Two years ago, we put our heads together to think of what we could do to make the whole marketing conference experience one that every business, big or small, could be a part of.
For the past few years, the teams at Leadpages and Drip have been hosting our own in-person conversion marketing conference, Converted, and it’s followed a pretty typical equation.
+ Fun decorations
+ Industry thought-leaders
+ Good food
+ Raucous after-party
Every Conference Ever
But we also stand behind the idea that building your business shouldn’t rely on having deep pockets, the means to get to Minneapolis, and the luxury of taking time away from your business every year just to keep pace with competitors.
After slugging back a bunch’a Red Bulls and coffee, the idea for a virtual marketing conference was born. No one would have to step foot outside, spend valuable resources on airfare and hotel stays, or take time from running their own business.
And to make it even more accessible, we wouldn’t charge a penny for it.
So, how did it go? Here are our biggest takeaways from our second Au+oma+ed conference—what we changed this time around, how we did it, how it went, and what you can expect to see next time.
Conference Logistics: How We Put It All Together
One of the first things we had to consider was how to make this entire virtual conference a pleasant experience for viewers. After all, our die-hard fans would have to be using this setup for both days of the event, so a frustrating or obnoxious interface had to be dodged at all costs.
Our own crew of developers worked some code magic and whipped up a handsome interface just for Au+oma+ed.
This is the total user interface package; a column for the live stream (that could be expanded to full screen) with a clear indication of what presentation is on-deck, an interactive middle column that served dual purposes, and a live feed of social interaction filled out the right-most column.
A subtle CTA stayed in the top right corner for viewers who were compelled to give us a try, and the background gradient wasn’t tiring to look at for the duration of the conference.
In the end, we landed on an interface that would keep attendees engaged with the live content as well as with the broader community engaging with each other (and all without being too “in-your-face” with branding).
Another mega-sized boulder we had to move in order to make this event a success was curating and assembling high-quality content.
Luckily, there are a lot of smart marketers out there who also believe in making marketing know-how accessible by all. Ideas were pitched, talks were recorded, and it was all plugged in and ready to play by go-time. (In case you were curious, we used streaming platform Livestream to air this event.)
If We Build It, They Will Come (If We Do These Things First)
Our inaugural Au+oma+ed of 2017 attracted nearly 10,000 enthusiastic marketers. This headcount served as our “number to beat” during the earliest planning phase. that is, a cool 10K was our goal until someone piped up and said, “We can do better. Let’s shoot for double.”
We had a new goal of getting 20K registrants this time around, so our own marketing efforts had to be on-point. Our lineup of speakers was incredible and their insight was priceless—we just had to let everyone else know that, too.
Here are some things we did to make upping our registrant count easy peasy:
1. Make it really, really easy to sign up
Odds are good we’ve all signed up for something on the internet before. Whether it was registering for an event, signing up for a newsletter, or even logging into Netflix, we’ve also probably abandoned ship at the first sign of friction.
Because of this tendency to leave when the internet is just asking too much of us, we wanted to make registering for Au+oma+ed really easy.
We added one-click registration buttons to emails that went out to our email list. By doing this, all they had to do was click once to register for the event—no extra forms, no finicky fields, no friction that made you click out of the window and never come back.
After hitting “one-click registration,” our latest Au+oma+ed registrants would feel our deep gratitude with their own personal thank-you page plus some prompts to add the event to their calendars so they wouldn’t forget.
Here's what it looked like when I clicked that registration button:
We also added a notification bar and pop-up opt-in toaster that spread the good word about Au+oma+ed when non-registrants came to the site. Plus, Au+oma+ed messaging was practically ubiquitous from website to your inboxes to social feeds.
We wanted to put Au+oma+ed where people were looking, so we did just that, starting with a video we made to pique interest and get the ball rolling.
2. Get social with it
This might seem like an obvious must-do, but it bears repeating: social media is today's word-of-mouth, and it's right where your events gain traction.
We connected with interested and engaged people before, during, and after the event. Everything from answering questions, deploying resources, and getting in on the conversation took place on our Twitter account and Facebook communities.
LinkedIn also played an impressive role in getting in front of people. Inspired by Drift’s viral sweep of LinkedIn feeds everywhere, we decided to take to the platform, too.
Dozens of my Drip coworkers made short videos about Au+oma+ed and posted them to their personal profiles at pretty much the same time a week before the event. We also took the time to comment on, like, and share each other’s handiwork.
The number of eyes that saw our messages about Au+oma+ed was staggering. From this time on, LinkedIn takeovers have absolutely been solidified as a tactic we’ll turn to for the next event we put on.
Here's a snapshot of my informative yet attention-grabbing footage featuring my rabbit Becky (she really likes free virtual conferences that help her grow her business):
We also ran several ad campaigns complete with bold, eye-catching design and to-the-point copy. These ads directed curious clickers right to the Au+oma+ed landing page stocked full of event details.
