Competition today is fiercer than ever. If you’re looking for a way to stand out from the crowd and give your business a substantial competitive edge, then add interactive webinars to your internet marketing strategy. Webinars are live, interactive online marketing presentation events using Web conference technology.
Many small and medium-sized business owners grew their business through face-to-face networking. Every client relationship was built, one at a time, often slowly across time. In fact many businesses fail because they just can’t grow fast enough when the only way that they acquire prospects is one person at a time.
The Internet is changes this entire picture. Empowered by the magic of the Internet — exciting websites, dynamic e-mail marketing campaigns, compelling blogs, vibrant podcasts, and the like — today’s business has powerful ways to expand its market both locally and globally.
You may just find out that webinars are the most powerful addition to your Internet marketing efforts, with good reason. Webinars offer a critical element to building a business relationship with the other approaches don’t: Rich, real-time interaction in the Internet space. Think about it. How do people create trust? Interaction! How do people create rapport? Interaction! How do people create clarity and understanding? Interaction!
If your business uses presentations to market who you are, what you do, and how you do it, then you need to know about webinars. Eight out of ten business people today would much rather be invited to a one hour webinar than travel across town, the country, or the world. If you are looking for powerful ways to create relationships and interact with people you want to have as customers, webinars are an essential part of the mix. In fact they are as essential as e-mail and marketing for businesses of all sizes–small, medium, or large.
If you’ve never done webinars before, if you want to do them better, here are some critical best practices that make your online marketing events spectacularly successful.
- Identify your target audience. Be as specific as you can about defining your target audience. Is your target market small, medium, or large size businesses? Are you looking for executives, leaders, entrepreneurs? Or do you want to reach sales people, trainers, or project managers? The more you can personalize and describe your audience, the better.
- Create a compelling topic that solves a painful problem your target audience feels every day. Think of a topic that keeps your target audience awake at night. Create a title and then write a short narrative teaser that promises a solution to that problem. Better yet, write a 100-word version and a 250-word version of that description, followed by three to five bullet points of exactly what people will learn.
- Select a dynamic online speaker that has great credentials. Your desktop audience is a fickle one. At any point in time, they are only seconds away from multitasking, which is the kiss of death for your presentation. If you want to get the greatest marketing impact from your online webinar event, the speaker needs to be dynamic, passionate, and successful in engaging a desktop audience. It’s best if the speaker has written books, articles, or has attained distinction in their field. Write a brief paragraph about the speaker, and add it to the description of the topic above.
- Find a co-sponsor that’s looking for a way to market their business on the Internet, too. Even the largest companies in the world use co-sponsors for internet marketing webinars. Look for sponsors that are already doing webinars for marketing and are looking for great speakers and timely topics. Or look for sponsors that have a significant opt-in list of people that are in your target market, such as solopreneurs and small businesses. Sponsors might include associations, banks, professional groups, companies that already use webinars for marketing, and non-profit organizations, among others.
- Understand the role of the co-sponsor and the presenter in public webinars. In exchange for exposure of their brand in all communication related to the event, the cosponsor has two primary roles. First is to fully bear or partially share the technology cost. Second is to market the event to their opt-in list. The speaker has two primary roles. First is to deliver a high impact interactive presentation on a high-value topic. Second is to market the event to their opt in list. The cosponsor-speaker team has one primary role together. That is, to work together to make the event a spectacular success for both, including other joint marketing and promotion.
- Prepare a short, yet compelling win-win proposal for a co-sponsored webinar. Of course, showcase your presentation idea and the speaker. Possibly include how you propose to work together to grow both of your businesses as a result of the webinar.
- Contact the sponsor, briefly overview the event, and solicit their support. Don’t just send a written proposal. First of all, make sure you have a brief interactive phone call or face-to-face meeting, after which you submit the proposal. Make sure you have a second interactive phone call or face-to-face visit to discuss the proposal and decide whether or not to move forward together.
- Brand the event documentation, and expand your Internet marketing strategy together. Once you decide to go forward, you may decide to do additional Internet marketing strategies. For example, you might co-brand the invitation or event announcement, the event confirmation e-mail, the event reminder e-mail, and the thank you e-mail. You might co-brand banners to post on each of your websites, other websites, individual newsletters, association newsletters, public announcement cites, among others.
- Always use a reliable, proven, and very interactive technology for your audio conference and Web conference. If the technology doesn’t work, you will look bad, and people will get frustrated. Therefore, select only major Web conference providers with a proven record of technology excellence. Make sure your technology does more than show slideshows. At minimum, you’ll need a polling feature, and an audience Q&A feature for large marketing events. If your technology also has a spontaneous response feature, it’s even better. You want to interact with your audience, and they want to interact with you. Technology must support that.
- Design your presentation for rich, vibrant interaction throughout. Nothing turns an audience off faster than Death by Presentation webinars. No matter how good your content is, if you want to keep your audience engaged, interaction has to happen throughout the presentation. The interaction can’t be to see if anybody is paying attention. Rather interaction must replace missing nonverbal cues and create a synergy between the speaker in the audience. Interaction quality is everything.
- Never do a hard-sales pitch in your lead-generating webinar. The single purpose of the lead-generating webinar is to get people to enjoy the experience so much that they opt in for further contact from you. If you turn the webinar into a sales webinar, people will be offended, and they will not opt-in for future contact. It is OK to do a soft-sell at the beginning and the end. That means that you can mention what your businesses do, very briefly. But it is a mistake to push product in this kind of a webinar. Instead, do the sales pitch in a follow-up sales webinar.
- Always give an incentive for people to stay to the end of the webinar. If you have delivered an engaging, interactive presentation, people will stay to the end. But give them an additional bonus, too, such as a free white paper, a free self-analysis, a free eBook, or a free gift (like an iPod). Freebies work!
The bonus of doing a successful Internet marketing event is that you can walk away from that one hour session with hundreds of highly qualified leads that have given you permission to contact them. They’re going to remember you, your business, and this event because you have given them an experience of interacting live with you.