal, they’ll look for the option that provides the most value.
This pricing strategy requires in-depth knowledge of your audience and access to research. If the perceived value doesn’t cover your costs, you’ll have difficulties in your event ticket pricing.
High Fee for Exclusivity
Some planners purposely set a very high fee in order to maintain a reputation and attract only serious attendees.
If you’re targeting serious thought leaders, captains of industry, and c-suite execs, an expensive price tag targets your audience better than anything else.
Your market is narrow and you’re limited in your ability to offer sales drivers like discounts or casting wider nets through tiered pricing strategies.
Now that we’ve provided a few ideas on how you can come up with your ideal pricing and discounts combination, let’s talk about how attendees will pay and how that influences your event pricing strategy.
Pay with a tweet or social media like. This builds word of mouth marketing and social media buzz. You can ask for them to share their registration in order to “pay” or like pages and comments. (The latter can get you into trouble with some sites terms of service.) Or you can sell tickets by asking them to Tweet you. Remember interaction with your group is essential to more people seeing your message.
What are you guys up to tonight? It's PUB NIGHT! join us at the John B for a burger + a beer! $20! Tweet us for a ticket!
— Tri-Cities ALS Walk (@ALSTriCities) June 19, 2012
Use a sliding scale for referrals, the more people you sign up the bigger the discount off your own ticket.
Make tickets available via a lottery. Hamilton introduced 32 tickets for $10 each through a lottery system on their app. It drives incredible interest and gives you an email list to market to (just make sure to get permission to do so).
Offer free entry paid for by sponsor and exhibitor revenue or funding. This is a nice way to ensure your attendees feel the goodwill of your sponsors. You can also give free tickets to sponsors so they can use them to enhance their client relations and at the same time help you reach a larger audience.
Make admission free (or deeply discounted) and then generate revenue through food/bar sales, merchandise, etc. Sports teams often offer deeply discounted tickets to camps and other groups knowing they’ll spend money at the game.
Ask for a cash donation instead of a ticket sale. You can stipulate an amount (e.g. suggested donation: $25) or simply ask for the donation in lieu of a ticket purchase.
Ask for donations to cover admission. The North Carolina State Fair offered a free admission day for those bringing canned food for donation.
Give free tickets for certain tiers or donations of fundraising. (e.g. minimum fundraising amount of $500 receives two free tickets or a table, etc.)
Create a “pay what you can” program to ensure those who normally couldn’t attend your event get to attend or enjoy a sneak preview.
Allow for bartering services to pay for the admission ticket. You can also work with an organization specializing in bartering. You give them unsold tickets and they give you “bartering dollars” to use in exchange for advertising and other event needs.
Allow volunteers to get free admission to your event and other perks.
Make admission free or discounted and charge for add-on learning or connecting opportunities.
Bring on a sponsor and get the attendee ticket comped. If an attendee can bring you a willing sponsor, give them a free ticket.
Allow attendees to receive an instantaneous discount on registration or access to a free (secret) networking event if they follow you on social media.
Do the Research, Know Your Event
The first thing you need to do when trying to establish a ticket pricing strategy is to perform your research on your event and the market. Find out the following:
- keyboard_arrow_right Why do people come to your event (what’s their motivation?). Their reason, whether it be out of desire or professional need, will affect pricing.
- keyboard_arrow_right Who pays? Is it unfunded by an employer or by the attendee?
- keyboard_arrow_right What’s the competition and what do they charge? Compare event ticket prices.
- keyboard_arrow_right Does your event have a unique selling proposition/is it unique in its offering? Is it the only one that meets a particular need (such as offering continuing education requirements)?
- keyboard_arrow_right Is there a high demand and limited supply of what you offer?
- keyboard_arrow_right What is the reputation of your event in the sphere in which it operates? Is it exclusive or can you show up the day of and walk in?
Cover Your Costs and Know Your Budget
The easiest event pricing calculation is taking your total event cost and dividing it by the number of attendees you’re expecting.
The problem with this, of course, is revenue. This equation assumes your only goal is breaking even. There is no return. It’s also difficult to say with 100% assuredness of the exact number of attendees you’ll have. This also doesn’t take into account any sponsorships or special event pricing (like early bird ticket pricing) used to drive ticket purchases.
But it does give you a baseline from which to proceed.
Create a Timeline and Talk Special Event Pricing
Map out your event ticket sales timeline of when tickets go on presale all the way through the final ticket sold. Decide on any special event ticket pricing you’ll institute such as early bird pricing or referral discount codes. Refer to the first section of Examples of Event Pricing Strategy for ideas.
Place them on the offer timeline. When will they go into effect and how long will they remain? Do you plan on using them regardless or only if you don’t sell a predetermined number of tickets by a certain date? Some people use multiple tiered early birds for this reason. Will you leave an event pricing strategy discount idea in reserve should you need it, like a discounted bring a friend deal?
