For conference organizers and ticket sales managers, we live in a blessed time. As the days count down for a conference, they can watch the conference registrations and the ticket revenue accumulate in real time as more tickets are sold.
However, if a conference organizer is just sitting back and depending on an outdated website with an ancient conference registration system behind it, they could be passively setting themselves up for an empty conference with low revenue.
On this blog, we often talk about how consumer expectations have changed greatly in the past decade, especially when it comes to online purchases. In the eyes of a potential buyer, the online ticket purchase is no different from the last book, iPhone or pair of shoes they bought through an online store.
In this article, we’ll holistically discuss the ways event organizers can create a conference registration and ticket sales process that will increase audiences and ticket sales revenue.
There are many permutations of the conversion funnel framework that could be relevant for your conference registration process. The general idea is to describe the process from discovering a need for a product through the purchase process, including the steps in between.
Let’s examine the conversion funnel through the lens of a conference ticket purchase:
When a person senses a need for information, connections in an industry, training, or products, they may begin a search in order to satisfy that need. This could be a google search or a word-of-mouth search among co-workers.
It’s important that your conference is able to be found and is succinctly described as a solution to the need or problem that the person experiencing. You want your conference to be found and included as one of the options considered in the next stage.
Improve your conference registration at this stage: Advertising is one way to increase awareness, with methods as disparate as online display ads, handouts, billboards, sponsorships and more at your disposal. Appearing highly ranked or very frequently in organic search results is a common low-cost method of increasing awareness.
Consider: Is your website mobile friendly? Over 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product while conducting a search on their smartphone.
With many options now apparent, a potential customer will research and compare them for the best possible way to satisfy their need.
Improve your conference registration at this stage: Consider your potential attendee’s perspective: remove jargon from your event website, create FAQ pages to answer common questions, state who attends and gets the most value from your events, include many of the top reasons to attend or a case study for satisfied clients.
Consider: Does your conference have a video? Videos are increasingly becoming the preferred way to do product research.
Now that your conference has been determined as a way to satisfy the need it’s time to go all in for engaging your potential attendee and creating a relationship so that you’re top of mind when it’s time to make a decision. Most website visitors are not ready to make a purchase. This stage can encompass many visits to your website and could last for days or weeks.
Improve your conference registration at this stage: Have several resources and lead capture methods ready to collect email addresses, phone numbers and business information.
Consider: Don’t make your forms longer than they need to be: shorter forms asking for less intrusive information generally perform better.
Your attendee is on the brink of making their decision, and they’re looking for the right conditions to complete the process.
Improve your conference registration at this stage: Be clear in your conference pass pricing, have critical dates and deadlines emphasized, state your refund policy and satisfaction guarantee. This may be the time to offer a coupon code through your email, or create a one-day sale to increase urgency.
Consider: Multiple landing pages and multi-variate testing for buttons has been shown to increase conversions.
The attendee is ready to take out their credit card and complete the conference ticket purchase. You want this process to be as fast and easy as possible so that there’s no chance that your customer will change their mind after they decide to proceed.
Improve your conference registration at this stage: Remove unnecessary steps in the registration process; eliminate sticker shock by clearly stating prices and applicable discounts.
Thanks to web analytics (more on that below), every part of a user’s interaction with your website can be optimized. With conference registration done almost exclusively online, every part of the conference registration process can be tracked and optimized.
With (hopefully) thousands of visitors to your conference website, you have the opportunity to see how a critical number of people interact with your value proposition, speaker pages, ticket pages and types, FAQs and much more. No matter what your conversion rate is at first, you can improve it by attracting the right kinds of traffic, improving your website and refining your conference registration process.
If you’re properly tracking and attributing your conference registration conversions, you’ll be able to see which advertising type you’re using is most effective. So if you’re using Twitter, Facebook, Google Ads, or offline advertising using coupon codes to track related sales, you will be able to see what works and what doesn’t.
E-commerce platform BigCommerce says that any website or store should expect a conversion rate between 1% and 2%, depending on its goals.
However, conference registration is a strange product because you’re not delivering a physical product; nothing is going to arrive in the mail for the purchaser. You’re promising a high-quality physical experience with a high price tag. It’s also something of a business-to-business sale because many conferences are meant to be educational. Finally, unlike an e-commerce store that’s limited by inventory, conference registration is limited by both capacity and timing. Ultimately, you can only deliver each event once.
