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If you are an organiser who has recently switched your event booking and payment process from offline to online, then you’ll know that sometimes it takes a little getting used to – both for you and for your attendees.

At first organisers can be a little tentative and reluctant to becoming exclusively online. And attendees? Well, they will continue to use the booking and payment methods that they have traditionally associated with the organiser, no matter how imperfect and unsatisfactory that process is – but only until they are otherwise instructed.

Yet for organisers it is vital to grasp the nettle sooner rather than later – the financial payback of online registration and payment demands it. And you’ll be surprised how quickly even your most traditional attendees will adapt to online registration.

Here’s 10 tips for getting your attendees onboard:

1. Go 100% online
Don’t give your attendees a choice. Stop offering alternative booking methods. When you are booking a flight online, airlines don’t also give you the option of booking your ticket via the phone. As a result we all book our flights online without a second thought.

2. Get your marketing focus right
To maximise your online registrations make your marketing emails short and punchy – a paragraph in length. See it as a short trailer for your whole event. Give a concise overview of the event highlights and make your ‘register now’ button very highly prominent. Make the button impossible to miss and ensure that when it is clicked that it links to the event registration website.

Your marketing email is about persuading your attendees to visit your registration website and not for displaying all your event information.

3. Always be linked in
Always include the URL link of your registration website in your emails. Always send several emails to potential attendees for each event and include the link in every one.

Always include your URL link clearly and prominently on your corporate website. Include the link in emails about your event to your social networking groups such as Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Talk about your event and include the link on online forums or on Twitter or on your Facebook updates.

Make the link a clear ‘call to action’ for the attendee such as ‘register now’ or ‘register here’ or ‘to register for the event click here’.

4. Create incentives for online bookings
Offering online registration discounts encourages early attendee adoption, so make the ticket price more expensive for offline bookings. Charge a processing fee for manual or paper registrations. Make it clearly financially beneficial to book online. It is, after all, generally accepted that you get better deals via the internet no matter what product you are buying. You need to tap into that mindset.

Similarly, consider offering discounts for early online registration.

5. Refuse phone bookings
If potential attendees phone in to book manually then explain that registration and ticket payment are now exclusively online. Let them know that you will send an immediate email that will include the link for them to go straight to the registration page.

Have the email ready to go and explain the benefits for the attendee of using online registration and payment.

6. Give prior warning
Prepare your potential attendees for the switch. Give then good warning. Send them an email in advance that will explain that your next event will only accept online bookings and payment.

Let them know what to expect and how the process will work.

7. You’ll love it
Let your attendees know how they will benefit from your online registration system, such as ease of use, convenient and quick, more secure, self service, better communication.

Get them on board either with an email or a link to a page on your corporate website.

8. Make it official
Add a message to your voicemail system announcing the newer and more convenient online registration option along with the URL of your registration website for your next events.

Promote your online registration by placing your URL address in all printed materials, e-newsletters, email communications, handouts, signage etc for each event. Or if you run many events devote a page to your events on your corporate website with clear links to the registration website for each event beside each event description.

9. Educate them
Include a short frequently asked questions section or page on your corporate website.

Provide easy to follow numbered steps on how to register for your event. Put it on your corporate website or in your emails to give attendees confidence. Make it along the lines of ‘it’s easy to register and pay – here’s how’.

Offer attendees an online demonstration of how registration works.

10. Get your staff on board
Make sure that your staff are familiar with the online registration process and comfortable explaining it all to potential attendees.

Enrol your staff participants in one of our free, online registration training sessions to answer all their questions and build their confidence.

Alan Anderson, Blue Tube Design

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On social networks, it’s tempting to try and grow your network rapidly by accepting any friend requests that come your way and building a network of strangers. As Louis Gray explains, when thinking about business networking; revenue is only going to come from a small selection of your online community. For that reason, building a network of highly engaged people with whom you have a genuine connection can prove to be a great way to unlock business opportunities.

It’s easy to judge someone’s social media “usefulness” on their number of friends or followers, or assume that low numbers equates to a small and relatively useless network. But it might be sensible to start slowly and focus on quality. What do you think?

