7 Ways to Get More Out of ABC Signup in 2015

Posted on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 14:01 PM

This article initially appeared as the lead of the January 2015 edition of our monthly newsletter.

At its core, ABC Signup is software – like Excel or PowerPoint, InDesign or Photoshop or Salesforce or PeopleSoft.

And like any software, what users are able to accomplish with it has everything to do with their working knowledge of its tools and functionality. Typically, better versed = better productivity = better customer experience. So naturally, we want our customers to be PhDs in ABC.

studyingOur education starts during the sales process then ramps up in our training courses designed to get new customers up and running. Hopefully, we keep the conversation going throughout customers’ experience via periodic calls from sales and/or customer service reps. But, we also understand users learn in different ways, so we offer several options to help customers master our software.

Here are seven ways we think our customers can get even more out of what might be the most complete registration management system on the planet.

1. Read our email newsletter and our blog
Did you know that each of our monthly newsletters includes a brief on new features of our software as well as a tip on how to use some of our tools? Scroll down this edition and see for yourself. Or, go to the archive newsletters on our website and check out any of our dozens of past editions. Many of the tips we share reflect some of the more common requests from our customers, so they are likely relevant to what you are trying to do.

In addition, on occasion we unveil a new feature or provide in-depth instruction on how to use features in our blog, so don’t forget to either sign up for instant delivery or visit it every once in a while.

2. View our Video tutorials (we will make more, too)
After a dozen years of working with customers, we’ve become familiar with some of the areas in which more instruction is needed, and sometimes in a visual, step-by-step demonstration format. We’ve taken some of those key topics (e.g., creating event pages, exporting reports, etc.) and created brief video tutorials to walk customers through basic steps to utilize that particular tool. We will continue to make additional tutorial videos as we identify helpful topics.

3. Familiarize yourself with the Help section of ABC Signup
In that cluster of tabs at the top of your ABC Signup software is “Help,” perhaps the most useful tool in all of ABC Signup. It holds the key to unlocking all of those other tools that tubocharge the registration management process. We don’t expect customers to retain everything we teach them, and we don’t expect to cover every detail of every tool ABC Signup offers. But, we do our best to make sure all of the answers customers need are a click away in our Help section.

4. Attend one of our monthly New User Trainings
As many of our customers know from their own workshops and training events, live interaction is a great means to ensure content is learned. Each month, we offer live webinar training online via GoToMeeting and conference call that covers the basics of our software and leaves time to address participants’ questions. Date and registration information for these new user trainings can be found in the monthly newsletter (see below for info on this month’s session).

5. Periodically check out the What’s New tab of ABC Signup
Another vital tab located at the top of the ABC Signup admin page is “What’s New,” where we share information and usage instructions regarding new features and functionality added to the software. Since we post a new feature/function almost every other week – and since most of these improvements were requested by customers – users should make it a priority to regularly click this tab.

6. Try a feature or function you haven’t used before
Software is kind of like a foreign language in that you need to use it, practice it and even explore it to become fluent in it. Users should dig into the system and try things. For a while, you may want to make a copy of an event so you can test things without messing up your live event. And if something you try blows up, don’t panic, just move on to number 7 on this list – talk to us.

7. Contact your sales rep or our customer service team
Yes, we are busy. Yes, our customer base keeps growing. Yes, we probably get more calls than ever before. But yes, we really do welcome customer calls and emails. We want users to get the most out of the software. We want to know what’s giving them issues. We want ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Customer interactions give us the opportunity to help users work on that PhD in ABC while we garner feedback that might become the next great software feature. So by all means, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

From experience, we know that customers who dive into ABC Signup don’t typically look for a ladder out. We strongly (and selfishly) encourage users to pursue any or all of these seven options above to become more proficient users and ideally, more satisfied customers.

Topics: registration software, ABC Signup, registration management system

Are You Ready for These Eight Learning Trends for 2015?

Posted on Mon, Jan 12, 2015 @ 09:01 AM

Because our crystal ball broke years ago trying to pick Kentucky Derby winners, we defer to the experts when trying to pin down trends in areas such as training or events.

