Data: Use It, Don’t Lose It

December 21, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Surveys — Tags: , , — @ 10:48 am

One of the wonders of the Internet is the amount of marketing data available and the extrapolations that can be made using such data. Search engine optimization (SEO) software, for instance, can tell you who visited your site, how long they stayed, what pages they visited, what search keywords might have brought them and what offers they clicked.  Marketers can take that data and create targeted tools such as Google adwords, special landing pages, e-mails and customer-specific offers.

Your organization may not deploy these tools for a number of sound reasons. However, if you use ABC Signup’s online registration software, you might be surprised about what tools you do have to collect and deploy data to embark on your own optimization journeys.

Start with your e-mail invitation to an event or program.

When did recipients respond? Immediately after receiving the e-mail, a few days after it was sent, after a reminder was sent, or just prior to the event? A quick look at this data might help you improve the timing of your communications.

Next, review the content of that initial e-mail over the course of several events. Is there one message or offer that generates a higher response rate than another? If so, double-down on that messaging.

Also, examine your responses and registrations for those new individuals signing up. Did they come from an expanded mailing list, did someone forward the original invitation e-mail to them, or did the new attendee find it on their own via your website? This intel will provide insights into ways you can grow your program or event’s attendance, if that is one of your goals.

Take a similar look at your financial reporting to determine who is paying when, and whether you can adjust the timing and content of payment reminder notices to attain payment more efficiently.

Finally, don’t forget ABC Signup’s survey/evaluation tools. This is your way to find out what worked and what didn’t with your program or event. We should always be seeking ways to improve the product, and there is no better guide for doing so than your customers.

As always, feel free to comment below with your ideas for leveraging data to improve your programs or events.

Going Mobile?

November 3, 2011
photo of ABC Signup on an iPad

click to enlarge

Fittingly, you can’t spell Apple® without “app.” The folks from Cupertino, CA and their revolutionary gadgets have created a gold rush for developers creating new applications or shrinking web-based apps to work (and fit) on iPhones and iPads. Today, one billion apps are downloaded each month on Apple devices, and the company has paid $3 billion and counting to app developers.

While there isn’t an ABC Signup “official app” just yet, our web-based, registration software already works on any mobile device with Internet access, including the iPhone and iPad. In fact, there are several features of ABC Signup that can help events run smoother using mobile devices on site.

Some of our users deploy PDAs with ABC Signup up and running to check attendance at a sign-in area, meeting room or classroom. If an event allows walk-in participation, iPads deployed at the registration area allow registrants to quickly sign up and pay on the ABC Signup-built form.

As long as a user has Internet access, just about any registration system task performed on a computer can be done on a mobile device. If something changed during the program or event that impacts an evaluation or certificate or follow-up e-mail, for example, you can make that change on site via ABC Signup on your mobile device. If a registrant brings a check to the event, you can mark them as paid. If you want to post a picture of the event in a “thank you” e-mail, you can do it all right there with a mobile device and ABC Signup.

There are plenty of ways to make the most of ABC Signup on mobile platforms. We mentioned a few, but would love to hear some of the other ways you take advantage of our software on your device. And if there are new ways you would like to use ABC Signup on a mobile device, please tell us. Use the comment section below, or e-mail us.

We don’t have billions to pour into development, but we still find a way to deliver ABC Signup tools wherever you are. After all, you can’t spell “ABC Signup” without “u” and “can” (and some other letters).

When Does Your Program or Event Really End?

October 4, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Surveys,Training — Tags: , — @ 3:18 pm

Your last presenter signs off, attendees head for the exits, staff packs up whatever needs to be packed, and another conference – or training program or cooking camp or other event – is in the books.

Aside from a few participants’ comments in passing and additional feedback via surveys or evaluations, customer interaction and your opportunity to influence them could end as they leave the room.

It doesn’t have to. And in most cases, it shouldn’t.

There are numerous means to connect with your customers post-event, and just as many benefits of doing so – most notably, retaining them.

At the conclusion of a training program, for instance, consider sending participants a certificate, a synopsis of the materials covered, or links to additional, relevant resources. Tabulate the responses to surveys or evaluations and let them know the results and (if appropriate) how you intend to act upon the findings. Quiz them on the material covered. Post a follow-up article on your website or blog, and encourage them to read it and comment. Send them a thank you, and invite them to the next relevant workshop. And cross-pollinate all of this with your social media platforms, if applicable.

Aside from demonstrating that you go above and beyond for your customer, such extended contact is an essential means of helping training program participants retain the subject matter.

