The cost of pricing: When free may not be worth it.

Today I attended a seminar targeting senior marketing professionals in the financial services sector. The content was presumably custom-fit for my level of experience and my business. Given that I could walk there plus a no-cost price tag made it irresistible. However, I ended up leaving early and I’d actually planned to do so even before arriving. I’m sure you’ve done the same thing when it’s a free event because we have nothing invested in the opportunity except our time and attention.

But isn’t free the “right price” from an expense management perspective? Or do those sessions suffer by seeming less compelling?  Does paying a little money make you anticipate value? But these days, why even bother attending when you can probably get similar content through a free one-hour webinar that’s available whenever you want to listen?

Okay; a webinar doesn’t offer the on-site networking or the break from your workplace so that’s not a fair comparison. But I am intrigued by the pricing variable and how that may influence our level of commitment to an event.

Here’s how I’d set my event pricing:

  • Free: if the main event is professional networking, travel is unlikely and vendors may be on the agenda.
  • Small fee (less than $100): for educational forums with no-name facilitators (e.g. industry peers). They may be good, but you won’t remember their names and probably can’t find their books or blogs.
  • Medium fee ($100-$500): association events that may involve travel but to a second-tier location; some targeted/industry keynotes and high -quality networking.
  • Premium fee ($500+): save this for exclusive events or exceptional content with big name keynotes. At this rate, I expect innovative content and expertise that will make me really think, along with highly valuable networking and travel to top-tier locations.

I’ll probably always feel okay leaving early – or even skipping – a free conference but not anything I’ve paid for. There’s an expectation of getting something of value when money’s been exchanged. So if you want to fill the seats, a small fee may be worth it!sxsw_panel2015

A Working Summer Adventure

We sold our home earlier this summer, a process that moved faster than we’d anticipated. In fact so fast, that we hadn’t found a new home yet. The local storage facility solved our transition dilemma and freed us to relocate to our family getaway cottage. However, being a “getaway place” means it’s far from work, which has led to a patchwork of remote days, Airbnb housing and some business travel to manage through this homeowner’s hiatus.

Sound complicated? In fact, it’s been a wonderful adventure. Instead of the routine commute to work and sitting in weekend beach traffic, it’s liberated me from train schedules. And as I’m walking to work, I’ve helped my team gain an unbeatable advantage in our office summer “step challenge.” My husband and I have sampled different city neighborhoods through Airbnb stays, enjoying the tempo and energy of city living after years in the slumbering suburbs. And perhaps best of all, our time at the family getaway has been more enjoyable because we know it’s at least temporarily permanent.

Admittedly, it’s been easy because we’re not anxiously trying to get kids into a particular school system or hastily establishing residency to satisfy a job requirement. However, we’re also navigating this well because we don’t fear uncertainty, a mindset made possible perhaps because we’re a bit older or maybe because we’ve been through worse and know things somehow always manage to work out.

So for now, the adventures of being property-free continue. Thank you, Airbnb, Hotels.com, Uber and Amtrak, whose services have contributed to this successful experiment. And of course, the calendar, too, which fortunately made this all happen during the warm summer months. Chapter two may be very different come winter!

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SurveyMonkey study finds social media apps ruled mobile in first half of 2016 — TechCrunch

A new study from SurveyMonkey Intelligence revealed the 30 most-downloaded, and most-used apps in the American iOS and Android app stores so far this year. Social media apps like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram ruled over mobile games in the first six months of 2016. Because Pokémon Go was released in the US on July 6, that wildly popular new title didn’t even show in…

via SurveyMonkey study finds social media apps ruled mobile in first half of 2016 — TechCrunch

Go Pokemon Go!

There is nothing like the tempting allure of a cultural phenomena. Whether a major sporting event, celebrity gossip or the latest fad, you can’t help but pay attention. Over the past two weeks, Pokemon Go has swept the country – and many other international locations where it’s being released on a staggered basis. Initially, the references were infrequent but within days, every news outlet was filled with stories and videos of Go gangs chasing rare Pokemons.

I downloaded the app last weekend, but poor timing, as it coincided with a visit to a remote area of Maine. Without PokeStops you can’t access free Pokeballs, so it was impossible to catch Pokemon. I had better luck when I got back to the city and multitasked playing Go while running errands. PokeStops were everywhere, and I caught a few Pokemon while waiting in line to pay at CVS. And it wasn’t just me. Summer brings tourists to town and as I continued on my errands, I passed a visiting family chatting in German. The only word I understood was their continual reference to “Pokemon.”

Apparently, there have been over 15 million downloads so far, with users spending more time playing the game than browsing Facebook or Snapchat. So why Pokemon Go?

1. Augmented reality is the critical hook. This is the first opportunity to readily engage with the technology we’ve been hearing about — and it’s pretty cool.
2. Downloads are free so no cost to participate.
3. Unlike most games, you can play alone or with friends.
4. No real skill is involved so anyone with a smartphone can play.
5. Succeeding is easy. With limited effort or playing time, you quickly advance levels and earn “rights” to join a team and set your Pokemon to spar at the Gym.
6. Nostalgia is powerful. Many remember the Pokemon trading cards or cartoon series.
7. And importantly, you can join the water cooler or social media chatter because you’re an insider.

