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.

Data: Use It, Don’t Lose It

December 21, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Surveys — Tags: , , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 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.

Black Friday and Your Registration Process

November 17, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations — Tags: — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 9:47 am

photo of mad rush into a store on Black FridayNo other day of the year gives some of us greater appreciation for the Internet than the day after Thanksgiving (or now, Thanksgiving night) – Black Friday – the official first day of Christmas shopping for retailers across the country.

Many physically will NOT go out and shop on that day, and will also avoid driving on roads anywhere near shopping centers. If these folks want to participate in some of the deals of the day, they simply go to that retailer’s website – or Amazon, eBay, etc. – and order it online.

On a much smaller scale, an online registration system provides a similar convenience to registrants who want to avoid the hassle of filling out a form, writing a check, and faxing, mailing or hand delivering the info and payment to the program or event provider. With the right registration software, what once took customers several minutes can be reduced to a matter of seconds.

Such efficiencies are even more amplified for the providers of programs and events, especially for those whose non-ABC Signup registration process might entail:

  • creating event PDFs or fliers with registration forms, and mailing or posting on websites;
  • hand-processing all of the return faxes, mailings, phone calls, checks, cash and credit card numbers; and
  • hoping they can manage that data well enough to communicate confirmations and wait-lists, generate registrant lists and nametags, and track essentials such as attendance, CEUs and payment.

It is simply easier and less time consuming to deploy a system that automates most of those endeavors and provides registrants 24/7 access to events and programs. When it comes to managing registrations, every day doesn’t have to be Black Friday.

Shop at ABC Signup or have us give you a free assessment. Our website is open 24/7, and we’re here in the office Monday through Friday (well, not Black Friday).

11 Easy Ways to Market Your Program or Event

November 11, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations — Tags: — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 2:32 pm

Fair disclosure: Yes, this blog entry was inspired by today’s unique date, 11.11.11. And yes, it would have been easier to write in May of 2005.

On to the list. Just about anybody can use a few good tips for marketing an event or program. Start with these 11 – if you need more, come back on December 12 of next year.

1.  Use the media

One of the media’s charges is to inform the public of what’s going on in the community, aside from car wrecks or Kardashians. A simple “who, what, when, why, how” media advisory should land your event in the outlet’s calendar section, and a press release (if appropriate) could result in an interview or article.

2.  Give it front page real estate on your website

Most websites are pretty static. Two things typically add a little dynamics to a home page – news and events. Getting your event information teased on the home page shouldn’t be a difficult sell. Just be sure to give plenty of advance notice (unless you hold the keys to the content management system). Also, if you feature online registrations, make the “register” button highly visible.

3.  E-mail it to your customer list

If you manage programs or events, you likely have compiled a database and use it to communicate with your customers. Use it again to promote your events. You might send out a special one-time announcement with links to event information/registration form on your website, or include the event information in an e-mail newsletter.

4.  Promote it on your social media

If you’ve set up social media accounts, this is how you can actually use it to your organization’s advantage. Here are some tips for marketing your event on Facebook and Linked In.

5.  Tease it at the end of any prior events you are holding

Captive audience – check. Existing customers – check. Opportunity to up-sell – check. Always, when appropriate, close your most recent events or programs with a reminder about your upcoming event.

6.  Include the event details/web info in your e-mail signature

In most e-mail programs, you can create a signature – typically your name, title, contact information and company logo. Edit it a few weeks out (or whatever time frame makes sense) from your event to include a line about the upcoming event linked to your website details/registration.

7.  Ask any partners/sponsors to co-promote

If you have a partner or sponsor, ask them to follow as many of these 11 steps themselves. If your event might benefit from a partner or sponsor, think about pursuing such a relationship as a means to double your promotional efforts.

8.  Talk it up via word of mouth.

Not that everyone wants to hear you talk about your work all of the time, but it doesn’t hurt to share information about the upcoming event in conversations, especially with audiences that might be interested in your offering.

9.  Blog about it.

Technically, this could fall within the social media above, but it’s big enough to deserve its own number. Not only does this platform give you a chance to promote the event, but it also invites feedback and improves search results. You can link to all sorts of topics related to your program/event, you can profile the presenter/speaker (if appropriate), and you can always link back to your event info/registration. Also, find relevant blogs, and where appropriate, post comments about your event in their comment sections.

10. Leverage speaking engagements.

This one isn’t quite as easy as the others because public speaking is usually near the top of the list of things that people fear. If it is any comfort, the speaking engagement doesn’t have to be the local morning show, it could be at a rotary club, chamber of commerce, etc. Pick what might be advantageous for your event, see if it would be of interest to the targeted group, and go from there.

11. Include a special offer or drawing.

If you have the resources to give away a 2012 Corvette to one lucky attendee, the other 10 items on this list probably won’t be that important. If not, a gift card, a free registration to your next event or something relevant to your subject matter (e.g., a book on the topic) might be that little extra that moves customers off the fence.

Time is about the only barrier to leveraging all of the above to market your event or program. So, get started as early as possible, and make sure the message is consistent throughout. As always, if you have some tips to share, post them below in the comments section.

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).

QR Coding Now an ABC Signup Feature

October 11, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 8:36 am

QR code linking to blog articleABC Signup customers can now generate QR codes – linked to event/registration pages and calendar listings – that immediately pull up the linked page when scanned by a mobile device. This will allow customers to place images of the code on print materials such as event flyers or name tags. Registrants can scan the images at any time to get more information about the program or event.

To create a code, customers simply go to the link at the bottom of the event setup page (“Click here to generate QR codes…”), click, and a pop-up window will show three different-sized QR code images that will open the corresponding web address (your event page or calendar listings). You simply cut and paste the QR images where you see fit, and let the scanning begin!

Here’s the best part. We have just launched this feature, and can do a few different things with it. So, we’d like to hear from you, our customers, to determine how you would like to be able to use QR codes to leverage ABC Signup and improve your registrants’ experience.

Send your ideas here or post them below as a comment, and we will see what we can do.

When Does Your Program or Event Really End?

October 4, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Surveys,Training — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 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.

Available in all 50 States

September 9, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 9:45 am

Map of the United States marked with hundreds of ABC Signup customers

As web-hosted software, ABC Signup is available anywhere there is Internet access. Technically, that means just about everywhere on this planet.

So, it goes without saying that Louisville-based ABC Signup is readily available to any organization or company in these United States seeking to improve its registration management process. And, hundreds of organizations in 37 of the 50 states have taken us up on our offer of a better way to manage registrations.

Thirteen states, a baker’s dozen if you will, apparently didn’t get the memo. These states represent some of the least populated in the nation, which in our modeling translates to fewer programs and events that require online registration.

Perhaps that’s reason to give Alaska, both Dakotas (but not this one), Idaho, Maine, Montana, Vermont and Wyoming a little slack.

But what about Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, Rhode Island and Utah?

Whoa. Stop the bus. Louisiana and Mississippi still deserve a special dispensation due to Katrina (and the oil spill) and the rebuilding still underway, so consider the slack extended further.

That leaves Delaware, Rhode Island and Utah. The First State, the Ocean State and the Beehive State. Three jurisdictions with one thing in common — the giant blip they currently emit on ABC Signup’s radar.

Organizations hosting events and programs in these states better be on the lookout. ABC Signup is looking for you, and we plan to show you a better way to manage registrations.

The other ten states — be warned: you are next.

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