Using Incentives to Boost Registration and Attendance

Guest post by Ken Molay, president of Webinar Success and a prolific speaker and blogger in the webinar industry

WebinarListings is all about driving awareness, registration, and hopefully attendance to your web event. So I thought it might be helpful to revisit the old question of using incentives as a way to boost registration or attendance.

In my careers as a marketing manager and webinar consultant I've probably tried every possible incentive program. White papers, books, toys, travel, electronic gadgets, one-per-registrant, one-per-attendee, one-per-event, and one-per-series. I'll tell you up front that in general I'm not a fan of bribing my audience. But there are some exceptions. Here are my views on the subject, each of which is flexible in the face of case specifics.

Give Something to Everyone

Giving away tchotchkes to every registrant is something that should only be done if you are being held accountable by some executive for reporting ever increasing numbers of raw leads, with no regard to quality. Maybe if you are trying to develop a house list that you can use for future marketing blasts. You will see some increase in registrations, but usually a corresponding decrease in the percentage that are of any value to future sales. There is a good chance that you will see your percentage of attendance to registrations drop as well. People get their goodie ahead of time and satisfy their greed. There’s no reason to actually show up.

Giving something away to every attendee should only be done when you have awhitepaper technical paper, a marketing document, or some other tangible offering that touches directly upon your company/product/service. It should reinforce the message of your webinar and be of interest and value to the kind of audience already interested in your webinar content. If you start offering dog chew toys, you will once again boost numbers without improving revenue potential. Used properly, an electronic giveaway to each attendee provides you with a powerful tool to use in advancing your sales process through permission-based follow-up. They are expecting something from you and giving you authorization to contact them again. Not bad.

Drawing for a Single Item

Another approach is to announce a drawing for a single item (like an iPod, DVD player, or GPS system) awarded to one lucky attendee. I don't feel that this leaves the audience with anything to remember you by. For all but one person, the last impression they have of you is a negative one... They didn't win. If you really want to go this route, please try to figure out a way to announce the winner live on the air instead of saying you will contact them ipodlater. People want to get resolution and hear that you have followed through on your promise. If they don't win and never hear from you, they don't know that you ever fulfilled your obligation.

My least favorite is to have a drawing that spans multiple events over some time period. This forces you into no resolution during the event and a long time between the event and any notification and follow-up. People can easily feel that you have abused their trust.

Giveaways have their place in particular situations, but you will do much better on a long-term basis if you establish yourself as a trusted provider of useful, valuable, relevant information that is presented in an engaging and professional manner. Respect your audience, give them the information they want, and don’t start the selling process before introducing yourself. Follow these basics and you won’t have to spend extra money and effort on incentives.

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. In addition to reading the fine content here at WebinarListings, I invite you to look for additional tips, news, and reviews on The Webinar Blog.

(Image source: Whitepaper, iPod)

What do you think about using incentives to boost attendance? Have you tried it? What are your experiences?

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