In our Then and Now series, EM revisits previous event marketing trends to find out where they’ve gone since we first reported on them. Are they old hats and has-beens? Or is that past up-and-comer a future best practice that’s now an industry standard? In this double-stuffed installment, we re-examine event registration systems, which we reported on in February 2007.
The age of event marketing without tracking any and all data seems a little like using a punch card machine and calling it a computer. And one of the most efficient and effective ways to collect that data has become the registration system. Consumers line up to do it on-site and they willingly take time out of their days to do it in advance online. But the technology is always getting better, and the needs never stop expanding.
In 2007, EM took a look at four of the best at the time and what they could do for the event marketer in need of some delicious consumer data to help determine ROI. This month, we look at what they did then and what you brand managers want them to do for you now.
WHAT WE SAID THEN:
“Whether you’re staging a 150-booth trade show or an intimate consumer event for 20 high-income influentials the one thing you need is a smart registration system. Registration software options can do everything from email marketing to managing payment records and travel arrangements.”
The top features that clients wanted in a registration system in 2007 were all about automation, including payment systems, customization, real-time reporting and gadgets for tracking attendee data.
The platforms we looked at included automatic email features for follow-up messages to attendees; processing registrants’ data; obtaining and processing payments; creating daily reports; and setting up travel and lodging info. Forms and systems could be customized in a number of ways based on how much information was needed from registrants, event subject matter and branded themes, in addition to invitations with special offers, discounts and options for various types of attendee.
Real-time reporting options were available and included metrics like number of attendees, daily activity and custom field responses—some were able to integrate the program with a back-office system for cross-event reporting so marketers could compare events in terms of profitability and expenses over time. Database-style programs allowed clients to see reports on how attendees registered (web, fax or mail), payment method, price point and demographic and geographic data.
Finally, the top of the line in activity tracking was in using scanners to read bar codes on attendees’ badges in session rooms and exhibit halls, or with RFID and magnetic swipe cards for security verification applications.
WHAT WE KNOW NOW:
Event marketers still want to know as much as possible about their attendees, and getting as much information up front is still the best way to do it. The major change is in the technology. It is no longer necessary to rely on RFID scanners for activity tracking, though they still play a big role. With new electronic tracking tactics, like the bracelets the Air Force uses to follow attendees around an event and determine what interests them most, the registration system has become even more integrated into the behavior mapping and lead tracking process than ever before.
Event marketers are still moving toward total integration between CRM, online and on-site reg systems that will allow event organizers and sales teams to track and manage leads at every touch point in the lead qualification and sales funnel. Also, social media is playing a larger role in driving attendance. By integrating Facebook Connect widgets, Twitter buttons and LinkedIn tags with the registration process, events are going viral and attendee numbers are trending upward as people see their friends and colleagues signing up.
Those viral elements also lend a hand to the post-event communication, where brands hope to move attendees and hand-raisers down the funnel to become buyers. Today, the reg list isn’t limited to the registrants only; it can include their Facebook and Twitter lists, if they opted in, and can increase in volume and value exponentially based on data from re-tweets and “likes” to indicate interested and engaged leads.
Eventbrite, a San Francisco-based registration systems provider, calls this phenomenon “social commerce,” the notion that one peer that attends an event or conference makes it much more likely that another will follow. It stands to reason that any registration software today should include the ability to enable attendees to tell their friends.
Another bonus to having software in place that tracks attendees’ activity right from registration is that it prioritizes post-event communications. Because software can track, based on booth swipes or other mechanisms, where guests spend the most time at an event, brands can move those that meet key criteria to the top of a priority list for sales to follow up. The most engaged, and most likely to act, will float up to the top of the list automatically, so organizers and sales people get a chance to tap into those power-users first.
This post-event communication becomes another efficient way to move people down the sales funnel, according to Chicago-based technology provider eshots. The idea is, the registration system generates the in-depth information the event marketer’s company needs to know about the attendees, so the sales force can take action on the best prospects, faster.
In short, registration systems are still trying to do the same jobs, but with ever improving technological help. Next up, maybe retina scans that reveal attendees’ previous online purchasing history. Who knows where registration systems will be in five years? Keep reading and we’ll tell you. EM