Archive for January 2010

Webinars as Lead-generating Tools for Print Strategists.

January 26, 2010

For those less electronically initiated, a webinar is an online virtual event that typically includes a small number of presenters delivering a slide presentation to a dispersed audience over the Internet. Participants view the webinar from their computer desktops and hear the audio through their speakers or over a telephone line.

Using an outside webinar delivery platform makes sense for most companies. Many of these systems offer interactive capabilities such as:

  • Live chat.
  • Question and answer boxes.
  • Audience polls and surveys.
  • Virtual white boards.
  • Desktop application sharing.
  • And a number of other options.

They also generally offer customizable registration materials as well as tracking, automated reminders and post-production reports. Providers typically support popular programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Some can provide event management services for an additional fee.

So How Much Do Webinar Services Cost?

Actual delivery costs vary, but most license agreements are fairly modest. For example, GoToWebinar, one of the more popular delivery systems, offers flat-fee pricing that allows you to conduct unlimited webinars for one rate. You can purchase a standard, single-user license online for $99 per month or $948 per year. There are no additional licensing costs for attendees to join.

Pick a Strong Webinar Delivery Platform Provider.

The last thing you want is unreliable technology and support when you’re doing a webinar. You look bad and people abandon the event. We really don’t have favorites, and you may uncover a great provider on your own, but we suggest at least looking into these proven companies:

Are Webinars Better Than In-person Events?

They are two different animals, each with its own set of pluses and minuses. The big advantage of webinars, especially with strained budgets, is the low cost to reach an audience anywhere in the world. In many ways, the cost structure helps to level playing fields among small and large printing companies, just as digital communications alternatives do in many other marketing activities.

Webinars are also:

  • Convenient and cost-effective for participants who don’t have to travel—distance becomes a non-factor.
  • Convenient for presenters who can be at multiple locations and likewise avoid travel.
  • Capable of bringing valuable information quickly to market.
  • Efficient at speeding the sales cycle with proper follow up.

Some of the drawbacks include:

  • More competition than for in-person seminar events.
  • Less interaction with participants.
  • Limited flexibility to change presentation order and flow.
  • Restrictions on managing questions.
  • Technology dependence to the ultimate degree.

In both types of events, you need to have a relatively large universe of qualified prospects. But the general guideline for webinars is that approximately 5 percent of those invited will register and half of those will not attend. Some, however, will view the on-demand, archived version later.

Do Decision Makers Like Webinars?

Studies and my personal experience say they do. According to a white paper by Ridge Business Development LLC, The Benefits and Pitfalls of Webinars, people like the idea of learning about products and services without having to deal with a salesperson.

The white paper also points to a recent survey by Gartner indicating that 86 percent of respondents will view as many or more webinars this year as last. And a survey by PR Canada similarly indicates that only 7 percent found webinars a waste of time, while 86 percent found them convenient and 66 percent found them time effective.

In my consulting practice, I’ve helped printers in a wide range of size and market categories stage successful webinars of their own as well as sponsor events through trade publications. Attendance of 100 or more is not unusual, and smaller companies with close client relationships often do as well as very large national printers.

What If We’re Not Ready to Stage a Webinar Ourselves?

Many trade publications and associations offer webinar sponsorship opportunities that enable you to test the medium with varying degrees of participation. For example, you might strictly serve as the sponsor. But you also might be able to suggest topics, give input on selection of the featured presenter, provide qualifying and polling questions and perhaps even deliver part of the presentation if you choose.

You’ll typically get a banner ad at the registration site, inclusion in all of the promotional efforts and, of course, mentioned as the sponsor during the webinar. Additionally, you’ll virtually always get access to the registrant list for follow up.

This all comes at a price, of course, and $10,000 to $30,000 isn’t unusual. For example, if you wanted to reach the catalog marketplace, the published open rate for a Multichannel Merchant webinar sponsorship is $18,800. But a strong publication or association might also draw participants that you wouldn’t attract on your own, and it greatly reduces your time investment. Plus, it’s a good way to get started.

By Larry Bauer

Want Expert Advice?

Bauer Associates helps printers of all sizes develop effective webinar programs from topic selection to content development and event promotion. Or, we can effectively negotiate and manage webinar sponsorship opportunities with trade publications or associations. For more information, email Print Strategist Larry Bauer .

You can connect with Larry Bauer on LinkedIn. Or follow him on Twitter.

Do’s and Don’ts of Webinars.

January 26, 2010

Webinars are inexpensive compared to face-to-face meetings. But like email and other low cost electronic options, easy entry often lures ill-prepared companies into the arena. Use these tips to create and present webinars that will meet your audience’s highest expectations.

Do

  • Select your topics and presenters carefully.
  • Evaluate your internal capabilities objectively—outsource when needed.
  • Keep your presentation to one hour or less—including Q&A.
  • Start and end the webinar on time.
  • Seed questions to ensure covering important points and to encourage participation.
  • Learn to take advantage of the technology options—drawing tools, polling surveys, etc.
  • Promote your webinar beyond a homepage blurb—use email, direct mail, banner ads, social media, etc.
  • Be wary of using a wireless connection by a presenter.
  • Consider having a few friendly faces in the presentation room—presenters benefit from seeing reactions and playing off the “audience.”
  • Use professionally created slides—be sure to review outside presenter’s slides and be prepared to offer assistance.
  • Develop a lead follow-up plan— demand accountability from the sales team.
  • Record and archive your webinar—many executives appreciate and use the on-demand option.
  • Explore opportunities to generate passive income—selling a recorded series as a set, for example.
  • Rehearse and then rehearse again.

