Here’s the punchline (in case you don’t really want to read the whole thing) …
If your time-limited marketing campaign is not on THEIR calendar, it doesn’t exist.
About two years ago, I reconnected with a friend from my past (we had worked together and later I worked for him at his company). He started telling me about this idea he had developed into an app — it sent calendar invitations for events (like webinars or seminars) and for time-limited sales offers (like coupons).
At first, it didn’t really sink in what he was telling me. Hell, people had been inviting me to webinars for the last decade, and I had managed webinars and training events (along with setting up registration) and all those things had just worked.
He just asked me to think about the process, just for webinars. And I started listing all the things I had to do to get a webinar up and running — the task list can get extremely detailed, but at a high level, it goes like this
He wasn’t looking the solve the whole problem, just the “Get The Word Out” problem — which is tied to all sorts of numbers, and filters, and dynamics — Like CTAs, Click-through, Registration, Multiple Clicks and Tracking, Open Rates, etc. and so on. There’s lots of numbers to help track what’s happened within that flow of “Get The Word Out”.
In general — all marketers know there is some level of resistance at every step of the way, and our job is to (a) create some level of interest to (b) break through as much resistance as possible. It all comes down to some simple things we are asking our wonderful customers and prospects to do … like …
That’s really a lot to ask, in a simple process where they know (and we know) our informational webinar is really a way to sell them something. It’s all a “wink, wink, nod, nod” thing between everyone.
But the question I have to you is …
Did they really get it on their calendar?
I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret, the Calendar is not easy — email is easy — and the mere fact you believe that you emailed a calendar invitation, doesn’t mean you really did. I have tested over 20 email/calendar clients over the past two years, and most fail. The email shows up, but the calendar part doesn’t really work. That’s why, most emails that include anything to do with the calendar have a little bar (similar to the picture below) that is supposed to be easy for the Invitee, but doesn’t work most of the time.
Now I get it. Most of us in marketing are worried about other things — like getting the content right, not the “flow” and if everything works properly. We leave that to the marketing ops folks to work out. Hell, your martech tools should handle that without any problems at all — that’s why you pay them money every month, to handle the minutia inside that involved flow. You have a presentation to create, presenters to prep and the show to put on.
Here’s the problem …
No Webinar vendor does it right
No Email Service Provider does it right
No Marketing Automation company does it right
No Landing Page company does it right
In fact, unless you are fairly technical, understand both email, webpage, and calendar technology — along with how to both “ingest” and “build” a well formatted calendar invitation — you won’t get it right either. As I stated earlier, it’s really hard.
I’m not hear to tell you we have all the answers, but what I can tell you is that we’ve thought through lots of the problems. But the first thing we did was figure out how to send a Well-Formatted Calendar Invitation. One that would work for 90%+ of the market (including desktop and mobile calendar clients). That’s one of the hardest things to accomplish — and we are at about 80% today, well on our way to over 90%.
Second, why not just send a calendar invitation? If you send an email, you know the hardest thing to get is a CLICK on your CTA. Why waste it — send a calendar invitation on that click. If you want registration, then land them on the registration page, but they may or may not register. Send them a calendar invitation anyway.
Next — right now you have ZERO tracking on the invitations sent. Remember, the calendar is a bit different. There are three actions someone can take on the calendar invitation — Accept, Decline, and Tentative — or they can decide to take no action (but the event is on their calendar, unless they delete or decline it). But you have ZERO insight into those actions. You are acting out of complete blindness as to the “intent” of those people who have been sent an invitation.
The last thing that is a complete pain in the ass, is having to “create” something — basically going to an online tool and adding information that you have probably entered about a dozen times into some other tool.
Here’s the difference — and you have to think about it a bit differently too …
The first thing we did was decide to get completely rid of the CREATE part. Literally, if you already have your webinar on your calendar, just invite us (we take care of the rest).
Second, we immediately send you a “Summary” page — that way you can test it right away. See if it works. We want you testing it right away.
Third, we give you a simple link for your MailChimp campaign, or a simple iFrame for you webpage. You can design around those as much or as little as you want. We didn’t want to get into designing your campaigns, just sending a calendar invite.
