Promo Codes for Live Events: Making the Most of Offering Less


Everybody loves a bargain. It’s the reason we wait until Labor Day to buy a mattress and that car prices are inflated, so we feel better when we haggle the salesperson down.

If you believe that your event registration is not where you would like it to be, you can give it a jolt by offering a discounted rate with a promo code. Interestingly, charging less can actually help you to earn more.

If you are worried about losing revenue or devaluing your services, there’s no need to fear. First, a sale, even at a discounted rate, is significantly better than none. Second, the value of your event remains unchanged, and you’re increasing the possibility that more people will experience it.

What is a Promo Code?

It’s basically all right there in the name. A promo code is a specific word, phrase, or set of numbers that you offer prospective attendees to enable them to acquire tickets at a promotional price. The level of discount and duration of availability is entirely determined by you.

Promo codes motivate sales because they play on FOMO, someone’s fear of missing out. For any potential attendee who is undecided, a promo code may be the exact nudge they need to get off the fence.

Like any marketing initiative, it is imperative that you clearly define your goals before launching the code. For example, let’s say you are about 20 percent behind your event registration goal. So, if your goal is to close that gap, you would need to determine the number of people who need to register to achieve that target. Next, estimate the amount of time you will need. You can use your current registration rate plus the boost you believe the promo code will bring. Finally, decide if you want to launch the promo code as soon as possible or if there is an approaching time when your audience may be more receptive to the offer.

Common Types of Promo Codes

Early Bird Discounts

A classic – and perhaps the best known and most widely utilized – early bird discounts provide reduced tickets to anyone who registers within a specific time frame. The goal of early bird discounts is to jump-start registration and build momentum that will hopefully carry through the start of the event.

There are two ways that early bird discounts are commonly deployed. The first is just to set an expiration date for the code. For example, the early bird promotion ends two weeks after tickets first go on sale. The second is to limit the promo code to a set number of attendees. For example, the promo code is only good for the first 75 attendees to register, adding an even greater motivation to sign up as soon as possible.

There are even events that will provide the earliest of early bird specials by offering discounted tickets to next year’s expo while attendees are still at the current one. The catch is that the discount ends the moment the current event closes its doors.

Flash Sales

Flash sales are promotions that pop up suddenly and disappear just as quickly. Flash sales are great opportunities to boost registrations during lulls and slow periods. They also generate buzz for your event because people will spread the word to help others take advantage of the limited-time opportunity.

Flash sales can also be run around holidays when people are likely to have their thoughts on things other than registering for your event. Although, it’s a bit of a risk to run a holiday flash sale because people may not be paying attention. You may be better off with a…

Seasonal Promotion

Since you can advertise this sale, before the time when your potential crowd may be distracted, a seasonal promotion is often a better solution for a holiday-based discount. So, when you know people are going to be on the lake for Memorial Day or away with their family during Christmas break, give them a heads up that their promo code will only be valid during those times.

You can also have some fun with seasonal promotions. There are hundreds of unofficial “official” holidays spread throughout the year. For example, February 4 is “Stuffed Mushroom Day,” March 21 is “Common Courtesy Day,” and October 9 is “Curious Events Day.” Practically every day has at least one, and there’s a good chance one of these “holidays” aligns with your brand. Peruse this list, and then you too can offer your crowd some “Eat Your Vegetables Day” savings (June 17).

Benefits for VIPs

You can provide discounts and even free tickets to influencers, speakers, presenters, and all other VIPs through a tactic known as invisible event promos. The best part is that these offers are private and available only to the recipient. So, nobody else needs to know. Invisible promo codes are an effective way to thank people who have helped you with past events (such as a previous speaker) and boost the cachet of your crowd.

Some possible recipients for invisible promo codes include:

  • Veteran Customers – Anyone who has supported your brand or event for a notable amount of time.

  • Speakers – Naturally, you would not ask someone to speak at your event and then require that they pony up for a ticket.

  • Event Staff – You may need to account for everyone who enters the event venue; a specific code for event staff will accomplish this need.

  • VIPs – It can be thrilling for attendees to see a celebrity – including industry-specific celebrities – walking throughout a crowd; increase the likelihood of a celeb’s attendance with a free or discounted offer.

Benefits of Promo Codes

Track Your Efforts

Metrics, it’s all metrics these days. Using promo codes makes it extremely easy to keep track of how well your marketing efforts are working and when. Let’s say you offered two different seasonal promo codes, one over Memorial Day weekend and another over Labor Day weekend. Sales spiked for Memorial Day, thanks to the code, but were stagnant during Labor Day.

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Now, you can review everything about those codes to see why one worked and one didn’t. Did you use social media to heavily promote the Memorial Day code but not the Labor Day one? Is Labor Day too late to expect registrations, or should you have revised the promotional copy as a “last chance” to register?

By tracking the results of promo codes, you will be able to uncover the best approaches for marketing to your crowd.

Entice Groups to Attend

There’s safety in numbers. Some people are more likely to attend an event if they know that friends and colleagues will be there, as well. Try sending group promo codes to large companies and industry organizations to spike attendance from these groups.

Similarly, you can try to encourage managers to bring several of their employees to an event by sending them a group code. If it costs the same to include eight or nine people, it’s highly likely that extra person will be at the event.

Boost Attendance

This one is worth repeating. The main benefit of a promo code is to see a spike in registration. By playing up the limited time nature of these discounts, your crowd is naturally inclined to utilize the offer. It’s hard to resist a bargain.

For more tips on using promo codes for your next live event, and for suggestions on running and tracking a promo code campaign, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.