Whether Pokemon Go will be more than a summer fad is hard to know. My guess is that hard-core gamers will remain loyal, while most samplers will find another distraction come fall. Regardless, these events are a great reminder of the power of mass appeal. Hats off to Nintendo for continually figuring out how to stay relevant. And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited to see what else comes along that uses augmented reality.

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Smile for the Camera

I’ve been spring cleaning lately; not because it’s the season, but we’ve decided to sell our home and move closer to the city. Purging drawers of kids-meal toys and soccer tournament patches is straightforward, along with packing long-forgotten clothing for the donation bins. What has taken far longer is wading through my daughters’ stacks of photos (and which were somehow always printed in double quantities!). Thanks to these treasures, I’ve revisited their early years, ranging from school trips to family holidays. It’s been a happy trip down memory lane.

However, this look-back also clarified what we memorialize. We amateur photographers only chronicle happy moments — whether capturing ourselves as tourists, playoff champions or birthday celebrants — we like to smile for the camera. There may be no better proof that we are optimists than our tendency to happily pose for group photos.

I’m not disappointed by the absence of more unfortunate images, as events that were hard will never be forgotten. It just made me think a little about our inclination to filter our camera lens a bit.

Today, most photo images are digital, which means we’re viewing them online or if you’re highly organized, perhaps in a digital frame slide show. Yet as I cleaned drawers and closets, I couldn’t help but feel a bit more engaged as I had to physically touch and sort through those printed images. Was it simply nostalgia or something more? I don’t have a ready answer but I will admit to having saved 80% of those pictures. Yes, they will move with us and maybe someday get sorted and even organized into an album or digitized for eternity. And on those occasional moments that we’re inclined to look at them, I’ll be happy to focus on the good times.

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You’ve Got that Familiar Feeling…

Is there a more elegant welcome to spring than blossoming trees and shrubbery? Whether it’s the cherry blossoms or dogwoods, those canopies are just begging us to step outdoors to enjoy the warming weather. In our yard, we have a lone – but substantial – lilac bush that climbs over our deck and peeks through the window overlooking the kitchen sink. We can’t take any credit for the perfect positioning, as it was here when we bought this house. The best part about it, however, is what it rekindles. My early childhood home in Oregon (yes, we lived there before it became trendy) had a wall of lilac bushes that may have been the extent of our landscaping. And just one look at our blossoms each spring takes me back to my early self, marching around our backyard and pulling on those lilac branches to smell the flowers up close.

Nostalgia is an interesting emotion. It doesn’t necessarily suggest reliving a moment; it just lets you step into a memory. For me, it’s typically something simple that triggers that feeling. It comes unexpectedly or in anticipatory moments, such as vacationing at the same destination or attending a school or family reunion. It’s an affirmation of what we experienced and a reminder of how far we’ve come.

I think I finally get what Yogi Berra meant when he famously quipped “It’s deja vu all over again.” Nostalgia isn’t a once and done experience. For me, as I enjoy those lilacs over the next few weeks and remember my Oregon youth, it recycles what I’ve thought about each May we’ve lived in this home. Maybe this year I’ll even cut a few branches and bring those memories indoors. Lilacs

Purple Rain, Yellow Brick Road

Thoughtfulness about color is typically associated with creative types. Yet we all think about color when we decide how to present ourselves to the world each day. Whether it’s the color of our clothes, the car we drive or the walls in our homes, our palette choices provide some clues as to who we are – or aspire to be. (I assume this has been on your mind, too, given Prince’s passing and his love of all things purple.)

Mark Twain is credited with observing that “clothes make the man.” I was reminded of this recently by a young man’s wardrobe choice, although not a celebrity and we never saw his face. We were walking to a restaurant around 8:00 p.m. on a Friday evening, just as most stores were closing, while visiting Portland, Maine. As we were rounding a corner, a beauty salon caught our attention, as its lights were still on. I glanced inside, which was challenging as half he windows were obscured by frosted film. The salon’s décor was a simple black and white. There was just one customer and his stylist. The man wore nondescript jeans. But what caught my attention were his shoes – a wonderfully optimistic pair of marigold colored Converse sneakers.

It’s not often that you see yellow shoes. Okay, so this was the Maine College of Art’s backyard, so creative souls inhabit the neighborhood. But it was a chilly, early spring evening so this lovely splash of color couldn’t help but bring a smile to my face with all the possibility it communicated. We associate yellow with optimism and cheerfulness.  Yes, warmer days are on the horizon; tomorrow is another day; be brave and live boldly. All those positive sentiments came to mind prompted by a two-second glance at a pair of jaunty sneakers.

Moral of this story is to remember to occasionally try and observe what’s around us as we hurry from place to place. With every visual impression there is a possibility of an idea. Most won’t be inspirational, but some will cause us to think broadly. And some will be worth snapping that quick picture to rekindle – or share – the moment.

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