sales

Will they get 20 attendees, or 200? From people to pricing, this company makes no assumptions about event planning

Myriam Robin /

A Melbourne digital marketing agency has embarked on a bold new pricing experiment.

Hardhat Digital, which employs 20 people in inner-city Melbourne, is launching a new events extension to its business.

The tickets for their inaugural event, a training and ideas session for brand managers, started selling at $1. Or at least, that’s what the first ticket sold for. The second ticket sold was $2, the third $3, the fourth $4 … you get the picture.

One day after the event website formally launched, tickets were going for $47, meaning $1105 worth of tickets had been sold so far to 46 attendees, at an average price of $24 a ticket that can only rise from here.

Hardhat Digital’s owner and managing director Dan Monheit told SmartCompany that given the site had only been up for less than 24 hours, the volume sold was “pretty encouraging”.

SmartCompany put to Monheit that the pricing model is fairly risky, given that at some point people will decide the event is too expensive to justify, even if the event could easily accommodate more people.

Monheit responded that it’s actually less risky than traditional event planning.

“The way events are usually sold, their pricing is entirely based on assumptions and guesswork. You think 200 people will show up, so you get this venue. And then you wonder, hey, if I discount 20%, maybe I can sell more. But you might not – it’s all guesswork.

“The price is always going to be too high for some people but not for others. Rather than us deciding on those assumptions, we’re letting every person decide at the time they come to the site whether they see value at that price.”

Monheit says that if seven people had bought tickets, he’d have offered a small, intimate event in the company’s boardroom to those who were interested. If 200 people bought tickets, he’d adapt the event accordingly. People won’t feel an event is a failure or a success depending on how much it meets the organisers’ expectations. Instead, the event will adapt to the real demand.

The pricing model also encourages quick sale, and rewards loyal customers who buy immediately.

The two-hour events, which Hardhat intends to hold every month, will attempt to address what Monheit sees as the shortcomings of the events he’s attended.

“I’ve been going to my fair share of these events over the past eight years. I enjoyed the first one, and hated the next 47. They’re usually really long, drawn out, pretty boring, and all really out of sync with people’s needs.

“Who can stay focused for two whole days, which they have to take out of the office? Sure, they’re a great excuse to bludge, but I don’t think people were learning a lot.

“The other jumping off point was that, in our industry, people always talk about how there’s not a lot of good digital work being done. Is it the fault of our clients, or the agencies? The clients don’t go to stuff because they have meetings and jobs to do. This is more in keeping with what those tasked with communicating a brand can actually attend.”

Trying to provide a worthwhile event is part of why Hardhat hasn’t released the speakers.

“I feel like I’ve been led astray so many times by looking at who’s speaking,” Monheit says. “Big names from big companies or big agencies, which are more often than not a sponsor doing a sales pitch, often aren’t that interesting or inspiring. They might work at a great company, but it doesn’t mean they’re the best presenter.

“We’ve worked with a lot of brands – we know what they’re interested in. So we say, ‘trust us and trust the event, and don’t worry about the names’. If we put on sh*t speakers, you’re not going to come back.”

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Myriam Robin

Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.

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