Showtime: Webinar registration best practices

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Three years ago, CMP Media was struggling to find audiences for its nascent webinar business. Now, it hosts more than 300 online events annually and could add hundreds more by the end of the year.

The boost in CMP's webinar business occurred when responsibility for these events was handed over to the audience-development department, which brought in almost 2,000 people for an online seminar.

"We knew more about what our subscribers wanted than our marketing department did," said Shannon Aronson, CMP's corporate director-audience development.Webinar responsibility has stayed with Aronson's group ever since. Its biggest single event to date had an audience of almost 3,000.

Indeed, CMP is planning to roll out hundreds of mini-webinars before the end of the year and is expanding into international markets, including China.

CMP's path to a robust webinar business began with an analysis of data to understand how certain audiences acted online. The company then built an online registration platform that allowed it to set up registration on the fly.

Its registration forms, which are embedded into e-mails and prefilled with a subscriber's information, simplify attendee sign-up. "People come from rotating banner ads, newsletters, all sorts of places," Aronson said. "But e-mail is still by far the largest source of webinar attendees." The information from the returned e-mail dynamically updates CMP's circulation databases, and the form can include requalification questions based on the customer's profile, among other things.

To encourage attendance at its webinars, CMP has a schedule of reminders. One week before, the company sends a reminder e-mail. On the morning of the event, it leaves registrants a voicemail reminder, which is followed up by an e-mail with all the pertinent information.

When it comes to converting webinar attendees to print subscribers, Aronson isn't so sure. "They tend to be online people," she said. (Nonprint subscribers that end up at CMP's webinars average about 16% to 18%.) "So maybe they want an e-newsletter or another webinar rather than the print product." Aronson does, however, recommend keeping the webinar names in one circ file in order to cross-promote all the company's products. 

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