Facebook Ads Case Study: 384% Increase in Conference Attendance

How measuring the right metrics and focusing on the correct objective can bring a huge increase in your return on investment.

Trying to Solve the Wrong Problem

When I do a review of a client’s account, I often find that the problem that really needs to be solved is not the one that the client is focused on. That’s what happened when I started working with a fast-growing corporation in the financial services sector. Let’s call them Corporation X to protect the guilty.

Corporation X regular runs one-day conferences in many different cities around the world as a lead generation exercise. Guests who attend get a full day of quality content, but they also get introduced to Corporation X and the services on offer. Many of the leads turn into customers, and that fuels the company’s growth. That all sounds pretty good, right? But there was a problem.

Corporation X uses Facebook ads to generate registrations for the events. They advertise heavily to people in the city in question who fit their profile. The problem is that after a week or so of running a campaign in a particular city, they start running out of people to advertise to. They wanted me to find new ways to increase registrations for these events.

But when I looked under the hood of the campaign, I soon realized that generating registrations was not the issue. They were getting tons of registrations at a low cost. The real problem was the percentage of people who actually showed up at the event. Typically, only around 25% of people who registered actually turned up on the day. It seemed to me that this figure should be at least 50%, and ideally rather higher than that.

So why was turnout so poor? There had to be a reason for the dismal results…and there was!

Too Little Information

Corporation X had done one thing right – they had committed to A/B testing to find out what worked best for them. Seeing as I spend quite a bit of my time trying to persuade clients that split testing is critically important, this was a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the marketing team managed to shoot themselves in the foot as a result of their testing. They tested short-form landing pages versus long-form landing pages – and the short form came out as the clear winner. Short landing pages produced more registrations by a big margin.

But here’s the thing. Short landing pages work great for lead magnets where the commitment required is low. Usually you are asking for just an email address and a few moments of the prospect’s time. So short pages get the job done.

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But for these conference registrations, the deal is different. Guests were being asked to give up a whole day of their lives to attend an event. They also had to make arrangements for child care, transport, parking and so on. It all adds up to a significant commitment.

That’s fine if they understand what they are signing up for and can see the value. But the short landing pages simply could not provide enough information to do the event justice. There simply wasn’t enough room to explain what the event was all about, the benefits of attending, and how it would have a positive impact on the attendee’s life.

In my opinion, these short landing pages were producing low-quality registrations. People signed up because it was free, and because there was a promise of complimentary food. But there was very little commitment to attending, because they didn’t understand what they would miss if they stayed at home.

A Classic Case of Measuring the Wrong Metric

This is a classic case of ‘what gets measured gets done.’ That works fine if you are measuring the right metrics, but it produces disastrous results if you mess it up. When you measure the wrong metric, you send your business down a path that produces misleading or even useless results.

In this case, there was no opportunity build a proper sales funnel. For practical reasons, there would only be a landing page to sell the conference, which then led people directly to the registration page.

I felt that in this environment, long landing pages were needed to tell the story of the event. So I created landers that were about 20 times longer than the control. They were copy-heaving, with lots of detailed information about:

  • Who the event was for
  • What the theme was
  • Who the speakers were
  • Details of the agenda
  • What benefits guests would get from attending
  • Reasons why they should be sure to attend
  • Videos of previous events
  • Testimonials from guests at previous events
  • How attending would help them achieve greater success

…and so on. When the marketing team saw what I had created, they went into shock. They had never used a lander anywhere near that long, and it broke all their corporate guidelines. I had to find all the way up to the VP of Marketing to get this approach approved.

Results that Speak for Themselves

Finally, I got the go ahead. I warned the team that the number of registrations would be lower than with the short landing pages – explaining that I wanted to cut out the freeloaders and only register quality guests.

When the results started coming in, they reflected exactly that expectation. Registrations were down significantly, and there were rumblings within the marketing team that soon grew to alarm. If the turnout rate was the same as previous events, the conference room would be half empty!

They needn’t have worried. For the first event we tried this approach on, the turnout rate was over 60%. After a bit of fine tuning, we got it up to 80% for the next event. A few weeks later, we ran an event at which 96% of the people who registered turned up at the event. That’s a 384% increase on how the company was doing when we started.

Better still, the quality of attendees was much higher. They were engaged in the presentations, networked between sessions and took a serious interest in what Corporation X had to offer them. New customers were signing up by the dozen.

The Twist in the Tail

So I was very happy with the way this turned out. Corporation X was now firmly set on the road to greater success though these highly-successful lead generation conferences.

But then a few months later, I was staggered to find out that the company had abandoned the new landers and gone back to the old short-form pages. Why? Simply because they were still measuring the wrong metric at executive level. The marketing team was judged not by the amount of new business they produced, but simply by the event registration numbers.

The short landing pages produced more registrations, so they were preferred. Unsurprisingly, conference attendance plummeted, and the company resorted to ramping up its Facebook ad budget to even higher levels.

So I guess this proves what the old adage says: ‘You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’

Or to put it another way: ‘You can show clients what they need to do, but you can’t stop them behaving like completely-stupid morons.’

Ah well, Corporation X is a billion-dollar company, so I guess they can afford it. I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg will be happy to accept the additional contributions to his retirement plan.

But please, please don’t follow their example. One Corporation X in the world is more than enough. Make sure you understand your metrics and so measure what is truly important to your business.