In a recent post on the Pricing for Associations blog, Dr. Michael Tatonetti asked a provocative question, "How Do We Talk About Price without Talking About Price?" He made a couple of key arguments:
- Pricing provides financial sustainability for an association. Charge too little, and you don't have the wherewithal to survive recessions, pandemics, etc.
- Pricing and financial sustainability allow associations to do whatever it is they do.
"I don't know about you, but I am a member of other associations, and I want to pay my dues. I want to pay to go to luncheons. I want to pay to go to annual conferences. I want to pay for continuing education because I not only want the value that I get from that, but I also want to empower my organizations to do even more work and reach new members, and reach new sponsors, and be sustainable, so that I can continue going back and getting what I need from them."
However, there's another consideration, which is that some people, including some of an association's audience, think that non-profits should give everything away, probably work for free or minimum wage, etc. It's not universal, of course, and there are associations that charge pretty stiff fees so they can have HQ upgrades, staff bonuses & premium pay, etc.
Similarly, people aren't transparent about pricing because it will scare customers off. I saw this all the time with training, even though a survey of more than 70 different training programs showed that that association's training pricing was exactly inline with what others were charging - competitors, solution-specific training, complementary training, all of them. Some of this goes to self-funded vs. "need to submit for reimbursement"-level costs, but confidence in pricing also shows confidence in the product.
Finally, I think a lot of associations are hesitant to talk about price because they think they'll get undercut by their competition. This has always struck me as silly because at some point they do have to give customers a price, and it's a few seconds to Tweet or post that to LinkedIn. I subscribe more to the Marcus Sheridan "They Ask, You Answer" school of thought. That is, post pricing wherever possible, and if pricing is highly variable, post what pieces you can with an explanation of the variables. That also means that you shouldn't be hiding pricing behind a registration screen - I see this all the time with conferences where either the conference fees, the conference designated hotel fees, or both require prospective attendees to provide a ton of information first.