Discount Pricing for Early Registration isn’t Helping

I just finished the early registration process at Google for the Google I/O conference and soon you'll hear how fast it closed up. Two years ago it took 90 days to fill up all the spots. Last year it took 50 days. This morning registration was closed in one hour. Yes, 59 minutes. The registration process was fraught with challenges but what struck me was how Google just gave away $100/per registrant – for no good reason. If you're anything like them, you likely have also thought about creating early registration pricing for your event. Here's three reasons why it's not worth doing.

First, you assume that a discount will help people decide.

You are incorrect. Especially if your discount is a small percentage of the registration fee. What's a $45 discount going to do? For those that know they're coming, they would have paid the extra $45, so you're giving it away (just like Google did). For those that are really unsure, will that $45 price savings drive the decision? Only if you assume that they don't have to also cover a hotel and potentially airfare…which brings us to point two:

Second, you assume that the registration price is the primary cost.

You are incorrect. Unless your event is hyper-local, most people will fly to your event and the airfare will cost far more than your early discounted price savings. Plus there's the hotel costs. And food. Oh and don't forget baggage fees…right? So again, what's the point of that mini discount?

Third, real scarcity has little to do with price.

Google's I/O conference highlighted one positive thing – the demand for excellent events (especially events that are priced at 30% of other technical conferences) is the only real scarcity you need to drive registrations. When space is limited, the motivation to registering early has little to do with price. Instead, it's about getting the seat.

Ask yourself how to create real demand!

So next time you are planning an event, ask yourself how to create real demand and real scarcity – not the fake kind that just looses you money. It will have little to do with a discounted price. Instead it might be a certain track that will close once it's filled up (Microsoft used to do that with their Professional Developer Conference). Maybe it's access to an early training (Google did this with their Bootcamp before the I/O conference).

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.