MM900282816In our quest to find something a little more useful than buzzwords like “technology” and “collaboration,” we checked out what had to say on the matter, and found an interesting presentation on Learning Trends for 2015 from Don Duquette of GP Strategies. Duquette offered eight trends that he believed would impact training and learning in the coming year and beyond.

Polls during the presentation found disparate interest and activity in his suggested trends. Take a look at our synopsis of his ideas and let us know what you think.

1. MOOC Mania
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – the open-access, unlimited participation, web-based instructional programs – ushered in Duquette’s list, similar to so many learning-related trend assessments of the past two to three years. In Duquette’s view, however, the next big thing for MOOCs is making them work in the corporate training environment.

That’s a challenge on at least two fronts. First, while MOOCs took higher education by storm with their ability to reach the masses (the New York Times called 2012 the “year of the MOOC”), their abysmal completion rates (Duquette cited statistics showing 96% of participants don’t complete MOOCs) won’t cut it in corporate America. Second, MOOCs for corporate training will be “closed” – as in only available to employees – but still require the technical platforms available.

Duquette cited a recent Microsoft MOOC as proof that the concept can be applied successfully at the corporate level. Microsoft built an eight-week course around “business strategy,” with completion earning participants a certificate from a co-content provider, the prestigious INSEAD. The curriculum coupled financial, strategy and other business-related content with a final assignment based on using business strategy learnings to solve challenges at Microsoft.

The online platform, content, peer review, time-bound requirements and the prestige of completion led to an 82% completion rate.

Of the webinar participants polled, less than 8% currently use MOOCs or expect to in 2015.

2. Do You Speak Visual?
Duquette references the effectiveness of visual learning – along with workers’ reduced time for learning and “moment of need” learning – as drivers for the trend of more visual learning content like videos, images and even emojis. He sees more and more short, quick videos and images being incorporated in training content, and cites the exponential rate of uploads of each (100 hours of videos uploaded every minute on YouTube, 28,000 images uploaded every minute on Instagram) as proof that its already happening.

Also accelerating this trend is the ability today for almost anyone to access this visual content anywhere via just about any device.

Of the webinar participants polled, almost 50% currently use visuals or expect to in 2015.

3. Paperless Education
The paperless movement is afoot – the U.S. Secretary of Education has called for textbooks to be obsolete in k-12 schools by 2016. Not only is learning content moving online via ebooks, videos and other formats, but the tools learners use to take notes on this instruction are as well. Duquette pointed to products like Evernote and Microsoft’s One Note as means in which learners can write notes, draw, schedule and even search their notes.

With respect to the impact on training and learning, going paperless points to more and more of a digital environment going forward for all parties.

Of the webinar participants polled, more than 28% currently “go paperless” or expect to in 2015.

4. Predictive Personalization
Personalization is already built into a lot of training, whether through programs design for specific departments or employees, or specially designed content that asks questions to segment learners and then funnels them to the appropriate learning track. Duquette predicts that technology – specifically “beacon”-like products – will further advance predictive personalization.

He pointed to the ibeacon products currently in use that do things like broadcast radio signals to nearby smartphones and tablets, such as a restaurant telling you today’s special, your Fitbit suggesting you workout, or that Disney “magicband” personalizing your experience at the theme park. In training circles, Duquette sees beacons providing instant learning content about equipment or a product as a worker moves into its vicinity.

Of the webinar participants polled, around 13% currently use personalization or expect to in 2015.

5. Expectations for Speed and Ease
Another trend – and likely another reflection of our shortening attention spans as learners – is the move toward “short learning bursts” versus hour-long (or more) courses. Participants want to know how long it will take to complete the training, and typically from their perspective, the shorter the better.

Duquette showed a menu from the Slate website – that indicated how much time was required to read various articles – as something we should consider when posting our own brief training programs, courses, videos and so on.

Of the webinar participants polled, more than 63% currently use short learning bursts or expect to in 2015.

6. 3D for Learning
3D printers and Occulus Rift (the 3D, virtual reality headset) are cool gadgets that one day soon will impact learning, according to Duquette. Both offer applications for manufacturing such as creating models for training or giving virtual tours of an industrial plant.

