Five Ways To Spring Clean Your Online Registrations

April 3, 2012

A new year brings new opportunities to make your programs and events better than ever.

image of workers cleaning a laptopYou likely already zeroed in on your big-picture challenges – such as program content, presenters, location and event extras (some of which are discussed here). Perhaps now is a good time to move on to some of those things you can do within ABC Signup to freshen up your programs and improve your customers’ experience. Here are five tips to getting more out of your registration software:

1. Throw out what you don’t need

Sure, you can archive events, view past events and even see your test events. But after a while, your software dashboard might get a bit cluttered. 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.

2. A little redesign might help

Revisit your registration form and update your questions to get the right information. You know how the software works and have seen its powerful reporting – consider what other information you need from registrants to make administration of your programs even easier, then ask for it!

3. Add a fresh coat of paint

Use our new, easier Theme tools to recreate your event pages, calendar listings and registration forms to mirror the look of your website or reflect a theme you think works well for your programs or events.

4. Not exactly a yard sale, but

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 event.

5. Finishing touches to make next year easier

You want to know how those big picture items mentioned above were received by your customers – 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.

If these ideas sound good to you but you are a little rusty with the software are unfamiliar with some of the newer functionality, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a quick refresher. A lot of functionality and features have been added to ABC Signup over the past year, so even our refresher has been refreshed.

The Hunger Games Needed Good Registration Software

March 28, 2012

Never mind what you think about the concept of the futuristic “Hunger Games,” where pairs of young people from distinct geographical areas are pitted against each other in a nationally televised, winner-takes-all battle to the death.

What about the registration system used to select the unlucky participants? No registration software or online signups – just names dumped into a bowl and identification by a blood prick.

How crude.

The Capitol – with all its high-tech glitz, hovercraft, bullet trains and computer-created game settings – couldn’t handle Hunger Game registrations online with cool software like ABC Signup?

Think about what they missed. They could have offered early-bird signups that offer an incentive, such as reducing the number of Hunger Games entries per registrant. They could design each district’s registration page with a theme unique to that area, like some cool flames for District 12. They could use the registrant database to know exactly how many times an individual was entered each year and when they run out of eligibility. They could have even dropped a cool Mockingjay logo on each participant’s name badge.

But no, there is no registration software in author Suzanne Collins’ tomorrow.

If that’s the future, don’t sign us up.

It’s Class Registration, not War & Peace

March 15, 2012
Filed under: Event Planning,Registrations,Training — Tags: , , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 10:23 am

According to CNN Money and other sources, mobile devices with reader capabilities were bought in the millions each week at the end of 2011. You can literally write a book that people will read on their mobile devices.  But should you, if you’re writing information for your student registration software system?

registration info should be brief for mobile devicesIf it’s your job to make class enrollment easy, that includes limiting the quantity of reading and scrolling a registrant must do when signing up. The tips for writing for mobile devices are the same as for traditional delivery platforms, only amplified because the screen is smaller.

Make it easy on your audience
Put the most important information at the top of the page, including your registration form link. (Insert the link again at the bottom, too.) Keep away from florid, prose-style paragraphs. See this example.  Keep it simple. Be succinct. Use 25-cent words in place of their five-dollar synonyms, etc.  Use headings and subheadings. Use bullets. Eliminate unnecessary words in lists, such as “the” and “a”.

Here how the above paragraph might look instead:

Your tips list

  • Lead with big stuff
  • Limit scrolling
  • Be succinct
  • Use short words
  • Lean on bullets
  • Employ headings/subheadings
  • Eliminate words such as articles (the, a)
  • Try it out

If you’re reading this blog on a mobile device, it’s gone on too long already. Enough said.

Odorless Badges Work Just Fine

March 13, 2012
Filed under: Event Planning,Registrations,customer service — Tags: , , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 9:49 am

You’ve probably heard it in a registration queue: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges,” the oft-quoted line from the movie Blazing Saddles and a parody (though slightly misquoted) of a line from the famous Western film, Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

The truth of the matter is, you might need badges, especially if you coordinate programs and events with more than a handful of participants. It doesn’t matter if it’s a workshop or a conference, if the event offers opportunity for interaction between the presenter(s) and the participants, name badges make sense.

Guidelines for name badges or tags are pretty simple. Content should at least include the individual’s name and (if appropriate) organization, in a font size large enough to read from 10 feet away, according to this name tag guru. The badge could include the event logo, and possibly show the first name in a large font (with other typeface smaller). The badges should be worn on the upper chest, right side, so they can easily be read upon shaking hands as the eyes move upward toward the face.

Customers of online registration software provider ABC Signup can quickly create custom name tags for their programs and events through the registration system’s custom name tag tool in the event setup module. The user simply places fields (e.g. [name], [organization]) for data directly onto the template, assigns the appropriate name tag label form (e.g., Avery 5384), lets the system pull in the registrants’ data, and then prints away.

Name badges make events more open, social and friendly. They can also help organizers confirm attendance, pinpoint feedback and target specific follow-up, and give registrants a sense of belonging and an appreciation for the event’s organization.

Please feel free to share your name tag best practices – or stinkin’ horror stories – below.

