We all love free stuff. There are massive online communities solely dedicated to getting things for free. The popular online community Reddit > Freebies alone has 685,000 members, and websites dedicated to free “things” regularly attract millions of visitors a month.
So, how about free event tickets? It may sound counterintuitive, but should you give away free tickets to make your event successful? And can free tickets boost your bottom line in ticket sales and attendance?
Let’s talk about complimentary tickets and why they may or may not be a good idea for your next business event.
What Are Comp Tickets?
Complimentary tickets are, well, tickets that are complimentary (a.k.a free). They are event tickets that you give away for free in hopes of attracting big fish to your event, nurturing valuable leads, or boosting your overall marketing efforts.
While every event will use comp tickets in their unique way, they all share the same basic principle — they’re an investment in your event. You’re giving away free tickets to improve your event’s outcome and guest experience. At least… in theory.
Do Comp Tickets Really Work?
Yes… and sometimes no. Comp tickets work in certain situations for certain events.
For example, you may want to attract some valuable keynote speakers to boost the overall image of your next event. You can offer those speakers comp tickets to get them in-the-door and the crowd will follow.
Or, you could offer comp tickets to your biggest prospects or donors in an attempt to get them into and involved with future events.
There are plenty of situations where comp tickets work. But be careful. You don’t want to give away too many comp tickets, and you certainly don’t want to devalue your event by flooding it with freebies.
Let’s take a look at some of the top pros and cons of comp tickets to give you a better idea of their value.
- Boost your Word-of-Mouth advertising: When you give someone something, they love to talk about, especially when it is free. Comp tickets are incentives. So, like most incentives, they get people talking. And, seeing as how 92% of people trust recommendations from friends & family over ANY other marketing method, that word-of-mouth can be a booster shot for your event. By giving out just one comp ticket, it’s likely that person isn’t going to want to attend your event alone, meaning they’ll invite others to come with them.
- It lets you nurture leads: Whether you’re a B2B (business-to-business) brand practicing account-based marketing or you’re a nonprofit chasing that big fish donor, giving free tickets to prospects helps get them in-the-door. And, nothing is better than having your leads in your territory.
- It’s good for positive branding: Who doesn’t love someone who is giving them free tickets? Take the time to reach out to prospects personally and say: “Hey, I really like what you do, and I want to give you some free tickets to the event I’m holding. I would love to talk shop sometime. Let me know if you’re interested.” Even if they don’t come to the event, they will remember the effort and authenticity.
- You can devalue your business: When they’re used right, comp tickets can be a significant driver for your events. But, it’s not difficult to use them wrong. Overly liberal comp policies or handouts can quickly bleed your event dry. Plus, if half of your guests get in for free, the overall value of your event goes down — and it remains that way year-after-year because it becomes expected. Don’t just hand tickets out because you’re not confident in your event. That’s a surefire way to set yourself up for failure.
- You get more no shows: The more free tickets you give out, the more empty seats you will have. Attendance rates hover around 50% for free events. When people don’t have money tied to their ticket, it’s easy to skip the event last minute. Don’t give out so many comp tickets or you’ll start shrinking the crowd at your own event. Attendees will notice, and all of your workshops, breakout sessions, and activities will feel much less impactful.
- You could run into discovery frictions: If your paid guests discover that you’ve given out comp tickets, you could run into issues. This usually happens at expensive events. If you’re charging over $1k a ticket, keep your comp ticket list really slim and geared towards employees, special guests, artsists, etc. Otherwise, it will start to feel like a scam to your paid attendees. No one enjoys feeling like they’re getting “ripped off.”
To explore the different ticket types and packages Purplepass can offer your event, visit our ticketing page here. You can learn more about our modern ticketing software and everything our event management platform can offer you by clicking below.