Conference Apps Have Net Positive Revenue

When looking for a conference app solution, conference administrators will almost always ask us the question “How much it will cost us to build?” but we hardly ever hear the forward-thinking question, “How will it generate revenue for our conference?” Even more rare, is the next logical question: “Will a conference app generate positive revenue for my organization?” and it’s the answer to this question that we’ve decided to write an entire article about. Simply put, yes, a conference app absolutely should grant positive net revenue for your event, but it’s not always capitalized on.  Before we jump right into the practicals, however, it helps to understand the bigger picture of how conference apps make your organization revenue.

A CONFERENCE APP ABSOLUTELY SHOULD GRANT POSITIVE NET REVENUE FOR YOUR EVENT

Attention Is Pure Gold

The first rule to generating net revenue with your conference app is actually more an overall philosophy, one that I like to call the “Eyeball Rule.”  And it goes like this: focused, niched eyeballs are worth their weight in gold. In other words, the greater the quantity of narrow-focused, target audience attention you can put together, the easier it is to convert that attention into real, bottom-line raising revenue for your organization.  And the good news for conference administrators is that conferences, by their very nature, are a collection of extremely niched, hyper-aware people during a time-boxed event.

CONFERENCES, BY THEIR VERY NATURE, ARE A COLLECTION OF EXTREMELY NICHED, HYPER-AWARE PEOPLE DURING A TIME-BOXED EVENT.

This means that administrators already have a leg up on the value of their target audience’s attention and so the savvy conference app planner can increase their net revenue in two practical ways: 1) increase the number of eyeballs to their application and 2) increase the conversion of those eyeballs into revenue. How to increase user attention is a topic for another blog post to come (and we would argue that this first piece is more important), but below, you’ll find our thoughts and findings from years of running conference apps on how our other clients have managed to convert their audience attention into positive income for their organizations.

Increased Sponsorship Space

Any good conference app should have at least one way for you to reward your sponsors with more visibility but a great conference app will have multiple ways.  Here are a few that our clients have found really useful with the Vokol app:

  1. Display Your Sponsor Logo in the Sponsor Section: Showing tiers and priorities in the Sponsor section of the main map. By highlighting the logos and click-through opportunities, this is a no-brainer.
  2. App Background Takeover: In the Vokol conference app, we provide a custom designed background image that users will see repeatedly.  We typically use this feature to help craft a uniquely branded experience for our conference administrators, but enterprising clients in the past have used this space as a place to highlight a key contributor or sponsor to their organization.
  3. Push Notifications: Most conference mobile applications will give a conference administrator the power to send push notifications, and some of our clients have used their push notifications to send users either to the merch table or to give shout-outs to specific sponsors to great effect.

Featuring sponsor logos are a given

This custom designed home background can be sold to a featured sponsor

Use push notifications to send directed traffic to target sponsors

Higher Rate of Event Registration

One of the best ways our conference administrators convert user attention into higher gross revenue is through tapping into already existing revenue streams.  Aside from sponsorships, the biggest existing revenue stream for the majority of our conference clients is through the participant registration fee itself.  Our clients capitalize on this income with the application in two ways.

  1. Early Bird Marketing: In another post, we’ll talk about best practices we’ve seen in typical app store release strategies, but one major strategy involves releasing your app extremely early to take advantage of early-bird pricing strategies.  If your app is out early enough, you can direct users who are interacting with your early or pre-conference content and help entice them into registering in-app.
  2. Next Year Conversions: There’s no time like the end of a post-conference high to get people who are already hyped up on conference content to commit to next year’s experience.  There’s also no easier pathway to a user’s decision making than providing registration on a platform they’ve used all conference long and that is on a device they always have easily accessible.

THERE’S NO EASIER PATHWAY TO USER DECISION MAKING THAN PROVIDING REGISTRATION ON A PLATFORM THEY’VE USED ALL CONFERENCE LONG AND THAT IS ON A DEVICE THEY ALWAYS HAVE EASILY ACCESSIBLE.

An Easy Path To Donations

For the social good organizations out there that source their funding from a donor-base, there’s no better way to increase donor participation than to make the ability to do so extremely convenient for your users.  For many of our clients, this meant putting a donate button front and center on the main menu of their conference application. The only caveat here is that it is against Apple’s terms of service to take donations directly in-app, but that doesn’t stop our clients from having a donate button launch to an external mobile donor platform, like Network For Good.

Leveraging E-Commerce

Another really huge source of revenue for both our non-profit and for-profit clients that always seems to capture value back is a merchandise or book table and a lot of our clients have gone to great length to make this resource material available to conference goers not just in-person but digitally as well. The best example of this we’ve seen in the past is Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit, where book and merch promotions on-stage were linked to an easily accessible digital merchandise store available in-app.  This lowered all barriers of entry for active participants to immediately respond to a call-to-action taken on stage, leading to easily trackable spikes of sales on their digital store.

Partner With Local Vendors

Conferences are not held in isolation, and most of our conferences (especially our clientele that like to have positive impact on their surroundings) appreciate having a deep sense of place and connection to their host city.  For a lot of our past conference administrator clients, this mentality also opened up plenty of opportunity for local vendors to engage with conference participants, either through in-app promotion, or most recently, through the Vokol app’s city and points-of-interest mapping feature.

Decrease Expenses

Another often overlooked way to increase net revenue is to reduce costs.  Our very first conference client took advantage of this by not publishing a conference booklet, and instead channeling those print funds into an even cheaper and trackable mobile solution for users to access and interact with conference material.

Maturity of the Conference App

In the grand narrative of technology, it’s easy to say that mobile application tech has been around for a long time, but truth-be-told it’s not that difficult to pull back a bit and say with perspective that many industries are only just beginning to explore the breadth and depth of how to best capitalize on mobile app platforms.  And the conference world is no different in that regard.

DON’T JUST USE A CONFERENCE APP BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE THINKS YOU NEED ONE, USE A CONFERENCE APP TO MAKE POSITIVE, REVENUE-IMPACTING CHANGE FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION OR YOUR CAUSE.

As certainly as millennials and post-millennials will grow older, so too, will mobile app usage mature out from the adolescence of novelty into the adulthood of necessity and that means you, the conference administrator, will need to provide a mobile app solution (which we can tell is already a looming pressure) in order to just keep up with the growing demands of user interactivity.

The opportunity, then, is clear: don’t just use a conference app because everyone else thinks you need one, use a conference app to make positive, revenue-impacting change for your organization or your cause.