On being late for Late Bird

Published Feb 28 by Jakob, Reading time: 4 Minutes

Beginning of January we published our first blog post about finding the right ticket price. Now, after the end of the early bird sales, we learned some new things. Let's dive into those!

Think About! is a two day tech conference about technology, design and their impact on society. It will take place in a cozy cinema in Cologne, Germany.

What happened so far?

November 15th we launched our ticket sales. This date was preceded by a long and pretty exhausting journey. The designation of this journey was the finding of a reasonable ticket price and a sensible early bird sales deadline.

Early bird sales ended on 15th of February and we can say it was a great success. We sold more tickets than anticipated and reached about one third of our desired ticket sales goal. This is a pretty amazing result and it shows the community's interest in an event like Think About!.

What we learned so far?

Of course, bootstrapping a conference makes you learn a million things along the way. But in regard to ticket pricing and ticket sales we learned some pretty interesting things, and one of those surprised us most:

People buy as late as possible

Amazingly, most of the early birds tickets were sold in the last one-and-a-half weeks before the deadline. While this does not sound surprising in retrospect, we did not anticipate this at such a scale.

Show me the Data!

We sold about a third of our sales goal in the first third of our ticket sales campaign. Could not be better. But we did not anticipate the time distribution of those sales. A simplified forecast based on the early birds would look roughly like this:

Graph that depicts ticket sales over time

This basically translates into the fact that we will only sell a few tickets until the beginning of May when the final run starts (the conference takes place at the 23rd and 24th of May).

How are we affected by this?

The actual costs for making the Think About! happen are unfortunately distributed in an unpleasantly different shape:

Graph that depicts ticket sales over time

By the end of April, we will have several deposit payments (among others the caterer, the venue and the speaker hotels). Those sum up to a five-digit figure.

Our current forecast basically tells us, that we will have to advance these payments from mid of April until end of May, which is a formidable challenge for a bootstrapped startup without any venture capital.

Well then?

So the only way to prevent us from committing such a huge and risky investment upfront is to the same which almost every tech conference does: introducing a late bird deadline, similar to early bird. A late bird ticket category means, that the regular tickets will only be available up until a certain date. From that date on, only late bird tickets can be bought which are a bit more expensive.

This well established sales pattern gives the conference organizers a much better predictability: The sales distribution gets a bit more even and the organizers have the ability to move the majority of the ticket sales in front of the hugest deposit payments. Introducing a late bird deadline changes our forecast like this:

Graph that depicts ticket sales over time

Looking at this new forecast helped us to understand the reasons why most tech conferences opt for a late bird in addition to an early bird sales. Some start a super early bird sale in addition which is even further away from the event.

On Dark Marketing Patterns

We see early bird as a clear advantage for both parties, the potential attendees in their role as buyer and the conference organizers in their role as sellers.

The buyers get a significant discount for free and the sellers get financial predictability and a first spike in their cash flow which is needed for marketing and planning.

Late bird on the other hand has a bit of a Dark Pattern smell. It can feel like an artificially generated scarcity to coerce people into buying. This slightly cheesy feeling was the main reason why we initially stepped away from late bird entirely.

We needed the experience of early bird sales distribution to really understand, why so many conferences go for more than one deadline while selling their tickets.

A guinea pig learning new things

Reaching the Destination of our second Journey

It goes without saying, we are not happy with introducing a late bird deadline after early bird and regular sales already have started a few months ago. But our forecast showed that it is either this or a huge financial risk on our side. And instead of risking a fantastic Think About! Conference we decided to go for the lesser of those two evils.

It is important to know that we did not change the regular ticket prices of 500 EUR. Those prices where the basis for every early bird ticket buyer and thus can not be changed anymore. Instead we opted for a price increase from 500 EUR to 600 EUR on the 16th of April. So until and including the 15th of April you can get your ticket for the regular price of 500 EUR.

Screenshot of the new ticket price structure

We are happy about all the amazing people that believe in our cause to make not only the tech industry but also a part of our society a better and more inclusive place. Thank you so much for supporting us by buying tickets, telling your friends, subscribing to out newsletter or simply following us on twitter. Without all of you, we would not exist.

In the spirit of user feedback, don't hesitate to drop us a message and let us know what you think.

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Jakob Holderbaum

Founder of Think About!, Agile Software Developer & Consultant, Standard Nerd

Twitter | Github | Website | Mail

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