Fourth, we give you the results. How you sent, actions taken, and the ability to download a simple spreadsheet with name, email and last status of the invitees.
It’s your data, and you get to have all of it available. You want to upload that list to special mailing list — do it. Or include it in your sales force automation — it’s yours.
We wanted to create something that would end up taking you a few minutes, but provide you with information and data you never had before.
We’re still in beta, so there are a few kinks being worked out, but in general, it works. It is almost effortless once you start using it, but if done right, it’s extremely powerful.
All you have to do is go to …. https://beta.calendarsnack.com and follow the simple instructions. Test it for yourself.
Our goal is getting your time-based marketing on their calendar — and making it exist!
That’s it — nothing works like convincing yourself. And don’t worry, right now, it’s 100% free to use — and if you use it, come back here and let me know how it worked.
Over the past couple years, my whole thought process has been about making things easier for the market person in charge of managing something as complicated as a webinar. There are lots of moving parts, and dozens of small details to manage. It doesn’t matter if it’s a “big” webinar or small one – it takes times to bring it all together.
And one of those details is getting the webinar on someone’s calendar. In our technology driven age, you would think that small detail has been solved, but it hasn’t. It’s gotten better, but it’s not solved.
It should be as simple as sending an email. Or as simple as clicking on a single button on a webpage. Because we have very simple goal – to get OUR webinar on THEIR calendar. But that simple and easy goal is extremely difficult to achieve – in the world of technology, what seems simple, can sometimes be a monumental task.
From a technology standpoint, the primary hurdle we are dealing with a delivery service (email) that doesn’t exactly know what to do with a the specific “package” being delivered (calendar invite). Although they are connected, they are actually two different types of technologies, operating under a common umbrella.
Email can be seen as a generic text message (albeit a highly evolved text message), that actually has a very well defined format. On the other hand, a calendar invitation has a different defined format, which needs to be inside the email. And this format can be a bit tricky, and if it’s not “well formatted”, it will just not work. Which is why most people give up, and just send the invite as an “attachment” to the email – eliminating most of the complexity.
What that does is shift the responsibility of getting the invite on a calendar to the invitee. I’ve always thought that was the wrong way to do it. I’m asking them to attend, and ultimately asking them to buy something – therefore, I should make is as easy as possible to remember to attend my webinar. The less work I ask of them, the higher probability of them attending.
So, we go to work everyday on solving the easy problem. We believe it’s our responsibility to take on the hard technology challenges and make it as easy as possible to get an event (in this case a webinar) on someone’s calendar.
We have worked and reworked the solution hundreds of times. We are getting closer to solving it – not just for those using software we like, but across all calendar software. We are almost there in solving the first problem – making sure we send (email) a well formatted invitation (calendar invite), that just works when it shows up.
Stay tuned for more info – because in a few weeks, we will have a solution that can be put on any webpage, and just work. And we are going to make it simple to create and simple for someone to opt-in on your webpage. And when they do, they will get the calendar invite on their calendar without having to do anything else. Our beta site is called Calendarsnack is located here.
Yes, I know, that’s a click-bait-type headline. Nothing I can do about that, because it’s a true statement – and if you are doing any type of time-based marketing activity (and most of what we do is time based), you need to realize that simple fact.
Take a simple example of an email campaign, once the email is sent, the clock is ticking – and it’s a count down clock that runs in minutes. From my experience, the first hour after sending, will provide you with about 80% of your responses (and that’s an optimistic view) and 99% of your opens/clicks will happen within 24 hours of send.
Think about that, your email campaign has the lifespan equal to that of the May Fly – the real truth is, if you don’t get your numbers within the first couple hours, you won’t recover. And then there is the dismal fact of the general numbers – industry averages say only about 25% will open your email, and 2% will actually click your Call To Action.
So, for every 1000 names on your email list, 250 will open, and 40 will click. Email is a tough gig, but in reality, it really is the best type of “direct contact/direct response” marketing activity. No other activity will generate the same results.
