Why Your Early Bird Ticket Pricing Isn’t Working

An early bird ticket pricing strategy is one of the most popular ways to promote ticket sales for events like conferences, workshops, and seminars.

Despite their popularity, early bird ticket pricing strategies don’t always work out as planned. Some of the common problems we see are tickets not selling quickly enough, tickets selling too quickly, and tickets being sold that don’t cover the costs to run the event.

With over 400,000 active installs of our free WordPress events calendar plugin and many thousands more of our premium calendar add-ons, it’s safe to say we’ve seen our fair share of event ticket strategies. Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way to help you figure out why your early bird ticket pricing isn’t working.

Early Bird Discounts Need To Be Enticing

This might seem obvious, but it’s true. Besides having compelling content to draw people to your event, if you’re using an early bird pricing strategy, it needs to offer enough of a discount to entice people to buy their tickets now instead of waiting until the last minute. Or worse, forget to purchase a ticket at all.

The farther in advance you sell tickets for your event, the better you’ll be able to project your final event costs and budget accordingly. Fixed costs like venue rental and A/V equipment likely won’t change, but variable costs like food and materials will fluctuate based on the number of attendees you have at your event. Advanced ticket sales also get your cash flow moving towards the break-even point, giving you cash on hand to pay deposits and vendor invoices as they are due.

So what makes an early bird discount enticing? That answer depends on your audience AND how well you position the discount.

Take a 50% early bird ticket discount for example. We can all agree 50% off is a pretty substantial discount, right? It is, but if I told you the event ticket is only $10, suddenly it’s not quite such a steal. Saving $5 is always awesome, but it’s not exactly the kind of price break that makes you stop what you’re doing to hurry up and buy a ticket right now.

Figuring out what early bird price point will entice your target audience is equal parts art and science. An easy way to get started is to use your gut, then ask a few trusted, non-partial friends what they think. You can also research how similar events price their tickets and how quickly they sell out to give you an idea of what your attendees are used to paying.

Early Bird Discounts Need To Be Reasonable

There IS such a thing as discounting tickets too much, especially when it comes to early bird pricing. For one thing, you have to cover your costs to produce the event. If you set your pricing too low, you might wind up struggling to break even in the end.

Another issue with overly discounted early bird pricing is creating a false understanding of audience interest. Let’s say you have 200 tickets available for a first-time conference. You decide that your full price is going to be $300 per attendee, but you want to get some momentum going with sales and create a “100 for $100” promotion. Those first 100 tickets sell out within a day. Wow, there must be a huge demand to attend!

Maybe there is, but maybe not. Demand at the $100 price point is likely to be different than demand at the $300 price point. After all, now we’re talking about 3x the investment to attend your event. Events that over-discount their early bird tickets don’t just run the risk of not covering their costs – they also run the risk of over-estimating audience interest & demand.

Early Bird Discounts Need To Be Limited

One of the goals of early bird tickets is to create action (buy a ticket right now instead of waiting for later). People are much more compelled to take that action if there’s an incentive for them to do so. Limiting the time or the quantity early bird tickets are available are two ways to create an incentive to buy now.

Time limits provide an incentive to purchase before the price increases. Email and social media marketing campaigns are great options to promote early bird deadlines. You can announce when early bird tickets will go on sale, send a blast when ticket sales begin, and post reminders to buy as the early bird deadline approaches. With Event Tickets Plus, we make it easy to set the start and end date for your early bird tickets when you create the ticket type for your event.

Limiting the quantity of early bird tickets also provides a sense of urgency for potential attendees to buy now instead of later. After all, if they wait too long, the early bird tickets might be all sold out. As a frequent conference attendee myself, I can tell you that limited quantities for early bird tickets have trained me to always buy my ticket right away for an event I want to attend so I don’t miss out on the best pricing available. (Ok, and maybe I’m a little cheap, too.)

In Summary

While there might be other reasons your early bird pricing strategy isn’t working, these are some of the more common issues you’re likely to come across. The main lessons to take away from this post are to make your early bird discount enticing, don’t discount your tickets too low, and to limit the discount availability. If you do these three things, you’ll have greater chances for ticket sale success.