An early bird ticket sale is just one of many ways for increasing event attendance. This is an old-time strategy that has been around for ages. Most veteran event planners can attest to their effectiveness.

Learn all about early bird ticket sales, the best practices, and why they should be incorporated for your next event.

Early Bird Sales Explained

Early bird sales are basically a timeframe where tickets go on sale before the official date of ticket sales for the general public. As you can guess, early bird sales are normally only limited to certain members, such as those with club or VIP membership.

Obviously, there also needs to be some special type of offer during this sales window. The simplest way is to provide a discount off the retail ticket price. However, there are also other ways you can go about it.

You can, for example, provide other incentives with the purchase of a ticket, such as a discount code good for an online purchase, free ticket upgrade to VIP status, free sweepstakes entry, or additional promotional swag that can be picked up at the event.

Who Should Offer Early Bird Ticketing?

Keep in mind that early bird sales are not compatible for every company and event. It’s actually counterproductive if your events tend to sell out quickly. If this is the case, then there is no need for early bird sales as doing so means potential revenue loss stemmed from discounted tickets and/or store discounts, giveaways, etc.

On the other hand, early bird sales can definitely work to your advantage if this is your first event or past events failed to reach attendance goals. If ticket sales are unpredictable, then consider sending out a simple survey to members asking how likely are they to attend event X at this venue and date. If responses indicate that most people are on the fences, then an early bird special just might be what you need to sway those in doubt.

Who Should You Offer Early Bird Ticket Deals to?

This was somewhat touched upon earlier. Obviously, early bird privileges would lose its meaning if the offer was extended to the general public. Be choosy about who gets it. Preferably, it should be reserved for those who have demonstrated themselves to be loyal customers. Here’s some ideas of the demographic you might offer the deal to:

  • Subscribers
  • Those enrolled in a rewards or loyalty membership program
  • Those who have spent X amount of dollars on your company within the last 60 days
  • Those who attended the previous event
  • Those who have referred family and friends to your company

What Are the Benefits?

The benefits are, of course, that you reach ticket sale levels that otherwise may not have been achievable. A higher attendance means more brand awareness and opportunities to convert the casual attendee into a long-term consumer. This is especially important if your company is still a young startup. Acquiring brand recognition early on is vital and may be well worth potential revenue loss from selling tickets at a fraction of the cost.

In addition, by extending the early bird sales to select members, you are letting them know that you acknowledge their patronage, and the offer is your way of saying thank you. This helps retain those who have already shown company loyalty.

How to Price Early Bird Tickets

So is there an ideal discount range? There’s no set rule, though a good rule of thumb is to keep the discount offer around 20% to 40% off the retail ticket price. You don’t want to go lower or higher than that. If you go too low, like 5% or 10%, then people will scoff at it or think you’re being a cheapskate. The discount may also not be high enough to sway people who are still unsure.

Similarly, you don’t want to provide a mega high discount either. There’s two reasons for this. First, an exorbitantly high discount, such as anything over 50%, can hurt the overall revenue. If tickets are originally priced at $50, and you provide a 70% discount, which lowers ticket cost to $15, then that’s a $35 loss for every discounted ticket sold. If you sold 30 early bird tickets, that’s a $1,050 loss, which can be a huge sum for smaller companies.

Secondly, high discounts may also give attendees the impression that the event isn’t all that it’s hyped up to be. People by nature associate value with a monetary cost. If they purchase a ticket that’s been dramatically marked down, then they may second guess whether the event is really all that and a bag of chips.

What Are the Disadvantages?

There are no major disadvantages as long as the early bird sale is implemented strategically. As already mentioned, there is the potential drawback of loss revenue. You may also have to make up the loss somewhere else by compensating in another area, such as giving out less promotional swag, or renting a lower cost venue.

This is the only noticeable drawback, but it’s an important one that needs to be taken into consideration. This is why it was mentioned earlier that early bird sales can be counterproductive and not recommend for companies that normally already do well with respects to ticket sales.

Give Early Bird Sales a Try

Early bird sales may not be right for every company, but it’s definitely worth a try if you anticipate ticket sales to be an uphill battle. It just might be what you need to get some much needed traction for your event.

This is a guest post by Dan McCarthy, Event Manager at JD Parties, an event management company based in the UK. Dan has five years of event project management under his belt. He has worked on many successful events, and currently he shares his knowledge by writing on the company blog. Follow him on Twitter @DanCarthy2.