You have mere seconds to get their attention and get the click. Some of this can be controlled or tested, but always make sure you keep everything within a “is it worth another hour?” parameter. If you spend 2 hours, coming up with headlines and alternate text (or design) – what’s the overall benefit? From my personal experience, it might increase incrementally, but there are so many dynamics, it’s hard to figure out which one really made the difference – because it might just be an anomaly.
You’re better off spending your time on the “backside” of the click, rather than trying to get more clicks – more is not necessarily better, focus on quality, rather than quantity. Help people de-select from clicking – make it apparent what they will get once they take that next step. And the deliver on it.
That’s why we’re developing 31Events – to make the click more valuable to you and to your customers. If you have a time-based activity (like a webinar or coupon), getting that info on their calendar will help your customers – and if they can get it without any effort, even better.
Once we are ready, it will be that simple for your customers. One click or one input box – and they get a calendar invite that just works, no more action on their part required. And you will get a way to track their actions (numbers you didn’t have before), when they do take action, by accepting, declining or even marking as tentative. You’ll know how many, and what actions they’ve taken – which allows you to focus on only those customer who are interested – helping you save time and effort. Update June 2018. You can find our beta test site here called CalendarSnack . https://calendarsnack.com
To be completely honest, the last (almost) year has been tough. We had a working version of 31Events – that accomplished the goal of sending a very well formatted iCal/ICS file, that could be “consumed” by all the major email & calendar clients on the market.
So we had a decision to make – Either make the existing platform work or to completely re-invent/code to work within an ecosystem we knew would both (1) scale and (2) be around for a very long time.
So we decided to burn it down, and start over.
What we’ve learned in the process of moving from a Coldfusion/MSSQL environment, is that AWS Serverless Architecture gives us both flexibility with the ability to scale – without us having to manage any servers, storage, or infrastructure. It’s been an interesting 9 months of learning for us — first, it’s a complete mindshift from our backgrounds (both Greg and I have spent our professional lives within “infrastructure” and services for large companies) in that we didn’t need to worry about the “backend”, that it would just work – regardless of what we wanted to do.
Second, it forced us to really think through what 31Events does – and start breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces, because serverless architecture is about “micro” services and functions – no longer did we need to think from an end-to-end standpoint and create functions to handle it. We now shifted to smaller functions.
Third, it forced us to re-think the front-end (user interface), and what we wanted to accomplish – first as we roll out Version 1, but also what we could do as we proceeded down the enhancement and development path.
I like to talk in analogies, it helps me put things into some sort of context and understand complex “things”. To wrap my mind around the direction we had planned to take, I started thinking of our new AWS Serverless backend as setting up a dominos. Our dominos can start off as a simple line … knock over the first one, and it just knocks over the next. But as we learn and grown, we can add complex patterns, or create side tracks that go simultaneously. And each “domino” is a fraction of the whole, and if it breaks, we can go back to the specific place and fix it. It really is a great way to create an application (which is what 31Events is) and have it work right from the beginning.
Right now, we are still working through creating our micro services, and we’ve made some significant progress in doing that. Although the concepts are “easy” to understand, the implimentation is always going to much harder than originally thought.
The other problem faced, as you march down this brave new world of serverless, is finding people who really (and I mean really) understand it – and can make it work. We’ve been through a few people along the way, but hopefully have found the right team to help us going forward.
We all have “day” jobs at the moment – so 31Events is a sideline project. That doesn’t mean it’s not important (because it is, Greg and I both see examples every day where we could help people), what it means is that we can’t necessarily publish a roadmap with dates. Our first priority is to ensure we have the same functionality we had a year ago. After that, we will re-launch. Because we know, once it works, it will just work regardless of how many users we have creating and managing events & invitations.
We hope to be back with Version 1 by July – that would market a one-year absence of 31Events – but I’m not putting a timeline on it. So, stay ready, because once we re-launch, it will just work – and you will then be able to send a calendar invitation to anyone, and will just work.
Because we are here to change the world of “Add to Calendar”.
YOUR webinar is not on THEIR calendar.
Hello. As we wrap us this year, I would like to introduce you to our Video Log Idea Book that we just completed. A big thanks to Arnie for putting all this content together. We both learned a lot from our customers. At the bottom of this blog is the Video I did. Enjoy! Greg & Arnie.
