What I’ve learned about calendar client apps

May 15, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

Over the past year, I've spent a few hundred hours sending calendar invitations, testing calendar clients and how each "consume" calendar invitations (actually land on a person's calendar). For us at 31Events, that is the single most important aspect of what we do - ensure our invitations actually get on the calendar.

You would think it's a trivial subject. We've had integrated calendars as long as we've had email, and other productivity tools. But, the calendar is a bit different than email - and it's much more complicated that just "sending" a message and hoping someone opens and reads it.

Why? For one simple fact - we are dealing with "time" and time is different for each of us. Right now, there are 24 different "times" simultaneously happening (time zones) and depending on that time zone, you could be experiencing a completely different "day" than I am.

That causes problems - especially when you are sending something that is time based - it has a beginning time and an ending time.  So, your calendar has to determine who's time to reference - mine or yours? 

Next, we have a general problem with lots of applications that could "consume" that calendar invitation - there are online services, hosted services, static devices, mobile devices, pushed notifications, etc and so on. And each of those have little quirky things that get in the way.

A couple months ago, we decided to test some of the most popular end calendar clients, just to get a feeling for what worked and what didn't - and here's what we found out, when using 31Events.

1. Microsoft Outlook - regardless of which application used (online or installed), is the best at consuming calendar information. Almost 100% of our tests invitations worked - meaning we received the email notification, and at the same time, the invitation also was on our calendar without any interaction. That included everything from highly customized message down to a simple text message.
Success Rates:
  Microsoft Outlook (99%)
  Google Gmail/Calendar was second best (90%+)
  Yahoo (95%+)
  AOL (>5%)
  Self Hosted, various applications (<70%)

2. AOL (if you use it for calendaring and not just email) failed almost 100% of the time.  The client just refused to accept our calendar invitation - not matter how we changed and adjusted it. There are still millions of AOL users, although it is not used often as a B2B platform, and it is unknown how many us their calendaring - but from our tests, if you are sending any type of invitation to AOL, you will have a higher failure rate.

3. Mobile clients work seamlessly. I know, most of you just take it on faith that a mobile app/client will work just as well as a desktop app/client. And for those people who use their phones for everything, both business and personal, that's a reasonable expectation. But, it's not 100% accurate.  After our testing, we found functionally, mobile calendars work - what they presented on screen, isn't necessarily the same. Where a desktop notification might be well formatted, the mobile notification for the same event may have HTML leakage.  Not the biggest deal in the world, but it can happen. If you are doing lots of design and have an expectation of that design being presented on a mobile phone - just remember, there is probability is won't.

Our recommendations, especially when using 31Events to send calendar invitations are:

1. understand your end user, what email/calendar system they use, so you can understand the potential for failure rates.
2. Keep your messages on your calendar invites short - we found less than 100 words worked best.
3. Limit "design" for calendar invitations. I'm sure this will change over time, but right now, limited formatting of your message is best.
4. Use one location type. If it's online, just enter the full URL (with http:// or https://); if it's an address, use the full address including the Zip Code.  If you want it work properly use only one - you can put more details in the message area.
5. Who's time is important? For most invitations, this is going to be YOUR time (webinars, webcasts, deadlines, etc) - but there may be times when THEIR time is important - create your invitations accordingly.

Calendars are going to become more and more important as a marketing tool over the next few years, as our marketing campaigns become more and more time sensitive. Right now is a great time to start understanding how the calendar works and how to leverage for your campaigns.

No wasted clicks …. getting on the Calendar in 1 Click

May 13, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

Every company has goals (some are just ideas, other are pure fantasy), and 31Events is not any different. We've spent the last year making it easier to work with our app, slimmed down the user interface, and focused on making it as simple as possible to add a calendar invitation to your email marketing campaigns.  

Driving to One Click (within your email CTA) to get an invitation for the event you're communicating within your email message.

I've written before how "simple" is very, very hard to do. And it takes a significant amount of discipline to continue down that path.  Mostly, because simple for the user means hiding complexity, and shielding the user from it.

We've done that. We have taken something very difficult, and boiled it down to one line of code to be added to your email marketing CTA.

