Sometimes you just have to ask

“What do I get for that much money?”

I’m reading Gonzo Marketing right now. Each page gets me more amped up about business and reinforces that Tom and I are not wrong. So what does the question above mean? It means: In the conference space, there’s an incredible range of prices for events.

We recently did a survey asking (yeah, asking) our customers what they wanted. You can see the results here.

What did they tell us? For starters they told us that they’d like to see speakers get a little something back. We were already giving a little back by selling videos and giving 1/3 of the price to the speaker, but that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t a land slide at all, but 37% of those who responded, think we should give a little more. Done.

We also asked if the price was right. Was $360 the ‘sweet spot’ or would anything under $500 work? The answer, surprisingly with 53%, was that anything under $500 would be OK. I think what’s important about this question is that, people could have put the screws to us, and said, “$360.00 is the right price, don’t budge it” and we would have had to either decide if $360 would work or close up shop. Instead our customers, the community, acknowledged that a good event costs money (our events being top notch has never been an issue, from what we hear), and that if we have to raise prices a little, that’s cool. Done. We’re thinking that $480 sounds good. We’ve done some math, and with less food budget, and paying for speaker accommodations, $480 makes our company and our conferences viable in the long term.

$480 per attendee whether you show up the day of or buy when we announce. We don’t raise the price on you for showing up last minute. Bring 4 of your team for a mere $1500. We don’t believe in coercing attendees to register “early”. There’s no discount for buying movie tickets 2 weeks out, why should conference pricing change? Is there something different about the post early bird pricing? something ‘extra’? something later registrants don’t get? Nope. Enough about pricing though.

Here’s my main point… “viable in the long term” at $480 bucks, not $600, not $900, certainly not $1200 or $1500. At $480 dollars, and we think we can still pull off an event that sends folks home happy and more knowledgeable than when they arrived. They also leave with a stronger sense of community… for $480 dollars

So back to my question, “what do I get for…?” (taken from actual Conference sites)

What do you get from these events that you don’t get from a 360Conferences, inc. event? Nothing. Great speakers? Check. Lunch? Check. Cool people? Check. Great sponsors with great products to show? Check. Marketing hype about the consulting services or training services of the company putting the event on? Uh, no check, sorry. An Overload of sessions, where you literally have dozens of options, mostly all good in the same hour? Uh no. Crowds so immense that you’re a plankton in a big pond? mmm nope.

What about the free ones? like the *camp style? They rock! But they’re not a business. I ain’t gonna lie; Doing Conferences, and doing them well, is a business AND a passion for Tom and I. If there’s no lunch at a free event, do you complain? if a speaker can’t make it, what then? Free events are ad hoc in nature. They’re pure community and while fun, you can’t guarantee a return on your investment of time. You could see the guy that invented the Furby speak, or maybe you just get the latest schill trying to explain how cool his widget and it’s API are. Both great, but in different ways.

Yes, we went from $100 to $360. Now we’re going to $480. Who’s to say we won’t raise it again? Us. At $100, we were on eBay’s campus and just paid for food. At $360, we paid for an actual venue but gave speakers no cash. Both shows taught us a lot. The first show we learned how to plan and run a conference. The second show taught us how to pay for a conference. The third show is finally all the pieces put together in what you, the customers have told us are the right format, setting, etc.

We’re here strictly to serve you by putting on the best conferences we can, while still keeping them affordable. Don’t think we’re done “tweaking” the numbers. We will keep working them, finding ways to continue to give your more for each dollar at each show. We have ideas to try out, and when they work, you’ll definitely see the benefits. We don’t do shows to make us happy, we do shows to make you happy, which does make us happy, by the way. With over 700+ satisfied attendees (yes, some are duplicates, so sue us! LOL), we think we’ve done a good job so far. We don’t have any plans to stop that now.

7 Replies to “Sometimes you just have to ask”

  1. My thoughts:

    Although I can understand the need for raising prices. I do believe it can easily lead to a slippery slope and you could quickly find yourself in the $720 bracket. I do really like the $360 for 360 conferences.

    I encourage you to keep trying to make it work. Remember, 47% said they prefer it to stay at $360. Next year, my company will likely be sending me to Max. At $360, my company might consider both Max & 360Flex. Move that up closer to $500, and I think they’ll start to balk. And I surely can’t outlay $480 out of my own pocket, sadly.

    That said. I think there are some potential options. (ie: more support from donors, etc). One thought, why not keep it at $360. But try to get more corporate sponsorship. Ask all attendees from a company to try to get their company to spend a $100 for a corporate sponsorship. Have a poster board with logos of all said sponsors. Or print them on the back of the programs.

