Building a Better Mousetrap

September 7, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Training — Tags: — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 12:37 pm

How do you build a better mousetrap?Organizations that seek success find ways to improve what they do. It’s a survival mechanism of conducting business in a highly competitive, free enterprise system.

In just the past month, for example, ABC Signup made several enhancements to its registration software, including the following:

  • made it easier to resend certificates to registrants;
  • created the ability to add “auto complete” functionality to validation fields on registration forms;
  • added a prompt for a registrant to retry his/her credit card payment should it initially fail; and
  • added functionality to the discount code setup, giving customers the ability to create discounts based upon registration dates and set a limit on the number of times a discount can be used.

[Note: ABC Signup customers should regularly check the What’s New section in the software to see and learn how to implement the latest enhancements and new features.]

Most of these initiatives were based upon customer feedback. In fact, much of our software is based upon customer feedback. ABC Signup was born on a customer’s needs, and it has evolved over time through input from those on the front lines of program and event registration management.

And, while we can truthfully say serving our customers in this manner is simply good business, we are also doing it to stay one step ahead of the competition. We know our customers have many options, and believe our efforts to seek and act upon such feedback is not only necessary but gives us a competitive advantage.

But, enough about us.

Surely, you do something similar in your line of work. At the risk of patting yourself on the back – but with the potential benefit of helping others – feel free to tell us some of the things you’ve done to improve your programs and events. It could be something related to administration, to program content, to locations, presenters, materials, etc.

Just post it as a comment under this article in the blog section of our website. Your tip might be the solution to someone’s problems, or spark a discussion that ends up benefiting many, including yourself.

The Power of Referrals

August 4, 2011
Filed under: Marketing,Registrations — Tags: , , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 11:03 am

Talk with your customers often. That’s not the message of this post, but it did provide the customer recommends ABC Signup's registration softwareimpetus for it.

A recent conversation with a customer generated some gratifying commentary about our product and how it has benefited her organization. It also provided an important reminder of how she became a customer – a referral.

This particular organization was using an online survey tool to manage invites to its events for clients, until it heard about ABC Signup from a reputable company (and current ABC customer) in the same industry. The now-customer switched to ABC Signup, loves it for functionality that better serves her needs, and will likely do some referring down the road. “If I come across something that works this well, I’ll sing it from the hills,” she said.

Referrals sell. They have since Eve told Adam how good that apple tasted. Today, with the advent of social media and the reach of the Internet, they can sell like proverbial hotcakes. In Seth Grodin’s book “Purple Cow,” he talks about creating buzz for remarkable products (purple cows) by having early adopters (“Sneezers”) spread the word. Think of some of the products and services that have exploded recently in part because of viral affirmations – Apple’s gadgets, Netflix, Facebook, Youtube, Pandora and even Angry Birds come to mind.

While Grodin’s book focuses more on creating an amazing product or service, your offering really doesn’t have to be especially remarkable or have chic users to earn referrals. It just needs to provide a value-added solution to people’s problems.

And by referrals, we aren’t talking about a “Like” on Facebook or that Google “+1” button we’re currently testing on our website. Referrals that lead to sales come from reputable sources that used your product or service and liked it enough to believe it can offer value to others.

All of us give or receive referrals on a daily basis, some more tacit than others. It might be a recommendation of a movie, an inexpensive dry cleaner, a good mechanic or a brand whose logo happens to be on your shirt. If your organization’s product/service does what it promises, it isn’t really an imposition to ask your customers to consider referring you to appropriate prospects.

There are a number of ways to create a cadre of referrers. Here are some good ground rules from John Jantsch, the author of “Referral Flood.”

In addition, a couple of Grodin’s 10 recommendations for creating a purple cow pertain to referrals, and though they might overly focus on “Sneezers,” they could be applied to your efforts to create an active base of referring customers.

Differentiate your customers. Find the group that’s most profitable. Find the group that’s most likely to influence other customers. Figure out how to develop for, advertise to, or reward either group. Ignore the rest. Cater to the customers you would choose if you could choose your customers.