3. Be a mom. Remind people about your event
If you’re on Drip's or Leadpages' email list, you should have received at least one email from us telling you about Au+oma+ed.
In fact, unless you unsubscribed, you probably received several emails urging you to register. Even after you registered, you should have received confirmation, thank you, and reminder emails up to and through the duration of the event.
The fact is, we didn’t want to leave you hanging if you were about to sign up but became distracted, or if you did register and forgot when the event was happening. We wanted Au+oma+ed to get on your radar early and stay there for good.
In this context, we used emails to:
Announce the dates of the event
Provide one-click registration
Remind registrants 6 days, 3 hours, and 5 minutes before the start of the event
Thank people for registering
Send a final thank you, feedback survey, and link to presentation recordings
We also built an Event Abandonment Workflow. It worked very similarly to an effective Cart Abandonment Workflow.
This workflow was triggered when people would land on the registration page but not complete the registration form: If visitors still weren’t tagged as registrants within a time frame following when they first landed on the page, they were added to a specific Facebook Custom Audience plus they were sent an email reminding them they forgot to register.
This event abandonment workflow was effective in recovering hundreds of registrants who otherwise might have been lost forever.
4. Flexibility and adaptability are key
There were a lot of changes to format and process of our second round of Au+oma+ed. We switched streaming platforms, built a brand new interface, recruited a new roster of speakers, and, well, you get the picture.
The point is, we stayed flexible to the needs of this blossoming event instead of feeling restricted to what had been done the year prior. We’re firm believers that doing something because “that’s how it’s always been done” isn’t a very good reason, and that was evident in this round of Au+oma+ed.
Delight Attendees & Make Them Want to Come Again
Delightful details were given loads of attention. Music was piped into the live stream between presentations, attendees could always see what others were saying through the live Twitter feed, and we even included a contest with $100 prizes for 10 randomly selected participants.
The contest included a series of questions ranging from business info to fun facts. For every answer submitted, the contestant would get another entry to win a $100 prize. The more you answered, the more you had a shot at snagging a prize.
We also sprinkled in personalized language that played off of contest answers on the live event and post-event pages. For example, I answered with “dogs” to the question “Do you like cats or dogs more?” Because of that, this is the pup-centric message I see when I head back to the event page today:
The Fruits of Our Labor
So far, this article has stacked up strategy after strategy—email automation, pop-up opt-in forms, one-click registration links, social ads, viral video takeovers, delightful user experiences, and the list goes on.
But what really matters is how this strategy translated to numbers. So, was it all worth it?
Here are some standout event stats that made us murmur, "Holy buckets":
Our average email open rate was 35% (for context, the average email open rate in SaaS is near 20%). Many emails reached open rates near 50%, and our event abandonment campaign saw 69% of people opening those emails.
Paid social ads converted at 32.83%, earning us thousands of registrants and becoming the highest converting acquisition channel for this event.
The pop-up opt-in toasters on both Leadpages and Drip websites garnered more than 1K registrants combined.
Our LinkedIn takeover earned more than 56K views of our team-generated videos hyping up the event.
We had more visitors to drip.com on the first day of Au+oma+ed ‘18 than ever before in company history.
More than 6,000 hours of Au+oma+ed content was viewed during the event.
There were more than 122K views of our registration video ad on Facebook and YouTube.
More than 1K people watched at least one presentation replay within the first 24 hours of the event ending.
At the end of the event, there were 19,718 registrants with a few hundred trickling in post-event and surpassing our ambitious 20K goal.
In our books, our first Au+oma+ed of 2018 was a yuge success in our books. It was an opportunity for us to engage with tens of thousands of new and familiar faces while giving back to everyone in our industry.
And we had a good time doing it.
How Can We Make Automated even Better?
The strategy for our second run of the event was massively different than when we planned the inaugural event, but a lot of very useful groundwork has been laid for the future of Au+oma+ed.
Ninety-four percent of attendants said they'd attend another Au+oma+ed event — so to those ~19,000 people, we say, "Good news!" Drip will be hosting Au+oma+ed again this fall!
September's Au+oma+ed will feature new and innovative content from new speakers, which will undoubtedly steer some of our messaging in regard to email copy, on-screen messaging, and paid ads. We've also been talking about adding a Q&A or discussion feature to the event, also due to feedback from attendees, but more to come on that soon.
As of today, Drip is still considered by many as a startup. But that perception sure seems to be changing. And as long as we keep the flames of forward-thinking lit and uphold the idea of lifting everyone up, I have a feeling we won’t have that status for very long.
What would you have done had you been a part of our Au+oma+ed planning crew? We’d love to hear your ideas below!