Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 28 2016

This Convention Teamed Up With A Pretty Surprising Marketing Partner

David McMillin



When attendees arrive at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center outside Chicago for Walker Stalker Con 2016 at the end of May, some of them will have paid less than their peers for tickets to be part of the two-day celebration of The Walking Dead and all things zombie-related. The difference in price tags won’t only be attributed to VIP passes, one-day tickets and other package offerings. It will be because Walker Stalker Con connected with a new marketing partner: Groupon.

I receive loads of emails from Groupon. I don’t remember when I actually purchased a Groupon offer, but I’m on their list in Chicago now. From markdowns on sporting equipment to concert tickets to yoga classes, Groupon keeps my inbox full of discounts for standard, what-you-would-expect-from-a-daily-deal-site opportunities. That’s why I was surprised to see “convention” in the subject line. In fact, this is the first email I’ve opened from Groupon in a number of months. (And no, it’s not because I love The Walking Dead; it’s because I’m in the convention industry.)

My first thought was kudos to these organizers for experimenting with a new approach to building their audience. In the convention and conference landscape, marketing efforts tend to fall in a traditional line of buying email lists, paying to advertise on social media and running print and digital advertising. These keep the marketing message confined to a relatively small number of prospective attendees. Walker Stalker Con branched out, and in the process, they’ll be reaching a much larger audience. Statistics show that nearly 49 million unique customers have purchased a Groupon in the past 12 months. Translation: Walker Stalker Con has the potential for a dramatic increase in its reach.

MORE: 3 Lessons To Strengthen Your Meeting Marketing Strategy

The Danger Of This Type Of Discount

However, there is a downside to this type of move, too. As every meeting planner and exhibition organizer knows, attendees want the best deal. So, if an attendee who has already paid the regular price of $45 — $55 for one-day admission receives an email alert that he or she could have paid $20 less, the attendee might email or call to ask for a partial refund. Or even worse, he or she might spread the word on social media to other attendees and vent frustrations about paying too much. Then, the organization is dealing with an army of angry attendees who want the same discount.

Most conferences and meetings won’t see the value in partnering with a company like Groupon; their target audiences are too niche for a massive email blast to consumers in a certain city. However, the vast majority of organizations will explore promotional pricing to increase interest, and if timed incorrectly, these discounts can create issues. Does your organization ever offer additional financial incentives? Do you have any rules regarding how low the pricing can go and when it can be offered? Go to Catalyst to share your perspectives on using discounts to drive registration traffic.

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