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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Webinars – Made for the Modern day Multi-tasker

Where else can you listen to an in-depth sales presentation, one that’s hopefully interesting, while you’re eating lunch, catching up on email, or writing out your grocery list?

I’ve attended five webinars so far this year and I have to say that for the most part, they’ve been a good use of time, in that I learned something new, put a company on our consideration list and in one case made a purchase.

Most customers and prospects attend webinars for a multitude of reasons, according to a 2007 study by Osterman Research – to get company product information, understand market dynamics, learn about industry trends, or learn about a vendor before making a purchase.

Like a cold call without the awkward introduction, webinars reach out to current customers and identify new prospects for a relatively low cost. If you don’t want to invest in the technology, there are lots of service providers to choose from that offer end-to-end solutions. But before you switch on the microphone, there’s a few practices you should follow to improve your odds for success and impress your customers big time.

1. Guest speakers can improve attendance – studies show that a well know industry name can increase attendance by as much as 60%. If you don’t have a keynote lined up, consider an exclusive offer or promotion as a way to generate interest.

2. Plan a rehearsal – it’s good to run through your presentation in advance and check for flow, timing and pace. Plus you should confirm the transition slides for each speaker. If you’re using a 3rd party service provider, understand any bandwidth limitations and how customers will be helped that encounter technical issues.

3. Promote in advance
– Like other ‘direct response’ vehicles, generally speaking your current customer email and dmail lists will generate higher response rates than outside ones. Your sales force is also a great tool to identify and invite key customers to the event.

4. Collect relevant customer DNA – customers expect they’ll be asked a few profile and purchase intent questions when signing. But be brief and keep the list short. Ask only questions you don’t know answers to and make sure you have a plan that uses the responses after the event. Odds are your company dB is already bloated with unusable customer information.

5. Collect compatible customer DNA – don’t wait till morning to find out the prospect list you generated isn’t compatible with your customer dB. In some cases, webinar service providers will work with you to ensure information collected is compatible with your company’s internal database formats. However if you think you’ll be hosting webinars regularly, consider developing a sign up tool built specifically to integrate on your dB.

6. Deliver an exclusive offer to attendees – free product trial, a deep discount or another means to thank people for attending. Exclusive offers will also measure response rates and program ROI. Send invitations one week in advance too - and reminders the day before. Have a customer service number clearly visible to handle any attendee questions.

7. Limit the presentation to one hour max – and keep the pace at a moderately fast clip. Because you’re not seeing any visual cues (like yawns, bum shuffling, or blackberry-ing) in your audience to assess if your message is getting through, keep the subject matter moving along and of course, provide time at the end for a Q&A.

8. Ask for feedback – a BRIEF 3 to 5 survey delivered immediately after the webinar with only one open ended question is a good way to collect top of mind feedback from attendees. You’ll have a highly useful “did well/ do better” best practices list to aid in decision making the next time round.

Used correctly, webinars can be a highly effective method to deliver company and product information, and a very measurable marketing tool when paired with an exclusive offer or promotion. And of course, a most satisfying way for multi-taskers to spend time over the noon hour.

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