Blog

Are Your Social Media Efforts Only Half-Baked?

Posted on Mon, Nov 24, 2014 @ 15:11 PM

Something I learned during a recent social media presentation hit me like a ton of “likes” – a good social media practitioner “curates” as much as he or she “creates.”

In fact, the presenter recommended that your social media content be split 50-50 – with half of the material being blogs, videos, photos and other content you create, and half being relevant information you find and share.

guyandmicrowaveWhile seemingly shifting tens of thousands of words of content off one’s shoulders, this approach requires significant effort plugging in to the broader social media community. To effectively curate, you’ve got to seek out what’s being said online about your company, your industry, your customers and so on – and relay or react to that info on your own social media platforms.

Easier said than done, right?

Well, several pay-for solutions will monitor the various social media platforms and report back to you on just about everything posted about your company, your brand, your competitors, your industry or whatever other keywords you tell it to track.

If you don’t have a budget for that, it isn’t too difficult to set up your own monitoring system via some of the free resources available.

For starters, you should already use Google search alerts to keep apprised of what’s being said about your company and industry. It typically catches news items more than anything else – you’ll need other tools to track blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.

Most of the social media have search functions and other tools to aid your monitoring efforts. In Twitter, you can search things like your company name or industry to see relevant “tweets.” You can also plug in certain keywords and choose to “follow” relevant Twitter accounts.

In LinkedIn, you can join groups relevant to your organization and industry, and you can use its search function to check and see what’s being said about either. Facebook allows you to create a Facebook Interest List that gives you a feed of posts from pages you care about, and you can also a “Pages to Watch” (the option appears in your Facebook admin panel) list to monitor growth of pages that interest you (e.g., a competitor’s).

Tools designed just to monitor social media include Hootsuite and SocialMention, free platforms (Hootsuite also has pay-for premium options) that aggregate information and data from various social sources. Topsy is similar, although it focuses on blogs and multimedia. Icerocket and Technorati are two other monitoring options that specialize in blogs.

Once you set up these monitoring tools, check your results daily then pick and choose blogs, tweets and posts worth sharing or linking. You might share something because it’s useful to your audience. You might share something as a means to comment with an opposing view. You occasionally can share something that’s just interesting or entertaining or positively reinforces the culture of your organization. And, you should look for opportunities to comment directly on relevant third party social media conversations to expand your reach (assuming you are approved by your organization to represent them on these forums).

Make a habit to listen, interact and respond to any follow-up from your curation efforts. Put a little time into it and your content won’t be the only thing that grows. You can accomplish a lot with social media, from garnering leads, to improving your website’s SEO (search engine optimization), to engaging and building relationships with customers and prospects. You are much more apt to be successful in these endeavors – and establishing your company as a thought leader – if your content isn’t just what you create.

Including third-party content suggests your finger is on the pulse, you are knowledgeable about the industry and you will go out of your way to find information that you think is helpful to your audience.

Those are a few of our gleanings on the topic of being a social media curator as well as creator. If you have any tips on the topic, tools to suggest or other feedback on the subject, please share it below in the Comments section.

If you would like to know more about registration software or ABC Signup, call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email us today.

Topics: registration software, social media

Event Promotion in 5 Steps or Less

Posted on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 11:11 AM

cvrimage-5toolsforeventpromoWe like our new ebooklet so much that we are taking a page out of its playbook and promoting it by social media (this blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn).

The guide, 5 Essential Tools for Event Promotion, covers five tactics and corresponding steps that will drive publicity and attendance for your programs and events. We know these tactics work because we’ve not only used them in our careers, but we also researched examples and included links to them and other resources in the document.

The impetus for the guide was to create something useful for our customers and prospects, who – more often than not – are program and event administrators wearing multiple hats. Event promotion is typically just another item on the to-do list for these folks, who aren’t typically marketers. A little guidance might make that aspect of the job a little easier and a lot more effective.

We only ask for your contact info to access the document, and we aren’t going to bug you with that info unless you express an interest in registration software.

Take a look. See what’s helpful. Put some of the tips to work and step up your promotional efforts.

If you have any questions about the document, ABC Signup or registration software, please contact us by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0). If you would like to share your thoughts about the document, use the Comments section below this blog.

