Reasonable Next Steps in Online Marketing

Successful online marketing is part art, part science, and a big part common sense. However, when we work on our online marketing campaigns everything makes sense to us. We clearly see the value proposition and truly believe in the product, service, or offer being made. That zeal can blind us to common sense. The most common unreasonable expectation that crops up is how an audience will react to our call to action. Make sure that the call to action is suitable for what’s been communicated to the audience.

I recently had a conversation with a client who was frustrated by a lack of interest in a two day business event they run. We revued the email marketing metrics and my client stated, “See, we had 25 people click to the registration page and not one signed up. What’s going on? Our other offers consistently generate leads but marketing is not getting interest in this event.” So questions arose but 3 key questions told the tale.

How many people were ideal for the event?
About 20 was a good balance to make it a profitable event but small enough for personal interaction.

How many did they typically have register?
The events had averaged 10 people so they were operating at half the desired number.

If marketing was not filling seats how were people being registered?
On average 5 of the attendees came from personal invitations from the sales staff. The other half called in and after getting some more information about the event they would register.

So where did the call-ins come from? The assumption was that it was word of mouth or referrals but upon analyzing the dates it appeared that the call-ins were most prevalent when email communications were sent. The issue wasn’t that the emails weren’t working. It was that the audience was taking an unexpected next step by calling in.

Now correcting this situation can go down a lot of avenues. Was the landing page lacking enough information to convert interested parties? Was the sign up process unclear or cumbersome? Was the sign up process working technically? These are all valid questions but as is often the case the common sense questions are usually the most valuable.

The 2-day event this trainer was running was a $1500/person event. The email communications were largely being sent to prospects that were new to the list or only asked for basic information. The chances of converting an unengaged contact for a $1500 purchase on any online communication are slim to nil. However, the event might be of interest to them and they might want to call and ask questions. Some of the people that call to get information about the event will then decide they do want to attend, but they need that personal interaction. A promotional email just isn’t going to do it because it doesn’t intrinsically carry the necessary credibility for a purchase that size.

Any commitment over about $50 will meet with resistance unless the audience is already familiar with you or your company. My client’s future emails were sure to highlight their phone number so that interested prospects had a viable next step without having to commit to spending $1500. If you find that your conversions are performing well below expectations, it’s a good idea to review the call to action and make sure it’s a reasonable next step.

Email and Online Marketing: Create Genuine Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency is often noted as a best practice in marketing.  We want prospects to take action on an offer now rather than filing it away for “later” and then forgetting about it.  But urgency, like anything, can be abused.  Many online marketers create arbitrary deadlines or dates to force urgency.  Overusing the strategy causes problems in the long run because audiences become skeptical.  Rather than making up false urgency review your offers to find the genuine urgency that can drive your prospects to take action.

Here are a few sample offers common for consultant, trainer, and professional coach’s events.   It’s an outline on how subtle changes in an offer can be perceived as genuine rather than a hollow marketing ploy.  The same strategies can be adapted for products or item promotions.

Many event communications for business seminars try to encourage registrations immediately.  Below are some common incentives.  But remember only use these urgency building tactics if it truly fits your event.

  • Give Away – A certain number of people that sign up first get a free item.  If you use this promotion then you need a rock solid way of knowing who the first registrations were up to a certain point.  The attendees will notice if every person in the room has the give-away.  Be realistic about the audience size an event will draw.  If you are expecting 30 people, don’t do the first 30 to sign up because the offer will look disingenuous.
  • Reduced Pricing – Early registration leads to a discounted price.  This can be a powerful incentive but needs to be honest.  If dates are rescheduled or everyone is given a reduced price the audience will learn that any advertised reduction is just a hollow attempt to portray a good deal.
  • Limited Number of Seats – Unless your registration method has a counter on available seats it’s difficult to use this incentive early. An email stating that seats are filling up well in advance is often hard to take seriously unless it’s a well known event.  This tactic is most effective as events get closer. It’s often a good “last chance” communication letting potential attendees know there are a certain number of spaces left but it needs to be sincere.  Telling people that there are a limited number of spots and having them come to a sparsely attended event is a quick way to lose credibility.
  • Upcoming Date – The most overlooked urgency builder for events is the most obvious, the date.  The beauty of this urgency builder is it’s self-apparently genuine.  The event happens on x date.  If you don’t sign up by y date then registration will be closed and you won’t be able to attend.  This again is best served as the event gets closer. The only way this can be undermined is if dates are commonly cancelled or rearranged.  If dates move a lot the audiences will assume that it’s not an actual deadline.

These are 4 examples.  The key to using any of them is to do so genuinely.  Urgency is created when the audience clearly understands why a timely response is necessary.  If urgency builders are overused or abused then the marketing audience tunes them out.  When that happens conversion suffers because communications have less credibility and offers with urgency are disregarded.