Keeping Conferences Affordable and Fun

“So my CTO and marketing guys came back from PubCon and complained that, ’75 percent of what we heard at PubCon we already knew.’ I said great, lets talk about that awesome 25 percent and how we are going to apply it in our day-to-day business.” – (Major Internet property CEO and two-time PubCon attendee.)

Why is it so inexpensive?” and “Do you have coupon offer so that I can save a few bucks?

These two questions may appear to be polar opposites, however they are often being asked about PubCon. We are asked why PubCon is so inexpensive more often than we are asked for discounts.

People know the other conferences out there and don’t quite understand why PubCon is upwards of 50 percent to 75 percent less expensive than those guys. Surprising – yes I know. We know we often place as much value on something as it costs to buy it. If a BMW cost the same as a Hyundai, would it still be as valued? Or if you buy the same shirt from Walmart for $19.95 as you do at Macy’s for $49.99, which one would you value more? Yes, we all fall into this trap occasionally.

I think the best place to start is by looking at our attendees and how they breakdown:

A) 30 percent independent Web site owner/operators (affiliates, SEO/SEM, consultants)
B) 30 percent various Web services providers (marketing, advertising, SAAS)
C) 40 percent traditional businesses (Web and non-Web related looking for educational materials and exhibitor offerings)

Those last two B and C groups comprise 70 percent of the attendees. They are not price sensitive. If they need to go to a conference for educational purposes, networking, or industry information they don’t question the cost too much and pay it as needed. They understand the value proposition of a conference such as PubCon.

However, that top 30 percent of independents are price sensitive. They often work entirely for themselves and question every dollar spent, because it is 100 percent their own. If they save a money on a conference trip, that is money in their pocket and not just a line item on an expense report.

Our roots run deep at and community pride is a virtue we hold dear. Our desire to serve that group A is a commitment we have taken on. Keeping PubCon affordable to those independent operators is not only one of our core values, but an unwritten line in our mission statement.

At the same time, we push the speakers to bring their A+ game. We try not to present a session as advanced or any such gimmick. People know that when they come to PubCon, they are going to get leading-edge content. Our background tag line for speakers is that PubCon starts where other conferences finish.

We know that we need to keep the conference affordable and provide the best content available at any related conference. It’s a difficult task trying to reconcile these two with the corporate attendees that aren’t as price sensitive. They see us priced at $599 and compare that to a conference at $1999 and assume PubCon content isn’t as good, when in fact we have deeper content than the $1999 conference.

What we have also found is that bigger corporate attendees tend to move more slowly when buying. They wait until 45 days out from a conference to purchase. That is about the same time our conference expenses ramp up. We have to order supplies and materials long before the conference. The closer we get to the beginning of PubCon, the more expensive we get.

Given those two facts, we were the first conference to apply Stair Step pricing to the conference similar to the way hotels and airlines price tickets. We think it is fair to attendees as well as to the conference. It keeps Early Bird prices low at the start and rises as our costs rise.

- bt