Cathie Anderson

Sacramento’s Webconnex reinvents event registration

On the Webconnex dashboard, event organizers can see a range of data, including where tickets are being purchased, the average time it takes to complete a ticket purchase, and total revenue raised. All analytics are shown in real time.
On the Webconnex dashboard, event organizers can see a range of data, including where tickets are being purchased, the average time it takes to complete a ticket purchase, and total revenue raised. All analytics are shown in real time. Webconnex

Since opening in 2010, Sacramento-based Webconnex was seeing steady growth in usage of its online tools for event registration and online giving by organizations such as Toyota, Gap and the Salvation Army.

Yet co-owners Eric Knopf and John Russell began discussing the idea of reinventing their core products – GivingFuel, RedPodium, RegFox and TicketSpice – within a couple years of opening for business.

“What surprised us was that much larger enterprises were using us,” Russell said. “We could see the trajectory. If we were going to be servicing these Fortune 500 companies, then the whole entire way we have our software set up, what it can do and what it needs to do needed to change.”

When Russell and Knopf founded Webconnex, they said, their overarching goals were to offer simple, affordable tools to customers. As good as their old platforms were, the new tools have far exceeded customer expectations. The two men introduced them in a public beta test two months ago, Knopf said, and sales have soared 300 percent in that period.

You can’t just say, ‘Anything’s possible as long as you can write code.’ That doesn’t cut it.

Eric Knopf, co-owner of Webconnex

Webconnex has long stood out in the event registration industry because its branding is not featured prominently on the promoters’ Web pages and it does not track the registrants’ information or attempt to sell to them. Rather, each promoter maintains control of its customer data.

“Our thought is: We’re not going to do that. It’s your data. You do what you want with it. We’re not going to share it,” Knopf said. “I think things are changing, and the market is coming around to where people recognize there’s a better solution.”

So, what’s new with Webconnex’s online tools? Well, promoters can do virtually anything with their Web pages, and a Webconnex wizard leads them through every phase of setup in a manner similar to how TurboTax leads taxpayers through filling out the 1040 long form and tax schedules.

“We knew that we would want to have the ultimate customization to our platform and have really anything to be possible,” Knopf said. “We went after that. But the other side of the sword was that it had to be user-friendly. You can’t just say, ‘Anything’s possible as long as you can write code.’ That doesn’t cut it.”

With Webconnex’s Web page builder, promoters can add an event countdown clock, video and social sharing. They can offer discounts to registrants willing to share their ticket purchases on social media sites. A dashboard allows promoters to track whether customers made purchases on a mobile phone or a laptop. They can even see what type of mobile device customers used.

If one of the event promoters’ sponsors wants to offer a special discount to a particular segment of attendees, the Webconnex software will accept special code inputs or other data such as ZIP codes to make it happen. As promoters make changes, the Webconnex page builder shows them in real time how their page will look.

Registrants, on the other hand, will notice that they can buy event merchandise along with their tickets. Mobile phone users won’t have to spend a lot of time zooming in and out or sliding their finger around to search for buttons on Web pages because the program automatically conforms to fit their tiny cellphone screens.

“We want to have a ticket buyer on the page, tickets bought and done in 60 seconds,” Russell said. “The same thing goes for registrations and donations. Multiple pages and multiple steps just lead to abandon rates.”

The dashboard also shows promoters their average transaction time and tracks how many VIP passes were purchased versus general admissions. A tickets map shows them the cities and states where Web page visitors are and where tickets have been purchased. They can use sales data to spot trends in merchandise purchases.

Webconnex charges the promoters 99 cents per registrant, Russell said, and they give them the ability to set the service charge, something that several competitors reserve for themselves. Because promoters set up their own Web pages, he added, there are no calendars or links trying to steer registrants to unrelated events.

Since Knopf and Russell introduced the new online tools, they said, two competitors have called to check whether they are interested in selling their company. But the two men say they love what they do and want to continue growing their company organically.

Good business is not all about just pursuing as much money as you can get, Knopf and Russell told me. Last summer, they took the entire Webconnex team and their families – 33 people in total – to a seaside resort in Costa Rica for a month. They worked around the pool, between surf sessions, Russell said. Last month, they told their employees that they plan to do the same thing this year.

For their holiday party, they leased a limo bus and took the staff and their partners to San Francisco for an indoor parachuting session. They had dinner near Ghirardelli Square and visited a password-protected speakeasy. Every year, the team comes together and chooses charities they can support worldwide – a well for an Indian village, a corn mill in a Kenyan village, sending a financially challenged African student to college.

Webconnex currently employs roughly 16 individuals, Knopf and Russell said. According to a counter on the company’s website, it has processed more than $600 million in transactions for event promoters, companies and nonprofits since its inception.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee

  Comments