TIME is not on your side

May 11, 2018 / Arnie McKinnis  /  Uncategorized

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.

31Events will be re-launching soon …

May 3, 2018 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

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.  

it worked, but it wasn't scalable ...

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.

Moving to the largest, serverless computing environment on the Globe

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.

It's like lining up dominos

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. 

When will it be ready?

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”.

31Events is not just for invites, it can used for reminders too

June 14, 2017 / Greg Hanchin  / 
The calendar is awesome marketing tool that is completely overlooked by most marketing professionals.  We use email, we use landing pages, we use drip campaigns – but no calendar invitations or reminders.
I got an email today from Amazon AWS about their re:Invent 2017 conference. Once I saw it, I thought … “why don’t more companies send calendar invitations and reminders?”.  

Announcements like this are good – but how about product launches or maybe even special or flash sales.  Anything timebased could be have a calendar invitation attached.  So, as an example, I created this landing page, put your email in the box, and it will send you a real calendar invitation/reminder.
Just think what you could do with that type of marketing tactic.

#1 Reason Your Webinar Attendance Rate Misses Your Expectations

June 8, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 
The industry average for webinar attendance is 40% (+/- 5%). That means for every 10 people who register, only 4 will attend.  And my personal opinion for that low number is this:
YOUR webinar is not on THEIR calendar.

Seems fairly simple to me, the primarily to get people to register (along with up to three reminders) is based upon email. A one way communication – from you to your customer.

Here’s a pretty typical email marketing campaign for webinars:

Step 1 – Initial Email

No rocket science here. Your email list is gold to your business. It is how you communicate with your customers and prospects. It is a tried and true marketing tactic, and no marketing professional in the world will tell you NOT to focus on email marketing (and I won’t either, it is the perfect communications to announce your webinar).

Step 2 – Call To Action

I have looked a hundreds (probably in the thousands) of webinar announcement emails. Every single one will have one and possibly up to three Calls to Action within them. They could be anything from standard text links, to buttons, to graphics – but they all have a CTA.  And in 99% of those cases, the CTA takes you to a registration landing page.

Step 3 – Landing Page and/or Registration Landing Page

Once someone clicks on your CTA, they are taken to your landing page.  These have become standard and provide additional details about the webinar, who will be presenting, date/time, how to attend, and in more cases than I’d like to see, a very detailed registration form (some habits die hard).

Step 4 – Registration

Here’s what I’ve noticed, the bigger the company, the more information they want during the registration process. The savviest marketers have realized (a) I already have your name and email address (b) that is how I track you in my CRM/Sales Automation and (c) email and webinars are cheap – the incremental cost for sending one more email or adding one more “seat” to my webinar is almost zero. Which means, most of smaller companies just ask for your basic information – first name, last name and email address – as a way to track against information they already know about you. 

Step 5 – Confirmation 

This is where things can start diverging. Some companies will just say “Thank You” after registration and send an email; others will forward you to a success page, with “how to attend” instructions; others just take your info and do nothing (yes it happens more often than you think). 

Step 5.a – Add or Save to Calendar

Within that conformation (either email or redirect page), there is usually some way to “Save” the webinar to the calendar. Marketers have never really questioned this activity – believing that if someone has gone through this process, they will actually spend time to “save” their event to their calendar.

Step 6 – Reminder Email(s)

It is an industry best practice to inundate anyone who registered for your event with several emails, at timed intervals – 7 days before, 3 days before, day of, within an hour of – it varies in frequency depending on the marketing process. These email reminders will either be sent to the whole list (all the people who received the initial email) or will be sent to only those who have registered.  If it is the former, there is usually another request (or instructions) on how to save this even to their calendar.

Those six steps are are how most webinars are marketed. There may be variations or other tactics used, but if you take notice of the process, you will see this repeated over and over. And you will also notice, most webinar service companies will outline this process as a “best practice” for marketing your webinar. This process, will help you get approximately 10 people to attend for every 1,000 on your mailing list.

The problem is – after all that activity, you still don’t know if it’s on their calendar.  And if it is on their calendar, what is their intent. Is your event just there, do they have it marked as accepted, declined or tentative. Did the status of that invite change between initial registration and the webinar time itself? You are operating completely blind to their “intent” – you have absolutely no idea. Which is why, you continue to send reminder email after reminder email – because you are under the false belief, that it reminding people helps drive attendance up.

And the Solution is very simple …

Send a calendar invitation on the first Click on your CTA.  Follow your tried-and-true process. Keep it alive and well and churning out emails after emails. Just make one of those emails a real, valid, properly formatted, Calendar Invitation.
I’m not going to tell you about the benefits of using the calendar as a marketing tool. Because you either already know there is something broken in the process when you’re marketing through time-based events, or you don’t. What I will tell you, is that SAVE or ADD to calendar doesn’t work, it adds multiple steps for your customers and prospects – and we already know, there is a drop-off each time we ask them to do “one more thing” – sometimes it’s just a few people, sometimes it almost all of them. Stop asking them to do that, and just send a calendar invitation.