Topics: registration software, event planning, event marketing

When to Pay for Event Promotion

Posted on Tue, Nov 04, 2014 @ 16:11 PM

For most event and program managers, advertising and other pay-for promotions don’t make a lot of sense – or budgets.

A television ad (SuperBowl excluded) can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,500 per commercial, depending upon time slot, reach and programming. Twenty spots on radio roughly range from $500 to $8,000 per week, based upon factors such as the size of the market and the particular station’s audience. And that quarter page ad in a daily newspaper, depending upon circulation, is likely going to cost over $1,000 if the publication serves a medium-sized metropolitan area or larger.

monstertruck_adEven billboards, at a minimum of $1,200 for four weeks, are priced out of most events’ marketing budgets. And your direct mail effort starts at $.34 per postcard, with printing and mail lists costs still to come.

So when – and where – do advertising and marketing promotions make sense for programs and events?

1. Your program or event seeks a large volume of attendees
Those rare programs and events created for several thousand participants could likely use advertising to drive attendance, especially if the targeted audience is the general public and even walk-up traffic. Some of the more common examples of such advertising would include tv, radio and newspaper spots – plus outdoor advertising around the venue and high-traffic roads – for trade shows, conventions and conferences. If you happen to run one of these type programs, see item #2 below.

2. Your organization or event has an agency on retainer
Two of the biggest advantages of advertising are your control over the medium (you determine when and where the message will be displayed) and your ability to target your ideal customers (based upon medium, location/timing, etc.). This is accomplished through ideal media placement, which is usually best handled by professionals.

So, if your organization or event is large enough or funded well enough to leverage an internal marketing department or outside agency that has media buying expertise, ads likely make sense for your events. Without such resources, it’s difficult for a program or event manager to have the savvy and experience to find and secure ad placements that fit the budget, reach the target audience and generate ROI. Face it, most event folks’ experience with advertising extends to occasionally watching Mad Men on cable.

3. You use less expensive alternatives
While big media buys might be out of some event managers’ comfort zones, smaller buys may not. There are dozens of less expensive advertising opportunities available that – when targeted and executed properly – can work wonders marketing your events. Some examples:

  • If a program targets students – e.g., ACT test preparation classes or a jobs fair – buy ad space at the bus stops around local schools.
  • If you want to reach a group in a certain industry or field, buy space in the trade publications/websites of representative organizations, e.g., local chamber of commerce, medical/hospital association, HR association, etc.
  • If you are just getting established, try Internet advertising, e.g., Google Adwords, where you pay per click for searches that find your site.
  • If the price is right, explore other Internet sites for display/banner opportunities (e.g., Facebook, your local Yelp site, even the online version of your local newspaper).

4. It’s “free”
The easiest-to-defend means of working advertising into your event promotions efforts is the “in-kind” route, where the placement is free typically through a little “horse trading.” The event provider exchanges free admission or exhibit space or a sponsorship level or a combination of those to an ad agency, marketing firm or media company in exchange for media placements.

This type of trade only works to your advantage if you get results with your advertising. Your pitch needs to be laser focused on your audience, it should create awareness, and make a clear call to action.

Be advised: advertising will draw a focus on your marketing content – what you present needs to deliver the goods. Advertising also lends a perception of more credibility to your programs or events, and it will amplify the attention on everything else you do. Journalists may find you easier, you’ll likely see an uptick in social media fans and “likes,” and even your employees will notice and hopefully take pride in the company’s media presence.

Those are a few ideas we felt were worth sharing on the topic. We would love to hear about your experiences using advertising and other paid promotions to market your events. What works and what doesn’t? Please share your thoughts on those questions and this article in the Comments section below.

If you would like to pick our brains on topics such as registration software or ABC Signup, call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email us today.

Topics: registration software, event marketing

Browse Some ABC Signup User Data

Posted on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 @ 14:10 PM

Browserusage-graphA recent check of the ABC Signup’s admin site statistics revealed some interesting data. For starters, our registration software customers’ browser usage breaks down as follows:

Microsoft Internet Explorer   42%
Google Chrome 19%
Mozilla Firefox  20%
Apple Safari   11%
Other 8%

You guys either love Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), or more likely, that’s how your organization set up your computers or advised you to establish your default browser. We’re not judging, and realize you might not have a choice in the matter.