So we have a minimum of 8 touches throughout the sales funnel to establish a customer transaction with a current customer, or even more for a new customer. In addition – we only have 8 seconds to grab a customers attention. We should be using a Calendar Invitation with the CTA to get to the Mobile phone when possible. The CTA will not get lost in email and the Calendar invite will use the reminder engine that is built in.
Are you using the Calendar to talk to your customers? Likely not. We all use Google Calendar and Microsoft Exchange for day to day dialogs for business. But no one is using a Calendar Server to send Calendar Invitations as a marketing department to communicate to customers. Most are using the Calendar to develop and download and .ICS and put them in the Registration email, or asking them to “Click to Download” the ICS. This does not work well and never will . Did you know that when you send a correctly crafted Calendar invitation that it actually “Splits” and goes directly to your customers calendar? It does. This is the greatest thing for a marketer. Your offer, with the correct address and call to action with a possible URL for a coupon or an map – can go directly to your customers mobile phone.
The Landing page shown here is with our magic Box. The email box is actually the Calendar Invite! Think of it as a replacement for “Add to Calendar”, which never worked well and you could not track. Give it a try. Simple, easy, and effective. Direct to your customers calendar. Customer puts email address in it and they get the Calendar invite on their Mobile Phone. We track track it with our reporting engine.
Simple Idea. Insert the PNG, JPG or Gif as a URL into the Calendar invitation as the CTA. Get the correct physical address into the Calendar invite. Let the customer put in their email address. They receive a Calendar invite directly to their phone. We track it. You could do this on Your Web site , or integrate into your email campaign with out CTA script. It does not get lost, and they can retire the coupon at the correct CTA time, since it popped up on their phone with the reminder.
So – we think you might think we are crazy. But tell us what you think in our Disqus thread. The calendar server has a built in specification that is 30 years old. Its called the IETF, or the Internet Engineering Task Force. The specification for Calendaring was just updated a few months ago. Its got lots of cool built in features that as a marketer allow you to talk to a customers mobile calendar application. Drip is an extension of a “temporal” pattern in email. We are advocating you take a look on how it could be used with us, on sending out Calendar invitations. We bring all of this alive for you with our Calendaring API. Which you don’t need to understand at all…
So multi-event listings or pseudo schedules seem easy but they are hard to make simple. In this picture Arnie, my marketing friend here @31events put together this diagram to show how we can assemble 3 different calendar invitations with our easy to use “magic box”. Think of this as a “Add to Calendar Replacement”. Or Add to Calendar on some Big Mega Steroids. Customer see’s 3 different time slots. They pick one or more. They receive a calendar invite directly to the mobile phone with a BOOTH MAP as a PNG stuffed into a URL. Your customer get a chance to come by your booth because they have a Booth # , Map and a CTA to come buy and get a Free tShirt or a Personal One on One demo. Think about how many times you have asked your sales team – hey send out come emails and tell your customers to come by the BOOTH. Well now you can develop that offer and get the Calendar invitation right to the customer’s phone! You can send the code out to your sales team and they can put the invite right into their Vcard, to help you help your customers get to your booth.
We all use the Count Down Clocks. Think about combining them with us. We actually have one running in combination as an integrated Modal with the Countdown Clock at the top and the Calendar invite embedded in a Popup Modal for a website with a built in coupon. This diagram shows how it could be used on a WebSite. But there are many more. Give us some feedback on how you would use them. The first one that does give us feedback gets a $25 Amazon Card! Just contact us on the Disqus thread or Tweet us directly @31events.
So in this diagram we are advocating you try using our embed script for CTA in your Email Marketing program. We can send a calendar invite when the customer clicks the Call to action button in the Email Template. Its simple and we track it. The great part is that we don’t require you do anything different. Just give us a test run in your email campaign testing. We believe you are going to see better results.