Increase Revenue with Niche Marketing on Tiered Pricing
There will always be some people who will pay more for a bigger experience. There are others who would come for one session if the price was discounted. If you cast a wide net and price everything at one event ticket price, you’ll miss the additional revenue from people who want more as well as the payment you receive from people who are willing to limit their options. Instead of looking for one best ticket price, assign multiple best ticket prices based on attendee preferences.
Here are some additional suggestions on event ticket pricing from Randy Befumo, VP of Strategy at EventBrite.
Measure Conversion in Event Ticket Sales
There are a lot of offers, discounts, and psychology that you can use to drive event ticket purchases, but you need to test which ones are most effective with your group. Any discount or strategy you employ should chart conversions that happened because of them. If you provide a discount code, for instance, you need to track the numbers who purchased under it as well as whether those ticket buyers were new or returning attendees. Did they buy the minute it was announced or did they wait until the last day to do so?
Knowing this data will help you be more effective in your pricing strategy for future events. It will also help you provide data to new clients as well when you’re driving to decide on ticket purchase drivers.
Speaking of drivers, here are a few ways you can use psychology to increase event ticket sales...
There’s a lot that goes into getting the price right for your event tickets. We talked about the pricing strategy and considerations for best event ticket prices above, now let’s take a look at the psychology behind finding the right price. Do attendees buy by price? What will make them purchase more quickly?
Ever notice how some brands fetch top dollar for similar products or services as their competition and yet their loyal fan base continues to pay more? Apple is a great example of this. There are tablets, watches, and computers that do as much or nearly as much as Apple products and yet the customers are not only brand loyal but they pay more to do so. Apple also rarely discounts its products.
“We never had an objective to sell a low-cost phone. Our primary objective is to sell a great phone and provide a great experience.”
That “great experience” is critical to selling more tickets at higher event ticket prices. But it’s not the only thing.
Saving the Dollar: Increasing Value for the Cost
This is probably the most well-known pricing psychology strategy. Instead of charging $900 a ticket for your conference, you charge $899. What’s the difference? A dollar.
But that dollar means a lot when it comes to the psychology behind the sale. A flat, even amount followed by zeros appears much larger. It may even get rounded up to $1,000 in someone’s mind. $899, on the other hand, will be perceived as being within the $800 range. It sounds like more of a bargain than a $1,000 ticket.
Why does the human mind do this? Most scientists believe it’s because we read from left to right and so that first number resonates most.
You Get What You Pay For: Navigating Perceived Pricing Negatives
Another popular pricing strategy, that seems slightly contradictory to the first one, is the old adage that you get what you pay for. When it comes to conferences and events, most attendees want value but a really “cheap” event will seem either too good to be true or bring up red flags.
Why is it so cheap? It must not be that good. The speakers will be “meh” and so will the experience because “you get what you pay for.”
This premise makes pricing psychology a very fine line between pricing something at good value and making it seem cheap. It’s important you know exactly what the market will bear for your type of event and then charge in the upper range (as long as you can provide an excellent experience).
Wherever possible, you want to avoid pricing battles of being the “cheapest” event out there. There are plenty of new event organizers who could lower prices to the point neither of you has much return on revenue. Don’t enter a pricing battle. Now that the market is a global one, there’s always someone lower out there. Plus, studies, including a recent one from PWC on customer experience, have shown that many consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience.
Embracing Loss Leaders: Successful Events Through Below Market Value
This psychological tactic only works for certain events where upgrades and additional spending occurs. It can help you improve attendee acquisition by bringing them in with a discount (pricing the ticket below market value) assuming they’ll spend more at the event. For instance, this pricing strategy might be ideal for a music festival ticket. You may find that charging an inexpensive general admission means they spend more on upgrades (for passes and VIP experiences) plus food and beverage.
Only use this psychology if you have upsells and ways to make money outside of the event ticket price. If not, your loss leader ticket will turn into an actual loss.
Use Fear of Missing Out to Drive Emotional Purchases
Buying a ticket to an event is an emotional purchase. It’s rare that an event is a needed expense, although a well-marketed event may feel that way to the attendee. Another popular driver in the psychology of ticket pricing is leveraging the fear of missing out or FOMO.
With this strategy, you make only a certain number of tickets available at a discounted price. You see this with airlines that show you “5 seats left at this price.” It drives action because no one wants to be forced to pay more. They need to act NOW if they want the best event ticket price.
With early bird pricing, you can wait until the last day and be assured you’ll receive a ticket at that price. With this idea of only a few tickets left, you’re forced to make a decision before someone else does and the uncertainty as to when that will be, drives a hasty decision.
Employ Exclusivity to Appeal to Vanity
Take a few minutes to visit your social streams. What do you see? People showing off their perfect lives or people posting things they want in their lives. We are a society of voyeurs and posters. Everyone wants something to show.
You can leverage this desire to be first or best with your event ticket by cultivating “exclusivity. The other day, Amazon announced Alexa for the car. It’s a product that is currently being sold “by invitation only.” This product isn’t for everyone, only those who are “invited” to buy it.
The company invited people to be considered for an invitation by clicking the button. They then sent a “thank you for your interest” email and advised consumers they’d have to be considered and then, if selected, would receive an invite to purchase. All for something that’s going to retail for under $50!
