For many event organisers, there’s nothing more nail-baiting, nerve inducing or sleep disturbing than weeks of flat ticket sales, where you’re crossing your fingers that your marketing will pay off and you’ll see that spike of activity in time to sell out and meet your targets.

Our exclusive research found that on average, paid events should see 50% of their ticket sales revenue sold 1 month before the event takes place, with 80% sold before the day of the event.

The question is: how can you drive more advance ticket sales, so the sales ramp up is less scary in the few weeks just before your event? How do you convince people to commit earlier in the sales cycle, so you can sleep easier in the days running up to your event?

Here are 5 ideas for you to try.

1. Time-based exclusives  

People love getting things for free, and they also like it when they’re getting the most value out of what they’re paying for.

A study has shown that even just receiving a mint (or two) after your meal at a restaurant makes you feel more predisposed to giving a bigger tip.

So how can you use this psychological trait to help increase your advance ticket sales?

By offering people some free/exclusive value if they book before a certain date.

For example if you’re running a conference, you might offer up an interactive Q&A with your keynote speaker, but only for those already booked onto your event before a certain date.

In fact, you could do the same for any event with a star draw – such as a celebrity chef at your food & drink festival, the headline act for your gig or music festival, or the most popular player in the team for a spectator sports event.

Other ideas you could employ include offering special discounts on the day of the event, a free upgrade to a premium seat/package, or really anything else that your audience would find interesting/valuable, and be willing to pay early to secure the privilege.

2. Limited Availability

Another thing that’s pretty common amongst people is their displeasure at missing out on something.

There are plenty of documented examples of this, which are largely based on Robert Cialdini’s seminal book ‘Influence: The Art of Persuasion,’ in which he speaks about the power of scarcity for motivating people to buy.

For your events, you can use this psychological principle to sell advance tickets by offering only a limited number of tickets at a certain price; or you can tier them so they’re the same price, but each ticket type has different benefits associated with it.

Because of the popularity of BrightonSEO, the founder Kelvin Newman is able to use scarcity to help sell out his event in just a matter of minutes. You can learn more about how he’s achieved this by watching this webinar.

3. Discounts

Another variant on the above would be to offer a discount if people book earlier, often known as an ‘early bird’ in the conference and exhibition world, or just ‘cheaper tickets’ to everyone else!

Whether you run a large arts festival or a small workshop, time-based discounts have been proven to work for decades, and show no signs of stopping their effectiveness.

There’s just a few things you need to consider when running discounts to drive advance ticket sales.

Firstly, make sure you’ve worked out your finances properly, and that you won’t be cutting into your profit margins too much by offering an overly generous discount just to build momentum. You might also want to limit the number of discounted tickets available by volume (not just time), in case they’re more popular than anticipated.

Secondly, you will need to make sure they’re substantial enough to change behaviour. If the discount is too small, the incentive to book early is also small, and may not be enough to persuade many people to buy their tickets in advance.

Finally, consider creating more than one discount, so that you can create regular patterns of buying activity.

For more details on how to create a winning pricing strategy, we’ve got a great guide for you.

4. Flexible Refund Policy

Something that really puts people off buying advance tickets is having a strict (or unknown) refund policy.

Everyone knows that we can’t predict the future, and so if you’re trying to get people to commit to your event months before it takes place, they might be worried than when the time comes, they’re unable to attend.

Understanding your refund policy will help them clarify if they’re ok with the conditions you’ve set; and if you offer a flexible policy they’ll feel even more comfortable booking now.

You might then worry that you’ll have a load of refunds to process close to the event, harming your bottom line; or that you then can’t accurately predict numbers for catering and other operational considerations.

However you can manage this risk.

For example you might only offer a full refund 6 weeks before your event takes place, and then staggered partial refunds after that, perhaps with no refunds (but accepting transferral of the ticket) if it’s within a week of the event taking place.

You might even want to explain why – at this point you’ll have had to pay all your event’s costs and so you’re unable to refund the money so close to the event. People are often understanding when they know the reason behind decisions.

5. Retarget

Finally, another tactic you can use to sell more advance tickets is by utilising the power of retargeting.

This is where you track people coming to your website, or your Eventbrite page, using things like the Facebook conversion pixel (here’s how to add it to your page.)

It then allows you to ‘retarget’ visitors who are interested in your event, but don’t actually buy a ticket, with specific ads that remind them they haven’t yet bought a ticket.

You could even combine one of the other techniques above, such as offering a discount, or an exclusive offer, if they book now.

For more details on how to get great results from retargeting, you should read our practical guide to Online Marketing and Advertising for Event Managers. 

In conclusion

You don’t have to suffer from nerves in the weeks running up to your event, wondering if sales will tick up and enough people will book last-minute to make it a success.

By employing some of the strategies mentioned above you can get people to commit much earlier, so you enjoy seeing a steady stream of advance ticket sales coming in, letting you sleep soundly at night, knowing your event will be both a financial (and critical) success.

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