Well believe it or not was our original invention. We built a calendaring web service to send direct invitations to our customer base. Since they knew us, they responded better and they just accepted it onto the calendar for the event. If they they were not sure, the event was still on their calendar in a grayed out position. When the event came closer – sometimes they accepted , or sometimes they denied it. But we were communicating with them – all through the calendar. Early on – PRIOR to the mobile phone it was working well. Over the past 10 years it is working well since all people have their phones and have a calendar on them – and the events do not get lost in email. Uses cases include OPT in lists of customers that prefer direct calendar invites. Another big idea is SUBSCRIPTION customers that order on a regular basis, where by sending calendar invites with information and offers would be welcomed for extra discounts in CTA or coupons in the calendar. The ideas are endless! Thanks for listening to the first 7 Ideas from Arnie and Greg @ 31events. Here to the next 100! Again if you have ideas on how to use them or want to do some GUEST BLOGGING with us. Please reach out @31events on Twitter or within the DisQus Thread.
Get the Ideabook, just click the button the button below for the PDF version.
…use Email as a marketing tool? My estimate is that 100% of all marketing professionals use email in their campaigns. Based upon some numbers, from 2015, the email market is huge …
Like 8 trillion emails a year huge. Like 200B mobile phones huge. Like multi-hundred-millions-in revenue for companies such Mailchimp, ConstantContact, SendGrid huge.
Now, let me ask you another question – and please show those hands again – how many of you have gone to the effort of crafting DRIP campaigns? (and if you don’t know what a drip campaign is, then you don’t really do them, so please take down your hand).
Drip email campaigns are crafted, the are (were) born from a requirement to create “touches”, which is the holy grail of marketing and demand generation. We (as marketers) are forced to think how to create demand from the 8 or less seconds we have with any single consumer of our product. That bull rider and you have the same problem – stay on the beast for 8 seconds or lose. At least when we lose, no bones are broken, but careers are built on that 8 seconds – yours, mine, and that brilliant 13 year old trying to become a Youtube sensation.
Now, since I know you use email in your marketing campaigns. And some of you have jumped into drip marketing to create multiple touches, the next question is this (and it’s a big one, and yes, show me your hands if you do this)…
How many of you use the Calendar as a way to “hook” that attention deprived prospect or customer? Now be honest here, and having a “save to calendar” or doing calendar sync doesn’t count. Because here’s the difference:
One Event is all your customers can think about at a time. Which means that ONE event is the key to success. And since your customers are like every other customer out there in the world, you have 8 seconds and ONE CLICK to get it right. I would guess, almost 100% are wasting that one click sending one more email (or a series of emails) or spamming their calendar with 100s of events (not the one they are interested in). And you still don’t know if they have it on their calendar!!
Here’s the difference … 31Events is all about getting that ONE Event, on your customer’s calendar, in ONE click. And once it’s there, you can talk to them based upon that single action.
If they accepted, you can reward them. If they declined, you can ask why. If it’s just sitting there doing nothing, ask them to do something, and provide an incentive to do it. What you can’t do, once you have that information, is ignore it.
But, while you’re stuck in the world of Email Marketing, worried about open rates and click through rates and all the other interesting little data points of email, you will start losing market share to someone else, that came out of nowhere, that is actually getting their marketing campaigns on someone’s calendar, and talking to them like human beings, instead of screaming at them through mass emailing bullhorns from your prominently positioned soapbox – because you have no clue about their intent with your event.
That’s the punch line – I’d love to chat more about it. We have spent years, perfecting a solution that jumps beyond the “manufactured” touches of email, and starts marketing to the only real non-renewable resource, TIME.
1) create the event in 31Events
2) copy & paste the code
3) your site visitors (however you drive traffic to that landing page) are presented with a single input box and button
4) fill in their email address, and they get a CALENDAR INVITATION
Simple. Your Event, Their Calendar, One Click.
simple input box with submit button, we provide the iframe code, copy from your 31Events admin page and paste within any HTML web page
WordPress: within our theme, we have a page template specifically for demo example pages, it has not footer or header (you can use any page template within your site)
WP Plugin – Elementor: I personally can’t say enough about Elementor, it is pure drag-n-drop and simple to use.
Background & Animation – Coverr.co: the background video was available through another great free design resource, check them out to find all sorts of free video backgrounds