Annual conferences or meetings offer their own opportunities. Post photos and videos of the event on your website, and share the link(s) with participants. Do the same with the keynote address, other relevant presentations, and the details and rationale behind any important decisions made at the event. Again, blogging about the conference or meeting can continue the conversation and provide important feedback.

Some organizations do an excellent job of planning such post-event activities as a means to keep customers engaged, continue adding value and prime them, if you will, for the next sales opportunity. Some even use a step-by-step roll-out of follow-up initiatives, so as not to overwhelm participants with one flood of information, but rather to keep them interested one piece at a time.

A staggered roll-out might include a pre-planned, post-event message (a thank you, a reiteration of the event’s theme or central message, a discount offer for a future event, etc.) sent out immediately after the event, followed by weekly links to the types of information suggested above.

Too often, program providers put a lot into planning an event yet still start from scratch trying to attract registrants when the next cycle rolls around.  A post-event engagement plan can help you bridge the gap between events, add value to your offerings and keep your registration list full.

ABC Signup Customers Expect Uptrend in Programs to Continue in 2012, Per Survey

July 7, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Registrations,Surveys — Tags: , , — @ 9:49 am

A cross-section of ABC Signup customers are seeing a slight uptick in activity in 2011 and expect to offer the same or more programs and events in 2012. Each said they save time managing registrations for these offerings through ABC Signup’s online registration software, according to the first customer survey conducted by the company.

“We felt a survey could complement the anecdotal information we get from ongoing conversations with our customers,” said Todd Chandler, president of ABC Signup. “We gained a clearer picture of market expectations as well as customer perceptions about our software.”

While 47% of survey participants said their number of programs or events were about the same thus far in 2011 versus 2010, 40% cited an increase compared to 13% who saw a decrease. Listen to your customersAttendance for these events tracked about the same year-over-year for 42% of survey respondents, but 34% experienced increases versus 24% who recorded declines. About one-third of those surveyed expect to offer additional programs in 2012, while 61% project their offerings to remain about the same as 2011.

Customers noted significant time savings achieved through ABC Signup, with 42% estimating they saved at least 50% of the time they had been committing to registration management prior to using ABC Signup. Another 29% placed their time savings at 20%, and 21% estimated their time savings at 30%.

“Time savings is one of our key selling points, so it is gratifying to be able to quantify those savings at such high percentages,” said Chandler. “Over the years, customers repeat the mantra about ABC Signup ‘freeing them up’ to do other aspects of their job or devote more time to improving program content, and this survey indicates they are gaining the time to do it.”

Customers were almost evenly split in choosing their top three features of ABC Signup’s software, with most selecting “registrants enter their own data,” “automated correspondence to registrants,” and “easy access to reports such as attendance or financials.” They cited 24/7 access to register online and e-mail confirmations/reminders as the two top features of ABC Signup from the registrant’s perspective.

When asked what they might improve about ABC Signup’s software, survey participants were less decisive. Of the choices, 30% selected “more report exporting options,” while another 30% selected “other” and wrote in answers ranging from “nothing” to “not such a short timeout period” to “more customization.” And in an unsolicited testament to ABC Signup’s devotion to customer feedback, one respondent wrote, “As we think of new features, they tend to appear, as others must have had the same ideas.”

“From the sales and renewal processes to our regularly scheduled customer reviews to our ongoing dialogue about software features, we are always talking to our customers and upgrading our product to better serve them,” said Chandler. “This survey mirrors a lot of what we hear in individual conversations, but gives us a little more consensus on the market trends and product characteristics so important to our business.”

Survey Says…

March 9, 2011
Filed under: Surveys — Tags: , — @ 10:17 am

ABC customers come from all corners of the country, vary from Fortune 500 firms to faith-based organizations, and use our system for everything from cooking classes to computer programming. Yet, they all share a common goal – providing a service of value to the registrants of their programs.

Obviously, the registrants’ experience is important enough to each of you that you’ve invested in a registration system to facilitate an easier process for participants. That same system, moreover, offers a simple tool that – when used properly – can help you further increase the value of the programs you deliver.

It’s labeled “Evaluation Form” within ABC Signup. This function allows you to create surveys that can garner feedback from your program participants. You can find specific instruction on how to set up an evaluation form in the Help section or here: Home > Event Set-up > Evaluation Form > Creating an Evaluation Form.

Before you build your evaluation or broader survey, however, consider eight key steps to make the most of the opportunity.

