Coded Messages: Using Promo Codes to Skyrocket Your Event’s Registration


Ticket sales for events tend to come in waves. Generally, there is a high demand for tickets when they first become available and as the event nears. During the stretch in between, there will be periods of slow sales and high sales. Based on your industry, time of year, and experience with previous events, you may be able to predict these highs and lows of your event’s ticket sales.

In the end, the most important element is that you meet or exceed your sales goals. If you notice that sales are lagging or those bursts of sales are just not occurring (or you may simply want to give those sales a little nudge), it may be time to present your potential attendees with a gift by offering reduced ticket prices with a promo code.

Promo Codes Vs. Coupons

Although promo codes may be embedded in coupons, they are not coupons. Yes, promo codes and coupons share some similarities. Both items allow a user to receive a reduced cost for a specific item. The main difference is that coupons are physical items, while promo codes are virtual.


The physical nature of coupons presents them with some limitations. The first is distribution. Coupons are mailed or attached to another piece of promotional material. With the first, at least it is sent to a specific household. With the second, who receives it is, more or less, completely random. It is hard to ensure that the right person gets a coupon. Even if they do, you cannot be sure that they use it. The second issue with coupons is the risk of abuse. Because coupons are physical, it is easy for people with dishonest intentions to create forgeries.

Conversely, the virtual nature of promo codes gives them several benefits. You can send promo codes to a very specific audience. Would you like to try to upsell past attendees on a VIP package? Then send a promo code only to those exact people in your database. Plus, you can track each code so you know exactly who used it and when. The ability to closely monitor promo codes is perhaps their most beneficial feature.

Tracking the ROI of Your Promo Codes

Determining the ROI of your promotional code efforts can be as broad or detailed as you wish. It all comes down to the codes you supply to recipients.

When you set up a promo code campaign, create a series of ads to ensure that different groups of customers receive different codes. For example, you may want to use a variety of social media channels to promote a discount on your tickets. By creating a unique code, you will know the success rate for every channel. Not only can you compare Facebook to Twitter, but you can also know the time of day when someone clicked, the view rate for the promotion, and the length of time between viewing the offer and using it.

Tracking this information can give you a clear picture of which social media channels your audience uses, the best time to reach them, and the average conversion rate.

Creating Promo Codes for Your Crowd

Abandoned Carts

The virtual aisles of ecommerce retailers are littered with half-filled carts abandoned by shoppers. Your event registration page is likely in the same condition. For whatever reason, several potential attendees get right to the brink of purchasing a ticket and then flee without committing.

The good news is that 99.9 percent of the people who visit a registration page are interested in the event. The goal now is to move them from interested to invested. To improve their motivation to register, send them a promo code with a discounted ticket price. Also, since these people are known to dawdle, don’t give them time to hesitate. Put a hard and fast time limit on the offer.

Flash Sales

Speaking of time limits, people love a bargain almost as much as they love feeling like part of a group that received a special offer. You can fulfill both of those wants with a flash sale.

Flash sales are promotions that occur unexpectedly and disappear just as quickly. These offers are always accompanied by the ticking clock of a looming deadline. Flash sales can be extremely effective because people will share the deal to help others take advantage of the limited-time opportunity, which generates buzz for your event. So, be sure to tell recipients they can forward the deal to friends and colleagues. These promotions can be very effective in increasing sales during slow periods.

Promoting and Tracking Referrals

Some of your best marketing comes from brand advocates who are so enamored with your event they shout about its virtues on social media. You can help out these unicorns by providing them with a promo code they can include in their posts. Since you can monitor which brand advocate brings in the most referrals, you could offer a bonus to those who bring in the highest amount. Possibilities for the bonus include reduced or free tickets or event swag.

Early Bird Discounts

It’s always a relief to achieve a burst of ticket sales early. That’s the intent of an early bird discount, which provides reduced tickets to anyone who registers within an established time frame.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to early bird discounts. The first is to set an expiration date for the code. For example, one week after tickets go on sale, the early bird promotion ends. The second is to restrict the promo code to a predetermined number of attendees. For example, only the first 100 attendees who register receive the discount. This adds even greater encouragement for people to sign up as soon as possible.

Some events offer the earliest of early bird specials by providing significantly discounted tickets to next year’s expo while attendees are at the current one. The catch is that the offer expires the instant the doors close at the current event.

Sponsor Promo Codes

Sponsors have a vested interest in your event having a high attendance rate of engaged and interested attendees. Provide your sponsors with the opportunity to boost attendance by supplying promo codes they can give to their customers.

You could even include these codes as part of the sponsorship packages. For example, a lower tier may receive a 15 percent off code, while the next tier receives a 25 percent off code. You could even provide some free tickets to the top tiers. Free tickets are tracked through a process known as invisible codes, which allows you to monitor the code even though the ticket is free.

Providing promo codes to sponsors helps them form a strong relationship with your event while expanding your reach with their customers.

In-House Promo Codes

Reward your staff by allowing them to provide a bonus to their best clients and customers with an offer of discounted tickets. This helps staff members who are not a part of the events team to have a stake in the event’s success. The more you spread these promo codes around internally, you are likely to see more significant investments from all departments. To further motivate your staff, add a gamification element to ticket sales, such as offering a prize to the person who brings in the most registrations.