Saving marketing dollars with Webinars

Businesses promoting products and services through Webinars must carefully tailor sessions to suit specific audiences in order to maximize the technology’s potentials.

In the last two years, the use of Internet-based meeting tools know as Webinars for customer relations purposes has increased, but industry insiders say a large number of users need to fine tune their strategies.

A Webinar is a type of Web conference wherein a presenter interacts in a live online meeting with an audience using text and voice. Participants either download an application into their computers or access the address of a meeting site to get connected. Once hooked-up to conference, participants can receive text, video or other types of presentations on their computers either on their own of under the guidance of a presenter.

For most small and medium scale businesses (SMBs) conducting face-to-face meetings with clients comes at a premium, according to Corien Kershey, technology marketing practice leader for HBS Marketing, an Ottawa-based marketing technology provider.

“There’s a high cost associated with face-to-face meetings and most SMBs can’t afford it,” according to Kershey, whose company provides marketing tools, Webinars, podcasts and other Web-based technology to clients.

She said Webinars deliver the ideal combination of promotional and learning features without requiring businesses to set-up a branch office or send sales or marketing personnel to a potential client’s location. “When you consider that each session costs as low as $10 per hour or that Webinar service contracts go for about $100 a month, you’ll realize just how much you can save.”

User need to keep a few basics in mind to maximize the advantages of Webinars.

“Just as no two customers are alike, there is no one-shot Webinar for every occasion,” said Beth Gilbert, product marketing manager of Citrix Online, a vendor of Internet conferencing tools based in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Relevance and keeping a reader’s interest in the key to success, she said. “If the material in not interesting, your audience will tune out.”

Apart from including only pertinent material, Webinar producers must also keep the sessions engaging. “This is an interactive medium. A good Webinar allows participants to field questions and get instant answers or tryout features of a product that is being presented,” Gilbert said.

Appropriate animation or games can spice up a presentation.

Easy set-up is another critical consideration, according to a Toronto-based technology expert.

“Keep in mind, viewers have limited time and lots of other things to do, the sooner they can begin the session the better,” said Adam Cole, director of specialty technology for McKesson Canada, a healthcare product and services provider.

Webinar tools that don’t require any training on the part of the viewer provide almost instant access are ideal, said Cole, who is also the national director for Toronto chapter of the Canadian Information Procession Society (CIPS).

Determine the reason for producing the Webinar and then keep the ideas presented focused, said Kershey.

Sessions must be presented in short and manageable installments. “We find that 10 to 15 minutes per session is ideal, half an hour is pushing it.”

Presenters should archive sessions to enable viewers that missed a session to see the Webinar when their schedules permit, said Cole.

He said it is also very helpful to allow audiences the ability to download some of the materials being presented so they can refer to in later.

A customer survey or poll that is incorporated into the session will also enable presenters to measure viewer attention and participation, said Gilbert of Citrix.

“Carefully placed questions can not only help companies determine what matters interest their clients but also aid in gauging a Webinar tool’s performance.”

For presenter, Kershey of HBS has this old PowerPoint presentation trick: “Above all, don’t just read the slides.”

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