Pricing models, titles and moving from services to packages

An Event Leadership Institute Planner Pricing Survey recently revealed some of the biggest challenges to pricing meeting professional services fairly. The results were fascinating, especially because of what was said in the very first paragraph: “Pricing is one of the most closely guarded and highly sought-after topics among independent meeting and event planners. Despite a real need for guidance and insight into how others charge for their services, such data has been scarce.”

Before we discuss the results, let’s pause on that first paragraph. It acknowledges the need for this information to be disseminated, and yet at the same time recognizes the fear of sharing. However, it is my hope that we can overcome both of those statements. Pricing, and anything to do with money, should no longer be secret, and I hope that we will fearlessly share with others so that the entire industry can grow, together.

Titles Matter

And first, let’s talk about titles since I want to address them from the start. It is a well-known fact that those working in events have one of the top five most stressful job occupations. So, it should follow that a job like that deserves significant compensation, whether as an independent or in-house, not to mention respect. In addition to sharing money, pricing, and budgeting ‘secrets’, I want to propose ways to position ourselves for power and respect in the industry. And one of the first ways we can do that is by changing our titles.

I find the word “planner” problematic because it is too ubiquitous. Anyone can say that they plan something, and they in fact do so all the time. “I plan to go to the store.” “I planned a vacation.” But it would be unusual if someone casually said, “I lawyered this weekend,” or “I do a bit of surgery on the side, myself.”

 “It is a well-known fact that those working in events have one of the top five most stressful job occupations. So, it should follow that a job like that deserves significant compensation, not to mention respect.”

The reason those statements sound funny is because we accept that those are professional terms, just like we do “producer” and “project manager.” My first call to action is that the entire industry embrace these types of titles as a first step to getting us the money, power and respect we so richly deserve.

Bold Pricing Models

Now, let’s look at pricing models. The results of the survey show that independent producers use a variety of ways to price their services: 37% flat fee, 32% hourly and daily rates, 13% commissions, 4% mark-ups, 10% percentage of the budget, and 3% other.

What is missing is a comparison of what these percentages have been in the past, but my guess would be that scores for commission, mark-up and percentage of the budget used to be a lot higher. There is boldness in charging flat fees and hourly/daily rates. Openly charging for the value of the work is a strong statement, indeed.

Read More: Mike Dominguez: Hotel, F&B Prices Aren’t Going Down, and Other Predictions for 2023

An interesting further investigation would be to find out what percentage of those answering “flat fee/project based” offer packages for their services. One way that service-based industries can get away from nickel-and-diming on their price structures is by offering packages for a certain deliverable. It’s a tried-and-true method of increasing your revenue without little or no increase to your costs.

For example, let’s say you frequently produce 1-day board meetings for a couple of clients. You charge between $10k-$11k and your net is about $5k. It is solid work, but with overhead and other costs creeping up, you need to figure out a way to raise your prices. That can feel difficult. Clients never like it and it can get hard to justify.

Instead, what if you created a package, or a series of packages? A basic board meeting for one day at $10k, a board meeting with a few bells and whistles for $13k, and a top-tier meeting at $15k. The key is keeping those “extras” as low lift or inexpensive add-ons.

Most might choose that middle tier, your more budget conscious clients may go for the first tier, and you may even get a few at that $15k level. All of which is 50% more than you were charging, and if you keep expenses nearly the same, you can net a lot more in the end. Adding value is just one way you can start to make more money in this challenging environment without lowering prices.

Events are challenging, which is why we all deserve more money, power and respect. Here’s to getting it!

heather mason wearing blue and white dress shirt and white coatHeather Mason is CEO of Caspian Agency, a senior fellow and instructor at San Diego State University and Smart Woman in Meetings Hall of Fame winner. 

This article appears in the March/April 2023 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.