Cracking the Value Code: How to Price Your Association’s Learning Programs

August 24, 2023
Price tag with three dollar signs
In the wake of the Covid-19 disruption, the association industry has undergone a rapid digital transformation, inspiring organizations to reimagine their education delivery methods. This paradigm shift has ushered in a new era of online learning opportunities for their members. If your association has already embarked on the digital transformation journey, it's essential to take the next crucial step.

Are you ready to align your offerings with the evolving needs of your members and sponsors? The time has come to formulate a comprehensive strategy and conduct a thorough analysis to ensure your educational programs are not only valuable but also appropriately priced.

As you delve into assessing your learning product landscape, you'll likely encounter recurring challenges related to determining the right "value" and setting the optimal "pricing." How can you effectively showcase the value of your learning offerings while generating sustainable revenue from your current and future products?

Cracking the code to unlock value and pricing strategies lies at the core of your association’s success. Dr. Michael Tatonetti of Pricing for Associations has distilled his insights into a powerful 5-step process. This approach will guide you in shaping a robust pricing strategy for your eLearning programs.

Dr. Tatonetti recently unveiled this transformative process in a webinar hosted by Blue Sky eLearn. Dive into the details and gain a thorough understanding of how to effectively price your learning programs. Your association's journey towards optimized eLearning program pricing starts here.

Step 1: Define the value you give internally

When it comes to your association's offerings, the initial step entails establishing quantitative value propositions. These value propositions involve quantifying the value or return-on-investment (ROI) of your offerings in numerical terms.

Consider these real-world examples: an internet provider promising a 99% uptime or a consultant guaranteeing a 10% boost in revenue. These are instances of quantitative value propositions in action.

Now, let's delve into a scenario familiar to associations. Imagine your association is organizing a virtual conference. Here's how quantitative value propositions could come into play:

  • From the perspective of association members, the quantitative value could revolve around the credits they accrue by participating in the event.
  • From a sponsor's standpoint, the quantitative value might be linked to the projected number of registrants for the virtual conference.

Associations generally excel in defining their quantitative value propositions. Yet, where challenges can emerge is in crafting qualitative value propositions. Unlike their quantifiable counterparts, qualitative value propositions are more subjective and varied. Dr. Tatonetti's counsel is to shape your quantitative value propositions according to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Let's break down Maslow's Hierarchy into its five tiers and examine how they relate to association members in their professional journeys:

  • The foundational tier encompasses physiological needs like food, clothing, and shelter.
  • The second tier pertains to safety—a sense of security at work, in your surroundings, or anywhere else.

These initial two tiers can be likened to basic qualitative value propositions, encompassing aspects such as job security, opportunities for growth, promotions, and salary increases.

  • The third tier highlights belongingness, which you can equate to the context of membership. Membership brings together individuals with shared interests, fostering networking among those facing similar challenges and potentially providing solutions.
  • The fourth tier involves self-esteem, nurturing self-assurance both personally and organizationally. Within an association membership this could encompass volunteering, teaching segments of learning programs, mentorship initiatives, or receiving accolades.
  • The pinnacle of the hierarchy is self-actualization, which may involve board service, becoming a fellow, or contributing to educational program enhancements through task forces. These opportunities cater to individuals across career stages, spanning from early professionals to seasoned experts, within both professional associations and trade organizations.

As your association navigates these tiers of value propositions, the path to unlocking value and optimizing pricing for your eLearning programs becomes clearer.

Step 2: Discover more value externally

To bolster your efforts in shaping a well-informed pricing strategy, it's critical to take the time to do both member and sponsor market research. This phase not only empowers you with valuable insights but also enhances your understanding of external perceptions and expectations.

Member Market Research

Employ a variety of tools such as surveys, virtual focus groups, and phone conversations with influential leaders within your membership network. Arm yourself with concise value statements and ask participants about the significance they attach to each statement.

After each interaction, seize the opportunity to quantify the value they perceive and solicit candid feedback. Opt for surveys and focus groups as preferred channels, steering clear of one-on-one interviews unless specific stakeholders warrant deeper exploration. Remember to capture their contact information, and ask permission for future follow-ups, which opens avenues to engage them in focus group discussions.

Curate persona-based questions to gain a comprehensive grasp of their professional career stage, frequency of course completions or certifications, and alternate sources they tap into for similar learning experiences. These insights enable you to unearth gaps and areas for improvement, as well as glean lessons from other platforms offering similar learning opportunities.

Sponsor Market Research: Navigating B2B Dynamics

When it comes to sponsors, the dynamics shift to B2B relationships. Engage in phone conversations and meetings to unmask their values and motivations. A critical tactic is to assess their understanding and alignment with your offerings. By clarifying their aspirations—for instance, uncovering that their ultimate objective is to gather a substantial number of leads—you ensure a congruent partnership.

In the realm of B2B sales, it's paramount to quantify the value you bring to the table. Drawing parallels, remember the adage of selling a Ford rather than a faster horse—focus on delivering comprehensive solutions that truly address their requirements.

As you initiate conversations with sponsors, emphasize grasping their marketing objectives and allocated budgets. This approach dispels the notion of mere price comparison and instead places emphasis on aligning your offerings with their distinctive marketing objectives and budget. In this way, you position your association as a valued partner, attuned to their aspirations, and capable of providing measurable value.

