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Use incentives to supercharge your event marketing strategy

By Kate Monica|6 min read|Updated Jan 19, 2024

An event ticket, a calendar, an an incentive.

Conferences, webinars, and other events are a big investment, whether you’re a sponsor, attendee, or host. An attractive, cost-efficient incentive can help you drive more leads and get a higher ROI.

The power of event incentives derives from our wiring as social beings motivated by rewards. More on that later. First: everything you need to know about your options for event incentives.

What is an event incentive?

An event incentive is any reward that motivates people to attend or participate in your event and associated activities. These incentives can include anything from a game or lottery prize to a gift card or dinner voucher. 

What are the different types of event incentives?

There are a number of different incentives you can offer event and webinar attendees, and some are more apt than others depending on your goals. For example, if you’re looking to increase attendance at a sponsored happy hour event, it may make sense to offer Uber credits to cover each participant’s ride to and from the venue. 

This is something we’ve done at Tremendous to promote events and decrease no-show rates. It’s a welcome added convenience that gives potential attendees one less thing to worry about. 

Meanwhile, if you want to ensure attendees are actively paying attention throughout your webinar, consider including quizzes with gift card prizes at regular intervals throughout your presentation. 

Again, we rely on this tactic frequently. Not only is it a good way to keep people tuned in, but it creates a positive association with your brand. You’ve dropped some knowledge, and also given them a small monetary reward for their time. 

Below are a few examples of event incentives that can help boost attendance, engagement, or both:

  • Gifts and vouchers are great for getting people in the door or encouraging people to interact throughout your webinar or event. Offer a gift card to those who fill out a survey or sign up for a demo, or give every attendee a lunch voucher just for showing up. Gifts and vouchers can be physical or digital, and you don’t need to spend much to get your attendees’ attention. Even $10-$25 for coffee or lunch will suffice. If you use Tremendous to send it, recipients can choose how they want to redeem their reward, so the gift will be useful for anyone, just about anywhere — even if there’s no Starbucks nearby. 

  • Games, contests, and lotteries encourage engagement at your booth, or throughout your webinar. A quiz related to your presentation or about industry trends with a $10 prize will motivate attendees to pay closer attention. A lottery at your booth can drive more people to stop by. This kind of incentive structure allows your marketing team to get creative while increasing foot traffic, participation, or demo sign-ups. 

  • Access and discounts, like special pricing or access to exclusive content, are both great options to make guests feel like they’re getting something unique and limited without breaking the bank. 

A good incentive strategy stacks multiple types of incentives. Hosting contests and quizzes throughout your webinar, for example, and ending with an exclusive referral reward offer can influence attendee behavior during and after your event. 

Are event incentives actually effective?

We’ll be honest: to date, there’s little compelling data (beyond anecdotes) that directly supports the theory that incentives significantly increase event attendance and participation. However, there’s no good reason to believe they don’t; it’s simply something companies and academics haven’t yet taken the time to systematically measure and publish. 

That being said, a few psychological principles and theories support the effectiveness of various types of incentives. These theories, which explain fundamental (and largely universal) human behaviors, have been leveraged by marketing researchers to create structures like loyalty programs and consumer rewards.

These theories also explain why certain event incentives are likely to help event managers achieve their desired outcomes, whether that’s more demo signups, more attendees, or more active event participation. 

The reciprocity principle: why prepaid and upfront incentives are best

A prepaid incentive is an incentive given to a recipient before they’ve taken a desired action. For example: sending $10 along with a request to fill out a survey, rather than paying out $10 after the survey has been completed. Prepaid incentives are effective thanks to the principle of reciprocity. 

The principle of reciprocity centers on our instinct to want to offer something in return in exchange for what we’re given. This is a function of our wiring as social animals; it serves us to develop supportive relationships with our peer groups and communities. 

Following our earlier example of offering to pay for the Uber ride over to the event, other upfront incentives that are likely to be effective include:

  • Offering discounted hotel pricing to reduce the cost of travel for attendees 

  • Sending products, gifts, or emailed virtual gift cards to prospects you want at your event

  • Giving away swag, gift cards, or lunch vouchers to anyone at your booth. By the theory of reciprocity, this makes them more likely to take the next desired consumer action, whether that’s signing up for a demo, talking positively about your brand with friends and colleagues after the event, or giving you their business email. 