Don’t

  • Use inexperienced presenters as featured speakers—give them a smaller role until they get a few webinars under their belts.
  • Underestimate the investment of time to pull off a professional presentation.
  • Use webinars for target audiences that may not be tech savvy.
  • Dismiss the value of a good moderator to the webinar’s success.
  • Think that webinars will completely replace the need for face-to-face contact.
  • Assume that webinar leads are conversion ready—they are more likely in the exploratory stage and will require further nurturing.
  • Fail to add qualified attendees to your marketing database.
  • Forget to invite your customers to webinars.
  • Use an unproven webinar delivery platform provider—they are not all created equal.
  • Overburden the moderator with the technology requirements—consider a person for each role.
  • Fail to follow up with registrants who don’t attend the webinar.
  • Overlook the value of a webinar as a training tool for your own people.
  • Forget to continue promoting your recorded webinar.
  • Neglect to collect some qualifying information at registration—use checklists and limit the number of questions to three or four.

Join the Print Strategist Group on LinkedIn. Print Strategist on LinkedIn is a group of professionals who value the power of print communications and share a common interest in advancing print’s effective use. Professionals involved in all aspects of print—marketing, design, production, manufacturing, distribution and related areas—are welcome. The only requirement is a desire to learn and share in a truly collaborative environment.

By Larry Bauer

Extending Your Brand To and Beyond the Webinar.

January 26, 2010

Assuming your presentation is buttoned-up tight and focused cleanly on your topic, what else can you do to ensure wise use of your webinar budget? Well, it’s all about two key points we seem to repeat a lot:

  1. Ensuring brand integrity builds and maintains brand recognition.
  2. Linking this particular tool (webinars) with other marketing and sales tools builds a network around your prospects, creating additional sales touch points.

Essentially, it’s all about maintaining professionalism while being available where and when your prospects need you.

Ensuring Brand Integrity In Webinars.

This seems pretty limited on the surface, right? It would appear that all you can do is send the webinar company your logo as a low-res jpeg and hope for the best. While that may be true with some third-party webinar companies, consider these options below and push, push, push on behalf of your brand.

  • Make sure your presentation is easy to read for the age group of the attendees and includes key brand elements such as logo, colors, fonts (where possible), image assets, etc. This is especially important because the webinar company will be using their own brand elements in the general interface.
  • Don’t choose an outsourced webinar delivery platform based solely on price. Also DO consider how well its interface supports branding your webinar as well as its user-friendliness.
  • Realize that folks will be attending from a variety of platforms and monitor sizes. Adjust the content of your graphics and text appropriately. If your Corporate Brand Guidebook doesn’t contain information specific to webinars, pull from the chapters for PowerPoint and Website styling.
  • Choose a speaker whose voice is appropriate for your brand. If your subject matter expert has a whiney voice, choose someone else or outsource. Stay away from extremely high or low-pitched voices, as they may be hard to hear and understand via many computer audio systems.
  • Be certain that your support materials are brand cohesive. This includes anything you’re linking to from the webinar such as white papers, case studies, speaker bios or an annotated outline of the webinar content.
  • If you’re sponsoring a trade pub’s webinar, ensure that you’re using every brand tool at your disposal: logo files, ad page, banner ad and link to landing page for more info. Negotiate for additional touch points where possible and connect them back to tools you can control such as landing pages or your website.

Opportunities for Extending Your Brand Beyond the Webinar.

Working your communications before and after the webinar takes research, planning and time. But the key benefit is keeping your audience engaged beyond the webcast to the point of closing a sale.

Imagine being a big-ticket sales person in a brick and mortar store and discovering a way to get the name, phone number and email address of every interested shopper with whom you spoke? You’d do it, right? Even if they didn’t buy from you right away, you could provide additional information and follow up with them during and after their buying process.

This is why it’s critical to look for opportunities to increase the viral aspect of your brand beyond the basic webinar.

  • Make sure you create avenues for attendees to interact with you following the event. Creating an ongoing forum or listserv or even linking to a blog post about your topic provides additional discussion options. If you already have an online discussion forum, open a new topic coinciding with the webinar and publicize it in follow-up communications.
  • Also ensure that your speakers have valid corporate Twitter and/or LinkedIn accounts for attendees to connect with afterwards, and provide that information freely at the webinar. Both tools have methods of supporting discussion topics.
  • Consider setting up a landing page or mini-site to support your webinar. Use this as an info link during registration and reminders, and then modify it afterwards to collect more information during post webinar follow up.
  • Consider timing your webinar close to a key industry trade show and include special invitations to webinar attendees for a VIP session or special gift at the show. This takes advantage of your sales team’s limited travel budgets.
  • If you’re offering in-depth workshops at an upcoming trade show, pre-empt the show with a preparatory session via a webinar. This can generate excitement for the show and increase valid attendees at the live event.
  • And remember, if you’re creating your own webinar content, you can still advertise it via banner ads in industry publications, usually for relatively modest expenditures.

Ultimately, It’s About Building Branded Networks.

Don’t think of a webinar as a one-off event. Use it as a building block within your entire communications network to get the biggest impact.

Upcoming Newsletter Topics.

January 26, 2010

Just a few of the topics we’re working on for future newsletters:

  • Thought Leadership Series Part IV: Social Media
  • Using envelopes as your “get opened” tool.
  • Choosing the right personalization strategy.

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