If you’re an event promoter or organiser, venue manager, or tourism experience operator, chances are you’re well aware of booking and ticket sale patterns and the challenges current trends present.
Since in-person events, tours and experiences, began to return in Australia and globally, for that matter, people have generally, in most cases, been much slower to pull out their wallet and book early in the campaign, with many waiting until the final couple of weeks or even walking up on the day.
Apart from the huge amount of stress this causes, waiting for last minute bookings also flows on to the logistics of event organisation, such as staffing, supplies, transport options and so on, and the stakes only get higher the bigger the event is impacting organisation of the logistics.
While we can’t change market forces, here are some savvy social media marketing strategies we like to use for our clients that can drive a sense of urgency earlier in the campaign, and increase the likelihood that you’ll at least sell enough tickets early in the piece to breathe a little easier.
1. Create a sense of scarcity by using time sensitive or limited release offers, and leverage any supplier or partner databases and communities
One strategy that can work well is using time sensitive or limited-release offers. Use pre-sales that are only open for a certain amount of time and make that known, but be aware that the longer the time period, the more likely the sales push will happen towards the very end of that period (providing you tell people about it in time). Another strategy is to set up limited release ticket levels (e.g. 1st release, 2nd release, final release) which rewards early birds with the best prices or special upgrades or offers. As these tiers fill up, you can leverage messaging around this (e.g. ‘1st release sold out, 2nd release on sale now!’ or ‘limited 2nd release tickets now available!) and post it all over your socials, or in your advertising. This will help ensure all your followers or your broader target audience, who may have been sitting on their hands when it comes to buying a ticket and would otherwise have purchased later, is aware that they might miss out if they don’t act quickly. You could also leverage any partners, suppliers or stakeholders that are participating and connected by offering giveaways or promotional offers that anyone who books before XYZ date is eligible for, and then having those partners cross promote the give away via their own networks and communities. And while we don't recommend offering discounts mid-campaign as it can upset your most loyal, earliest buyers, you can offer time limited discount codes via your suppliers to share with their databases that puts distance between you and the offer but still helps drive bookings.
2. Utilise email marketing at every key stage
Your email list is one of your best marketing assets. It consists of people who are generally closer to your brand or business than your social media following and by nature of signing up, they've 'bought in' to what you're offering already. It's also a very cost effective way to reach your audience and generate sales, and can be a good channel for offering exclusive offers (again, try to time limit them to drive urgency) and building customer loyalty. You can also use more advanced segmentation or automation features to send your customers the more personalised offers, increasing the chances that they'll not only be more likely to actually open and read your emails, but they'll also be more likely to buy tickets sooner rather than later.
3. Use urgency-inducing language (but sparingly and authentically)
When promoting your offer on social media, in email newsletters, or elsewhere, use language that simply but clearly communicates the importance of acting quickly. For example, ‘Don’t miss out’, or ‘nearly sold out’.
A couple of caveats here: One, don't overdo this or people will tire of it and will start to tune you and your posts out; and two, only do this when it's actually true. If you tell people your event is selling fast or nearly sold out, and they arrive and it's clearly not even close to being sold out, they'll lose trust in your marketing when it comes to future event campaigns and it could hurt you in the long run.
4. Use new social media features the platforms are giving extra algorithm power to, such as Broadcast Channels, other savvy features such as Event or Ticket Sale Countdown Timers or chatbot DMs
Instagram’s new Broadcast feature is the latest way you can interact with your followers on a level that feels exclusive and much more intimate, and we also know that every time one of the social platforms introduces a new feature, they’ll give it stronger weight in the algorithm for a while to help get it established, so early adoption can be very beneficial. You can ‘broadcast’ your announcements, pre-sale details, or exclusive offers and codes that are only available to subscribers. This is a massive opportunity to build a really authentic and loyal relationship with your target audience while also driving faster sales, which you can then leverage in your more public marketing strategies as social proof.
Instagram also has a great countdown timer feature in their stories that allows you to build early hype and excitement and notify anyone who subscribes to the countdown timer when tickets are on sale or that an event is coming up.
Finally, chatbots are a slightly more advanced but extremely savvy and effective strategy to get people to sign up for notifications, discount codes, or other event and ticketing updates in a way that is hard for them to ignore and feels much more personal.
5. Build massive social proof and excitement on your announce posts on social media
Even though it’s important to retain some of your advertising budget for the final run into your event just in case tickets are selling late, make sure to budget a good chunk for your announce period and dedicate a lot of that to your announce post. This will ensure that your announce post has as much social proof (likes, comments, shares) as possible, which will then drive a collective sense of urgency and excitement. After all, if you see lots of other people like you are interested in the same event or experience that you are, chances of you missing out on tickets if you don’t act quickly seem much higher.
6. Make sure your creative assets are on point
Your creative is everything when it comes to your marketing. Whether it's video, still images, email or SMS copy, event artwork, or ideally a combination of all of those things, your creative needs to create an emotive response in your target audience. You want to get them excited, inspired, and feel like they'll obtain some sort of value from buying a ticket and attending your event. A handy idea if you're running low on creative options is to phone it in. Get your stakeholders, whether that's exhibitors, performers, speakers, and so on, to submit their own content so you can use that to showcase what people will be able to expect at your event. The sooner you can get these stories in front of people and get them to emotionally buy in to that story or the emotion it's creating for them, the more likely they'll be to not only buy their own tickets, they'll be more compelled to spread the word to their friends and family and create a compounding effect.
7. Build a brand and a healthy, engaged audience so that next time you have something to sell, they're ready to buy
This is a long term, higher investment (both time and money-wise) but it also offers a lot of security and return on investment in the long term. It's a bit of a no-brainer though. If you can build a brand and an audience who cares about what you do year-round instead of trying to turn your socials on and off at peak times, you aren't going to have to spend as much on the ad spend for each event in the long run because you'll have a highly engaged organic audience (and hopefully email database) that you can leverage. This strategy worked exceptionally well for our client Northcote Theatre who (as of the time of writing - March 2023) had over 70% of shows announced on the venue website listed as either sold out or selling fast, and that wouldn't have happened if not for the early brand and community building work we delivered when the venue first launched in the 2021/2022 summer.
In summary, you can increase the likelihood of selling tickets faster for your next event if you can find authentic, on-brand ways of connecting with your target audience and driving their sense of urgency that they should buy tickets sooner rather than later.
If you want help with marketing your next event and having an expert team implement strategies such as these to sell tickets faster, contact us for a chat.