Let's face it. Unless you're a huge hallmark event (hello Australian Open) with a glowing reputation and demand to match, you're going to need to put a little bit of work into building up your brand and engaging with your target audience in order to sell tickets or generate calendar bookings.
Especially given these days it's not uncommon for those bookings to come much later than they did pre-2020.
But what to prioritise?
Here are our 5 must-have pillars to a successful online campaign to drive ticket sales or bookings.
1. Organic social media
Make sure you're posting and engaging regularly on the platforms your audience spends time on, and that the content you're posting is customised for that specific platform and its design specs.
Each of the social platforms have their own communities and cultures so it's important to be aware of how your event, venue, or tourism experience fits into that, and how you can use it to authentically build and engage with your own community in that context.
Always think value first so people are more likely to engage with, and share, your content, which will propel your growth and reach.
What does your audience get out of it other than an opportunity to spend money? Entertainment, education, inspiration?
It's a long-term play and success in this area rarely happens overnight but if you stick with it and are consistent, the pay-off can be huge.
2. Paid social media
Social media ads give you the opportunity to amplify your best and most engaging content to a bigger and highly targeted audience.
Furthermore, the platforms are so sophisticated they know who does what and when, so if you tell the algorithm to show your ads to people who are in the market to buy tickets for your type of event or experience, it's going to do a damn good job of finding them.
The creative and end-product still needs to be good enough to convert them, of course, but it's a big leg up when you've got a great product at the right price point and creative content that excites people enough to pull out their credit card.
Ads also really take off and perform better when the organic strategy and implementation is strong.
Time and time again we've seen cheaper cost per purchase when the organic channels are humming along nicely, partly because the platform is better able to identify people outside of your existing audience who will convert, and partly because they reward pages or profiles who are already sending positive user experience signals to the algorithm - after all, they want to keep people on their platform so advertisers continue to spend money with them, so it's a win win to avoid letting your profile become a ghost town in between promo periods.
In terms of budget, once you've run your ads for a little bit, you'll be able to get a sense of how much it's costing you to get a purchase and how much each customer is spending with you (e.g. are they buying multiple tickets or booking for multiple people?).
From there it's simply a maths equation to set your budget in line with your targets, and then do everything you can to try and beat the price through - you guessed it - more organic engagement and high value content your audience loves.
3. Email / list marketing (maybe even SMS/chat if it's relevant to the audience)
In a digital world of constantly changing platforms and algorithms (did you see Insta just announced they're moving back to prioritising image posts again? Talk about whiplash) it's invaluable to own your own database for that reason alone. It's also a very handy tool to directly message your best customers or prospects.
This is something often left as an afterthought until it's too late (even we've been guilty of this at times).
If you're starting from scratch, think about value you can offer people for being on your list. Maybe it's access to early bird tickets, pre-sales, or special discount offers.
Maybe it's the chance to go in a monthly draw to win a double pass to your experience. Or a golden ticket to your venue giving them access to all your events over the course of a month or year. Or a reminder that they have a couple of days left to buy discounted early release tickets before the price goes up.
Once people are on your list, make sure you're letting them know about exciting upcoming events or experiences or special deals. Tell them how they can buy from you!
But also remember to make it engaging in other ways. Don't just sell. Give them a reason to not only subscribe but open and engage with your emails each week, and at the point that you're ready to sell something, you'll have an audience of people ready to pick up what you're putting down.
Also, don't discount SMS messaging, especially if your audience is the right fit for it. Be sparing with SMS marketing because you don't want to come across as spammy but on the special occasion when it's a really high value message for your audience, you've got a near guarantee of that message being seen so it can be really powerful.
4. PR & authority building, testimonials/review generation, or influencer marketing
It always helps to have people outside of your organisation tooting your horn, whether that's through word of mouth, testimonials or reviews, PR and media coverage, or influencer marketing.
Get more leverage out of older-school marketing tactics like print media by featuring the coverage in your organic and paid campaigns for extra clout.
Make sure they are aligned, of course - you don't want to pick just anyone or any media publication here).
You can re-post their content or use it in your advertising to add even more weight to you event and get more people to sit up and take notice.
It's also worth using any testimonials or reviews from existing customers as content here. Anything that helps reassure new customers that they're buying into a high-quality experience.
5. A well-optimised website and purchase experience
This one's about making it easy for people to buy from you at the point that they've made that purchase decision.
You'd be surprised how many people you lose here because it was either too hard to buy, or they lost trust in the product or service as a result of finding this part difficult or uninspiring.
A hack to improve this quickly is to team up with one of the market leaders in online ticketing or calendar booking.
If you need a recommendation let us know. They're all a little different and have strengths and weaknesses so we'd be happy to chat and make a rec based on your specific needs.
Well, there you have it - 5 key strategies we see as being crucial to driving ticket sales online for events, venues, tours, and experiences.
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