The debate around whether to offer an early bird ticket release is one of the most commonly debated topics for the team charged with setting your event’s ticketing strategy. Here at Ticketebo we see a large number of pricing strategies adopted: many successful (and others not so) - but the most common ones we see are variations of Early Bird incentives.
What is an early bird offer?
An early bird offer is a ticketing strategy which rewards customers who buy tickets early via an offer of some kind.
Types of early bird offer
The most popular types of early bird offers we see are offers based around price: essentially Buy early and save money. However other early bird strategies include offering customers extra entitlements such as product giveaways, souvenirs, prize entry, event privileges, or "money can’t buy" experiences.
Who should offer Early Bird ticketing offers?
Early Bird strategies are definitely not the answer for everyone. For example, if your event is going to sell out easily, why would you choose to lose margin by providing an early bird offer - as most early bird offers will cost you something to deliver (eg reduced revenues, giveaways costs, extra overheads etc).
What are the benefits of a good early bird ticketing strategy?
Success breeds success - and there is nothing better to help sell more tickets (and sponsorships sales), than being able to genuinely tell the world that tickets are flying out the door.
Having a group of people with their tickets in their hands delivers you a committed group of attendees who, by definition, are now advocates for your event. They will be out there telling others about your event which they are attending and encouraging others to join them. They are in effect your (free) promotional marketing team out there on the streets. The value of these people on your marketing efforts should not be under estimated.
If your ticketing provider also allows you to draw down on ticket revenues sold for the current event, then these funds can be invested to make this year’s even better (eg being able to commit to more marketing or affording that extra headline act - which in turn will help sell more tickets)
Who are early bird ticket buyers and why are they important?
Broadly speaking there are 2 types of early bird ticket buyer: a) your event's greatest fans and b) those patrons who are price sensitive.
For your greatest fans providing an early bird offer only keeps them more onside. For the price sensitive attendee the early bird offer can be the difference of being able to afford to come along or not.
And from a marketing perspective when ticket prices have gone up (which they generally do each year), being able to promote a ticket tier price point which is less than last year's standard prices is a good way to soften the blow.
If offering a pricing discount – how much should you offer off?
Offer too little and the customer will not take up the offer; but offer too much and you are walking away from straight profit. We recommend price differentials of around 15% (and higher) will resonate with customers to act now. But note: the longer out (from your event) that you are asking a customer to commit then your offer should be more generous.
What are the disadvantages?
There is one main drawback to Early Bird strategies: the incentive you offer will usually cost your event something (whether it is lost revenue or a hard cost in terms of any product giveaway). But when assessing the costs of the promotion be sure to balance this by also considering how much additional marketing spend you would have had to pay to achieve the same amount of ticket sales.
The reason Early Bird pricing strategies are so popular is that they do work and are cost effective. Moreover many customers fully offset the cost of the early bird discount by charging more at the gate. For a broader review of other pricing strategies, you may find this article of benefit.
So if you are like most events and your tickets don’t fly out the door on their own, then a solid ticketing strategy - which includes an enticing early bird offer - is a great way to get strong tickets sales early. Early Bird Offers don’t have to just be price based incentives, so have a think about how you can also bulk up the offer with other inclusions which will in turn make your advocates even greater fans - telling the world to come along and see what they have been missing out on!