A Graduated Pricing Strategy Drives Exhibit and Sponsorship Sales

graduated pricing strategy for sponsorship sales

When looking at your sales cycle for your annual event, an entire year can seem like a long time.  A graduated pricing strategy will drive exhibit and sponsorship sales and help you maintain revenue momentum throughout the year.  Associations who are strategic with their pricing strategy can create the conditions for a seller’s market well in advance of their event.

A graduated pricing strategy is achieved by increasing rates at set dates throughout the year as the timeline moves closer to the event.  For most associations, this means starting with an onsite rate and then progressing to an early bird rate, and then the full price.  Publishing all three pricing tiers from the very beginning of promotion makes a compelling visual for prospects and incentivizes them to not delay.

Price Chart


How do you come up with the exact dates around which you want to drive action with price increases?

Internally, the dates may be completely arbitrary but if you have client-facing deadlines, it drives urgency for them. Maybe each market and event cycle could be a little different.  The key is to know your marketplace and your industry calendar.

Here are a few questions that can help you determine your price increase dates:

  • What are your natural slow periods? Holidays, the early stage of the cycle, etc.?
  • What is the fiscal cycle of your customers?
  • What are your customers used to in terms of a renewal period?
  • What/when are your big competing events and complimentary events?


Example Scenario

If your event is in November, you want to offer the lowest rate of the year for exhibitors and sponsors that signup on site for the following year. This part of the sales cycle is absolutely critical.  Pre-selling for the next year allows you to have spaces reserved and blocked out on the floor plan so you are not starting sales in the next stage of your cycle with a completely empty floor plan. 

Example Floor Plan

Having a few spaces already blocked out is much more visually compelling and drives urgency when sharing the floor plan with other prospects. Considering that your event is in November, you probably will not do a lot of sales in December and January when most people are out on holiday.  It may be wise to run your early bird rates during those slow months with a scheduled increase on March 1st.  Based on this deadline, you want to have a big marketing push for the entire month of February leading up to the March 1st deadline.

Then, maybe you increase to full price right around June.  This is when prices will increase to the full amount and remain there until the event. In June, you are still 6 months out from a November event.  Your ‘sweet spot’ for the entire year, when you will be doing the most sales will likely be the months of April, May, and June.

By this deadline, you will now have created scarcity on the floor plan and you have now turned it into a seller’s market and will be fully justified in selling at full price.

Remember that these dates can always be a bit elastic.  If communication is still hot, you may choose to extend the deadline by a week or less in order to keep momentum and allow more time for prospects who are working on getting internal buy-in or working through legal red tape.  Don’t give prospects too much extra time or you will lose the sense of urgency and lose sales.  No more than a 72-hour extension is recommended.

Tried and Proven Strategy

One strategy that has been incredibly successful for us to sell out floor plans for our clients is to post deadlines that land shortly after competing or complementary events.

Here is how this might play out.  If you are going to a big industry event where you know you will see a lot of your prospects and customers, you may want to put a deadline right after that event.  When you are talking to prospects at the event you may offer them a special for signing up for your event while there on-the-spot or very shortly after.

If you have a deadline that is real and within 1-2 weeks of this event, and it is coupled with a strong price incentive, prospects now have to think of your event in real, practical action terms.  You have a call to action right then and there.  Having this price incentive and deadline now moves the conversation from theoretical to actionable with a sense of urgency.

Still unsure of how a graduated pricing structure could work for your association and event?  We’d be happy to have a conversation to share what we have seen work for other events and markets.  Contact us to set up a free consultation.c_row]


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