Media Uploads, Testing Coming to ABC Signup

March 7, 2012
Filed under: Registrations,Training,learning management system — Tags: , , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 10:37 am

Imagine your website offering on-site training programs supplemented by online video instruction – complete with the ability to manage registrations and online payment, test registrants on the content, process evaluations, award continuing education credits and more.

image of online learningIf you are an ABC Signup customer, that soup-to-nuts functionality is just around the corner. Basic online course delivery and testing features, typically associated with learning management systems, will be the newest capabilities of the software by the end of the year.

No, we are not having an identity crisis. Our core product remains the most feature-rich, robust registration software for the money on the market today. These new additions, while significant in terms of the options they give customers, are consistent with our approach of adding functionality complementary to our core registration solutions.

The newest of these features allows users to upload and display a variety of files and multimedia. The media upload component, which could be used to post videotaped presentations and courses, integrates a third-party hosting and encoding system into our software. The second new feature, the coming-soon testing component, will enable users to instantly test registrants online upon completion of an on-site or online course.

“We are committed to providing the features that our customers want, that make sense for our business model, and that make our software more valuable and attractive,” said Todd Chandler, president of ABC Signup. “We believe these two new capabilities accomplish meet these objectives while further differentiating us from the competition.”

Customers interested in the new features should contact ABC Signup for more information.

Add Your Guidance to Our Guide

February 17, 2012
Filed under: Registrations,Sales,Uncategorized,customer service — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 11:36 am

cover image of buyers' guide for online registration softwareTrue story. We penned a Buyers’ Guide for online registration software, even though we never really shopped for it. On the surface, that might seem a bit of a contradiction.

We have, however, been in the registration software business for nearly a decade. We listen to hundreds of customers and prospects share their insights as to what works for them when seeking a software provider. And, we certainly eye the competition to see not only what they offer but how they price it and attempt to market it to customers.

On its own, that background would seem to merit the kind of authority status needed to publish an easy-to-read, process-oriented Buyers’ Guide.

But in this age of collaboration and wikis – paired with our obsession with customer input – we think we can do even better. We want to make this Buyers’ Guide more of a living, evolving document and think we can accomplish this by incorporating your personalized input.

So, here’s the deal. Any registration software user who wants to weigh in with their thoughts on how to go about the research and selection process is welcome to submit comments. If your advice passes our “stink” test, we are going to work it into the document. We only ask that you review the Buyers’ Guide first, so that you don’t repeat suggestions already covered. Click here to access the document.

What’s in it for you, you ask? Well, for every 10 (non-spam) comments we receive, we will hold a drawing for a gift card to be awarded to one lucky respondent. So, please review the document, and send your ideas to marketing@abcsignup.com.

A Paid Search Tip: Find the Negatives

February 15, 2012
Filed under: Marketing,Registrations — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 3:31 pm

Google search isn’t perfect. Sure, it dominates the market with its best in class engine and advertising model, but it still delivers some wacky results and can’t overcome human error.  Its imperfections are especially noticeable when you pay for its mistakes.

example of a Google search resultMany Internet-based businesses like registration software provider ABC Signup use Google as a nationwide “Yellow Pages” to help customers find their virtual storefront, the website. We use Google Adwords’ paid search to ensure our name is front and center when folks search for terms (or “keywords”) that describe our business, such as “online registration software.” When someone clicks on our name in the paid search results (top three results plus the right column in Google), we actually pay Google for the placement that resulted in a click.

Unfortunately, not all clicks are on target. Over our eight-plus years on the Internet, we’ve paid for searches for “Regis and Kelly” simply because of the “ABC” in our name. The keyword “registration” draws PPC (price per click)-eating surfers to our site to try to register everything from a Makita drill to a Sony playstation. They also come from every state to register to vote, drive or be eligible for the selective service.

Sadly, too many of these lost searchers not only get directed to the wrong site, but they click through to a contact us page and actually fill out a form that has nothing to do with tool registrations and even says so. Bad searches can be good for an occasional laugh, but otherwise are a waste of everyone’s time.

On the plus side, Google Adwords does have ways to tightly define keywords, and better yet, it offers a keyword search tool that details every search term used to reach your site over a given period of time. By reviewing that list frequently and checking those that you DON’T want directing traffic to your site (the “negative keywords”), you can actually block terms from directing the wrong searches to your site. Today, our negative keywords list is longer than our keywords list.

The takeaway here is to frequently search the keywords that generated clicks in your Google Adwords account and act accordingly. If you aren’t a Google Adwords user, but use Google to search, thanks in advance for clicking wisely.

If you have any tips to share, or would like a little more information – such as getting started with Google Adwords – feel free to post below or contact us.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

February 1, 2012
Filed under: Marketing,Registrations,Training — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 12:16 pm
That is the question – well, for many of us, anyway.

Blogging isn’t an easy task to take on, nor is it simple to gauge whether the effort put forth will pay dividends.

Common objections to blogging include not having the time; not having a platform to blog upon; not having an audience to write to; not having content to regularly fill a blog; and not having the skill set to create interesting, useful copy.