Like physical products, which can be differentiated by branding elements like price, features, looks, complexity and more, your conference can’t be exactly compared to another event that takes place in a different location, for a different audience at a different ticket price.
More e-commerce stats to keep in mind from Smart Insights:
Getting a person to input their credit card information on any website is no easy task, despite how common online purchases have become. Luckily, e-commerce experts have deconstructed the elements of successful websites and landing pages that can be applied to the conference registration process.
The purchase process can take many days and multiple visits in order for a person to commit to a transaction. When a person demonstrates the intent to make a purchase, any good e-commerce website needs to note that person (or their web browser) in some way. That could be by collecting an email address, using a website cookie, or some other information. Even if the person doesn’t want to buy today, a visit to your website shows that they’re interested. Don’t let that visit go to waste.
This has as much to do with the look and structure of your website as its contents. If you want to have a successful conference registration, the potential attendee wants to know that they can trust you with their time and money. If you can’t create a good-looking and effective website, can you create a good-looking and effective conference? During the purchase process, this has a more technical aspect: Are you using the latest security standards to ensure that the transaction is secure. Consciously or subconsciously, attendees are absorbing messages and making decisions.
There are many ways to assert the authority of your conference, but any method has to address why the attendee should trust YOU to deliver the high-quality information and experience they’re expecting. Have you created successful events for many years? Have you hosted leading speakers before? Are you representing a trusted association with trusted leadership?
In the past 20 years, consumers have demanded more of companies in terms of their commitment to equality, equity, environmentalism, social causes and beyond. Has your conference made a commitment to any of these principles? If so, you should be make these values visible on your website.
One wonderful thing about conferences is that they bring people physically together to make connections -- and there’s only so much space! You can increase urgency by telling potential conference attendees about the limited capacity of your venue. Selling discounted early bird tickets during a limited time is one way to increase urgency, you can also limit the number of tickets available at each ticket discount stage. The only thing better than a sold-out event is one that sells out early.
If you’re familiar with democracy, you know that we expect large groups of people to make generally good decisions. With a few notable exceptions, this standard holds true in many aspects of decision-making. Conference attendees want to know that others have deemed your event trustworthy and valuable. A few ways you can do this is by posting reviews and endorsements, surfacing ratings and awards. Show that your conference blows people away!
Potential conference attendees have many questions and concerns that might prevent them from registering. This could do with food, accessibility, parking, refund policies, extreme weather and much more. FAQs are a great way to address these topics directly, but it’s important to answer common questions before people google them.
The old adage about not knowing “what half of your advertising is wasted” is outdated. This allows you to keep searching for the advertising platforms that work for your event. If you’re targeted at professional networks, Linkedin might work best; if you want to recruit young people, a Facebook page or Instagram ad might be the most effective.
As your conference approaches, you might employ a number of messages with the goal of expressing urgency, promoting different or new speakers, or showing different ticket prices like early bird. Advertising (especially combined with cookies and remarketing ad techniques) can help get that message to interested potential conference attendees.
For the small teams that organize events, and the event smaller teams that are dedicated to conference ticket sales, you need to start somewhere.
Allowing your conference registration to be guided by e-commerce principles can be a big change for some organizations who may have their practices guided by concepts that were developed years or even decades ago. Thinking critically about your event website’s goals, who should be responsible for its daily operation, and how to evaluate its success can be a major paradigm shift for some organizations. It can take hours each day to improve your website, advertising and social metrics. If that time is better spent on serving sponsors and exhibitors, then do what’s best for your event.
The biggest shift may be in how a future-focused conference ticket sales team is composed. If your team is dedicated to making phone calls and one-to-one sales, then your organization may not be ready to take on the challenge of e-commerce practices. The right team for this challenge could be composed of a digital advertising expert, an analytics-focused individual, a search engine optimization expert, a website content writer, a social media expert and more. If your team doesn’t have the skills, you may want to examine your recruiting process.
If your conference doesn’t aim to recruit thousands of people, or is looking for a very specific type of attendee, then your organization might be better off with one-to-one relationship building. It takes many, many datapoints to observe the repeatable patterns that are taking place on your website. If your website isn’t at the centre of your attendee recruiting strategy, then it may not produce a satisfying return on your time and money invested.