But that sort of exclusivity drives action and tells them a lot about intent. If they had simply posted the price and offered a notification list for when it’s available, most people would’ve just looked at the screen and closed it. Instead, their language drove people to sign up and “if” they are selected, Amazon is counting on the fact they will most likely immediately buy because they’ve been “selected” as the chosen group to be the first.
You can use this same exclusivity with your event by making it known that you’re inviting people to attend a VIP experience and asking them to place their name on a list if they want to be considered. Some writers’ conferences require attendees to apply before being selected to participate.
The trick to exclusivity is to make it know this event is not for everyone but offers an unimaginable experience. You can do this by placing barriers to entry and yet still allowing people to see a glimmer of what’s available. Clubs do this when they erect a VIP section behind velvet ropes. Average club goers can see what the VIPs receive (or at least partially) and yet, they are limited in being able to experience it. The curtain that separates first class from the rest of the plane does the same. You can see enough to want to be a part of it….next time.
Provide One-Stop Services to Increase Spend
If you’ve ever ordered a plane ticket online, they’ve likely asked you if you needed a hotel and a car. That’s because the airline has already broken down the barrier to purchase. You whipped out the credit card and you’re ready to spend.
If they provide a frictionless spending experience, get all of your needs met in one place, they can likely get more from you. The same is true of attendees. If you make registration a seamless way to cover all of their travel needs, you’ll sell more at one time. The chances of them deciding to purchase an event add-on is reduced greatly after that initial ticket purchase. Make the purchase easy and use suggestions as a way to increase their ticket purchase price. Getting them to purchase add-ons and VIP experiences when they’re purchasing their initial ticket is easier than convincing them to return later.
Every event planner dreams of selling out an event. If you’ve performed your due diligence on examining your pricing structure and options, if you’ve found the sweet spot for that price, if you’ve put in place some psychological triggers to drive purchase, and you have excellent offerings, selling out should be within your reach.
For some events, it’s easier than others. But if you’re wondering how to sell tickets for your event, we have some ideas.
Tease your audience about event tickets going on sale. Invite them to join an exclusive list to be able to be the first to buy.
Establish fear of missing out in your marketing and social media campaigns.
This goes hand-in-hand with scarcity. Never let potential attendees feel like tickets grow on trees. There are only a few tickets and if they don’t act fast, they’ll miss them.
Never extend early bird or other discounts.
Extending pricing promotions just makes people think you didn’t sell what you expected to. It’s better to offer multiple tiers of early bird (like early, early bird) than it is to extend. No one will believe scarcity if you’re extending ticket sales. Some planners will invent a “technical glitch” that allows them to extend it but you can only do this once without making it obvious that you aren’t meeting ticket sales projections.
Use the law of reciprocity
Give to get. People often feel obligated to purchase if they’ve gotten something free. If you do a favor for them, they will want to do one for you. Some events offer free tickets or general admission, knowing there are many upsell opportunities. BrightonSEO is the twice-yearly search and marketing conference we mentioned that sells out regularly. General admission tickets are free but since it sells out so quickly, many people are willing to pay for ‘Friend’ tickets to ensure they receive what they want (including an assigned seat).
Offer something no one else does.
Whether that is big-name speakers, an amazing venue, killer destination, access to VIPs, or any other special experience, the more unique your offering, the greater number of people will want to be there.
Work within the structures of supply and demand.
Limited supply increases demand. Increased demand drives higher prices.
Become known as “the” something (the best, the loudest, the most fun...).
This goes along with #4 of offering something no one else does, but if you become the preeminent whatever in your industry or niche, attendees will be “forced” to come to your event or miss out.
Vanilla events aren’t going to sell out. If you want to know how to sell tickets to a show or event, you need to have a brand and let the personality of your event show through. People want to align themselves with something. Personify your event and it will give them something to become invested in and want to be a part of.
Build up the unveil.
Make announcing the agenda, speakers, and/or entertainment a big deal. Tease your audience and build it up for a major announcement or two.
Make the mystery part of the fun.
Coachella generally sells a major portion (if not all) of its tickets before it even announces all of its acts. Provide potential attendees a reason to book early before your agenda is solidified or your acts announced.
Partner with your sponsors, speakers, and industry insiders to sell tickets.
Offer pricing incentives or discount codes to those closest to your event so that they can invite their tribe.
Play up the venue or host city.
If you have selected an amazing venue and/or host city, make sure you give it the acclaim it deserves. Create content to get people excited about being there. Video is very effective for this.
Build on the momentum.
Assuming you’ve had a great event and everyone is basking in the euphoria of where your event will be held next year (yes, you should announce it at this year’s event), sell tickets now. Offer a discount, or better yet an special experience, for those who will commit to attending next year’s event before they even leave this one. The memories of how much fun they’re having is fresh. Use it.
And here are five more ideas:
5 of the Worst Ways to Sell Out an Event
Offering discount after discount.
If the event is a revenue generator, don’t get into a price battle with another event on who can offer the cheapest ticket in the industry. Focus on value and unique offerings.
Using one-size fits all marketing.
Personalization is key to moving tickets. Blasting people with a heavy-handed marketing or sales message is not the best way to sell tickets to your event.
Not selling your venue or destination or thinking it doesn’t matter.
There are some amazing events out there with incredible content and networking. But how many of them are held at the 1970s roadside inn by the airport? Setting matters and it should be used in your marketing. Your attendee may be dying to come to your event but it will be a much easier sell if they can bring a traveling companion who will enjoy the destination as they enjoy your event.
Not paying for social media exposure.
Yes, your posts can go viral. It’s possible. But why leave that to chance? Throw some money at it and make sure you’re targeting your ideal audience.
Not using referral codes or tracking registrations.
Where are most of your event referrals to your registration coming from? Is it social? Your mailing list? Or sponsor newsletters? It’s incredibly important to know where your traffic is coming from so you can concentrate your efforts there.
In this section, we’re going to move past the pricing of your event and focus on how to best situate your event planning business by providing advice on event planning pricing strategy, salary, rates, and best practices.
Event planning pricing addresses the rates charged for event planning services. How to price your services is something that even experienced event planners can find challenging. There are many variables including experience, offerings, niche, and geographical location. These fees may also include upcharges for extras and last-minute requirements.
If you want to rock your event planning pricing strategy, keep reading on.
While some of the pricing strategies you use in your event ticket pricing translates to the event business, many do not. Here are some examples and information to ensure you are pricing yourself at value.
Pricing Strategies for Event Planners
As an event planner, you have a lot of flexibility on how you will price your offerings. That is both an event planner’s delight and challenge. Charge too much and it’s difficult to find clients. Charge too little and you’ll be working a lot and still scraping by. Here are some pricing strategies to help you find that happy medium. Some of these are similar approaches to establishing your event ticket price.
Take the cost of providing the service (what it actually costs to do the work and cover the incidentals). Then add the desired amount of profit. Keep in mind covering taxes, if you work on your own. Divide that number by the number of hours you think it will take and that’s the hourly rate.
Research what your competitors with similar backgrounds, experience, skills, and geographic location charge and make their rate yours.
Client perceived value.
In this event planner pricing strategy, you let the client or market set your price by what they consider the service to be worth.
If you are a lone event planner you are free to set your prices any way you wish but note this tale of caution:
I once took on a contract to provide trade show software for a government organization. The money looked good and the client was very keen on working with us. In-spite of the fact that we didn’t have any experience working with trade shows or with government bodies, I was confident that my talented team could deliver.
We bent over backward to meet their needs and with a lot of hard work, we did it. However, it was a very expensive process. Not only did we lose money on the contract, we lost focus and momentum in other parts of our business.
It was a huge lesson in the cost of saying ‘yes’ to events that are outside of our expertise. What I learned was the power of saying ‘no.’
In establishing your own event planning prices, it’s important to know a few things about your services and business by creating an event management pricing strategy that builds on, among other things, how event planners get paid.
Event Management Pricing Strategy
In setting your event management pricing strategy, you can factor in the above pricing elements, but you also want to consider the benefits of “niching.” Niching allows you to become more valuable to clients because you know their exact needs. You offer a unique service proposition to them. Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help you find your niche:
Who are your best clients?
A great way to discover your niche is to review your current client list. What were your top five events or clients for this year (or ever)? What made them great?
Conversely, which were your worst events or clients? Knowing what to avoid can help you define what you want to create more of.
What types of events do you want to serve?
There are many types of events, including association conferences, corporate training sessions, fundraisers, conferences, trade shows, stadium-level concerts, sporting events, networking meetings, training events, marathons, Christmas parties, weddings, and outdoor festivals.
Which of these do you have the most experience in? Which types of events are the most profitable? Do you prefer smaller or larger events? Which ones leave you and your team most fulfilled?
What is your preferred subject area?
Within every event type, there are hundreds of smaller niches based on genres or subject-areas. If you analyze your best clients, you may notice that they cluster around specific fields or topics. For example, you may find you have a specialty in health-care, golf or rock-music.
What's important is that each of these subject-areas has a different culture and a way of speaking and interacting. If you are able to get really specific about your niche, you will literally be able to speak the language of your clients. You will also be able to fine tune your services to solve their specific requirements and challenges.
What have you done for clients that stood out?
Your unique selling proposition can often be found looking at the stand-out moments of your event experience. Maybe you performed many successful last-minute conferences or maybe you introduced several clients to the power of social media. These “over and above” skills or what you bring to the table that others don’t can add a lot of digits to your event planner price.
What does it cost you to manage versus plan?
Finally, consider event management fees in your pricing decision. It’s not all about event planning. You can bring in additional revenue by overseeing day of operations or simply managing an event someone else planned. Sure you’ll charge less for doing less work but it also gives you more flexibility when filling your event planning calendar.
Think about event management versus planning in this way. Any moment without client work is time you’re not getting paid for (unless you have some training course or something you’re selling on the side). You want to maximize your paid time. But you can only take on so many large events. The calendar and the clock limit you. Event management jobs can provide those needed space fillers to bring in revenue in smaller chunks and in less time.
