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Pricing Paradigm Shift: Taking the Stigma Out of Discounts

March 23, 2012

In my prep work for my pricing session at ASAE’s Great Ideas conference next week, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how discounts are offered for associations and events. Very often, they are given based on ability to pay, with lower fees being offered to retirees, students, members from developing countries, etc. I can’t help but feel that there is an underlying stigma associated with this: a message that some are rich and others are poor.

The Shift to Distinguished Voices

I’m proposing a paradigm shift: from changing the pricing message from “You can’t afford to pay full price” to “You have an important voice that we value”. The format offers discounts that have a positive connotation in their description. Imagine these new price categories:

Distinguished Voices: 

  • Association Mentors: Retired members of the association that bring institutional knowledge and experience.
  • Faculty Ambassadors: Educators that are extended the message and mission of the association by incorporating concepts into the classroom.
  • International Contributors: Open to participants who enrich the conversation by bringing the unique perspective of developing countries.
  • Association Evolvers: Open to students and young professionals that are investing in the future by contributing views on the priorities for the evolution of the industry and the association.

There is, of course, an urgent need is to look at messages for retiring members. With baby boomers starting to retire, let’s make sure that this important community hears the message that they are valued members with an important contribution that they can make. Of course, there are many other possible categories to include here, but the underlying message is this:

Leverage pricing to make people feel that they are worth more, not worth less.

I’ll be discussing this in next week’s session, along with many other pricing considerations related to associations.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012 3:01 pm

    (grrrrr..I wrote . it lost it. Attempting again.)

    What I like most about this is that is about wanting different voices at meetings, in membership. Wanting someone there to add to the conversation, the learning, the community, is the most valuable thing we can do.

    That said, there are many more (of us) who need discounts: Boomers who can’t retire, under- or un-employed people who need the connections and education more than ever, people with disabilities who often have additional expenses, and others, I am sure. Why do we make it so expensive to participate? Why not a “pay what you can” for those who can’t pay full price? Why not highly discounted (and not commissionable) hotel rooms? For those of us who don’t attend the food functions, let us opt out and credit that amount.

    I look at the cost to me of being an ASAE committee chair this year and am astounded at what it was! Yes, I agreed to do it and am glad I am. But who knew how much it would cost to do so?

    It will be good to hear what happens at GI at your session – tell us! I’ll miss being there because .. I can’t afford registration, hotel, air and ground and ancillary expenses. Too bad.

  2. March 24, 2012 11:44 am

    Joan, thank you so much for your comments. You’ve touched on another aspect of my Great Ideas session, what I call the “Total Cost of Attendance” (TCA) and “Total Cost of Membership” (TCM). As association/meeting professionals, I think there is a lot that we can do to help lower the overall costs for people to attend. We tend to focus on the things that we directly control, like registration and membership fees, but need to look at how we can make other aspects more affordable – and thereby more accessible to a broader audience. I’m excited to see initiatives like the Sustainability Train for the GMIC Conference in Montreal, sponsored by VIA Rail, and the Canadian Labour Congress offering childcare services.

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