Webinars and Other Virtual Events – 9 Tips For Maximizing Their Marketing Value
A good portion of marketing and advertising budget often goes toward hosting or attending trade shows, conferences and customer seminars. Although these are often a necessary component of your marketing strategy, the truth is that it is very expensive and time-intensive to support a booth at a trade show, host customers, and put on customized events.
Many times, the same marketing benefits can also be realized from participating in web seminars (webinars) and virtual conferences, provided you have an up-front plan in place: treat it as you would a “real” seminar or conference (there’s a lot of planning and budget that has to go into those) and that will allow you to reap the full rewards from the online versions also.
There are a number of things about virtual events that make them attractive: they usually cost less to host, they make more effective use of attendee’s time (thus you may get more of them), and you can provide a link on your website to a replay of the event for as long as you want to afterward for ongoing marketing and education.
Here are our nine top tips for getting the most out of these virtual events:
- Develop your event plan, with clear objectives and strategies to achieve them;
- Pull in partners and/or sponsors (if relevant) — not only can they help with any budget and planning, but they can also pull in attendees as well;
- Select a webinar service provider who can meet your goals for the event;
- Schedule your event carefully: obviously avoid dates close to holidays (and if you have an international attendee base, think about major holidays in other countries also), avoid dates close to other major industry events, and avoid times when your attendees will be in the middle of their annual budget or planning cycles. If you have a worldwide audience, you may need to schedule repeat sessions at appropriate times to maximize attendance around the globe.
- Have a plan to drive traffic to the event (eg, include it in an email newsletter, feature it prominently on your website, mention it in forums or your blog, etc). Start 60 days prior to the event itself if you can. Even if you’re just hosting a private web meeting for a single client… you still need to do some up-front “marketing” to pull in the right attendees from the customer. The last thing you want is to invite the CEO and CIO (if they are the budget decisionmakers for your solution), and then on the day of the event find out they delegated to couple of lower-level managers in their organization.
- Be efficient with your attendees’ time: it’s not like when they’ve traveling to a conference or seminar and they’re a captive audience. They have the pull of multi-tasking with their email or phone or other work distractions… it’s your job to make sure the event is focused and interesting to keep their attention the whole time.
- Figure out a strategy to get live interaction at the event. This can be a challenge sometimes with an online event where people can’t see each other and no one wants to be the first to speak up or ask a question… perhaps you have some colleagues who could “pose” as attendees and ask the first questions to get things moving. Or begin with some questions you have gotten separately from customers to start it off.
- Make sure you’re getting the marketing data you need to identify, qualify, and follow up on leads.
- Conduct an ROI analysis.