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.

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.

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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