We still have some of the other functionality (like webpage embeds), but our focus has been to simplify that single process, and give you reporting one your attendees "intent" ... did they accept, decline, set it a tentative, or just do nothing with it.

No one else does that - we continue to research the market, and we are the only ones that send a calendar invite, and then track on the backside.

Our goal has been achieved - simplify the process.

Adding an automated calendar invitation to MailChimp

May 9, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

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.

31Events Create Calendar Invitation

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).

31Events Add Email Landing Page

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).

31Events Add CTA Link in MailChimp

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.  

Yesterday we added 40+ email service providers …

May 8, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

Email is serious business. It is the foundation of marketing today and how you get the word out about your business and products.

And 31Events supports your email marketing efforts with provide the ability to add one link to your CTA, and when clicked, a calendar invitation is sent - while your customer is being forwarded to a landing page. We have fully tested our app with MailChimp (the market leader), ConstantContact and ExactTarget (part of Salesforce Marketing Cloud).

Yesterday, we also added 40+ additional email service providers.  They have not been fully tested, but we wanted to get them up for anyone using those ESPs to try.  They include such providers as Aweber, Pardot, Campaign Monintor, Mad Mimi, Emma, and Hubspot.

If you use any of those ESPs, it's easy to integrate 31Events into your campaigns - especially if you are sending emails for webinars or webcasts - where getting your event on someone's calendar is crucial.

It's a fairly easy 3-step process: 
(1) create your event in the app
(2) designate your landing page
(3) copy and paste the customized link created by 31Events to your CTA

It's that easy.  And when someone clicks, they will go to your landing page and we will automatically send a calendar invitation with your event information.  They don't do anything special, and it doesn't disrupt the flow of your email marketing efforts.

Now that's easy.  And the easiest way to get started is get an account, and test it. Give us a "B" or "C" run of your list - just one email run and see how it works.  We believe you'll get two things in return - more people at your event and more information about your campaigns.

Get more people to your webinars

May 4, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

There are hundreds of webinars happening this week. I personally get 30 or 40 emails each week announcing another webinar. It has become one of the go-to marketing tactics to educate customers (and prospects) about our products and services.

The great thing about webinars is their ability to be utilized as both a LIVE (time limited) event and a virtual (view anytime) event. You can create webinars for almost anything – from pure education/knowledge, to demonstration, to new product launch. It really is a versatile marketing activity, and the cost is so low, compared to just a few years ago, that it’s almost “free”.

And how to you decide if your webinar was a marketing success? By the number of people who attended and the number of “post” webinar views.  I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secrete within marketing – to get attendees, you have to spend a significant amount of effort to get even on attendee.  Why? Because there are so many webinars, so much noise in the market, we over communicate to get each attendee.

Here’s what an typical webinar marketing campaign support looks like …

1. Webinar Subject/Content Creation – with appropriate graphics, presentations, etc.

2. Email support – usually multiple emails to our list announcing, and then re-announcing our webinar

3. Landing page(s) on our websites – providing either a full calendar of all webinars and/or a specific page for each webinar

4. Registration – getting vital information about your attendees, in many instances this is just a repeat of information you already have in your CRM

Once we have all those things in place (for each webinar), we start down our work path or content creation and communications.  If you’ve done a few of them, you probably stick with the same flow for each, it’s just easier than recreating the process for each webinar.

And what is the end result? Here what the numbers look like if you have a email list of 10K (using some industry metrics) …

Emails Sent: 10,000

Open Rate: 2,500 (25% to 15%)

Click-through-rate: 200 (8% of open, about 2% for total list)

Registration: 160 (assuming 80%, no one talks about drop-off metrics from CTR to Registration)

Attend: 64 (60% drop off from registrations to attend)

That ends up being less than 1% of your total mailing list. At the end of the day, that’s a lot of effort (content, emails, reports, etc.) to get a few people to attend your live webinar.  And if you are “selling” something during your webinar, it’s a very small audience of buyers.

My question is – “how many of those 160 people, who registered, actually put the webinar on their calendar?” – think about that for just a second. Almost 100% of all webinar registrations end with an email being sent, inside that email is the event information, but the new registered invitee need to “add” or “save” that information to their calendar.  You have absolutely no idea how many actually did save it (or at least save it successfully).