  1. Clearly define the objectives or purpose of your evaluation/survey
  2. Properly introduce the questionnaire and its instructions
  3. Keep it short and focused
  4. Make the questions simple, and closed-ended when possible
  5. Consider your audience
  6. Pre-test your survey
  7. Consider offering an incentive
  8. Don’t spam your constituents

To elaborate on step #1, a good evaluation or survey with good objectives and questions is more likely going to deliver good, actionable results. Ask why you are creating the survey, what you hope to accomplish and what decisions you hope to impact with its results. Per online survey provider Zoomerang, fuzzy goals lead to fuzzy (and often useless) results.

Survey Monkey, another online service, stresses the importance of a good introduction (step #2) that includes:

  • an introduction of the organization conducting the evaluation/survey;
  • confidentiality information and how the survey data will be used;
  • an estimate of how long the survey might take;
  • information on any incentive or prize for taking the survey; and
  • instructions on how to move through the survey.

The KISS principle (perhaps subbing “specific” for “stupid”) applies to surveys and steps #3 and #4 above. Survey service provider QuestionPro suggests limiting a survey’s length to a maximum of five minutes – which equates to roughly 15 questions – or risk greatly diminished participation. Those questions need to be specific, straightforward, relevant, and closed-ended whenever possible. If you use multiple choices or rating scales, keep them consistent throughout, says Zoomerang. Here is a quick run-down on types of survey questions.

Considering your audience (step #5) is mostly a reminder to keep it relevant. Create evaluation or survey questions that make sense to your constituents and elicit useful responses. Also, do note that the closeness of your relationship to the survey audience directly correlates to the response rate you can expect.

One of the most important steps of the survey process is the pre-test (step #6). Send the survey to a few clients or co-workers to evaluate the survey’s wording, ensure the questions mean the same thing to all, get a sense if the results are “actionable” and determine the actual time it takes to complete.

Unfortunately, you can follow steps #1-#6 to perfection and get so few responses that your survey is ineffective. Think about your own experience – how much more likely are you to respond to a survey if there is a prize or incentive offered? Zoomerang says 50% more likely. Consider creative ideas (step #7) to encourage participation. For many ABC Signup customers, it is as simple as including a check box that says participants will not get their certificates (of completion) unless they complete the evaluation.

Finally, don’t just spam your survey to an e-mail or mailing list (step #8), and don’t send surveys to the same audience repeatedly. Make sure your target audience has opted in to receive information from you. If you aren’t sure, ask. And don’t forget to thank participants for their time.

If you have any questions on setting up post-event evaluations or surveys, please contact us.

Evaluating Your Event

December 21, 2010
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Surveys — Tags: , — @ 10:52 am

Events don’t end when the screen goes blank, the presenter unplugs the laptop and Elvis has left the building. The oft-neglected next step – post-event analysis – should demand the same amount of attention as the tedious, down-to-the-last-detail pre-event planning.

After all, it is this analysis that lets you know how you did in meeting your goals, how the event performed in meeting participants’ goals, and how partners such as ABC Signup, the venue, etc. held up to their end of the bargain.

Consider a two-pronged approach to ensure that “getting the event done” isn’t the only standard for success.

First, review your “internal” event goals. Did you meet targets for attendance, fundraising, etc.? Were expenses in line with your budget? Was the timing of communications effective? Did logistics work out as planned, and if not, what worked, what didn’t and what could be done differently? Ask the same question of your vendors, including, if applicable, ABC Signup.

Second, evaluate the event from the eyes of the customer.

If available, use custom-tailored evaluations – such as those offered by ABC Signup (hyperlink to a screen shot of an ABC-backed evaluation form) – or create your own tool with a priority on convenience. Ask what makes the most sense for your event, and do so soon after the event is completed. Typically, you will want feedback on the following:

  • The facilities
  • The relevance and value of the subject matter
  • The presenter
  • The overall event organization
  • What participants liked
  • What could be improved

Remember to prioritize what you want to know and try to keep your evaluation to a realistic scale, finding a balance between getting as much feedback as possible without asking for so much that participants don’t participate. A rule of thumb is to present it as a reasonable size such as “one page,” “10 questions” or “two minutes,” and keep to those limits.

If you aren’t getting enough participation in these evaluations, consider using an incentive such as a giveaway drawing awarded to one lucky participant who completes the survey.

Also, don’t forget in your post-event evaluation to thank the participant for their feedback. Acknowledging that you value their opinion – and want to improve your offering – is not only sound business but improves your chances of repeat business.

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