Here’s the process …

Step 1 – create the same initial email
Step 2 – CTA is exactly the same – the link is different
Step 3 – Landing Page is exactly the same
Step 4 – Registration is exactly the same
Step 5 – Confirmation is exactly the same
Step 6 – Go ahead and send reminder emails (it’s up to you)

There are few additional activities for you, but instead of “not knowing” if it’s on the calendar, you’ll know. Because you send a calendar invitation to them. And you’ll also know …
1. Who is physically taken action with that calendar invitation, and what action they have taken
2. Who has updated their “intent” for the calendar invitation
3. What action they took, and evaluate attendance

You can do that today, along with being a bit creative with how to interact with those people most likely to attend your webinar.  You will either decide to try something new, or continue down the path of tried and true.  Hell, if you’ve done more than 10 webinars, you already know your own numbers. Maybe you don’t need more people attending your webinars, or don’t care if anyone puts it on their calendars.  For those that believe testing something new is worth a little bit of effort, then just head over to 31Events.com, get your account, add your next webinar, add your landing page link, get the “Link Code” for your email service provider, and see what happens.

Then let me know, I’m pretty easy to reach, would love to hear what happened.  Because my assumption is, it will increase your attendance percentage (it’s help other marketers, including myself).  But I could be completely wrong.

Get your account today, and test it. It will either work or not – but you’ll never know until you try it.

Automating a Calendar Invitation with MailChimp

June 8, 2017 / Greg Hanchin  / 

Adding an automated calendar invitation to a MailChimp email marketing campaign

I’m going to show you how easy it is to add a calendar invitation for your event to your MailChimp email marketing campaign with 31Events. Once you’ve done it three times, you’ll be able to do this in less than 5 minutes. It really is that easy.

Step 1: Create your Invite

Creating an invite for your event, in this case, let’s say a webinar is simple. Just enter the webinar information into the form (at this point, don’t worry about adding invitation enhancements, like graphics), enter at least one email address to test the event, and press SAVE.

Step 2: Publish the Event

On either the Event Details page or the ALL EVENTS page, press the Rocket icon button to Publish your event. This allows us to get the email code for MailChimp. It also allows you to “test” the calendar event prior to including it into your MailChimp email marketing campaign for your webinar.

Step 3: Add your landing page Url

The best practice for webinar email marketing is to forward someone to a page with more information about your webinar, usually a registration page. We will need the URL for that landing page for 31Events.

Your newly created event is now in the Published Events section. Look for the Email Landing Page button icon, press it, and a window will popup. Make sure Option One is selection (our default is Option 2), page in your landing page URL into the second text box (naming it is optional).

Step 4: Copy Email Code

Your newly created event is now in the Published Events section. Look for the Code icon button, press it, and look for the Email tab. The first section is MailChimp, we want to copy the first code block. Just click anywhere within that box and it will copied to your clipboard.

Step 5: Add code as link within MailChimp

The final step is completed within MailChimp. Create your webinar email marketing campaign just like you would normally. The only difference will be, instead of adding your webinar landing page link, you’ll add the link created within 31Events.

At this point, I usually test the email to make sure it does exactly what I expect. In this case, once you click on the CTA, you should be forwarded to the webinar landing page. The difference being, they will also receive an event invitation in their inbox (and land on their calendar also).

That’s it. Those five steps.

When someone clicks your CTA (graphic, link, button) with the 31Events URL they will get a calendar invitation without the need to “save” or “download”. Your customers (and prospective customers) don’t need to do anything else.

now it’s up to you

I guess the big question for you is this … are you willing to give it a try? See if it works for your MailChimp and webinar marketing campaigns?

Register for an account, do a split test and see if it works for you. If it does, you’ll see your attendance go up, if not, then you’re only out a few minutes testing.

But is it really on your calendar?

May 31, 2017 / Greg Hanchin  / 

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve gotten over 30 webinar related emails. All of these people want me to come to their webinar, some for learning, others to tell me about some new feature — but all with the expressed goal of (1) notifying me about their webinar and (2) getting me to click their CTA.

The process for all are very similar — it’s a tried and true flow:
Step 1: Email Notification
Step 2: Tell me When and Where (for webinar it’s online obviously)
Step 3: Clear call to action — click a link or button
Step 4: Go to some type of landing page
Step 5: Enter my information (some what your whole life story, others just an email)
Step 6: Get another email with webinar details, and in some cases (a little more than half the time), some way to “save” the webinar information to my calendar.

The flow deviates a slightly, but not much. In the end, most market flows include the “save” or “download” to calendar.