That’s why it’s important in your pricing structure to consider setting a price for event planning and one for event management. You can then play around with what pricing looks like for both skills combined.
But where should you start? Maybe you’re a new event planner who has no idea what’s even in the realm of possibility for pricing.
Let’s take a look.
Event Planner Price List
In establishing a “fair rate” you can use the pricing strategies that most businesses do but event planners have additional things to add to those calculations including:
Some event planners decide their event planner fee structure based on the total event cost. Their charge is between 15-20% of the budget.
Will you charge an hourly fee or detail a flat project fee based on agreed upon parameters? More about hourly charges in the Freelance Event Planner section below.
The event planner may decide an hourly rate with the client and then derive some additional revenue through commissions for booking at a particular venue or using a specific transportation company. These commissions are usually paid by venues and other hospitality vendors. They can be given as a monetary sum, a discount off a purchase, upgrades, free rooms, etc.
Another way to figure event pricing is by charging a set amount per attendee. If you select this option be clear as to whether that is tallied by registered attendees, the number invited, or those who show up.
The percentage of total event cost rate structure is a nice compromise for a client that wants to know what charges will be and doesn’t like the potential unknown in an hourly rate. However, it’s important to note that while event cost percentage rates are usually comparable to your hourly rate, if you have an event that is out of the ordinary and requires a lot of work and time, unless these special requirements also affect the cost, you will see an outlay of time that exceeds the percentage of total cost rate. This is also not favorable to low-budget events. With a small budget, your total cost percentage rate will also be low, even if your work hours are high. So make sure you are confident in your event cost calculations before agreeing to this type of pricing.
A note of caution about using commissions as a major source of your income: savvy clients are now aware of these “paybacks.” They may expect that commissions are used toward their expenses or they may want to have input on the hotels selected in order to ensure the commission is not the only reason they are being chosen.
Freelance Event Planner Hourly Rate
Hourly rate or planned fee structure per project? Setting event planner fees is a difficult call. Hourly rate is often more beneficial to the freelance event planner because if something goes awry and there’s a change at the last minute, you’re guaranteed that you will get compensated for your time. On the other hand, your client probably prefers a project rate so they know exactly what to budget for.
It’s your decision which way you price your offerings but if you decide on a per-project charge you’ll want to be very specific about what that includes and note how changes to that agreed upon project scope will affect price. Then detail out exactly how the new number will be arranged. Will services stop until a new number is approved? Be specific about the process so everyone understands.
Additional considerations for freelancers in setting an event planner fee structure include:
How frequently will you bill for your time?
You don’t have a boss paying you every week. You need to set parameters around how often you will bill your client. For a big event, you could be working on it for months and incur a large number of expenses. Will you bill weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly?
What components will be billed when?
You’ll be managing all sorts of agreements and pay schedules. Establish when you will bill your client for these items so there are no surprises.
Are you charging for management or planning or both?
Be clear as to whether this is simply to manage what someone else has planned or put the whole event together from scratch.
Add in overhead costs.
This is important for freelancers because it’s likely you’re covering your own healthcare (if you’re in the US) and paying your own taxes. Always add in 4-5% (at least) to cover these types of overhead. You needn’t inform the client or add it as a line item. Do it on your own and add it to your proposal. Then set aside that money to ensure you can pay those necessary expenses.
Freelance event planners are finding work in a variety of ways from word of mouth to freelance portals. It’s important to understand you’re likely to have more freedom in setting your price when people are coming to you directly or you to them.
When you use a freelance service or company to find work, the budget (and your fees) have likely been agreed upon ahead of time or you can bid within a range. These ranges are usually lower because they factor in payment of the “finding” organization. Hourly rates on these sites can range from $5-$35+.
Event Planning Packages Prices
We’ve mentioned several times at this point that event coordination can involve event planning and/or event management. Some clients will put the entire event together themselves but come the day of, they simply want to enjoy it so they leave the day-of management to someone else. Others are fine on the day of to manage things but want someone to put it all together for them. Many clients want both services.
You can construct all sorts of different packages with discounts for multiple services. This works the same way that an event planner may offer a discount on table tickets versus buying each seat individually. It’s done more for the psychology of the sale; the client feels good about receiving good value.
Bundling also saves you some angst because you are handling all components of the event planning and management and not having to work with a different team that you didn’t select.
Packages can feel like cost savings in themselves. How many of us actually price out the components of a travel package and price things individually? The consumer is conditioned to see “package” and think value pricing.
Additionally, packages can:
- keyboard_arrow_right Combine services in a way that provides cost savings
- keyboard_arrow_right Bundle like services for easier decision making
- keyboard_arrow_right Spotlight the kinds of event planning activities you want to focus on
- keyboard_arrow_right Help grow your revenue streams by creating add-ons
When creating your packages get specific. Your idea of “social media marketing” for the event might not gel with the client’s expectations. Detail exactly what that looks like in the fine print or on additional pages and make sure you refer them there so they are clear in what’s included and what could be an upcharge.