Do you have the email addresses of the 20% of your customer base that loves what you do? If not, start getting them. If you do, what could you make for them that would be super special?

The idea is to kick-start the customers most likely to talk up your business. It takes less effort than appealing to your entire customer base and helps you (somewhat) control the message by picking those most likely to be singing from the same hymnal.

A few minutes a day cultivating this volunteer sales force should be on the to-do list of just about every organization seeking ways to generate new business or reach potential customers.

So, for those of you striving to grow your programs and events, don’t forget referrals as one of the key devices in your marketing toolbox. And for those of you who can’t say enough good things about ABC Signup, don’t stop – especially when speaking to potential registration software prospects!

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

June 28, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Training — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 9:54 am

Our blogging community hasn’t exactly developed into the Great Society of event planners and training program administers that we might have naively hoped for. In fact, if you look at the number of comments posted under our blogs, our “conversation” is a bit one-sided.

The truth is, we’ve received plenty of comments, just none related to our online registration-related content or in some cases – our language or even our alphabet system. Our contributors to date consist of malwaristas and spammers, so we haven’t shared their handiwork – until now.

Some of this stuff is kind of entertaining, and the content just keeps coming.

Here’s a comment that could probably be worded better:

Looking for a guaranteed bad credit loan?

Here’s one that couldn’t be worded worse:

I besides believe hence, perfectly indited post!

This “deal” doesn’t quite sound on the up-and-up:

Who wants to hear something refreshing? Easy is as easy does is what I always say. So I found an easy way to make money. This technology was secretly “copied” from one of the top internet enterprises. There is nothing illegal or shady about it… it’s just kind of secret.

Our Kiev office is handling this one:

Я считаю, что Вы не правы. Я уверен. Давайте обсудим. Пишите мне в PM, поговорим.

A new iPad? Should I include my credit card info in that e-mail?

Hey we was just reading your post on my iPhone and I was thinking about how well it will work on the new ipad thats coming out. Fleeting thought. You should consider getting one, all you need is to submit your email. Anyway thanks!

And finally, this comment includes a software descriptor we probably shouldn’t even allow to appear on our website:

Making money with your blog or website has never been easier thanks to the invention of the Xtreme Profit Robot. This is a money sucking piece of software that was sold at some recent seminars for more than $2,000.

There are more where these came from and we will post some of the better efforts in the near future. Meanwhile, if you have anything meaningful to add to our blog site, please feel free to comment. As you can see from where the bar is currently set, your first post will be our best post.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

May 20, 2011
Filed under: Evaluations,Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations,Uncategorized — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 10:58 am

In the Ohio Valley this year, April showers bring May showers. But we know (eventually) the sun is going to come out and everything will bloom thanks in part to all of that nurturing water from the month(s) prior.

Anyone who coordinates training programs or events knows this cycle well. The program or event itself is typically the culmination of a lot of hard work. And it is the labor done long before that determines whether the event grows into something special or shrinks on the vine.

So, what can you do before a new season rolls around to make sure you refresh your programs and events?

First, start off with the common sense steps we suggested in an earlier blog. Review everything about your event – its time, date, frequency, location, venue, content, speaker(s), capacity, menu, use of technology, vendors, budget, etc.

Second, assess how you market the event. For some of you, your initial reaction might be “this isn’t applicable to me.” Perhaps your program is mandatory for employees, so why promote? In that instance, the right marketing might dramatically improve attitudes toward the course, which in turn should improve its effectiveness.

If you are marketing to reach attendance goals or grow the event, look for ways to improve upon what you have done in the past. Leverage your free or inexpensive tools such as e-mail, social media, and your website; try simple promotions to encourage registrants; and if possible (and relevant), place your event information in appropriate publications or websites. Don’t forget to tout any improvements or changes you made since the prior event, especially if they are changes in response to customer feedback.

Finally, if you no longer are a rookie using ABC Signup, you’ve probably mastered the software well enough to become adept at the basics such as setting up your event and its automated correspondence, and building your event calendar, event pages and registration forms. Perhaps this year might be the year to take advantage of ABC Signup’s themes or theme wizard tools to dress up your event pages. A nice looking page makes for a great link in your promotional e-mails to prospects.