My Question for YOU … have you tested it. Do you know if it works? Does it work across all email clients, for a desktop or a phone?

We take for granted that tiny piece of the puzzle has been solved. You email works. Your landing page works. Your registration process works. So why wouldn’t the calendar piece work too?

I’m here to tell you that it’s not solved. I’ve personally tested hundreds of invites, for multiple end clients — and in the majority of cases, that “SAVE” to calendar never saved anything to my calendar. And since I (the webinar invitee), believes it is on my calendar, I don’t give it another thought — until it’s a day after, and I think “I really meant to attend that one, but I never go the reminder”.

There is a different way — and that’s just sending a calendar invitation once someone clicks on your email CTA. One that actually is received as a calendar invitation, no additional action required. It’s just on the calendar.

If you’d like to see that in action, just register for a free account with 31Events and test it for yourself. That’s really the best way to see the difference.

The Perils of WordPress

May 30, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  /  Uncategorized
Sometimes it’s the little things that get you, today – while I was updating the site (because I like to tinker), I did something – and BOOM – my WordPress site went down.

Nothing I did would make it come back up.  Luckily, I had a backup from this morning (how lucky was that) – so I do a restore of and NOTHING.  Really, it still didn’t work.  Something was really messed up, and I had no idea where the problem was.  After twisting this knob, flipping that switch, adding this, deleting that – I finally decided it was time to just re-install.

Basically, it’s the perils of owning a site and doing business on the internet (or via software) – sometimes it just craters and the only thing you can do is burn it down and build it back up. After a few hours of troubleshooting and then re-installing – We’re backup and running.  I lost a few pages, a dozen or so blog posts – but operating and working is better than not.

Follow my advice … keep a real backup of your site and test the reliability of your restore capability.  Your backup is only as good as the ability to actually use it!

New Pricing Set for 31Events

January 13, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  /  Uncategorized

We’ve made some big changes to 31Events over the past few months, and today marks the day where we move from that “cool little side project” to full blown Product & Service.  

Part of that is putting a price to the service – and for now, we want to make it an easy decision to get started with our simple $10 per month price.

Simple – because, it’s purely month-to-month pricing. You want try it out, pay for a month, use it all you want, and if it doesn’t help, cancel it before the next billing period.  Easy and simple.

And we believe you get lots of value for that $10, you can …

 – create unlimited invitations
 – you can get the only opt-in box on the market today that sends a live calendar invitation
 – you can easily copy the generated link code and use it in your email marketing campaigns on MailChimp, ConstantContact or ExactTarget.
 – we give over 20 pre-built modals (widgets) to embed in your website through industry standard iFrame
 – we give you the ability to add a coupon to a calendar invitation (no one does that)
 – we provide you live reporting on who has received, accepted or declined your invitation (you can’t get that information with anyone else’s Add to Calendar button)
 – and finally, we are building out a library of really cool things you can do once you start using the Calendar as a marketing tool

All in all, $10 is a bargain, you’re ROI will be through the roof – with payback with your first event. You’ll be amazed at how efficient the calendar is as a marketing tool, with built in drip-marketing capabilities, automatic email + calendar invitation, and just being able to communicate your time-based events in the only place people manage their time – the Calendar.

If you have questions, we’re easy to reach.  Just send them along.  We love talking about this stuff.

31Events Builder Bob Series: Calendar Invite Inside a Flip Button

January 9, 2017 / Greg Hanchin  / 

One of the things we are always doing is stretching ourselves, see how create new eye catching designs, using 31Events and industry standards (like HTML, CSS & Javascript) along with tools you use today – like WordPress, Canva, MailChimp, etc.

Well, this weekend, I was playing around with Codepen.io and found the coolest button ever – you mouse over and it flips down.  I thought, it would be the coolest thing to use it to popup one of our opt-in calendar modals. Check it out below … 

I also decided to do a version that is a bit more mobile friendly over at JSFiddle.net … here’s the link.  

And finally, click on the screen cap below for a landing page view (without all the distractions around it).  

Feel free to grab the code, or fork it and create your own version.  We love to see new designs, so if you do something really cool, put the link in the comments so we can check it out!

New User Guide

January 8, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

Startups are tough, anyone that has done it, knows how it’s the details and little things that seem to take the longest to get done.  One of the things Greg and I have had on our “to do” list for a while, is creating a real User Guide for 31Events.  It’s one of those “requirements” things, because we can’t walk everyone through the interface, and with anything new, it’s really easy to give up.

So, I just wanted to put quick post, letting you know we have our first version of the User Guide up, along with Quick Start guide.

Check it out, and give us your feedback.  Also, check out Greg’s posts on using 31Events and MailChimp (ConstantContact or ExactTarget).  Email is a very important part of your marketing – why no look at integrating direct calendar invitations.