    I really think just finding a venue that will allow you to do outside catering can make the difference between debt, break even and profit. $89,000 for food could easily be $40,000.

    I know you guys want to pick a nice place for the east coast with sunny weather in February. But truth be told, I only got out two evenings while in Seattle. One was an hour long walk around the hotel area. The second was a few hour trip to the Space Needle with Jeff Houser and several others.

    So instead of picking the city by location, why not pick by venue/facility. Make a list of all venues that allow outside catering. Then pick the best city of the bunch.

    (I still thing the “cruise line” idea might be fun. Sure, it’ll be more expensive. But I went on a 7-day cruise for $450. That included food. And at least if we were spending $900 we’d be cruising bro!)

  2. @the Saj,

    You should come to 360|Flex, 3 days hands on training… mid level to advanced, now. No more 101s.

    Unfortunately it’s easier said than done as far as asking for money. Even big corporations don’t always want to throw in a ton of money. Adobe’s sponsorship of Seattle was $7,500 plus their party. We’re glad they participate, but 7,500 doesn’t go very far. We love Adobe and we’re workin’ on ’em :)

    We think we have more this time to offer Sponsors and hope to have more for the East Coast event than we did in Seattle.

    It’d be great to find a place that allows us to bring in our own food, however such places don’t exist, not at the conference level, not where we’re looking. 1. It’s a huge revenue source for these places. 2. there’s health and liability problems.

    We are getting better at making the most of what’s available in our target cities, using the local CVBs, that’s been a great help and our costs are dropping.

    Second to lastly, 360.00 just isn’t feasible. Maybe if we cut back on food and weren’t offering speakers, their accommodations, 40 some odd rooms, we’re almost back to our Seattle food costs LOL.

    Lastly, we were at the Jeff Houser dinner! Wish we had known we were eating with “the Saj” LOL

  3. One thing I wanted to mention for 360Flex Italy is that the ticket price is 360 Euro AFAIK which with the current exchange rate it 520 USD.

    Of course you’ll also be invoiced in Euro but it might be worth looking if you can take advantage of that situation and perhaps invest in some audio/video equipment for the East coast edition so you can avoid rental costs for future conferences.

    Its not an easy problem getting all the finances to work and still keep everyone happy and you guys do an amazing job. Keep up the good work!

  4. @peter,

    That’s actually our precise plan. We thought about putting the price in USD, but as you say, we’ll be billed in Euro so it makes sense to keep all currencies the same. But yes due to the exchange rate, we’re hoping to have money to invest in A/V equipment.

    Our current plan is to slowly stock up. A projecter here, a mic there, monitors over there, etc. so that we can slowly reduce our A/V rentals, which are a KILLER.

    Thanks for the support

  5. What people say vs what they do can often be different.

    There was a recent study that polled men and women what they look for/prioritize when looking for a mate.

    E.g. people would rank looks, but above that would also be chemistry, shared interests, religion, etc…

    The study then went onto to put people face to face in some kind of dating scenario (e.g. speed dating), and the candidates where then asked to rank who they liked the most.

    What turned out was the guys predominantly ranked based on just 1 attribute: looks. All of the other things had little bearing in the (subconscious) decision.

    Women also had the same result. I forgot what it was, but the more successful/powerful/richer guys always ranked higher.

    ANYWAYS… very interesting study that the results were so split, I’m very surprised.

    HOWEVER… taking a page from psychology I think the bottom line is maintaining a good balance of price+location+content.

    Build it, and they will come.

  6. John, you represent your numbers a little deceptively. 71% of the attendees want you to cover _at least_ part of the speaker’s costs. (Which is what you have decided to do)

  7. @dusty

    Only if you lump two SIMILAR, but not the SAME ideas.

    37% want lunch.
    35% don’t want any food at all.

    A more accurate statement is that 71% are OK with giving something to the speakers. We have chosen to do what only 37% wanted.

    Those are hardly the same thing, since I’d guess the 37%, would rather not give up lunch, seeing as how they selected that option.

    Since there were clear choices, each being distinct, lumping any two together, is disingenuous at best, shady more likely.

    Hence why I reported the numbers as seperate (as they are) not a single idea (which they are not)

    Not to be mean but lunch vs. no lunch, is hardly the same concept, idea, or thought.

    “No food during the event.” != “Lunch is provided.”

    You are welcome to look at the data however you please, that’s why polls are so fun, people can skew the results any way they like to “make it work”

    But as far as we’re concerned, a little less than 1/3 want no food, a little more than 1/3 want some food, and the rest liked things they way they were.

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