Once you have an event planned such as a seminar or an open house, then what? You can use Eventbrite, but if you have a WordPress website, why not keep it all in house? There are a couple of moving parts. Let me go through them with you.
1) Invitation Page: Create an “Invitation Landing Page” for your event on your website, where people can find out the details and register. This is a page that only contains information about the offer without distractions such as sidebars. You will write compelling copy, describing why someone would want to take your seminar and offer testimonials and guarantees (example: http://newtricks.me/wordpress-with-the-big-dogs/ ). There are many online tutorials which will give you tips for this type of writing such as this post from Copyblogger. I created my landing page using a premium WordPress plugin, Premise, made by the folks at Copyblogger. This plugin allows you to style the page yourself. This is good if you don’t want the header and navigation of your website to distract your visitor from following through to actually resister. However, for a regular event it may be better to create the invitation on a regular web page with a header and navigation, possibly without the sidebar which could be distracting, because you may want people to read the invitation and navigate to other places on your website.
At the bottom of the invitation you can add your call to action, either a “Register Now” button or a link that will be linked to your Registration Page. Make sure the button or link is large enough and is in a color that contrasts with your site in order to get the readers attention and encourages them to sign up.
2) Registration Form: Create a registration form using the Gravity Forms plugin which is an easy and comprehensive form creation plugin. This is a premium plugin but is well worth the money for its ease and versatility. A Basic license is $39 and allows you to make any type of form. The Business license at $99 allows you to integrate your form with your MailChimp, Constant Contact or AWeber mailing list programs so that when someone fills out the form, their information is automatically entered into your email list. The Developer License at $199 allows integration with Paypal, Authorize.net, Freshbooks and many other programs which you may need depending on whether you are going to charge for your event.
When you create the form, be sure to customize the notification settings so that it sends the form to the right person in your organization. You should also customize the message that the person will get after they register.
3) Registration Page: Create another regular page (or a specialty landing page) for your registration form. At the top of the page you will want to give a brief description of the event time and place and a link back to the invitation for more information. You never know if someone may find the Registration Page first because search engines are so fast to index WordPress content. Underneath the explanation, select the WYSWYG icon for the Gravity Form to insert the shortcode which will display your form on the page.
4) Email Program: You will need to have an account with an Email Service Provider such as MailChimp, Constant Contact or AWeber. You do not want to send bulk emails from your Gmail or Outlook for many reasons. Here are a few. First, emails sent through an ESP will get past spam blockers more easily, so more of your mail will get through. Second, you want to give people a place to unsubscribe if they don’t want to be on your list. It is actually an Anti-Spam law that has you have people on your list opt in to be on your list and have a way to unsubscribe. Third, you want to sync your form entries to your email service provider list to save you time, and finally, you can easily make sure your email will look good on a desk top computer and also on a mobile device.
5) Email Lists: You will need to create two lists in your MailChimp Account. You will have one list populated with the information of the people on your guest list that you are inviting to the event. Hopefully these people have opted in to receive mail from you or are a client who you have done business with in the recent past. You want to be careful who you add to the list without an opt-in since if you have a high number of unsubscribes when you send your invitation out, the Email Service Provider may suspend your account. (see my post on how to do a warm-up list to get people on the list that you are pretty darn sure want to get it)
Create a second list that will not have anyone in it until people actually begin to register for the event. You can use this list to keep track of your attendees. It also allow you to communicate with your attendees prior to the event as well as after the event. Later you can add these people to your regular mailing list. It is a good idea to say something about this on your registration page. You can simply explain that an added benefit of attending the event is that they will also receive future updates from you and of course you will protect their email address.
6) Blog Post: Create a blog post about the event. This post will be more casual and newsy than the Invitation Landing Page. It should also contain the main information about the event as well as some photos. You can link from your post to either the Invitation Landing page for more information, or directly to the Registration Page.
7) Proof and Test: Proof read the invitation and the registration form. Test the whole system. Make sure every part works as it should. When it does and you are ready publish your pages and posts and you are ready for people to sign up.
8) Publicize your event: Create a series of Tweets, Facebook posts and Linkedin updates that are each a little different and schedule them to go out using Hootsuite. Share the event with your colleagues on Twitter and ask them to share it. Write a guest post about it on someone else’s site or get interviewed by someone with a larger, yet compatible list. Partner with someone who has a bigger list than yours to do the event together so that you have double the people to pull from and you might get people who sign up to your own list that way.
9) Reminders: A week before and a day before, send out reminder emails to your registered list. Send out an email the day after the event thanking them for attending and you might want to include a request for feedback. You can create these email messages ahead of time and schedule them. I suggest these emails go out as plain emails without your logo and no sales messaging at all. You want people on your list who get these emails to feel like you are talking just to them. It builds trust better than the fancier email formats.
10) Export Your List: Export your Registration list and import it into your main email newsletter list. With MailChimp you can simply combine the registration list with your mail email list. The programs won’t take duplicates. It is better to keep people on one list that you may divide into groups but you want to make sure if someone unsubscribes from one of your lists that you do not send them out something from another one of your lists since they may think they unsubscribed to getting mail in general from you.
If you have managed this event invitation, publicity, and registration process well, you will likely have added quite a few new people to your list and gone a long way towards building a loyal following of people that Know, Like, and Trust you enough to refer people to you or work with you themselves in the future.