When you compare ABC Signup customers’ preferences to more global browser usage percentages such as those compiled by StatCounter as of August 2014 (similar findings are available at W3Counter and Wikimedia), you will find that our user group hasn’t followed the general market leadership transition from Explorer to Chrome:

Google Chrome    46%
Microsoft Internet Explorer   20%
Mozilla Firefox   18%
Apple Safari 11%
Other   5%

In fact, our customers’ browser preferences look a lot like the global numbers in July 2011, when Chrome was barely two-years old, Atlantis went on the final Space Shuttle mission, the Arab Spring had sprung, an Australian won the Tour de France and the guy who created Gilligan’s Island and the Brady Bunch died. That doesn’t seem like just yesterday.

Microsoft Internet Explorer  43%
Google Chrome 22%
Mozilla Firefox  28%
Apple Safari 5%
Other   2%

It’s really not that big of a deal that IE is the browser of choice for ABC Signup customers. Our software works with pretty much everything. One thing that does stick out, however, is the breakdown of which versions of IE you are using. Of all browsers used, here’s the portion with IE:

IE 9.x   29%
IE 8.x  6%
IE 10.x   4%
IE 7.x 3%

It’s somewhat surprising that some of you are still using older versions of the browser, specifically the 7.x and 8.x editions. You might want to update, or check with your IT folks about updating. Browsers typically improve with the updated versions.

The data grab also gave us intel into what computer operating systems our customers, as a whole, deploy. With our broad customer base, we weren’t too surprised to see domination by various Microsoft (Windows) platforms. Here’s the breakdown:

Windows 7  63%
MacOS 9%
Windows NT 5%
Windows XP    5%
Google Android    2%
Windows Vista      2%
Other/Unclear  14%

Two things stand out here: 1) no users of Windows 8 showed up as of yet (it is very new, or perhaps you’ve heard the general preference for Windows 7 over 8); and about 5% of our customers still use Windows XP, a platform no longer supported by Microsoft. You definitely want to look into upgrading operating systems if you are on XP, just for security purposes alone.

We expect these statistics to change again every couple of years. When we first went into business in 2002, the browser choices were pretty much IE and Netscape, and some of you were still accessing the Internet through dial up. A lot of us even thought free NetZero was like sliced bread back then.

If you ever have questions about browsers, operating systems and ABC Signup, please feel free to ask us at your convenience. If you have anything to add to the conversation – maybe have an opinion of which browser works best for you when using ABC Signup – by all means, share it in the Comments section below.

And as always, if you would like to pick our brains on topics such as registration software or ABC Signup, call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email us today.

Topics: registration software, Internet, ABC Signup,

10 Ways to Market Your Events, Guerrilla-Style

Posted on Mon, Oct 27, 2014 @ 14:10 PM

Sometimes, the most effective event marketing and promotion is the least conventional.

A $50,000 “B” movie shot in the woods with camcorders and a handful of no-name actors eventually grossed over $250 million worldwide thanks in part to a fabricated website detailing a supposedly real witch that haunts (or hunts?) rural Maryland. With this “urban legend” back story established over several months, the Blair Witch Project film’s tag line – about three filmmakers who trekked to document the witch, disappeared, and only the footage was found – hooked the gullible and the curious.

A videogame company, Acclaim, gained notoriety for its wild promotional ploys just prior to its periodic new game launches. It once paid people to legally change their name to a title character of a game (“Turok”), offered to pay for ads on headstones of the recently deceased for its Shadow Man roll out, and promised to pay all speeding tickets in the UK on launch day of its Burnout II racing game (the latter two offers were quickly rescinded, after garnering incredible publicity).

In a more simple, graffiti-style approach, Folgers painted a few manhole covers in New York City like the tops of coffee cups, taking advantage of the natural steam rising out. And a massive “Frontline” flea spray advert of a 100-foot dog on an atrium floor left quite an impression, especially from the aerial view that makes the human passersby look like the fleas.

greenapple_w_redsThese typically low-cost, unconventional tactics – dubbed guerrilla marketing – are edgy advertising with a twist. The successful campaigns grab our attention, often through trickery, before revealing their true purpose. Their cleverness trumps any angst caused by the usual bait and switch nature of the ruse.