Personally, I believe that’s why there is 60% drop off from of attendance. Because it’s not on the calendar, and most of your customers live by their calendars.  

That’s why we created 31Events. To capture those people who respond to your email’s CTA, and immediately send them a calendar invitation. Yes, it’s a real, live, calendar invitation, that automatically blocks that time on their calendar (just like sending someone a meeting notice).  And then we go a step further, and actually report if they interacted with it – did they Accept, Decline, market it as Tentative? Or if they did anything with it (absolutely no action, but it’s still on the calendar).

We’ve tested it – and we get have gotten as high as 80% attendance rate (a few of our smaller webinars have gotten in the 90% range).  The worst we have done is about 60% of invitees.  That means, we have seen results that double the market averages. In our example above, that would mean instead of 64 people in the audience, you could have as many as 128 – twice the number, double the buyers.

Yes, it’s another step for you – another piece of “content” to create. But if it actually doubles the numbers, it’s worth the five or ten minutes of effort.  And the additional data is invaluable (once you have tracked enough webinars).  Also, the click through is just a very small (less than a couple seconds) interrupt on their way to either your landing page or your registration page.  We believe it’s worth both the few minutes of your time and the few seconds for your invitees.

Give it a try. Do an A/B test of 31Events – see if makes a difference.  That’s really the only way to know.  And you can get an account right now, for free. Try it for 30 days, there’s really nothing to lose. Click the graphic below to get started.

3 New How To & Demo Videos

February 24, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

We have three new videos share with you.  They are also on the Resources page.

HOW TO: use 31events auto-generated code in mailchimp to create a one click cta

HOW TO: create an event in 31Events

HOW TO: insert auto-generated events code into wordpress

We'll be creating more demos, how to and some "case study" videos over the next few weeks.  We know how important they are to give you a better feel for how to use 31Events in your digital marketing.

Also, if you have a specific case study or would like a specific example - just reach out to us - we're always looking for new ways to highlight 31Events.

New Pricing Set for 31Events

January 13, 2017 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

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 / Arnie McKinnis  / 

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.

How to integrate Calendar Invitations into Mail Chimp Email Templates

January 8, 2017 / Greg Hanchin  / 

So if you think about the shear amount of “ADD to CALENDAR” for ICS downloads that are used for WEBINARS daily its staggering. Its also very inefficient. They get lost and they often don’t work.   We send a DIRECT Calendar INVITE to your customers EMAIL address inside your Mail Chimp Template.  Your customer receives a “correctly crafted” calendar invite like a good old fashion Google or Outlook Corporate invitation to a meeting. Its simple and you can insert a COUPON as a URL inside the Calendar invitation to promote attendance.  The key is that the Calendar invite goes straight to their Mobile Calendar. Since they are responding to  the “Click here to get the Calendar Invitation” CTA button – they will have a higher chance of showing up to your event.  In addition you will be able to track all customer Calendar Invite  “ACCEPTS” from the Calendar clients –  just like a corporate marketing event in your own 31 events reporting interface.  If you change anything in the invite after its sent – you do not need to send another EMAIL, since its a correctly crafted Calendar invite – and the customers Calendar Client receives an update directly to their Mobile Calendar from our API. 

If your using Mail Chimp, give us a try.  When you create your EVENT, you can use our CODE Generator to get the Code to insert into your Mail Chimp Template.  Its easy and it takes about 15 minutes.  In addition you will get rich detailed information in our reporting engine as seen below.  We guarantee you will get better turn outs to your events since the Calendar Invite splits and goes DIRECTLY to your customers Calendar CLIENT.  Regardless if they ACCEPT the event or not onto their Calendar – the INVITE will show up for the CORRECT TIME and DATE.  This will INCREASE your chances of your customer showing up to your event..  If they ACCPET the EVENT onto their Calendar – we track this in our reporting engine , just like a corporate calendaring server and they will receive all the reminders that are built into their calendaring clients. 

See this short 3 minute Video on how to Insert the Code into your Mail Chimp Template using the 31events code generator for MailChimp Call to Action buttons: