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Could SMART Goals Enlighten Your Events?

Posted on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 @ 15:07 PM

image of a woman composing a strategy in a meetingIf you’ve spent any time working in a corporate environment, you are probably aware of the “SMART” criteria for setting organizational goals often tied to your job responsibilities (and performance review).

The concept is widely credited to management guru Peter Drucker, first put to paper in 1981 by George Doran in Management Review and eagerly spread by HR departments everywhere. If it isn’t practiced in your neck of the woods, you might want to give it a look.

The SMART acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable (or Assignable or Achievable)
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

In practice, applying those criteria while setting objectives results in meaningful, easy-to-track, quantifiable goals that – if achieved and aligned with the overall business strategy – bring value to the organization.

In the program and event world, the SMART approach can bring focus to basic goals such as “We are going to increase our number of programs offered” or “We are going to grow overall attendance” or “We are going to stay within budget.”

A SMART version of the “more programs” objective might read something like this: “Add four additional Introduction to Microsoft Windows 8.X courses by Winter of 2014. Ensure events reach at least 80% capacity.” This goal is specific and measurable, has a deadline, and we are going to assume it is attainable (definitely assignable) and realistic.

A smarter version of an attendance goal might be as simple as “increase program attendance by 5% in 2014” but the action items to achieve that goal might take a little work. But, if this goal supports the goals of the organization, those action items are likely going to be what you should be working on anyway, right?

You might wonder – aside from number of events, attendance and financials – what else makes sense to build SMART objectives around?

It certainly would be wise to create a goal that pushes you to improve the quality of your offerings. You can measure it by a post-event(s) evaluations. Shoot for a satisfaction metric you would like to achieve with your participants, or an increase of that metric from the year prior. Put in place action steps to improve your program/event, follow-through and evaluate.

Similarly, you might measure effectiveness by how participants do in a post-event testing (assuming it’s a course, certification or training-type program). Set a goal that X-percent achieve a certain grade or higher, or pass, or whatever.  You can do similar with CEUs awarded, childcare certifications completed, and so on.

Get as specific as you need to add value. If your programs or events perform below what you would expect with a certain demographic, make a goal to increase participation from the group and set action steps to bring them in the fold.

You can also develop SMART goals related to your marketing efforts. For instance, you might seek to increase your number of calls, direct mail, e-mails or e-mail response rates. A SMART goal can also be process related – perhaps you aim to reduce the number of unpaid registrations by a certain percentage and build or improve processes to ensure that happens.

Aside from the benefit to the organization, SMART goals bring focus to your responsibilities and quantify their impact. No doubt many of you managing programs and events devise goals in this manner to continue to improve your offerings and your performance. If you have some examples that work well for you – or just want to share your thoughts about the SMART methodology – feel free to post your insights in the Comments section below.

If you want to know more about online registration software and ABC Signup, please contact us by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext.0) at your convenience.

 

Topics: event planning

Why You Need to Talk to Your Ex

Posted on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 @ 15:06 PM

While in the midst of our fourth annual survey, a couple revelations hit us in the head kind of like the guy who could have had a V-8. One, despite mostly lousy macro conditions (high unemployment, little economic growth, tight budgets, etc.), ABC Signup customers participating in our survey seem to be swimming upstream like uber-salmon. Two, such surveys would likely prove even more beneficial if they included ex-customers, small sample size or not.

image of a suggestion box by an exit door

We will divulge more on our survey in an upcoming blog and newsletter. This blog is going to focus on the oft-forgotten survey audience, your former customers.


There is a variety of rationale that leads us to neglect pushing a customer exit survey: your organization is small; you don’t have survey expertise; you don’t use survey tools; you have better uses of your time; you already know why they left; you don’t think you will learn anything new; you are not going to like what you hear, and; you aren’t going to win them back, so why bother.

First, you don’t need to be an ABC Signup customer (with our evaluation tools) to have the tools to pull this off – there are free survey tools available. Second, this doesn’t require a lot of time or expertise. And third, it is too important to your business not to do.

Among other things, understanding why you are losing customers can help you:

  • Improve your product or service and the customer service that supports it;
  • Ensure that you are as competitive as possible;
  • Better align your pricing;
  • Re-focus your marketing; and
  • Gain an advantage on your competitors.

Sure, you can expect to hear things you cannot change, and things that feel a bit personal. Your survey likely won’t regain any lost customers, either.

But you will hear things that you can change, and if you act upon them, you will have a better solution and a more competitive offering. We know a software company that built and improved its product over the years based on such feedback (though mostly from existing customer feedback).

So, what do you ask? Keep it very simple and direct, as an ex-customer likely isn’t going to want to spend too much time on your survey (unless they are peeved). Start with something like this:

What made you stop being a customer?

And then maybe offer a follow-up or two that gets at specifics.

If it related to our product/our service/our pricing, etc., please tell us exactly how/where we fell short.

If you switched to a competitor, what do they do better?

Those questions should give you pretty specific information. While there will be some feedback from ex-customers you can file as “bad fits,” there will also be some eye-opening input that may be your road map to future success.

It’s in your best interest to follow-through wherever possible. Also, be sure to follow-up with the ex-customers’ whose input you are able to act upon. Again, don’t expect to win them back, but do expect to influence them. And in today’s viral world where a few opinions impact hundreds of thousands of opinions, you want to be in as good of standing as possible with your exes.

It is smart business to make exit surveys part of your process of closing out an ex-customer account. If you conduct an annual survey of customers, you might want to consider a similar exercise for ex-customers.

We would love to hear your thoughts or experiences regarding customer exit surveys. Feel free to post them in the Comments section below this blog.

If you would like to know more about using ABC Signup to create evaluations – or simply want to know more about ABC Signup and our awesome online registration software – please contact us by e-mail or phone (toll free: 866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Customers - Take Our Survey and Win

Posted on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 @ 11:06 AM

If we could always pin down what motivates people, we’d all be great leaders, inspired co-workers and we’d accomplish just about anything – heck, we could teach the world to sing. We’re strictly speaking of positive motivation, not threats of a Dutch oven, boarding school in Siberia or a visit from HR that includes a cardboard box and one-way directions.

So when it came to trying to motivate ABC Signup customers to take our annual customer survey, we factored in our budget, our perceptions of what customers want, and what we’d want if we were in their shoes. Maybe we put a little more weight on the latter. We came up with a drawing for an officialderbypie2014 Derby Pie.

And, to mark our fourth annual survey, we are giving away four pies this year. So, please take our survey. You will be done in less than two minutes. Your input will help us improve ABC Signup's registration software. And, you may win a delicious pie. Here’s the link again. Thanks!

Topics: registration software, Surveys

Why Some Events Should Befriend PayPal

Posted on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 @ 15:06 PM

Multiple online payment options often pose a challenging decision to program and event managers. Administrators could set up their own process by integrating their merchant account with a payment gateway or choose an all-in-one merchant account and payment gateway like PayPal.

Integration takes a little bit of work on the front end, but creates a professional solution well-suited for high-volume, long-term events and programs. The standard PayPal is easy to set up and ideal for single events, but falls a little short of an integrated system in a few areas.

ABC Signup typically recommends integrating the merchant account with a payment gateway for providers of multiple fee-based events with a large volume of attendees, based mostly on the economics for the event provider.

businesspeople_jumpingwPayPalSo when and why does it make sense to use PayPal standard (the no-frills version)?

With our customers’ experience in mind, we came with these five scenarios where PayPal might be the best solution and definitely worth consideration. (We invite readers to share additional situations in the Comments section below.)

1. When you’ve got to take payment today.

Setting up online payment with PayPal is simple (details here). The seller, per PayPal, needs about 15 minutes to sign up and integrate a PayPal payment form into their website. Your customers can pay with a credit card or with their PayPal account right through your online form. PayPal takes 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, but there are no set-up fees, no monthly fees, termination fees or hidden fees. You only pay (the fees above) when you get paid.

2. When you only do a single event a year.

Payment gateways typically charge a monthly fee (anywhere from free to $30/month) for their services. It probably wouldn’t make sense to pay those fees to keep an account open versus setting up PayPal for the single event.

3. When your program or event is just starting out.

You may want to test online payment a time or two before making the leap to a fully integrated payment gateway.

4. When you have a low volume of registrants who pay online.

No sense in paying through a third party system or integrating with a payment gateway when you don’t have a lot of registrants paying online, or most of your events don’t require payment save one or two.

5. When you conduct ecommerce with an existing PayPal account.

With PayPal standard, payment to your programs and events can be deposited directly into your existing PayPal account. You can also request an electronic transfer into your organization’s bank account or, for a fee, get payment by echeck.

Those five instances might make the simplicity of PayPal (standard) the right online payment solution for your events.

By contrast, there are a few aspects of using PayPal standard that might steer you elsewhere. First, PayPal standard will take customers off of your site and to the PayPal site during “checkout.” In addition, the payment page can be confusing to some customers, making them feel like they have to set up a PayPal account of their own (to pay) when they can simply use their credit card.

PayPal fees are also typically higher than your merchant account fees, but you’d have to reach a certain threshold of volume before PayPal standard’s costs outstrip the combination of fees from your merchant account and a payment gateway.

If you have any questions about online payment, or just want to know more about ABC Signup and online registration software, please e-mail or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

 

 

Topics: Online Payment

June Survey: A Pie for Your Thoughts

Posted on Mon, Jun 09, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

woman_pie_chartIn case you missed our June newsletter, we led with our annual plea to customers to complete our survey. We’re okay if you just skip to this survey link (or the one at the bottom of the page) and spend two minutes helping us make ABC Signup's registration software even better. Here is the article in full. 

Why take the time to complete our fourth annual survey? Here are four good reasons:

  1. Your input improves our (and your) product
  2. Your ideas might spawn altogether new products
  3. The survey only takes a couple of minutes to complete
  4. We are giving away delicious, official Derby Pies® to four lucky participants

Our survey doesn’t replace everyday customer feedback, and we can’t guarantee that we will accommodate every suggestion or trend offered. However, the intel we gather typically helps us improve our company and our software.

Since we published the 2013 survey, for instance, we’ve posted 24 enhancements or new features in the What’s New section of the ABC Signup admin site, and that doesn’t include dozens of tweaks here and there. Some improvements relate directly to customer feedback, some do not. Some, like the recent additions to our mobile site – or our free MeetingZilla product that allows you to build a mobile event site – respond to trends you’ve helped identify.

Let’s keep the conversation flowing. Help us identify changes in your marketplace and things we can do with our software to help you keep pace. Because your time and input mean a lot to us, we will assess and report back on the survey and your suggestions, and enter survey participants in drawings for free pies. We’ve upped the ante to give away pies to four participants for the fourth annual survey, so click the link below and complete the survey for your chance to win.

Please take our survey today. Thanks!

Topics: registration software, Surveys

View ABC Signup’s New Video Tutorials

Posted on Fri, Jun 06, 2014 @ 09:06 AM

librarian_viewing_computerWhen it comes to figuring out how to use software, most of us are visual learners. We actually need to be working with the tools and seeing what they do to put what we’ve learned into practice.

With that thought in mind, we began assembling a collection of video tutorials for ABC Signup’s registration software. You can find them on our website at the bottom of the Resources page.

We started with a brief demo (Meet ABC Signup) that shows how ABC Signup event pages and registration forms could appear to the registrant, and what it looks like behind the scenes when creating those pages with our software.

We devoted another video (Creating a Page Theme) to show how to use our relatively new design tools to build page themes based on pre-designed templates or your organization’s branding. It explores options for backgrounds, color schemes, fonts and more.

Another video (Creating ‘Linked’ Questions) looks at a specific feature of ABC Signup’s registration form capabilities – creating “linked” questions. This allows the administrator to create a sequence of follow-up questions based upon the answers to the previous question. If, for instance, a registrant checks a box to attend lunch, a follow-up question might ask the individual to select from lunch options.

Our fourth video (Creating Reports) demonstrates the many types of reports – in multiple formats – that can be pulled from ABC Signup. This powerful tool can help you track performance of individual events or look at macro results over a course of a year. You can track items related to attendance and financials, look at results from evaluations and likely discover useful trends.

The beauty of this video library is it’s free, easy to update and ready to expand. As you will notice, we are keeping our production efforts simple (our voice-over talent notwithstanding) so that we can be nimble.

Best of all, we take requests. Tell us what features of ABC Signup you would like to learn more about. Ask us for “step-by-step” instructions on some aspect of our software you would like to be able to work a little better. We want you to get the most value possible out of our expansive set of tools, so it only makes sense to provide as many visual guides as possible.

If you have any questions about our videos, or just want to know more about ABC Signup and registration software, please e-mail or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, video tutorials

A Dozen Ways Event Participants Annoy

Posted on Thu, Jun 05, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

In today’s uber-competitive markets – where the customer is never wrong if you want to keep customers – we just don’t seem to give much attention to the other side of the coin: when the customer is in the wrong.

slick_guy_with_megaphoneFor those with experience running programs and events, there are a number of things attendees (their customers) do that are a complete turn-off, and in some cases, completely unacceptable.

For kicks, we started to list a few, and invite you to weigh in with your favorite (or least favorite) participant faux-pas from your experience as an event manager. Just post them in the Comments section at the bottom of this article.

Here’s our list of 12 (in no particular order), with a caveat for when things really turn south.

1. Noisily chewing gum. You know, mouth opening and closing like a catfish, making sounds like a toddler walking in a very wet diaper.

Worse: “Popping” the chewing gum.

2. Inappropriate attire. It could be the shirt with the explicit image, “pants on the ground,” or blue jeans to something formal, or something formal to something casual. Playing it “safe” with a tuxedo t-shirt isn’t the answer, either.

Worse: Not enough attire.

3. Attending under the influence. Sadly, it happens more than we know. It probably isn’t because your event content is lacking.

Worse: Bringing the “influence” into the event.

4. Cell phones on. There are exceptions, but most of the time attendees’ focus should be on the event or program, not their “Girl on Fire” ring tone indicating they got a call from “Boo.”

Worse: Cell phones out and being used to text or call or play Candy Crush during your event.

5. Malodorous hygiene. Climate control, indoor plumbing and eight gazillion personal care products can’t guarantee that you won’t have a smelly person in row three who is ruining the experience for parts of rows three, four and five.

Worse: It’s not just bad hygiene creating the stink.

6. Not participating. You “get what you give” applies to just about everything, right? So why take the time to attend and perhaps pay and not take part (assuming a participatory function)?

Worse: Participating when they aren’t supposed to be.

7. Sleeping during the session. It’s insulting to everyone, from the planners to the presenters. It’s no accident that many events offer coffee, and it’s usually free, for cripes sake.

Worse: Snoring during the session.

8. Not paying. Registration software makes this a bit more difficult to pull off, but some are still pulling “check is in the mail” shenanigans.

Worse: Not paying while bumping a paying customer that’s on a wait list.

9. Arriving late. From the time of learning about the event to signing up for it to traveling to it, the attendee has likely seen the start time no less than three times (event listing, confirmation, reminder). Unforeseen circumstances aside, it’s selfish and disruptive to roll in tardy.

Worse: Arriving really late and asking for a refund.

10. Complaining about the food. Okay, this is aimed more at the “event food is always awful” mindset of some attendees. Sometimes, food complaints are valid – but not every time.

Worse: Complaining about the food but asking for more.

11. Registering but not showing up. Often, a lot of effort goes into ensuring everything is in place for the participant and making sure the experience is of value.

Worse: Showing up but not registered.

12. Hijacking the event. Sometimes it’s the heckler. Sometimes it’s the comedian. Or it might be the self-proclaimed subject matter expert who won’t stop chiming in. But man is it annoying when a participant decides to be the star of the event.

Worse: The hijacker has malodorous hygiene.

Your turn. Please use the Comments section below to add to our list of annoying things event participants do. Only by examining the problems can we one day find solutions.

If you would like to know more about ABC Signup or registration software, please contact us by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or e-mail.

Topics: registration software, events

Design a Better Page Theme in ABC Signup

Posted on Mon, Jun 02, 2014 @ 10:06 AM

Somewhere back in the archives of this blog and buried in the What’s New section of ABC Signup are notifications of the new theme design tools offered within ABC Signup’s registration software.

palettetoolsWe created these tools to make theme design functionality simpler and more robust. And to demonstrate, we created this new video showing how easy it is to create a background of kittens or match colors and fonts with your organization’s branding.

Theme design can be done any time in the setup process. But for this blog, let’s assume you’ve already built out the content of your event pages and listings, registration forms, cart and so on.

To design a theme, you would click the Setup tab at the top of the page, which opens the ABC Signup Setup and Utilities window. Click on Page Themes under the standard tab and you will see a new window with a Default tab offering theme designs provided by ABC Signup, and a Custom tab where you can build your own or copy and edit default themes.

The Default tabs include pre-built themes with eight different color backgrounds (with matching font colors for the content), four with seasonal art backgrounds, an ABC Signup theme (matching background art on our site, which we mostly use for our own events), and three themes with background art for education, business and a chalkboard. Any of these can be copied, which immediately moves them into the Custom tab, where you can manipulate however you see fit by clicking “edit.”

What can be done with the tools is only limited by the user’s ability, but much can be done with zero web experience.

For starters, the eight steps under the General menu (left navigation after you click “edit” on one of the themes – scroll down this page to see a screen capture) will likely be second nature to anyone who’s used a computer. You can edit text color, size and font. You can change your background image, and decide how you want it positioned. You can adjust the page content (the area where your form or listing will show) background color, as well as its border color and thickness. You also have options to set link colors; list heading text colors, size and font; list text colors, size and font; and add an alternate listing background color.

You can then choose to save changes and apply the theme globally.

Or, you can use the left menu to create specific theme options for your different pages.

The Forms menu item allows you to edit form text color, form label text color, required label text color, error message text color and text field entry color. Similar edits are available for Calendar/Listing pages as well as Cart pages.

The fifth item under this left side menu (we are still at Setup>Page Themes>Edit), Page Layout, gives you the opportunity to step up your game – beyond the default settings – from a layout perspective. If you have experience using tables, you pretty much have a blank canvas to build web pages as you see fit. You can place and move around logos, mastheads, photos and much more.

Finally, if you have web design expertise, the sixth item on the left side menu – the Advanced tab just below Page Layout – allows the user to enter Custom CSS, the coding language upon which websites are built. A designer can use this feature to virtually match the design scheme of your entire website.

We encourage you to watch the video and give these design tools a try. Use the little help buttons place strategically throughout the tools if you get stuck. If you have some feedback you would like to share or ways we can improve this feature of ABC Signup, use the Comments section below or feel free to contact us by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0). As always, call or e-mail us if you have questions about ABC Signup or registration software.

screencapture-ABCthemebuild

Topics: registration software, new software features

Open Access, ABC Signup-Style

Posted on Thu, May 22, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

image of open door to view of spinning earthMore fingers in the pot isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, providing easier access to ABC Signup drove our most recent enhancements – a new module that opens parts of the software to event facilitators, a new tab in the Setup portion of admin that connects users to ABC’s mobile admin site, and improvements to the mobile platform.

New Module Extends Access to Facilitators
The newest ABC Signup add-on allows facilitators limited access to ABC Signup via mobile and computer, enabling them to track attendance on-site and view other high-level information about the event.

The module doesn’t require a full-blown user license (though there is a fee), and it works on both computers and mobile devices. Through this module, event administrators can also send custom e-mails to facilitators who are attached to the event.

Easier Access, Tools on Mobile Site
Second, we’ve created tools within admin.abcsignup.com to make accessing the mobile site easier. There’s now a “Mobile Access” icon and link under the Standard tab of the Setup menu. Once you click that icon, you will see a link to the mobile admin site and have the opportunity to send an e-mail of the link to yourself and others with administrative privileges to access the newly expanded mobile tools.

Here are some of the other improvements to the mobile site:

  • event and registration lists will filter dynamically as you enter in search criteria;
  • when marking attendance, you have the option to check all or clear all at once instead of marking each individually; and
  • you can view an individual registration information from the attendance list instead of having to switch over to the registration list.

We encourage customers to take a look at the mobile site, use it with a specific event, and let us know what other features you would like to see us add to it.

If you have thoughts you would like to share about this blog, feel free to post them in the Comments section below.

And as always, if you have questions about ABC Signup or online registration software, please contact us by e-mail or phone (866.791.8268).

Topics: mobile site, online registration software, registration software

ABC Signup is Coming for You, Wyoming (and You’re not Safe Either, Delaware)

Posted on Thu, May 15, 2014 @ 15:05 PM

image of the number 50 with the zero as a target dotted by 7 state emblemsSeven states.

Seven proud American states. Three former British colonies among them. Seven states known for their thick forests of pines and sweetgums, clear mountain waterways, oceans of golden wheat, popular beaches, copious fishing spots and glorious ski trails.

Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming. Seven states and not a single ABC Signup adopter among them. Zilch. Nada. Nil. Diddly-squat.

Ouch.

Whatever ABC Signup has done, we have not done enough to convince the businesses and organizations within these seven bastions of The American Way that ABC Signup is the best choice for their online registration management needs.

ABC Signup must do better, starting now.

Like Eisenhower preparing for D-Day, ABC Signup will put together a master plan in which every detail – every contingency – will receive full attention: targeted marketing, niche blitzes, incentives, even begging, if it becomes necessary.

With seven full months left in the year, ABC Signup will designate a specific month for each state and dedicate a place on social media to pay homage throughout the month. As progressive decision makers in those states see us as kindred spirits, they will be more apt to realize the value of our software.

We can’t do this without you. You are to ABC Signup what the 1st infantry division was to Eisenhower. You can lead the way. We will send our commemorative “50 States Tour” t-shirt to any customer, prospect or fan that refers us to a future ABC Signup customer from one of the seven states. If you have a colleague or cousin or meeting planner or former dentist doing business in Delaware, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming, put in a good word about ABC Signup. Nothing moves a prospect like a validation from an existing customer. And we’re fine if you continue to refer prospects in the other 43 states, too.

Watch this blog for updates on our campaign and previews of the shirt. And if you’ve got some suggestions for helping us reach our objective, by all means post them in the Comments suggestion below.

If you would like to know more about online registration software or ABC Signup, please call (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or e-mail us at your convenience.

 

Topics: online registration software, registration software, Marketing