Conference Planning Rates
How much can you expect to make as a conference planner? Again, that will depend on several things like skills, the amount you work, experience/certifications, geographic market, and employer. According to salary.com, the average meeting planner in the US makes around $62,000 a year. Our own research found that $65,160 is the average event planner salary in New York City, USA (March 2018).
When it comes to conference or meeting planning, an employer has a lot to do with salary. There are:
- keyboard_arrow_right independent meeting/conference planners who specialize in planning, coordinating, and managing meetings.
- keyboard_arrow_right planners who work for large companies (not in the meeting industry) and they plan internal and external company-or brand-based meetings.
- keyboard_arrow_right Planners who work for event companies.
- keyboard_arrow_right Planners employed by destinations or venues.
Of these, event planners employed by large non-event companies are likely some of the highest paid. It is possible to earn more on your own but that also requires paying your own expenses, benefits, taxes, and handling your own marketing. In the latter case, you will not be paid for time off or sick days but your salary is not capped by an agreed upon amount. You can pull in whatever you can earn in the time you work.
Party Planner Rates
This type of event planning has a widespread on salaries, mainly because of the intricacies behind party planning. You can be a party planner for a child’s birthday or coordinate a CEO’s retirement bash. Party planning is a catch-all term that spans a lot of different types of events. You can have a sales party blow-out for making numbers or a sweet sixteen.
A common hourly rate for social party planning is $25 but there are party planners who make several hundred an hour as well. “Niching” is a way to command top dollar for your party planning services. Making yourself invaluable or tops to a particular type of party will generally increase the amount of money you can attain but you need the skills to back it up. For instance, if you’re going to claim to be the “party planner for the stars” you better have a portfolio that backs that up.
Another thing to consider in party planner rates and pricing is that corporate events often fetch higher rates than personal parties, sometimes as much as 30%. So if you’re currently specializing in social party planning, making the jump to corporate party planning can give you a salary increase. To do so means changing up your portfolio and brushing up on things like “return on investment.”
Virtual Event Planning
With technology increases, virtual event planning is becoming more popular. With this job duty, you plan and execute an event from a distance. This is particularly helpful for clients who can’t afford someone on the ground. Even if your virtual event planning hourly charges are the same as your in-person event charges, additional expenses such as hotel nights, transportation, and meals are not needed and can provide cost savings.
In order to command top dollar as a virtual planner (in addition to the things required of every event planner) you should:
- keyboard_arrow_right Concentrate on creating a social media presence. Your job is virtual. You need to prove you’re available and interested in the virtual world.
- keyboard_arrow_right Make connections virtually. Networking sometimes seems harder online than in person but it’s essential to finding steady work.
- keyboard_arrow_right Know that if you choose to go through online organizations to find work, it will be easier but you will also not make as much as if you find and work directly with your client.
- keyboard_arrow_right Navigate time zones and be available when your clients need you, no matter where they are.
- keyboard_arrow_right Consider a niche industry or type of virtual planner you want to be. Maybe you want to be known as the virtual planner for virtual conferences.
It’s also important to note that even though many clients are used to working online with team members in different geographic spots, there are still biases with online work. Clients will still imagine you at the pool and in your PJs. Work hard to be available when they are.
A lot goes into event pricing factors. We’ve covered:
- keyboard_arrow_right Expenses
- keyboard_arrow_right Cost of business operations/overhead
- keyboard_arrow_right Types of events and how corporate event planning is priced versus a social one
- keyboard_arrow_right Hourly rates versus flat project charges
- keyboard_arrow_right Commissions
But one thing that we haven’t covered is discounts and how to factor them into your event planning salary calculation. It’s inevitable clients will ask. Here’s why they do and what you can do about them.
There are a variety of reasons why a client might need or desire a lower price, but finding a way to maintain your business while valuing your client relationships is important.
Sometimes you may be able to negotiate a discount and at other times you may need to stay strong, say no and walk away. The key is knowing when and how to manage your prices and maintaining client goodwill.
When working with nonprofit organizations they may be seeking a discount due to their limited budget. This can be really tough when you need to find a way to make money, but you also want to help out a good cause.
See if there are any opportunities for you to write off your services for a tax break. You could also charge them your full fee for planning an event, but find ways to get the discounts with other vendors and suppliers so it pays for itself. Some event planners use venue commissions to accomplish this.
Booking Less Desirable Dates and Times
When a client comes to you to book during a downtime in the schedule or on an unconventional day they may be expecting a discount. The Internet is full of articles that advise this very thing as a way to save money on your event.
For example, if your business focuses on wedding planning a client booking on a Friday or Sunday will probably expect (and likely has been told) that their fees would be lower than a peak Saturday. Or if they book during the winter season they might expect your pricing to be discounted from the desirable summer wedding season.
These types of discounts can be a great way to fill your plate with more business during down times. As long as you feel comfortable, discounts like these can be a win-win situation for your business and the client.
When someone returns to utilize your services after working with you before, they may ask for a discount for their customer loyalty. You may want to decide in advance how you plan to reward customers for their repeat business.