A recent study by Bretschi, Schaurer, and Dillman (2021) confirmed that prepaid incentives are more effective at influencing behavior than promised incentives. It establishes trust with the recipient and triggers our hard-wired sense of reciprocity. 

Operant conditioning: in support of quizzes and contests

Operant conditioning is a theory pioneered by B.F Skinner that suggests behavior is influenced by its consequences. Pretty straightforward. It’s our lived experience as people who make mistakes and achieve things.

Positive reinforcement, according to operant conditioning, is what happens when we achieve a good outcome. We’re more likely to repeat a behavior that led to a reward and less likely to repeat a behavior that led to punishment. 

That’s why quizzes and contests increase the likelihood that people will pay attention during your webinar or presentation. But, one important note: these quizzes should be easy, and the contests should have multiple winners. 

Why? You’re trying to encourage people to listen and participate, not assign a grade. If every question in your quiz is a total softball, you’re more likely to achieve your goal of rewarding participation. Conversely, if someone takes a quiz and fails, ultimately getting nothing, they’re more likely to check out. 

At Tremendous, we punctuate our webinars with simple, one-question quizzes that cover material we just went over. Then, we give everyone who gets the right answer $10. Winners are more likely to participate in the next quiz, and so on and so forth. It’s an easy (and inexpensive) way to positively reinforce participation.

The principle of urgency: getting people to Buy Now

Whether you want someone to buy a product or buy in to your webinar or event, it’s wise to employ the principle of urgency. 

Also called the “mere urgency effect” in marketing theory, the urgency principle describes the noted phenomenon where people have a tendency to pursue urgent tasks over important tasks. 

Basically, a sense of urgency pushes us to act, even if the action we’re taking isn’t that important to us. So if you’re offering discounted “early bird” pricing to attendees that register now as opposed to later, you’re more likely to drive a greater number of signups than you would if you were offering the discounted pricing without a time limit. 

Even if your event isn’t high up on your attendee’s list of to-do’s (realistically, it probably isn’t), they’ll feel a subliminal push to sign up immediately. This also applies to offering special access to exclusive content for people who sign up within a certain window of time. 

Case study: An event company used digital incentives to boost sales by 200%

Like we said: many companies use incentives to increase event attendance and encourage participation, but few have quantified the difference between incentivizing vs. not. 

However, there is one company that has measured the impact incentives make on event attendance: FUSION Performance Group. The full-service events organization specializes in hosting and measuring the ROI of in-person and online events. 

When the pandemic hit, FUSION teamed up with Tremendous to build a virtual events playbook in keeping with global stay-at-home mandates. FUSION automated incentives for things like event registrations and feedback surveys. 

They devised a host of different incentives based on different kinds of events, and issued them all digitally. 

“We love to find a way to really customize the experience in the theme of the event,” said Lynn Davis-Hickman, IS & Resources Manager at FUSION Performance Group. “For example, in a recent western-themed event, everyone got a gift card to have a custom hat made. Clients still want to offer an experience, but stop giving away gifts no one wants.”

Since switching to Tremendous to incentivize event attendance and participation, FUSION has seen sales more than double. 

“We send hundreds, even thousands of people incentives they’ll actually use and appreciate in a matter of moments,” Lynn said. 

Key takeaways

When considering which incentives to use for your event, it’s helpful to think in terms of the kind of consumer action you’re hoping to achieve. 

  • More attendees: Use a prepaid or upfront incentive to get people in the door, or offer special access and discounts to encourage early sign-ups. 

  • Greater event participation: Sprinkle contests, quizzes, and giveaways throughout your event for people who answer questions, volunteer their email, or sign up for a demo to reward and promote further engagement. 

When most people think of giveaways and incentives at events, they think of swag. But realistically, cheap swag gets thrown out. What most people really want is money

Tremendous gives eventgoers the gift of choice. Send dozens (or thousands) of digital incentives attendees can redeem however they want. With more than 1,000 ways to redeem, there’s something for everyone. 

Brand the digital reward with your logo and colors so attendees remember you fondly. Tremendous rewards take minutes to personalize and send, and seconds to redeem. 

Want to supercharge your event marketing strategy? Talk to our sales team, or sign up now

Published January 19, 2024

Updated January 19, 2024

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