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So you’re starting a business? There’s plenty to think about, and you’ll be spinning lots of plates all at once. But one thing you should really have lined up is a smart social strategy. What does that mean? Hear what Louis Gray had to say on a recent trip to London …

Please share you thoughts on this advice. Is it helpful?

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Penny Power, founder of Ecademy.com, explains why anyone starting up a new business should be active on social networks.

Are you already using social networks to get your business off the ground?  Please share your story.

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What’s the difference between networking and marketing? Not that much. As a start-up business, you are unlikely to have the funds to pay for an advertising campaign or other publicity. The main burden of letting people know that you are open for business falls on you. Thus, you need to overcome any shyness or reservations you may have about marketing your business.

Have business cards on you all the time, including during social time. This is where you will pick up lots of your work. Once you start chatting, most people are interested in what you do. Without forcing your product or service on them, you can always seem professional by letting them know what you offer and having your contact details to hand. There is a huge difference between basic marketing and being irritating. Calm, professional marketers state what they do in a clear, charming way. If the reaction of the other person is reasonably positive, they might hand over a card. It’s amazing how, months later, the phone can ring and a potential new customer says ‘I met you once and now I have a need for what you do …’

This is a vital hurdle to overcome, particularly if you have a shy or reticent nature. Who do you think will be the better client? The one you cold-called and had a rather earnest meeting with? Or the one you met socially who decides to give you business in their own time? Speculative business meetings are no more scientific than interviews. They are based mainly on intuition. Yet if you already know you can get on socially with someone, or that they have a little insight into your private life, the chemistry part of the equation is already in place.

A final word on social media and social networking. There are businesses where this can be very appropriate, and used as an excellent tool to promote contact, discussion, and possibly business. However, it is easy to fall into the trap of twittering on your computer all day and strangely discovering that you haven’t got anything done, met anybody in person, or done any business. Try to keep this is perspective. Whilst everybody else is pursuing the latest fad, make sure that you are still talking to people, having meetings, and interacting with the real, rather than just the virtual, world.

These views are taken from ‘Running Your Own Business’.

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Over on the Marketing Donut we are always keen to impress upon small business users to make the most of Twitter in their efforts to engage with their customer base. For a start-up or someone thinking of starting-up we would advise that you use Twitter to your great advantage also.

Once you are established as a business and everything is in place, you would use Twitter to market yourself, to give your brand positioning, voice and personality. For a start-up it would be recommended that you use your Twitter account in order to put out feelers into the market. Use your Twitter to network furiously with like minded individuals and organisations, learn from them and engage with them. It is good to ask questions.

In order to get the most out of Twitter as a start-up, you may want to target the people that you follow. There are a number of ways to do this. The key method would be to use a Twitter Directory, for example Twellow. Simply insert the keyword you wish to base your outreach around and add Tweeple to your ever-growing list of contacts.

Once you have added people around the industry, keyword, activity or interest you are looking to connect with, engage and start-up that networking engine in order to launch your new business on a basis of a like minded community!

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A number of enterprise agencies are embracing Web 2.0. What is web 2.0? It is the online phenomenon with a shifting definition. Some of its ingredients are:

  • web-based communities such as social-networking sites like myspace and facebook
  • an open collaboration and sharing between users
  • a collection of web tools, probably developed independently, which have come together to allow a new way of using online services

Over at Enterprise First (an enterprise agency in Hampshire) they have just started a blog. East London Small Business Centre (ELSBC) has created a facebook group for their community. Tim Heath, CEO of ELSBC says: ‘We believe that facebook is not just a networking site for individuals to keep in touch with friends but also a very effective networking tool for organisations and businesses to create awareness of their products and services whilst connecting with the wider community’

And at a recent Marketing and PR forum run by the National Federation of Enterprise Agencies (NFEA) how to harness the power of hi-speed broadband and the internet was very much on the agenda.

So does blogging and social networking mean the death of email? No, because people access and use information in different ways, at their own pace and with their own preferences.

Most businesspeople will make room for maybe 4-6 good, informative email newsletters in their inbox. If the message helps them with their business then they will trust it. It’s all about how relevant the content is to the reader. With localbusinessadviser we offer business support organisations the chance to deliver a relevant and timely local message to their client communities, backed by strong generic features and advice.

If you are using blogs, forums, social networking or advanced email techniques to support or market to small business, I would love to hear from you.

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