If someone continues to be a great customer over time, coming back to you and sending you referrals, you should find a way to honor them and occasionally approve a discount from time to time. But they may also come to expect it. Another way to handle this is to give them a finder’s fee or set up an affiliate agreement or referral program for all business they refer to you. That way they feel valued and appreciated for the business they’re bringing but you’re not giving them a discount on your services per se.
Booking in Advance
When someone comes to you well in advance of their event they might ask for a discount. This is another tip that is being perpetuated by countless Internet articles. And you might want to consider it. Having business locked in months in advance gives you peace of mind and helps you to plan out your future schedule. This might be a great opportunity to offer a discount because it is definitely benefiting you as a business owner too, especially if they pay some of your event planning project rate up front.
You may offer some event management packages as part of your business model, but if a client wants a customized service they may seek a discount outside of your normal offerings because they feel they are using a considerable amount of event planning services. This is a time that you want to proceed with caution.
If you are giving up other planning opportunities in order to customize a service for a client this is not a good time to honor a discount. However, if someone needs a minimal amount of assistance and it doesn’t disrupt your other opportunities you could perhaps create a lower priced package to meet their needs. Proceed with caution while also being attentive and respectful of their needs.
Providing Promotional Opportunities
Sometimes a client may want you to plan an event at a discount if they promise to provide you with good exposure to other potential clients. In certain situations, this can really pay off and be a worthwhile compromise. But these beneficial times are likely very rare. They should be limited to times when you will get huge exposure and/or times when you are trying to break into a new niche or market.
For example, let’s say you’ve been asked to assist with a community event for a discount. If this event will connect you with people throughout your area who are in your ideal demographic to utilize your services it could be a really great marketing opportunity.
However, exposure is only a good thing if it connects you with people you want to work with and people who are likely to hire you. Nevertheless, it doesn’t give you any guarantees or pay the bills.
Be sure to ask a variety of questions about the type of exposure you will receive such as how your name or company will be displayed and recognized, who will be attending the event, what is the target market for the event, and how will contact information be provided should someone want to follow up? Also, ask them if you can count on them for a testimony. If they’re promising you exposure they should have no problem with that or with physical representations of your work as well as several mentions throughout the event.
Understanding what they’re offering should help you to get a good feeling for if it will be worth your time to participate. If you want something from them that they have not brought up, ask. It’s important this benefits you as well. After all, you can’t pay your mortgage with “exposure.”
Signing On for Multiple Events
If a client comes to you with multiple events to plan they will often be looking for some sort of package deal discount. This should be strongly considered as it is leading to multiple opportunities for your company to make money. Often times if someone is hiring you for a variety of jobs, they will continue to hire you for future projects as long as you do a great job for them. It also makes for a great (future) testimonial for you.
Post Event Negotiations
There are some occasions (hopefully very rarely) when a client is not fully satisfied. Maybe you went over budget without warning them, maybe they didn’t get the meal they wanted, something was late, or special requests weren’t accommodated. Whatever the case, they may feel that their needs weren't fully met. If you agree that your service was lacking or you see a need to negotiate with a customer, you may want to be flexible on some of the pricing following the event.
Keep in mind that if you do a great job and fully execute the event for your client, you should do your best to stand firm in your pricing. However, if you aren't seeing eye to eye, finding a way to reach an agreement will serve you and your business well.
If you do your best to make your customers happy and resolve any dissatisfaction, they will often return even if they have a slightly poor experience one time. They will appreciate you stepping up to the challenge, owning the error, and making things right.
Some clients may not have the money to afford your services and thus they will push for some sort of discount or negotiation. If you really find someone you want to work with, but they can’t afford you, then you might consider a discount.
Some reasons to consider this might be if a client is having their event at an exclusive venue you really want to work in, or maybe they are helping you to expand your services by offering you the opportunity to plan a new type of event, or maybe they are the hottest startup on the block. Most of the time you should shy away from a client that can’t meet your standard pricing, but on occasion, there are exceptions to the rule. Go with your gut feeling here and trust your instincts.
The psychology of event planning services is similar to event ticket pricing. They include:
Pricing with a 9 Over 0 Yields Greater Value
As mentioned earlier, we read left to right so the first number we see is what stays with us. There may only be a dollar difference between charging $900 for an event planning package and $899 but $899 is still in the 800 range, while $900 is nearly $1,000.
While you want clients to be satisfied by the value and feel they got a deal with your event planning package, the same is not true when you’re pricing out your event planner cost and your hourly rate. A higher rate instills confidence that you are a skilled professional. This is referred to as prestige pricing. If someone is paying you to manage their event, they want to see your expertise reflected in your event management cost.
Speaking of which…
Packages Help Decision Making
You never want to paralyze your potential clients with too many options. That’s part of the reason fast food restaurants began offering meal pricing. You can order individually or buy the “value meal.” We’re conditioned to see a package of services or items as the better deal. It cuts down on decision making time and ties popular services into a neat bow, making it much easier on the client.