The examples above involve creating something – a press release, surface “art” or a website – to draw attention to and create a buzz around a product or service. Each likely involved some professional assistance on the creative side. The concept of guerrilla marketing isn’t as familiar to event and program managers and probably elicits a muted initial response – it’s just not what you do, or something your organization does.

Or is it? There are, in fact, a myriad of guerrilla marketing tactics, including some you may already deploy, to promote your events. And, you don’t have to score a cover story on Advertising Age via your guerrilla effort to positively impact your events. Here are 10 guerrilla marketing tactics just about anyone can pull off:

1. Hold a Contest
People love to win, and contests are attention-getters. You’ll gain contact information in the process that helps build your customer/prospect database. Your contests can also be leveraged for broader promotion. Hubspot recently unveiled a contest awarding a free ticket to its annual conference to the most popular video testimonial submitted about their product. Anyone hosting a conference or convention can do similar.

2. Do a Public Demonstration
Find a very public place – preferably a place frequented by your target audience – and demonstrate what your program or event is all about. It might be a sneak performance, a condensed presentation – whatever works to tease your event and create interest.

3. Hang Attention-Getting Posters
Fliers and posters have been effective guerrilla marketing tools for events since man began writing on paper. But to rise above the heightened chatter (other fliers and posters), you need to create something that stands out. Your best bet is to try humor or shock or mystery or maybe some play off of something currently trending in pop culture. The Arizona Science Center, in launching its “Never Stop Wondering” campaign, hung semi-humorous, semi-surprising posters involving asparagus and a tag line directly above urinals in restrooms in the area.

4. Give Something Away
Free swag grabs attention and pleases everyone with the possible exception of your finance folks. Put your logo, website, event info or branding on just about anything and people will take it as fast as you can make it. Traditional items such as pens, t-shirts, refrigerator magnets, Frisbees and even thumb drives will help spread the word about your organization and events, but cleverly targeted giveaway items can really move the needle.

5. Fake Publicity Stunt
From the “Taco Liberty Bell” (Taco Bell’s facetious claim that it had purchased the Liberty Bell) to Burger King’s “left-handed Whopper,” publicity stunts can quickly vault a company into the public’s consciousness. No matter how weird or even bad (e.g., Acclaim’s offer to sell ad space on cemetery headstones), outside-of-the-box publicity stunts get publicity. Figure out a way to apply this concept to your events. If you offer computer training, dress up a few folks at IT “geeks” and have them protest your training with signs lamenting your effectiveness and the lack of calls they get as a result.

6. Bumper Stickers
Yes, there are too many bumper stickers – yet there’s still room for originality to make yours stand out. Be direct or be mysterious. Let people know where to get more information, or make them try to find out what’s behind the sticker. Place them just about anywhere that’s legal (as far as you know) – vehicles, street poles, bathroom stalls, etc. Put too many in illegal places and you might have a little more success than you want with item #5 (publicity stunt).

7. Targeted Business Card Placement
Think about the subject matter of your program or event, then visit your local bookstores and libraries and place a business card in as many books as you can find that are on topic. In a similar vein with business cards, re-work your card’s design to make it stand out and promo your offerings, even if you are just placing it in a fish bowl to win a free lunch.

8. Random Acts of Kindness
With your attention-getting business card handy, pay for the person behind you at a movie theater and leave your card for them with the cashier. Give an extra big tip at a restaurant, again, leaving the card behind. Or, perhaps pay for someone’s parking at a garage or lot frequented by your organization’s or event’s target audience. The idea isn’t just to win the one person over. It’s to connect with someone who might then share the story of your generosity on social media. If word spreads, that random act of kindness becomes a not-so-random act of marketing genius. If not, feel good about being kind!

9. Free Food
Nobody turns down free food – unless they fear they’ll have to sit through a sales pitch to get it. Offer the food, and make the pitch more indirect via a contest (#1), a public demonstration (#2), signage about the event (e.g., posters #3), brochures, freebies (#4), bumper stickers (#6) and so on. It’s okay to combine more than one guerrilla marketing tactic.

