PSU Insight

Setting Your Fees and Prices

Avoid Commodity Perception

In the previous session, you saw why you don't want to be perceived as a commodity. Competing on price is only one way for you to be perceived as a commodity — it can happen other ways, sometimes without your being aware of it.

So how do you avoid becoming a commodity? That’s where positioning and branding come in. When people want to hire you because of your matchless style or your unique content, you are no longer simply “a” speaker — you are “the” speaker that they want to hear.

There’s a further benefit as well. In a free market, scarcity and uniqueness tend to drive prices up. So the more people want to hire you (because of your position or branding), the more money you can charge! And as your fees increase, the perception of your value also increases, and so demand for your services escalates.

The power of uniqueness was illustrated in 2006 when Christie’s, the famous auction house, sold a variety of paraphernalia and props from the Star Trek movies and TV shows. One of the items was Capt. Jean Luk Picard's captain's chair from the starship Enterprise. Christie’s estimated it would sell for $7,000 – $8,000. It went for $52,000.

Fifty-two grand for a chair. But, of course, this wasn’t just any chair. This was Captain Picard’s one-of-a-kind chair. Its uniqueness made it more valuable.

So the question you need to ask yourself is... what’s unique about you? How can you market that uniqueness to meeting planners?)

This example also illustrates how difficult it is to determine the “right” price for something. Christie’s is certainly an expert on pricing auction items, and yet they consistently underestimated the final sales price of the 1,000 items for sale in that auction… by about 90%.

Let’s leave Star Trek and get back to the world of the professional speaker. The uniqueness principle applies here also. Just as competing on price tends to trap you in a downward spiral of ever-falling prices, so does positioning yourself as the speaker tends to push you along the path of ever-increasing fees.

Of course, branding and positioning are so important that PSU devotes an entire separate section to the whole concept of "marketing". For now, let's return to our exploration of setting your fees and prices.