Timing and Event Invitations

When do you start to promote an event?  More specifically, when is “too soon” to promote a free event and how long do you have before your unaided conversion of registrants to attendees bottoms out?

A few years ago I was working with a publisher who, in addition to their periodicals also offered webinars as an advertising vehicle. It’s was a brilliant product extension for a magazine publisher since one of their most abundant assets is a massive database that costs them peanuts to reach out to.

But, the size of the base and the negligible costs associated with emailing are a license to abuseIthink . When that happens the response rates fall. There are many ways you can deal with falling response rates, but in this instance, caught between the P&L and certain attendance commitments made to the advertisers, the company elected to simply extend the invitation process over a longer period of time and keep hitting their market until the registration commitments were met.  The average invitation campaign ran for 10 weeks up to the webinar.

But, when only about 70 of 1000 registrants actually convert into attendees, its pretty obvious something is not working. To address that problem the client chose to add voicemail event reminders and it was effective in boosting the average conversions, quite significantly. In fact, the average percentage climbed from 7% to 17%.

While it was a huge improvement, the numbers were still pretty pathetic when compared to an average unaided conversion ( at that time) of 35-50% and aided ( with voicemail ) of 50-70%.

The root problem was timing.

What we found was not at all surprising. The earliest registrants, i.e. those who registered more than 8 weeks ahead of the event converted at less than half a percent unaided and given the very low number to start with, it wasn’t possible to measure the improvement a voicemail delivered.

In fact, any registration on the free webinars that was more than a month old was virtually useless. Registrants who were less than a week old converted well above the average and a strategy that concentrated the voicemail reminders to registrations that were 1-4 weeks old yielded the best return.

For many companies, particularly those using the raw registrations to drop into the top of their funnel, attendance might not be the most important consideration, but promoting a free webinar too far ahead of the date will artificially depress your conversions and reduce the apparent value of what might otherwise be very good leads.

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