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Want to sell more? Make it harder to buy

Kelvin Newman, founder of Rough Agenda, which runs the popular BrightonSEO conference, on playing hard to get

In pings another email from another conference organiser extending the early bird price on their ticket sales. It fills me with dread. Don’t they realise: by sending that email to their entire database they have done the exact opposite of their intention.

They wanted to promote their event and to sell more tickets. Instead they’ve implied that their event isn’t actually that great after all and that they are struggling to sell tickets.

The beauty of a well-run event is that it’s hard to replicate. Watching a video of the seminar or reading a post event write up isn’t the same. The delegate needed to be there, at that place, at that time. You should be selling the uniqueness of that experience. Far too often the marketing of that experience sends the exact reverse of that uniqueness.

Sending an email that says: “Don’t worry if you forgot to book, you can still get the cheap price,” is actually saying: “I’m desperate to get any punter through the door”. 

Your customers will think that this event can’t be much good if you’re struggling to get people to attend.

In the world of instant gratification your biggest motivator to selling tickets or sponsorship is ‘Fear of Missing Out’ – known colloquially as ‘FOMO’. Your marketing, promotion and communication needs to be all about creating this ‘FOMO’. Your message should be that the event is an opportunity that can’t be missed.

The best chance to promote your event is to sell out. Your next event will benefit far more from you having to turn a few people away because you don’t have room. That extra bit of revenue is nice, but it’s not as powerful as the message: “Our event was so great more people wanted to come than we could make room for.”

It’s a message of power from an event organiser. It changes the power dynamic of an event dramatically.

Every event will see no-shows. It’s a pain, but it happens. If my event is sold out I can send an email saying: “We’ve got hundreds of people on our waiting list for tickets, if you can’t make it let us know, so we can pass your ticket on to someone else”. The benefits of this are two-fold. You flush out the people who were never going to show in the first place, plus everyone who reads that email is more likely to attend. They know it’s something sought after and valuable and worthy of their most limited resource: their time. 

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