All are sensible reasons – but definitely on the wrong side of the trend. That handful of blogs on the Internet in the late 1990s has mushroomed into hundreds of millions of blogs today. As many as one out of six people now blog for a variety reasons, and the number of bloggers will continue to rise as the barriers to entry disappear. Considering that you can go to a site like WordPress and set up a free blog in less than an hour, the only remaining barrier today is Internet access.

But, just as every 16-year-old boy doesn’t need a car, everyone doesn’t need to blog. It just makes a lot of sense for some of our online registration software customers, especially those of you in the training, professional development and events fields.

A blog can help market your upcoming events. It can reinforce subject matter with follow-up content after a workshop or class. It can generate dialogue (or collaboration) about the subject matter and even create a community of sorts around your programs.

Blogs can also build relationships between providers and customers, aiding your brand, loyalty and sales in the process. And, each blog entry creates a new page to be searched (and found) via the Internet and further establishes your site as an authority, two drivers to improving your SEO or search engine optimization (which makes your site more likely to show up in Internet searches).

If you can find time, business rationale and motivation, add a blog to your organization’s marketing/communications arsenal. There are hundreds of blogs that will guide you through starting a blog, great success stories to inspire you, neat case studies to keep you on track and expert tips to help you increase your traffic.

As always, we welcome your feedback. And, if you already blog and have tips to share with others, by all means comment below.

Sales and a Sense of Urgency

January 12, 2012
Filed under: Marketing,Registrations,Sales — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 10:31 am

Marketers love to create a sense of urgency to help close a sale. They wield tools such as “limited supply” offers or time-sensitive incentives like end-of-year discounts, monthly specials, daily deals, or holiday-only promotions (to the point that at least one holiday, “Black Friday,” is now recognized for the promotion).

image of an hourglassThis urgency, whether real or manufactured, typically works. If you want it to continue to work – and you value your business’ credibility – the offer should be genuine, not manufactured.

The idea, as detailed by this consultant, is not to pressure the buyer into purchasing but to use pressure to prevent them from procrastinating. That’s not always the easiest thing to differentiate, no matter what side of the sale you are on.

Today’s consumers are savvy enough to begin to question a limited-time offer that keeps getting extended, so if that initial “deal” doesn’t close the deal, the seller better focus in on other avenues to end the procrastination – like the prospect’s immediate needs and what it might cost each month he/she delays, etc.

For those of you using ABC Signup to administer online registrations for programs and events that have price tags, you have simple tools to create a genuine sense of urgency for your prospective registrants.

As you first set up the event, you have an option (under the General tab) to create a maximum number of participants, which in effect creates a “limited supply” offer. It’s genuine and fair to tell your prospects in this instance that the program or event is limited to the first 75 registrants.

Other “urgency” tools are found in the Financial tab of your event setup module. Early registration (time-sensitive) options allow you to create discounts for registrants who “buy” before a certain deadline you establish. ABC Signup customers also have the ability to create discount policies that can be just about anything (e.g., register for this event and get the next event for half off).

All of us – as walking, breathing 24/7 prospects – recognize that urgency-done-right can often be the deal maker when it comes to purchasing decisions. Why not put it to work for your programs and events with the ABC Signup tools described above? If you need any help setting it up, or have ideas for improving this aspect of the software, please contact us.

2011: Tough Act to Follow

January 10, 2012
Filed under: Event Planning,Registrations,customer service — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 11:52 am

In business, one always hopes that the transition to a new year raises the question, “What do we do to top that?”

For ABC Signup in 2012, that means trying to outperform a year (2011) in which the company achieved a number of milestones, from adding many new features and improving software functionality (detailed here) to exceeding the “100,000 events” and “one million registrations” marks earlier in the year. We delivered timely and effective customer support, we doubled the number of newsletter subscribers and we were one of five finalists (out of hundreds of applicants) for the 2011 Inc.credible small business award. Most important of all, we achieved a company-record 95% customer retention rate.

So, what do we plan to do for an encore in 2012?

For starters, we are going to redouble our efforts to meet or improve upon that record retention rate. We view you – our customers – as partners, shareholders, advocates and in many cases, trusted advisors. If we give you a great product and service for your investment, we know you are more likely to continue to partner with us and help us to continue improving ABC Signup. So, expect more from our software and our people in 2012.

Second, we will take a closer look at what’s behind some of the many doors our customers open for us. Your requests for additional functionality led us to create tools that lend themselves to complimentary software solutions applicable to niches such as conferences and learning management systems. While online registration software remains our core product, we think it is simply good business to see if our software expertise can bring additional value to you as well as other markets.

Third, we will continue to use tools such as our blog, our website, our Facebook page, instructional videos, white papers and more to provide information that makes your job easier. Our customers come in all shapes and sizes, but there are a number of universal truths to using ABC Signup’s software, managing registrations, and coordinating successful programs and events. We want to continue to share what we know on these topics, and encourage our customers to share their best practices.

Of course, there are several, more specific objectives we hope to accomplish in 2012. But we figure if we excel at listening to our customers, delivering what they want and keeping them informed, we can achieve a new set of milestones in the coming year.

As always, we welcome your ideas and comments.

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