Why Your Early Bird Promotion Isn’t Working

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Early Bird Discount, Early Bird Campaign, early bird promotionOne of the most popular strategies to fill up your workshops and seminars is the Early Bird Promotion.  However, they are not always as successful as we’d like them to be.  Last week, when I questioned my lawn service company’s bill, I was reminded why.

We have a lawn service that keeps our lawn green and without weeds.  Somehow in the Georgia climate, we were not able to do accomplish this on our own.  No matter how much my husband applied “Weed and Feed”, all it ended up doing was feeding the weeds.  So we gave up and hired a professional. With spring rapidly approaching, they started the application again, but this time the price was higher.

I remembered getting a mailer offering a discount for paying for the full year up front, so I dug that out. I wanted to check the pricing, to be sure I didn’t miss the price increase announcement. Two glaring mistakes immediately jumped out at me that rendered the mailer completely ineffective and probably lost the business quite a bit in cash flow.

The first mistake was the amount of discount offered to prepay for the entire year.  Obviously having people pay in full at the beginning increases you cash flow and gives you capital to spend on customer acquisition, so that you can be even more profitable.  However, the discount they offered was only 8%.  Hardly an incentive to run to my checkbook to prepay.

Lesson: If you want your audience to register and pay early, you have to give them a good discount.  For larger, more expensive events, that discount can be 50% or even more.

The lawn service doesn’t want to give me a 50% discount.  That’s OK, I get it, because their margin most likely isn’t high enough that they will make a profit on it.  What could they do in addition to giving me a discount?  What if they had given me a bonus fire ant treatment when one of their guys was already out here? Not only would it give me an additional incentive to pay my bill early, but it would have been an easy upsell to another program.  Hmmm, a fire ant free yard…

Lesson: What bonus could you offer that your audience would like so much that they would gladly register and pay early?

The more glaring mistake in their flyer though, was their actual calculation of the discount.  After really examining the fine print I did see the price increase announcement. “Unfortunately we will have to increase the price for your lawn care program at many homes this year. You can avoid this increase by taking advantage of the prepay program and lock in your 2010 pricing.”

However, they calculated the discount on the 2010 pricing!  How many more people would have taken them up on their offer if they had prominently displayed that they had to raise their prices, but not only could their existing customers lock in the 2010 pricing, but they could get an even bigger discount by paying early.  Instead of an 8% discount, all of a sudden it is 16%.  And you are giving your customers an opportunity to avoid the price increase.

Lesson: You can increase advance registration by giving your returning attendees the opportunity to avoid price increases at your next event by registering within 6 months of your last event.

The lessons from my lawn care company are clear.  Treat your existing clients like gold: give them good incentives, like large discounts and bonuses to register early for your workshops and seminars.  And make sure that when you do increase your price, that you present your offer so that it offers the largest discount. For more strategies to fill your workshops and seminars, check out the Butts In Seats Virtual Boot Camp.

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Daphne Bousquet, CMP

Daphne Bousquet, CMP

For more strategies to make your workshops and seminars more profitable, you’ll want to pick up a copy of the free report "Three Simple Secrets To Making 10K In A Day With Small Workshops." Daphne Bousquet uses her 20+ years of event industry experience to create profitable event strategies and marketing for coaches, entrepreneurs, speakers and self employed professionals that want to grow their businesses with workshops and seminars. She is the creator of the Butts In Seats Virtual Boot Camp, a unique digital course that teaches you how to fill your events with your ideal audience.
Daphne Bousquet, CMP
Daphne Bousquet, CMP
Daphne Bousquet, CMP


  1. Hi Daphne-
    I’m new to event planning. Just volunteering my time for a really great local non-profit that provides sport and recreation opportunities to people with disabilities. We created a Benefit Bike Ride and Walk a couple years ago and we’ve decided to offer an early bird special this year. I’m torn between offering a $10 discount or a free t shirt? My gut says the cash is more motivating to the participants, but the tee give us some marketing, assuming people will wear it. I’d love to know your thoughts.

    • Daphne Bousquet, CMP says:

      People love free T-Shirts. Depending on the cost of the ride, $10 may not be that big of a discount. It is all about the perceived value. Sometimes the T-shirt is perceived to be more than $10, especially if you sell it at the event for more than $10.

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