Using Web Video Conferencing and Webinars as a Marketing Tool
Virtual events can range from using web video conferencing for a sales meeting with a single client to participating in a virtual webinar or tradeshow with thousands of attendees.
A number of excellent, easy-to-use solutions exist to host your online meeting or webinar. Personally, I've used and participated in WebEx meetings many times and always had a positive experience, although their costs can add up quickly as meetings get larger or more frequent. There are more affordable and just as capable and reliable web video conferencing choices out there also.
If you're thinking about hosting your own webinar, web conferencing vendors like iLinc can not only provide the service to host the meeting, but help with registration signup, marketing data gathering & reports, and marketing followup after the event.
Vendors have relied on sales meetings, seminars and tradeshows for decades as forums to market and sell their products and network with potential customers and partners. The same marketing benefits can also be realized from hosting web video conferencing meetings or participating in web seminars (webinars) and virtual conferences, provided you have an up-front plan in place: treat it as you would a "real" face-to-face meeting or seminar (there's a lot of planning that has to go into those) and that will allow you to reap the full rewards from the online versions also.
There are several things about virtual events that make them attractive: they typically cost less to host, make more effective use of attendees 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 some top best practices for getting the most out of virtual events using web video conferencing:
Put together an event plan, with crisp goals and strategies to achieve them;
Include sponsors and partners --- not only can they help with any budget and planning, but they can also pull in attendees as well. A really powerful message is to include a customer to give a brief case study or testimonial;
Choose a service provider carefully - you need to be sure they can meet your goals for the event, and deliver any marketing data and results you need;
Be considerate of participants' time: in a web meeting they are not a captive audience, and will get distracted by email and other business demands if you don't maintain their interest;
Develop a 60-day plan to drive traffic to the event. This could include mentions in your email newsletter, on your website, in forums or your blog, etc.
Have a plan for to encourage live interaction. You could 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;
Ensure your provider can get you the marketing data you need to identify, qualify, and follow up on leads. Check on what analysis and followup services they can provide to help;
Evaluate the ROI of the event afterwards to determine if you would do it again, and what you would do differently;
Schedule your event carefully, avoiding dates close to holidays (keep international attendees in mind), other major industry events, and consider typical 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.
By working with the right web video conferencing provider, and following the best practices above, you can reap significant benefits from web meetings and seminars at a fraction of the cost of face-to-face.