10. Put on a Gorilla Suit
If all else fails…put on a crazy costume, make sure your logo or branding is visible, throw in a sign with information about the event, and hit the bricks!

With any of these guerrilla marketing tactics, you’ll find more success if you are able to finesse the action so that it is able to target your desired audience. Don’t just come up with a great idea – plan the roll out so that it reaches and entices your prospects.

If you have anything you’d like to share about this article – perhaps some guerrilla marketing tactics that have helped promote your events – please post them in the Comments section below. If you would like to know more about online registration software and ABC Signup, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, event marketing

How to Get and Nail a Guest Blog

Posted on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 @ 09:10 AM

ladywithlaptopEarlier this month, the registration software evangelists at ABC Signup invited customers to share anything interesting, entertaining or informative about their programs and events in the ABC Signup blog. We think it’s a win-win opportunity: customers get exposure and show their subject matter expertise, and we get great content for our website.

It’s such a great idea that we encourage you to spread your wings and view the whole blogosphere as your open skies. Blogs everywhere welcome good content.

So how do you go about guest blogging?

First, determine your objectives.
Do you seek to put information in front of a target audience? Are you hoping to establish yourself as a subject matter expert? Or is your goal as straightforward as trying to get additional publicity for an upcoming event?

Knowing what you hope to achieve drives what you are going to write about and gives you a starting point on what vehicles make sense to carry your message (a not-so-subtle segue to the next step).

Second, research target blogs.
If your objective is to present event information, what blogs reach your potential attendees? If your topic is more of a “how to” or “lessons learned” pertaining to event management, what blogs reach your peers? You know your customers, you know the industry and you know how to Google – the appropriate blogs are a few keystrokes and clicks away. And, once you’ve identified appropriate blogs, finding contact information is typically a snap.

Third, make the ‘ask.’
Send a note to the contact asking if they accept guest blogs. Explain your subject matter and what you hope to accomplish (inform, educate, etc.), and what value (fresh content, new perspective) your effort would bring to the blog.

If you’ve done your research and write a legible, grammatically correct ask, your offer will be difficult to turn down.

Fourth, write your article.
Don’t be intimidated as if you are writing the cover story for Time Magazine. Do follow any parameters the blog may have pertaining to work count, link restrictions, style and so on. If allowed, create a link back to your website where appropriate in the blog or perhaps in your contact information as the author. In simple terms, this helps your site win Google searches.

Most blogs are more conversational and not overly lengthy. They are typically casual, and presented in more of a storytelling mode rather than journalistic-style. Don’t “bury the lead” (reveal your purpose early) and if you have some call to action, be sure to provide the means to act (contact information, event details, etc.). Also, you may want to send a photo/image/logo that complements the content, if possible.

Fifth, submit your blog.
Send it, and don’t be crushed if it receives minor edits. If the edits are major, you might want to have a quick conversation with the blog owner, either to fix it or to pull it entirely (this is pretty rare). Also, watch the blog’s comments section to see if there is feedback, and work out an arrangement with the owner to be able to respond accordingly. You will also want to get permission to display a link to the blog on your social media sites and website.

Sixth, if you are happy with your work, show it to your boss.
You earned your kudos. Once the blog is live, help the Internet spread information like it is supposed to by sending links to your work. Let your VIPs see it first. However, we advise that you clear the whole guest blogging opportunity with your boss well before your work gets published.

That’s our six-step approach to guest blogging. If you have thoughts, questions or experiences you would like to share that pertain to the subject, please post away in the Comments section below.

If you would like more information on topics such as registration software or ABC Signup, call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email us today.

Topics: blogging, registration software

Tweet Post Pin - Promote Your Event Through Social Media

Posted on Thu, Oct 09, 2014 @ 11:10 AM

Most Americans get their news from the Internet. The migration from traditional media to new officially tipped the scales earlier this decade, and one of the key drivers – social media – not only spreads news but in some cases, breaks it.

lady_bullhorn_social_mediaFacebook and Twitter, together, are the first source of news (usually via posts and “tweets” with links to media outlets) for nearly half of Americans. This means you must use social media to promote your events. It’s no longer an option.