If you need any tips or advice in using these and other ABC Signup tools, e-mail or call us (866.791.8268 ext. 0) for assistance. That’s just one of the many things we do – rain or shine!

Marketing on a Mac & Cheese Budget

May 9, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 10:56 am

Most subscribers to this newsletter or readers of our blog don’t work for a Fortune 500 company or consult with Madison Avenue about multi-million dollar campaigns. Marketing budgets around these parts are limited – some of you would tell us that’s putting it nicely.

Fortunately, there are ways to get more bang from the marketing buck, or lack thereof.

You are likely doing it already in the case of e-mail. For many, e-mail has replaced direct mail and its associated printing and costs.

Still, there are a number of things to consider when crafting and sending an e-mail. First, follow a few simple and essential tips related to content. Second, you can easily manage lists and create e-mails using ABC Signup or inexpensive e-mail marketing programs like MailChimp. Third, if you seek to grow your programs and events, try to continually expand your e-mail distribution list. Tactics for doing this include creating a website link to collect e-mail addresses for company offers/news/etc., or post resources, or contests or conduct webinars that require an e-mail address (and agreement to terms) to participate. Just be sure not to spam potential customers, and always give recipients of your e-mail campaigns a mechanism to opt-out.

If you can write an e-mail to market your program, you can write a press release, a topical article, a calendar of events notice or some other submission for the appropriate media outlets and websites read by your prospects. Or, you can write a speech (that includes a pitch for your event) to give at a forum that includes your prospects. Public relations can be the most cost-effective means to garner free advertising/exposure to boost your marketing efforts. One caveat: your media relations efforts need to be appropriately targeted. Event announcements, for instance, won’t get the time of day from Time Magazine, but they may be of interest to a reporter covering your industry or a publication’s events calendar – it doesn’t hurt to call and ask.

If you can’t leverage what you don’t have (a marketing budget), consider leveraging what you do have with a special offer or promotion. Give a company logo shirt to one of the first 20 who sign up for your program, make a buy one/get the next event free offer, or occasionally present a “bring a friend free” promotion that may create a new prospect if not a new customer.

Don’t ignore the potential of special events. Guerrilla marketers can turn an open house – or a car wash for a charity – into a lead generator or program promoter. A software training company can spin building a home with Habitat for Humanity into a promotion for classes to help others build home pages. The opportunities here are only limited by your creativity (or the speed of a Google search).

Oh, and hey, there is a whole new medium for free marketing out there called social media. You may have seen the movie about it. At no cost, you can “tweet” (Twitter) about your programs or events, post about them on Facebook, pen a blog or upload a video promo on Youtube. The trick with the latter is rising above the clutter, and the challenge of the former three is extending your reach beyond insiders/existing customers.

Finally, use your website. The event page you create becomes your electronic brochure that can be sent to anyone at any time via e-mail, or accessed at any time via the Internet. Plus, your page is searchable, so you just might have customers come to you.

This article only offers a few of the many free or low-cost tools that can better market your programs or events. Please feel free to share some of your tactics with us or post them below in the blog’s comments section.

The Top 5 Things Your Registrants Expect From Your System

April 13, 2011
Filed under: Event Planning,Marketing,Registrations — Tags: — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 12:35 pm

After more than eight years in the online registration business working with hundreds of customers and tens of thousands of programs and events with more than one million registrations, we learned a thing or two. Like the value of customer feedback, which has led to the development of many new features in our software.

We’ve also gained insight into what registrants expect when they sign up for an event. It’s mostly about ease of use and convenience – those magical qualities the Internet is supposed to offer. What follows is our assessment of the top five attributes of a registration system from the perspective of the individual signing up for your class or event.

1. Single Screen Simplicity

Registrants want to see the entire registration form on a single screen. Multiple screens, or a lot of scrolling, begin to infringe upon the Internet expectations mentioned above. Going back and forth between pages – and losing any data already entered – can be a deal-breaker.

