Elle McMahon, Founder and CEO of festivals and events growth marketing agency The Ticket Crowd, has some advice for event organizers who are experiencing sluggish sales.
“I would honestly say, do not panic,” she smiles. “The trend now is that people are leaving it to the last minute [to buy tickets], but it doesn't mean that you're going to sell any less tickets. And it doesn't mean that you're not going to make a profit.
“We have been working with festivals who've made much more money this year [and] last year than they ever have done. You just need to work through it.”
Here, McMahon outlines some advice on ways to optimize ticket sales, approach upsells and add-ons, target your social media marketing, and more…
Social Media Event Marketing: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
“Every festival event is unique. So whilst I can tell you what’s working really well for me and my clients at the moment, that might be slightly different for your festival or your event.
“So what I would recommend doing is really looking at your customer avatars, having a look at what’s going to motivate them to buy, what might be a potential barrier to buy a ticket, and how they’re engaging with the social platforms. How are they engaging with your content? How are they engaged with the platform itself?
“Start there, and then build a strategy using that.”
Social Media Marketing Is Important… But It’s Nothing Without the Leadup Work
“Meta Ads have done really well for our customers recently, so much so that for one of our festival clients, for every £1.60 we spent we were getting £150 back as a ticket sale. So the return on that investment was amazing.
“But if we just took that data and ran with that, we’d be forgetting about all the other hard work that went in before that sale – eight months of brand awareness, eight months of campaigning, eight months of getting great content, eight months of engaging with our target audience.
“What led to that great cost per sale, and great cost per acquisition, was all that brilliant work that we did beforehand. So before you focus on the specific channel, look at everything else that goes into what makes your festival so great, and why your audience should engage with you on that platform.”
Lo-fi = High Sales
“Lo-fi content has been fantastic for festivals and events recently.
“Because of the rise of TikTok, people are used to seeing that authentic content. We are hungry for that real lens of life instead of the polished video edits that we’ve been so used to seeing on glossy adverts. The psychology is changing.
“We usually find that video works really well at the top end of the funnel, introducing people to our world, getting them excited about the event and the festival that we’ve got coming up, and then retargeting them perhaps with an offer or incentive using an image or a graphic or something like that.”
Test, Test, Test. Then Test Some More.
“I’m a big believer in testing. We have run some Spotify ads which we did a lot of A/B testing on, because they can be a really good way of tapping into your different artist interests and different genres and things like that.
“We do a lot of A/B testing on audio and visuals as well. Especially testing what captions are working best. Does it work well with music? Or does it work well with a voiceover? So we test every minute detail, because you never know what’s going to be the one that’s going to make the sale reduce by 50% and what’s going to increase it by 50%.
“Test, test, test, and only good things can come from that.”
"We like to increase our ad campaign spend by 5% every day in the last six to eight weeks..."
Look For the Milestones
“We always plan things in terms of milestones, [and] plan our campaigns and spread our ad budgets accordingly.
“So [one of the] the biggest milestones you’re going to get is when you first launch your tickets – that’s when you’re going to get your biggest spike. If you’re doing that in correlation with your lineup [announcement], then you’re going to have one of your biggest spikes there.
“You then start to see trends where it’ll go up around pay days.
“And then the last six to eight weeks especially, that build up towards the festival, you’ll start to see a really steady increase in your sales.
“A little trick that we do – not everyone knows this! – is we like to increase our ad campaign spend by 5% every day in the last six to eight weeks, because you’ll then make sure that you’re getting more ticket sales, you’re not flooding your algorithm with lots more budget, and you’ll get a consistent CPA on that as well.”
But Don’t Ignore the Periods In Between the Spikes
“People hear about you even when they can’t afford to [buy a ticket], but then they will commit when pay day comes. It’s really important that we capture our audience at every stage of that buying decision and journey.
“So we run ad campaigns that go to your top level of the funnel – people who haven’t heard about you before – and then you nurture them through reconsideration campaigns and then retargeting campaigns. Because buying a ticket for a festival isn’t an impulse decision – you have to go and check that your friends want to come with you, your partner wants to come, do we have to get a babysitter… All of those factors come into it.
“So if you can, be there to literally hold their hand throughout that process.”
Your Ticket Sales Aren’t What They Should Be – What Now?
“This is the one that we get a lot of clients coming to us about. They'll say, right, we've done the launch, we've got the lineup, that’s out, you expect this really big hype, you expect this big ticket sales spike to happen. And then when that doesn't happen, what do you do?
“But people are buying later. So rule number one, do not panic, it will be fine. That is my number one rule: do not panic.
"That is my number one rule: do not panic."
“Number two, have a look at what has been working for you really well, recently. We go back to looking at what channels people are engaging with – how has that changed? Maybe it's changed from last year. Should you be focusing more on TikTok now instead of your Instagram page, which you've always done for years and years?
“Just because you've done something last year, doesn't mean it's going to work this year.
“So, remember that people are buying later, and it will be fine. A good example that I can tell you is we have been working with a festival, they actually opened the gates today. We had a big revenue and ticket sale target, and if you looked at the data about five weeks ago, you'd think, probably not going to hit it.
“As of today, we have surpassed the ticket sale and revenue count by over 40%. So even if your festival is in a few months, eight months, a year's time, don't panic. Keep putting the work in, it will happen. And just keep looking at what's working now and focus on that.”
Upsells and Add-Ons: A New Approach
“Instead of looking at them as an upsell, try and look at it from the ticket buyer’s point of view. Look at what your audience is going to find value from, and that will depend on the style of your festival and your event completely.
“We have a range of festivals and we can do different upsells for each. So some of them could be picnic hampers – you can buy a picnic hamper so when the festival gates open, you can literally have it delivered to you so you can watch the beautiful orchestra outside and have a picnic. Or you can get wellness bundles, or queue jumps.
“Anything that will make that experience heightened for that particular customer for that particular festival, work on that, instead of just thinking, ‘What can I chuck at my checkout process to try and make more money?’ Don’t look at it that way. Look at it, ‘How can I enhance the experience that my ticket buyers are going to have when they come to my festival?’ Because that is the best way that you're going to be able to sell these add-ons and ultimately get an additional revenue stream.”
"We’re really seeing a shift where people want to be connected; people want to feel things much more now."
It’s All About the Experience
“I think there’s going to be a shift into more experience-led festivals. We’re really seeing a shift where people want to be connected; people want to feel things much more now. We want to have these real emotional connections with experiences that generally are amazing, that make us feel connected with one another and where we are.
“So if festivals can lean on that and not just say this is an event that we’re selling, [more] it’s an experience for our ticket buyers, then that will only increase your ticket sales and I think the landscape of festivals and events will be beautiful.
“Because then you're not in competition with anyone, right? If you can create your own market, you create your own experience, you eliminate your competition. And that would be amazing.”