Packages also help you with the psychology of upsells. Yes, they denote a good value and easy decision-making but they also allow you to create levels of service. If you offer three similar packages, most people will opt for the mid or more expensive option because they view that as being the higher quality. If you would prefer for people to almost always select the middle package, consider marking it on your website (if you list your prices) as “best value” or a similar designation.
You can also visually highlight a package price with a designated special for events in a month you want to fill up. Your package price needn’t be that much different from your original. Most people won’t check.
Salary statistics are great but what about what do actual event planners charge? What does an event management fee structure look like? While many professionals don’t want to give out exact rates (very few people like to talk about money), there are things in the business and event planning pricing that you need to consider.
Here are a few event professionals with suggestions on how to achieve higher earnings in the event business:
Clearly articulate your foundation story + brand positioning: the unique value proposition that differentiates you from the competition; what the client gets; why you. ~ Kim Novick, Experience Marketing Consultant
One of the many keys to success for a small business is to find ways to differentiate yourself from potentially larger and more established organizations. Your unique experience, positioned correctly, can be a key selling point…(and) Get a mentor who is willing to give you advice as your business grows. ~Brian Meyer, President at Meeting Expectations
(Ask) Who is my Target Ideal Client? I wish I had defined this much earlier than I did. It would have helped me focus my marketing and sales efforts directly at that target, and I would have been able to profile what personality types I needed to hire as associates in my business...(And) Dedicate myself to diversifying my client base. ~Bill Hartnett, Creating Memorable, Results-Driven Events
There is a tremendous difference between "event management" and "running an event management agency." If you're gonna hang up your own shingle, you better be confident you can run a business on your own and in your spare time actually do a bit of event management. ~Jonathan Lange, Managing Director, NYC Advertising Agency
And how about some pricing advice from veteran event profs?
Be clear if you will be an individual contributor [such as a caterer, decorator, entertainment provider, transportation coordinator, etc.], if you will act as a general contractor responsible for everything soup to nuts, or somewhere in between. Identify your core strengths; do a thorough audit of your firm's intellectual capital assets. Identify partners you can rely on to compliment your offering. ~ Kim Novick, Experience Marketing Consultant
Have a very good accountant and attorney who you trust with your most valued possessions. If you’re going after corporate publicly held companies as clients, procurement offices are demanding precise and vast accounting disclosure. Also, you want someone who will be able to advise you on cash flow and tax implications. You will also want expert legal counsel to advise you on your contracts, liability, insurance, indemnity, cancellation clauses, etc. ~Bill Hartnett, Creating Memorable, Results-Driven Events
Do you know HOW you will make a profit? Your three primary revenue streams are sponsors, attendees, and venue/food and beverage mark-ups? You have to have a bullet-proof plan for getting to break-even so you can produce the conference, and then make (a) profit on the rest of the revenue. ~Jonathan Marx, Jonathan Marx Consulting
Experience pays and saves time. Get lots of it. ~Okolo Thomas-Toure, Development Officer
Here are some of the extras you may want to factor in for your business (since clients won’t directly pay for them) when pricing event planning projects.
- keyboard_arrow_right Taxes
- keyboard_arrow_right Paying for benefits
- keyboard_arrow_right Liability insurance
- keyboard_arrow_right Business licensing or certification
- keyboard_arrow_right Salaries
- keyboard_arrow_right Technology upgrades, repairs, and replacements
- keyboard_arrow_right Business operations expenses
- keyboard_arrow_right Commuting expenses
- keyboard_arrow_right Workers comp, if you employ others
- keyboard_arrow_right Training
- keyboard_arrow_right Legal fees
This is not necessarily a complete list. Much of that depends on the area of operations of your event planning business and whether you are a freelancer or sole proprietor versus employing others. Please consult a tax and/or legal professional for the specifics of your area.
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A lot of venue bookings come from agencies or brokers of some sort. They budget for commissions on these sales every year. Transparency is essential in working with clients so make sure they understand what is being exchanged. A nonprofit may be completely supportive of an event planner taking a commission if they weren’t able to pay the standard event planner rate. A corporate or government entity may be required to disclose commissions so honesty is always the best policy.
Popular types of venue commissions include:
- keyboard_arrow_right Percentage of the room block (often 5-15% of total charges booked).
- keyboard_arrow_right Loyalty points (chains can reward these points to be used at a later date).
- keyboard_arrow_right Comp rooms or upgrades.
- keyboard_arrow_right Free services with partner companies (book here, get the airport transportation for free).
Since commission influence is a common concern across most industries, if you're receiving commissions, or if one is offered, share that information with the client upfront. Better to let them know than be surprised when they find out on their own later.
Mastering event pricing is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your event. If you price tickets too high for your target audience, you’ll create exclusivity but won’t drive action. If you price them too low, you’ll cheapen your offerings and discount your event’s value. But finding the exact right spot is something you need to work on if you expect to be successful.
The same can be said for the amount you charge your clients. You need an effective event planning pricing strategy to keep yourself from working for free.
Make sure you perform the required research and work on what unique benefits you offer. The marriage of these two ideas will help you price your event and your business more effectively so that you can drive demand for your services.
Now onto you:
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