2. Remember Me?

Repeat registrants prefer a system that remembers them – one that retrieves their data and doesn’t force them to fill out the entire form again (credit card information excepted).

3. One-Stop Shopping

When customers come to your site to register for one of your programs, they expect to close the entire deal in a couple of minutes. They want to sign up, pay and know immediately if possible that a seat is reserved for them. Online payment capabilities are no longer an accessory, they are a standard feature.

4. Communications, Communications, Communications

Automated communications functionality is a time-saver for the event administrator and game-changer for registrants. Registrants truly appreciate a system’s registration confirmations, event reminders, invoices or receipts, wait-list notifications and other communications. From their viewpoint, it is another example of the Internet making life easier.

5. More Dependable Than the Mail

You know from your own experience the frustration that arises when a completed registration crashes as you hit the submit button, or appears to go through until you show up at the event and learn your submission never reached the system. Registrants expect a dependable system. They don’t want to return to the pitfalls of using mail, faxes and phone calls, and believe the errors that occurred with those antiquated tools are a thing of the past. Your system shouldn’t rekindle any not-so-fond memories.

One element essential to registrants but absent from our list (it typically falls outside of a registration system’s purview) is the visibility of your programs. All of the features above are useless if the registrant can’t find the events on your website. If your programs are intended for an external audience, make sure the event or calendar page is well-marked and easy to access in one or two clicks.

We are confident that ABC Signup gives you the tools to accomplish the list of items above. However, if we can do anything to make ABC Signup perform these and other functions better, please let us know. We’re here today because of the feedback and wisdom of customers much like you.

Social Media Encyclopedia

January 31, 2011
Filed under: Marketing — Tags: , — webmaster@abcsignup.com @ 5:00 pm

A “by the letter” look at social media.

Are you serious? Is tweeting my lunch plans, “liking” someone’s book recommendation, planting a goofy video on YouTube or blogging about the usual subjects really going to help my organization?

Believe it or not, you likely can leverage the various social media to add customers, exposure, “humanity,” and much more to your organization.

Check out some of the success stories, from large organizations such as Burger King, Dell and Ford to smaller businesses like Blendtec and Naked Pizza.

Data shows that seven out of 10 Inc. 500 companies have Facebook pages, five out of 10 write blogs to communicate, and almost six out of 10 use Twitter. And charitable organizations and higher education use social media even more than businesses.

Enough with the A-Z thing. There’s no way this blog entry is going through the whole alphabet just to make a headline work. It would have gotten stuck at “X” anyway, just like when you play the “alphabet game” on a road trip.

The gist is, while sometimes it seems like there is more “sizzle” about social media than “steak,” it does offer different, explosive new avenues to reach constituents, communicate, build relationships, develop leads, garner support, increase participation or improve whatever it is you are trying to accomplish.

Unfortunately, getting from A to Z – achieving something worthwhile with social media – is neither instant nor easy.

We find ourselves at ABC Signup, probably like many of you, in the early stages of developing a social media strategy. We are currently devising means to cross-pollinating those tools with our website and e-mail newsletter, sometimes linking the newsletter to the blog, or as we do below, linking this blog to our Facebook page.

One month into our blogging foray and we’ve garnered a number of comments, but most of them said something like “I can relate to your subject matter” with a 30-letter e-mail address pitching some product or another. Sure, we have visions of a more participatory forum and hope to get there one day. But, at the least, this blog is providing some useful information, expanding our web presence and in time, helping our search results.

Our Facebook endeavor is only a few months old and growing in friends and page views. We use it to welcome new clients, recognize loyal customers, promote training opportunities, unveil updates to our product and sometimes share silly videos. We would like to do something more promotional – like giveaway Whoppers if you befriend us – but our current giveaway inventory consists of some logo pens. And just like that, an idea is born.

Here are some social media resources you might find useful: a comprehensive guide and workbook; a playbook for social media; and the social media best practices page on Facebook.

If you have some ideas about leveraging social media that you want to share, please (no, really, please!) post them here – unless your name is youshouldgetoutmore@reallycheapvacations.com.

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