With a couple of things in place– the basics you should already be doing – you can immediately begin to publicize your events via social.  

  • Get access to social media, either through your organization’s existing accounts or by creating new accounts. Start with the big three – Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – but other social media platforms may also make sense for your offering(s). The demographics of your target audience should dictate your social media choices.  
  • Create a web presence for your event – an event page or site – perhaps through your registration software or a mobile site builder like MeetingZilla. This will be the link you share often while promoting your event through the various social media tools.

All set? Dive in.

First, put that event information on your social media platforms. Do any or all of the following:

  • Post multiple tweets on your Twitter account with an invite and link to your event page. Be sure to create a “hashtag” – e.g., #nameofevent – so that your event can be searched and found by Twitter users.
  • Write a blog about the event, perhaps adding details not covered on your event page, with a link to the event page (and its registration link). You should blog leading up to the event to build interest. You might event pursue “guest blogging” opportunities at relevant sites to promote your event to a broader audience. Not only will this promote your event, but it could establish you as more of an expert or authority in that space.
  • Post a note about the event on Facebook (with link to the event page), or even create a special event page on Facebook (just click on the offer/event tab above where you normally post, then select event, and fill in the info).
  • Share an update for your professional peers on LinkedIn with that link to the event page (again, assuming the audience is appropriate for your event).
  • Make it easy for registrants to like or share or post to your social media when they sign up for the event.
  • If you have a database of past or existing customers, be sure to use it to e-mail them an invitation to your event.

Next, use any of a number of promotional tactics with your social media accounts to create buzz and interest in the event.

  • Post “tickets/seats remaining” updates to create a sense of urgency to possible attendees.
  • Post pre-event video interviews with some of the event’s speakers.
  • Create a contest – e.g., when the event attains 100 likes on Facebook, one individual “liking” the event will win a free ticket to attend, or a similar prize for who “shares” or “retweets” the event the most.
  • Post regular updates about the event – such as news about the speakers committed to present, details about the venue or information on attendance numbers.
  • If you have footage, post a well-edited video of last year’s (or last month’s) event on YouTube or Vimeo (and link to your other social media sites).

Once the event is live and filled to capacity thanks in part to your promotional activities on social media, your work is done, right? Wrong. There are a number of social media activities you can do on site (not at the expense of managing the event) during and after the event that might enhance the experience of attendees and help attract participants in future events.

  • Tweet an event welcome and watch your Twitter feed for attendees’ comments (see next bullet) and respond accordingly.
  • Encourage attendees to live tweet during the event. Perhaps show the twitter feed on a big screen (good for event photos, too).
  • Take photos that can be posted on Facebook or Twitter or other social media like Instagram and Pinterest.
  • Capture video vignettes from some of the presentations and post on your social media sites.
  • Capture video testimonials from event attendees and post to the appropriate sites.
  • Create a post-event blog and use it to thank presenters, sponsors and attendees.
  • Post a thank you to all parties involved on your various social media outlets.

Keep in mind that what you capture during and after the event might make excellent content for your social media platforms in promoting the next event, or the same event a year later.

This all might appear more daunting than it is – but with a smart phone, an event web page, social media accounts and Internet access, it’s all right at your fingertips. And since social media is mostly for quick consumption, your content should be brief, concise and compelling. No need to write a thesis on the event – use photos, quick videos and brief snippets of copy.

Those are a few of our ideas. Your turn. What tactics on social media work for you in promoting your events? What doesn’t work? Please share your thoughts on those questions and this article in the Comments section below.

If you would like to pick our brains on topics such as social media, registration software or ABC Signup, call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email us today.

Topics: registration software, event planning, event marketing, events

An Invitation to Enlighten

Posted on Wed, Oct 08, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

Since we launched our blog a little over three years ago, we’ve penned on average an article a week – around 150 overall – that the majority of you don’t read. No finger-pointing intended – that’s the typical interaction rate for customers and blogs in the blogosphere.

