July 08, 2009

Webinars: Using Them To Advance Leads & Prospects

Webinars are a cost effective means of showcasing your company’ expertise and solutions, or are they? It is clear that they can play a role to plan in generating demand for your solutions by educating the marketplace, as well in generating, nurturing and progressing sales leads. However, they take more time and preparation than might be expected and unless they attract a quourum of attendees that investment could be a waste of time.

With that in mind here is a checklist to help you plan and deliver successful webinars, broken down under 3 heading - BEFORE, DURING and AFTER.

A. BEFORE - Planning for the success of your webinar(s)

1. What is the objective of the webinar? In addition to showcasing your company’s expertise and its solutions, what role will it play in the sales/marketing process for your company? Is it aimed at nudging a select group of sales prospects closer to a decision, building your relationship with existing customers, or generating additional sales leads?

2. What are your ambitions regarding the reach or scope of the event? Do you want it to appeal industry wide, or do you just want to invite existing customers, or sales prospects? If it is the former a lot more marketing and other preparation will be required and it may make sense to run it in conjunction with another organisation.

3. What is the desired audience of the webinar? Who do you want to attend? Make a target list from customers, partners and target companies. What companies, sectors and job titles do you want represented?

4. How is the webinar going to be promoted? Will you email, or write to customers about the event(s)? Will you promote it on your company’s web site, in its newsletter, as well as via partner, supplier and other industry websites listings and blogs? Can the event be promoted jointly to the membership of various industry and other bodies? What publicity opportunities are available via industry magazines and other publications?

5. Who should the speaker(s) be? Is the planned presenter sufficiently well-known, respected, expert and/or credible?

6. When is the ideal timing for the webinar?

• Make a list of possible dates and make sure they do not clash with other events.

• Pick dates that have a particular significance (e.g. in the lead up to the introduction of new legislation impacting on the industry, the anniversary of a key event, the announcement of a new product release, etc.).

• Integrate the event with your marketing programme.

• Give participants a choice of 2 dates, or times.

• Lunchtime can be a good time, but keep in mind different time zones.

• To maximise success, offer participants a series of dates and times to choose from.

Preparing for the success of the webinar

7. Have a clear structure and topic – a topic of real interest and timely relevance to the target audience. Maybe it is a problem faced by your industry, or an issue that is getting considerable attention in blogs, forums, or the press at the time.

8. Make your webinar interesting and relevant, not just at commercial for your company and its products. Make it more of a technical/professional briefing/update than a marketing pitch. Don’t over-plug your product, don’t bad mouth competitors, or make exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims.

9. In preparing your webinar content ask yourself what 3 things you want participants to remember when they leave the webinar. Then structure the material to deliver these key messages with impact. Tie your webinar’s content in with your marketing message, brand, product strategy and the unique selling points of your product/service. Make it specific to the audience,

10. Have a good title for the webinar, one that gets interest and attention:

• Frame the title in a way that clearly communicates to participants how they can benefit from participating in the webinar (e.g. The Implications of Recent Legislation for Your Business, Cutting Back-end Integration Projects Costs – new tools and techniques).

• In framing the topic you might focus on some controversial truism regarding your customer’s industry (e.g. Despite the claims most XYZs don’t deliver).

• Think of your webinar title in terms of a newspaper headline – does it get attention?

11. Set the right level in terms of how technical your webinar is going to be.

• Make it clear who your webinar is aimed at.

• You may deliver more than one webinar with different levels of technical complexity.

• Be careful to explain any technical terms used, or maybe provide a glossary to participants.

12. Rehearse the webinar with colleagues/others and get feedback. Time the trial webinar to ensure that you can comfortably stay within the promised time. Keep the webinar to 40 or 45 minutes. If it takes longer, explore how you can more effectively communicate your message, what material you can cut out, or plan a follow-on webinar.

13. Decide on a webinar tool, or service, such as Go to Webinar, or Bright Talk. Consider what dial-up number will you use (if any), making sure that a foreign access number will not put off some participants.

14. How much advice notice are you going to give participants? Send a series of carefully worded reminders to potential participants, including on the day, or morning before

15. Make registration simple, while you will want to capture information on those participating balance this with the likelihood that the more information you request the more you are likely to put people off. Include a privacy statement where you request information and in particular email addresses.

16. Decide if you want attendees to be visible to each other online (i.e. participants can see who else is attending).

17. Record the webinar, so that those not able to attend can view it later from a link on your website, or in an email. This facility is available as a part of most webinar services.

B. DURING - Delivering the webinar

18. Offer participants the opportunity to interact, ask questions, etc. Let them know if you want questions at the end, or through-out. Most webinar services provide an instant message facility. This can be the best way to get feedback however beware messaging can break your concentration.

19. Make your webinar a multimedia presentation – include pictures as well as text and make full use of imagery to communicate your message. Video clips can be good too, they will allow the presenter to catch his or her breath and ensure they are on track.

20. Not too many slides, with not too much text. Ensure a consistent style or layout throughout your presentation (in line with your corporate branding).

21. Avoid the use of superlatives and overstretched adjectives regarding your product, or service. If you want to brag about your product, do so through customer stories, case studies and customer/expert testimonials.

22. Here are some general tips for presenting a successful webinar:

• Start by introducing yourself and giving an overview of the webinar.

• Steer a middle ground between being formal and informal.

• Vary your tone of voice, speak slowly and in a pronounced fashion, avoid slang, etc.

• Imagine the people were in the room with you.

• Smile while you are talking (it actually makes a difference).

• Have a second monitor so you are aware of any time delays, etc.

• Use as many real world examples as possible.

• Have a holding screen for those who log in before the webinar begins.

23. Include a survey at the end of the webinar, this will enable you to measure level of interest, any questions, future topics, etc. Polls during the webinar will allow you to tailor the content based on participant input.

24. Plan a series of webinars – a logical progression and notify participants before the close of the next event. Invite participants to recommend the webinar to colleagues and others.

C. AFTER - post the webinar

25. Follow-up after the webinar, so as to get reaction and establish the level of interest, or sales potential. Forward the presentation, or relevant white paper with a thank you email, or call (which ever is more appropriate).

26. Conduct a post webinar review.

27. Have a clear next step in mind for any participants who are sales prospects.

28. Integrate with ther rest of your sales and marketing activity. That may include writing a whitepaper on the topic covered, include it in your newsletter, or simply using the feedback, or polls from webinars in your sales presentations, customer discussions.

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