Of the webinar participants polled, a little over 2% currently use 3D tools or expect to in 2015.

7. Big Data
Nationwide recently hired a CDO – Chief Data Officer – to find value in the mountains of data the insurance company has accumulated over the years. The company is now better able to predict life transitions (and the subsequent need for insurance products) from analyzing customers’ digital trails. Soon, suggested Duquette, companies will use big data to better develop training programs that best advance the goals of the organization.

Of the webinar participants polled, about 10% currently use big data or expect to in 2015.

8. Mobile Apps
Seeing “mobile” in a trends article is a bit like hearing “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” if you are old enough to remember the Brady Bunch or happen to watch TV Land. The fact is, mobile continues to become a bigger and bigger part of any training/learning program. At the time of his presentation, Duquette pointed out that there were 33,886 learning apps available in the App Store. As we figure out how to develop, control and use mobile apps for learning – and make them corporate or training specific – mobile will become less of a trend and more of a solution.

Of the webinar participants polled, more than 23% currently use mobile tools or expect to in 2015.

What do you think? Are you seeing any of these trends in your training environment? What trends are you seeing that aren’t mentioned here? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

And as always, if you want to know more about registration software or ABC Signup, email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience.

Topics: registration software, trends, learning trends, training trends

Do You Know Your Software History (Infographic)?

Posted on Thu, Jan 08, 2015 @ 15:01 PM

The kind folks at software directory Capterra put together an infographic on the history of software and carved out a space for a certain registration software pioneer in their timeline. Pretty cool, and very informative. Take a look below.

The History of Software

Topics: registration software, software

These Christmas Characters Are Made For Event Management

Posted on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 15:12 PM

In the season of made-for-television holiday specials, we get Technicolor, stop-motion and CGI perspectives of the many trials and tribulations of pulling off the world’s biggest event, Christmas.

Sure, there’s some suspension of disbelief required, because it’s a logistics miracle to get toys (or coal) into billions of households overnight. (And reindeer can’t talk.) But to do it in the face of snowstorms – much less grinches, misers, hackers and even an evil postman bent on ruining the event – is the stuff of legend, or at least highly successful television specials.

“Good prevails” is the seminal lesson from most of these productions, but a closer look might help you hone in on the types of Christmas-making characters you want – and don’t want – on your event team.


It all starts with Santa, especially the “Kris Kringle” (Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town) version. This individual created the biggest event, sees the big picture, manages the process, is a visionary and a doer, and has equal compassion for fellow workers as well as his event’s audience.

Just as important to an event’s success are the Elves – no matter which show you are watching. Elves turn visions into reality. They handle the details and do the heavy lifting. And special elves solve problems, like Wayne guiding Santa through a blizzard in Prep and Landing or Hermey removing the Abomidable Snow Monster’s teeth in Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer.

Yes, the reindeer are also important, in a UPS or FedEx kind of way. Now, Olive (Olive, the Other Reindeer) – a Jack Russell that thought she was a reindeer, is a different story. She stepped up for others (an injured reindeer), brought a special skill set to the job (spoiler alert: her sense of smell that guided the sleigh to its destination) and doggedly got the work done.

Every event also needs a Cindy Lou Who (How the Grinch Stole Christmas), someone who can deal with others’ mistakes (looking at you, Grinch), win people over and move forward.

When things are going poorly, events benefit from a Linus (A Charlie Brown Christmas), who can pick up a team member (Charlie Brown, whose Christmas play and tree both flop), and pull together an event that makes participants sing for joy. And what event couldn’t benefit from a Frosty the Snowman, whose biggest magic might be his relentless enthusiasm?

There are several others worth consideration, characters like Rudolph (thinking audio-visual here), Ms. Claus (catering) and even the Little Drummer Boy (music).

Some of the characters on these specials, however, aren’t made for event management.

Snow Miser and Heat Miser (The Year Without a Santa Claus), for instance, are too temperamental. Rudolph’s father, Donner, and the reindeer's flying coach, Comet, seem too judgmental and intolerant of things new or different. And guys like pre-dream Scrooge or Burgermeister Meisterburger (boss of Sombertown – go figure) seem to hold events in great disdain.

And Charlie Brown? Save the brooding and soul-searching for after the event. That approach might help in planning, but your attendees feed off of the event’s (preferably) positive vibe.

Back to reality – not every event should strive to deliver the joy of a child opening a present, which seems to be the end goal of so many of these Christmas specials. But, if you’ve got the right characters on your team, who knows what magic you can make? Heck, Rudolph started as a storybook written for Montgomery Ward by one of the department store’s copywriters.

Care to comment on this blog or share your ideal or not so ideal Christmas television special characters? Just type your thoughts in the Comments section below.

If you’d like to know more about ABC Signup or registration software, please contact us by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) at your convenience (but not on December 24 or 25, because we will be out of the office, probably watching Christmas specials).

Topics: registration software, event planning, events

5 Resolutions to Optimize Your Registration Software for the New Year

Posted on Sun, Dec 07, 2014 @ 06:12 AM

Lose Weight and Get Fit.MM900315821
Quit Smoking.
Learn Something New.
Eat Healthier and Diet.
Get Out of Debt and Save Money.
Spend More Time with Family.
Travel to New Places.
Be Less Stressed.
Drink less.

Per Time magazine, those are the 10 most common broken New Year’s Resolutions. Did you notice what didn’t make the list?

Resolving to prep your registration software for the coming year.

That’s because getting your software ready for a new year is easy. And getting it done may help you with some of those real-life resolutions, like being less stressed, spending time with family and maybe even learning something new.

Here are a few simple tips that you can do now to make registration management that much easier in 2015.

1. Give your event pages an extreme makeover

What better way to wow your customers and prospects and impress the boss than to roll out your event pages for 2015 in a clean, attractive two-column format customized to your organization’s look? Our new event page design templates feature easy-to-use, drag-and-drop modules that will turn you into a master designer. And like our original event page tools, the new templates can be copied over and over for all of your events (you still have to update the pertinent details, mind you). If there is ever a time to make the transition to the new event page builder, it’s at the start of a new year, don’t you think?

2. Take out the trash

A great feature about ABC Signup – especially as you are learning the system – is the ability to archive events, view past events and even see your test events. It helps you get things right before you go live. After a while, however, your software dashboard will get a bit cluttered if you manage multiple events. If your lists in the “archived,” “past,” “current,” “not posted” or “external” events sections are scrolling off the page, you definitely want to consider a quick clean-up. Use our “purge” tool (just visit Help>Purge Events for details) to delete events you don’t need and make your ABC Signup easier to navigate.

3. Organize your file cabinet

There are several things you can do to your database of contacts to prep for a new year. You can cull out names that might no longer belong on the list. You can import additional contacts to expand your base. Some customers run reports off the database to create mailing lists, maybe to promote the first event of the new year or to send a nice holiday message. Go to Help>Database to learn more about importing and exporting data.

4. Test your many discount options to boost attendance

Our software is loaded with event pricing options – options that might increase participation or encourage earlier signups and less last-minute, are-we-going-to-meet-budget stress. See if our various discount coding options – such as early-bird discounts, group rates, multiple event rates – makes sense for your events.

5. Get feedback on 2014 before the year is over

No doubt you spent time prior to 2014 (and you are likely doing it again right now) curating or creating program content, aligning presenters, vetting locations and addressing all of the other elements that go into planning a successful event program. You certainly want to know how those big picture items mentioned above were received by your customers in 2014 – was the content right, did the presenter nail it, was the location perfect? Use our evaluation tools to find out. And if you already use these tools, be sure to update your evaluations to make sure you are asking the right questions to improve your programs. You can now even “weight” scores on various questions to see how things you emphasized fared. Go to Help>Creating an Evaluation Form to build weighting into your assessments.

A new year brings new opportunities to make your programs and events better than ever. It also gives you the opportunity to get even more out of your registration software. If some of the steps or functionality (we add lots of new stuff every year) mentioned above seem unfamiliar, check out our Help system, view our video tutorials or just contact us for assistance, either by phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or email.

If you would like to share some of the things you do to ready ABC Signup for a new year, please post your ideas in the Comments section below.

Topics: online registration software, registration software

Designing Awesome Event Pages Just Got Easier

Posted on Thu, Dec 04, 2014 @ 11:12 AM

ABC Signup just made event page design a snap – more specifically, a click, drag and drop.

After a few weeks in the lab, we emerged with a new option that allows you to create one or two-column event pages with multiple, movable modules – each complete with full editing and tag functionality.

We’ve pre-populated the template (see image below) with a masthead section that you design, perhaps with your logo and color scheme. Below the page header, the default two-column format includes suggested modules for event info, details, registration, location, sharing (social media links), about us, who’s attending, presenting and more. You can move these modules to the wider (left) or more narrow (right) columns, or completely off the page in the “available content” area to the right.

You can also rearrange the modules as you see fit, change the headings and color schemes, and edit all of the content within each module. You can add new modules, and even take all modules out of the right column to create a one column format.

“You asked for better, easier-to-use tools, and we feel this new design capability delivers,” said Todd Chandler, president of ABC Signup. “You’ll be surprised how simple it is to create more professional-looking event pages yet retain the flexibility to customize and add your branding. We are pretty confident that the new templates will make a great-looking event page and a great impression with your potential registrants.”

With the new tool, users can easily preview the page, and copying events is the same in this format as with the original ABC Signup event page tools – which, by the way, are still available.

Customers access the templates from the Event Page (Events > Event Control Panel > Event Page) by clicking on a new button, “Switch to the event page layout template.”

We will gladly walk you through the new design tool (or view our brief tutorial video), and we welcome your suggestions for improvement. Just try it out – and expect to “wow” your boss and your customers with your newly acquired web design acumen. We won’t tell.

To contact us about this new feature or ABC Signup’s awesome registration management system, send us an email or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0).


Topics: registration software, event registration, events

If We Wore a Cornucopia as a Hat, We'd Tip It

Posted on Wed, Dec 03, 2014 @ 16:12 PM

Eleven years ago, just before Thanksgiving, registration for something called the Textbook Caravan went live using ABC Signup. That event, hosted by an education cooperative in Indiana, was the first to employ ABC Signup; 482 persons signed up. If we were not above using weak puns, we would say that was a textbook example of a successful registration process.

RScornucopiahatOnline registration may seem like no big deal now, but remember this: Most organizations in 2003 still handled registrations via spreadsheets, word documents, emails and something old timers used to refer to as a “telephone.” Some still manage signups the old-fashioned way, but who are we to pick nits in this blog? As long as we’re mentioning blogs, BlogOn, credited by many as the first social media conference, would not take place for two more years. Speaking of social media, Mark Zuckerberg and his college buds hadn’t thrown together the first Facebook site, yet. And Twitter? Still nearly three years away.

The digital landscape has changed dramatically, and so has ABC Signup. The Textbook Caravan, if it had required such functions, could not take advantage of credit card processing, shopping cart, advanced page design, customized reporting, and automated issuing of certificates (or certificates at all, for that matter).

Since registration for that first event went live in November 2003, 171,842 more events, including a lot more Textbook Caravans, have been created in ABC Signup. In the neighborhood of three million individual registrations have been processed.  Some of those events have handled fewer than ten registrations; others have been in the thousands. However, just like the Duggar family with eleventy kids, each event has been equally important to us. We know you may have just as much riding on your event for a handful attendees as someone organizing a major conference for thousands.

So, here’s a belated tip of the Thanksgiving cornucopia to our customers, who have relied on ABC Signup for events that determine their own success. Thank you for your partnership, and here’s to the next 171, 843 events.

If you have thoughts you would like to share about this blog, Thanksgiving, ABC Signup or other sentimental registration software stories, please submit them in the Comments section below. If you need additional information or have a question for us, feel free to contact us by email or phone (866.791.8268 ext. 0).

Topics: registration software, event registration, events

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.

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Topics: registration software, event marketing