The Internet is now a 150 million-and-growing blog universe – a new blog article is posted every half second. And as competition for your eyeballs has grown exponentially, your amount of free time has likely diminished. A blog has to offer some special sauce to pry you from all of those other options.
guy blogging on computer about shoesFrom our perspective, the biggest thing missing from our blog is your perspective. We can research and present trends and tips and talk about our software until the scroll bar disappears, but we can’t always replicate the in-the-trenches perspective of a program or event manager.

We want you.

We need guest bloggers to give us first-person perspective and insights – content that will resonate even more with readers and maybe even build a virtual community or roundtable for you and your peers.

There’s a wealth of topics aching for your viewpoint. Our customer base and audience would value reading things like your tips for using ABC Signup, how you build out a project plan for an event, your secrets to picking venues, how you get the most useful intel from your evaluations, or your keys to finding and securing outstanding trainers/presenters/speakers.

No one is expecting Hemingway-esque prose, and we will be glad to edit any Faulkner “stream of consciousness”-missives so readers can take a breath once in a while. All we ask is that you, our customers, send us your topic idea and expected completion date in advance so we can keep a loose editorial calendar. We will then take each submission, format accordingly, send back a draft for your approval, and publish thereafter.

Are you ready to share your subject-matter expertise and help us make our blog as good as our software? We hope so! Send us an email to get started.

Topics: blogging, registration software

Someone Took a Wrong Turn at Albuquerque

Posted on Fri, Oct 03, 2014 @ 14:10 PM

Some Friday afternoon goofiness...

We get a few chuckles internally when the “ABC” in our name results in misguided phone calls, like “Is this where I get tickets to Regis and Kathy Lee?” or “How do I get on the Bachelorette?” Okay, the latter call may have come from inside the building.

internetsurfIt’s not quite as funny when Internet searches for “driver registration,” “gun registration” or “cash register software” cost us money via our Google Adwords account. We use exact matches with most of our keywords (the search terms that trigger search results) and we cull through our account monthly to remove mismatches, discarding them in the “negative keywords” file.

A recent culling effort sparked a visit to our negative keywords listing. Some of them are just funny; others have us scratching our heads. People search for crazy things. In our tiny segment of Google’s universe, the search terms used are relatively tame and as you will see below, mostly suitable for work.

In the funny category, we have:

  • “How to sign up for pirates online” (We think they meant "Pilates," or perhaps it was some shady individual Googling in Somali.)
  • “How to hack the registration system” (That’s subtle. Kind of hope they trusted all of the sites that come up in that search.)
  • “Sibelius registration help” (We don’t think this has anything to do with the Obamacare rollout mess.)
  • “ergistration,” “gistration” (There are lots of misspelled searches, which challenges marketers to consider using misspelled keywords. Seriously.)
  • “Make my own marriage license online” (And make my bride Kate Upton!)
  • “Medical marijuana registration system” (I guess we can now take this one off the negative list, at least in certain states.)
  • “Free online citizenship registration” (There are millions who wish it were that easy, and millions more who don’t.)
  • “Register alien online” (There’s a couple of ways to take this one – the ET version tickled our fancy.)

In the head-scratcher category, here are a few mysterious keyword choices that somehow led to ABC Signup:

  • “Free bible software” (We are a pretty pious group at ABC Signup, but we’re not sure how we came up as an option in this search.)
  • “Free unblock private caller ID software” (Could this be some stalker unhappy having his/her calls being blocked?)
  • “Sign up for sex” or “Sign up sex online game” (No comment, other than see item number one under “head scratchers.”)
  • “Get your web license” (With apologies perhaps to Spiderman, what even is a “web license?”)
  • “Nigerian navy online registration” (Okay, we get the online registration part. But, who knew Nigeria has a navy?)
  • “Online free karaoke” (There’s no connection between ABC Signup and karaoke, at least during business hours.)

The only take-away from these paid-search-gone-awry examples is to be careful with your keywords if you use Google Adwords. The software is relatively intuitive and will make great suggestions for adding keywords, but they are typically in broad-match format, meaning if any word in the keywords matches any word in the search, your paid listing may show up. Put brackets around your keywords and those Google suggests. This simple addition requires searches to be exact matches. Also, use the negative keywords feature to remove ineffective strings that may have slipped through the cracks.

