Event Management

When Should Venues Disclose Pricing?

PLANNER:  Hi. I’m interested in booking your venue for an upcoming event. How much do you charge?
VENUE: Well, it depends on a lot of variables. Why don’t we have you come in and see our space, and then we can discuss pricing after I learn a little bit more about your needs.

If you’re a venue sales manager, (or an event planning firm or industry vendor, for that matter) the exchange above is typical of how you’ve been trained. Don’t discuss price over the phone, or in an email. Get them in to see the space, make them fall in love with it, and then hit them with the price.

 And this strategy worked for a long time. Until now…..

Today’s planners are used to getting information quickly, and that includes pricing and availability. If you withhold pricing until the client comes to your space, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll never make it there. And that’s because smart venues are providing that information right away.

Think about it. You can check availability and pricing instantly online for hotel rooms, airline tickets, and restaurants. Even car dealerships, the epitome of a business model based on hidden pricing, are finding more and more customers are coming in armed with hard numbers for the exact car they want. Yet so many venues and suppliers still think withholding pricing is smart sales strategy. Get them in the ‘kill zone’, surrounded by the beauty and opulence of your space, the thinking goes, and they won’t stand a chance.

The problem is many prospective clients aren’t waiting around for an appointment, and even those that do schedule one often don’t show up if they’ve gotten the information they need from a viable competitor in the interim.

And this applies to superstars too.

Top wedding planner Tara Guérard has published books, has her own lines of stationary and furniture, and has planned weddings for numerous celebrities, including Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. Her studio is super cool and stylish, and is definitely a place to close a deal. Yet even she’s found that, “if I don’t give at least a price range over the phone, there are plenty of potential clients who won’t even schedule an appointment. That’s how it is now; people are used to getting information quickly.”

I’m not saying every venue or supplier has to publish their rate card on their website. I totally understand seasonal pricing based on supply and demand, and the ability to customize packages to suit a client’s needs. But there is nothing wrong with letting a potential client know the minimums you need, and a realistic price range.

In preparing the content for my upcoming Venue Sales Accelerator course, I interviewed dozens of planners, and this is one of their pet peeves. Stick to your old ways if you like, but the information train has left the station, and your competitors are on it.

Howard Givner (@hgivner) is the founder and Executive Director of the Event Leadership Institute.