By diligently conducting market research among both members and sponsors, your association paves the way to pricing strategies rooted in real-world insights and a profound understanding of external perspectives.

Step 3: Write your value propositions

With a comprehensive understanding of your quantitative and qualitative value propositions, coupled with insights gleaned from thorough market research, you're now poised to craft your value propositions. Dr. Tatonetti's shared examples of how these value propositions can take shape in the context of an association's virtual learning event.

For Attendees
  • "Unlike our in-person event, you can access every single session live and on-demand, so you don’t have to rush between sessions or miss out on great content.”
  • "Attendees will have access to all 40 sessions—a 250% increase in training and knowledge!”
For Sponsors
  • "No need to put in sweat-equity assembling booths. We’ll set up your landing page with a demo scheduling tool, bringing the leads right to you!”
  • "We’re proud to grow from 500 in-person attendees (50 of which might be great leads) to over 2,000 registrants—quadrupling your pool of leads."

As you mold these value propositions, imagine them as powerful narratives that highlight the unique advantages your learning program offers to both attendees and sponsors. By infusing your propositions with the essence of convenience, breadth of content, and enhanced engagement, you'll seamlessly align your pricing strategy with the real-world value your eLearning programs bring to the table.

Step 4: Measure the value for pricing

Now that you've determined your value proposition, how do you price your association's learning programs? The secret is to ask your audience. You've already performed your initial market research with members and sponsors, now you can segment and survey those who are the most likely audience for your learning product or program offering to uncover the data.

There are a few strategies Dr. Tatonetti recommends to mine this valuable feedback:

Open Pricing Analysis

With an open pricing analysis, known as the Van Westendorp methodology, you survey your audience segment with a set of open-ended questions:

  • At what price point is this product too expensive?
  • At what price point is this product expensive but worth considering?
  • At what price point is this product inexpensive?
  • At what price point is this product too cheap to be of value?

After presenting this series of questions, plot the answers on a graph and determine where they interest to find your price range.

Closed Pricing Analysis

The closed pricing analysis is a simpler way to get quick feedback but doesn't provide the range of information that an Open Pricing Analysis can deliver. In a closed analysis, you will send your audience segment a choice of:

Option A: The pricing and benefits of the product or program that they are already paying for; or

Option B: An enhanced product or program at a higher price point that details the additional benefits they would receive.

You can further enhance this analysis by adding an Option C and surveying whether a third option would be more appealing to your audience. Based on how your audience responds, you can typically surmise whether a price is too low, too high, or if they are interested in enhanced member benefits or programs.

Tip: Once you've performed your pricing analysis, do a final market test with the price and value propositions to ensure your marketing and sales is ready before launch!

Step 5: Communicate and Sell

It's time to put your plan into action. Communicating change (especially when it comes to an increase to existing pricing) can be challenging. That's why it's important to focus on the value you're bringing to members and sponsors in your marketing messaging and communications. Remember these tips for marketing your value to both members and sponsors:

Marketing Pricing to Your Members
  • Share your evolution! You've made these changes by taking the time to listen to what your members need, therefore adding more value to their membership and focusing on their professional growth. Let your messaging convey that "We heard you..."
  • Highlight the qualitative and quantitative value that you've worked so hard to define.
  • Make it easy to understand. Think through any and all questions that could be a stumbling block for members, and ensure the answers are readily accessible. Don’t be afraid to create a demo video or collect beta testimonials to encourage buy-in.
Marketing Pricing to Sponsors
  • Give them time to digest. If you meet resistance right away, don’t rush to discount your offerings.
  • Take a “Yes, if‚” approach to discounting. Remove items as they remove spend.
  • Think long term. Being disciplined in your approach (meaning not discounting left and right and negating your initial strategy) communicates that you truly understand your association’s long-term value.

Mastering the art of pricing for your association’s eLearning offerings requires a blend of defining internal values and external market research. Dr. Michael Tatonetti's strategic 5-step process stands as a guide to empower associations in crafting pricing strategies that not only mirror the value of their programs but also align seamlessly with the needs of members and sponsors.

However, effective pricing is more than a solitary decision; it's a dialogue. Driven by value and fueled by insights from open and closed pricing analyses, associations can evolve their pricing structures to deliver optimal value, ensuring sustainable revenue streams. By weaving these strategic decisions into compelling narratives for both members and sponsors, associations can cement their position as value-driven partners, fostering growth, engagement, and enduring success in the ever-evolving landscape of eLearning programs.

And remember—this 5-step process can even be applied to sponsorship, membership, certification, education, in-person events, virtual events, or the next big thing your team creates!

Interested in a deeper dive? Watch the recording of our webinar, Cracking the Value Code: Uncovering Strategies for Pricing Your Learning Programs!

About Dr. Michael Tatonetti

Dr. Michael Tatonetti is a Certified Association Executive and Certified Pricing Professional on a mission to advance associations in their pricing models for financial sustainability. As the Founder of Pricing for Associations, he and his team work with associations to harmonize pricing and value across membership, education, sponsorship, events, and marketing. Dr. Michael is a proud Association Forum Forty Under 40 honoree for his dedication to the association field. You can learn more about the work his team is doing at

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