If you have anything you’d like to share about this article – perhaps some odd ways folks mistakenly find your organization – please post away in the Comments section below. If you would like to know more about online registration software and ABC Signup, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, search

Promote Events With These Email Essentials

Posted on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 @ 10:09 AM

event_promo_graphicIf there is an indispensable tool for event promotion, it’s email. It’s inexpensive, immediate and when done right, it seems to deliver more for less – as in more attendees for less time and effort.

You only need three things to build email promotions: a well-targeted contact list, an adequate delivery system and compelling content.

Start with your contact list. You should have a database of customers – past and present – that will serve as your core target group. Supplement that list with contacts you may have garnered through your various social media platforms. You can expand it further through paid lists or researching websites to find similar personas as your current customer base (e.g., if you serve a lot of HR professionals, find HR professionals at organizations not on your list). Keep it targeted – the shotgun approach not only doesn’t work with email, it may earn you a reputation as a spammer.

Next, establish an email platform from which to launch your promotional efforts. It’s okay to use your organization’s Outlook or Gmail, but neither (unless you enhance with add-on software) offer analytics to help you determine “open” and “click through” rates, the intel that helps you figure out what format and content gets results. For these kinds of bulk, promotional efforts, your organization may deploy third party email providers with analytic tools such as MailChimp, ConstantContact or etouches. Complete registration software solutions also provide an email solution integrated with a contact database and designed for event promotion.

With the infrastructure in place, create an email that’s engaging enough to get opened and persuasive enough to lead to action.

Your “foot in the door” is the subject line. This is your headline and your “hook,” so you want to be direct but clever enough to make the viewer want to read more – even if they have a pretty good idea what they are about to see from the subject line. Use actionable language, but err on the side of telling them what’s inside rather than selling them what’s inside.
Do: Your new career working from home starts today!
Don’t: Why are you not working from home?

Copywriting trainers teach a “4 U” approach to writing headlines. They should be Useful to the reader; provide a sense of Urgency; convey that the subject matter is Unique; and be Ultra-specific in doing all of the above. Think of something like “Got 90 Minutes to Master Microsoft Office?” versus “Microsoft Office 101.” Here’s more on the subject from copyblogger.com.

To avoid an immediate redirect to your target’s junk mail, do NOT use any of these words or phrases in your subject line: free, visit our website, click here, X% off, call now, discount, winner, special promotion, great offer/deal, signup now, call now and any other words we all associate with spam emails.

Your email’s content should deliver what the subject line promises. Establish relevancy (e.g., “as the region’s leading provider of childcare training and certification programs…”), and generally speak in the second person (“we”). Talk more about benefits of your program or event (what’s in it for the target), and less about the features.

The body content should be brief. It should establish a value proposition with an actionable call to action, e.g. “register today,” linked to the event page/registration form. You might also want to include links to your social media platforms as a way to cross-promote the event.

Your email and its content should conform to spam regulations, meaning you need to ask your targets to opt in, which is typically done by offering them an extremely easy way to unsubscribe. Most experts suggest a minimal use of images – due to variations among email servers that can make a mess of your “artwork” – and recommend constructing a plain text version as a backup.

Here’s an example, content-only, of an email that hits the mark (courtesy of a Hubspot blog). You’ll find plenty like this just by searching “great marketing emails” on the Internet, or looking at your own Inbox.

sample_email_w_border

If you’ve read this far, you’re now ready to craft a promotional email – or two or three. One email is great, but multiple emails, even campaigns, are much more effective.

Schedule emails around important dates for your event, such as the registration opening, any speaker announcements, registration deadlines, and so on. If you are creating a campaign of emails, position your initial round as a means to create buzz around the event (e.g., speaker announcement), with round two designed to drive registrations (e.g., registration deadline) and round three to maximize attendance (e.g., event reminder).

Finally, use email analytics to test your messages. Using a small sample of targets, send two different version of your email (an A version and a B version) and analyze the opens and click-throughs. You should be able to determine the more effective version in your A/B testing, and send that version to the bulk of your targeted email list.

So, what did we leave out? What email tactics work for your events? Please use the Comments section below to share your thoughts about the article or your tips about using email to promote your events.

As always, if you would like additional information about ABC Signup or registration software, just email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: event planning, e-mails, event marketing, events