Webinars has become an important toll for marketers. I asked Ken Molay, president and founder of Webinar Success, to share his thoughts on the evolution of webinars, how marketers can best leverage this for their programs, and what to expect in a couple of years. Here is Ken’s bio:
Ken Molay is president and founder of Webinar Success, a consulting firm that assists companies in producing and delivering effective and compelling web seminars. Ken combines a technical background with experience in corporate marketing and public presentations. He is a prolific blogger on the subject of web conferencing and its applications, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and industry publications. He is a frequent public speaker on the topic of more effective webinars.
You’ve been writing about webinars for awhile. What is the most significant change that you’ve seen?
I started using webinars as a marketing tool some ten years ago. At that time, the concept was a novelty. I was constantly explaining what they were. Now webinars are ubiquitous and almost every business person has at least attended one, if not presented one. Attendance rates for marketing webinars used to be very high, averaging 50-60% of registrants. Now they average 33%. People will no longer attend just for the experience of trying out a new learning medium. As usage becomes more common, presenters spend less time and effort on preparation. This is rapidly leading to audience dissatisfaction as they attend more and more online sessions where presenters read text off slides, sound disinterested in their own material, and don’t seem to care about delivering value as much as collecting names and emails on the registration form. Companies who host webinars need to “up their game” and concentrate on creating value for their attendees in both content and presentation.
So webinars have become a key tool in a marketer’s toolkit. What are the top three things that marketers need to consider when using webinars for their programs?
a) The webinar title, promotional efforts, and content MUST be framed in terms of audience interests and benefits instead of the host’s informational content. Instead of telling your audience “We wanted to tell you about our latest offering” you need to tell them “Learning about our latest offering will benefit you in the following ways.”
b) Watch out for the “successful webinar” trap. Many marketing departments try a webinar and get good results on gathering leads and seeing a very positive cost-benefit. So the boss says, “Great! Do one of these a week. This is a cheap lead generating machine!” You end up with “list exhaustion” as people don’t want to attend that frequently and you end up with “presenter exhaustion” as there is not enough time to prepare and rehearse compelling content. Your presenters view it as an inconvenient distraction from their “real jobs”. Quality goes down, your audience stops coming, and your boss gets angry.
c) Your success in turning marketing webinar attendees into sales prospects is greatly influenced by your speed of response after the event. Don’t just dump the registration list into a CRM system for eventual follow up by a salesperson. A “follow up” call or email two weeks later has the same psychological impact as a cold call. You need to send follow up email within 24 hours of your webinar. Immediately following the event, have someone go through the webinar chat log or feedback responses, looking for people who asked a specific product question or requested a contact. Get back to them the same day. Have your supporting material or collateral ready to send… Don’t wait until after the webinar to assemble it.
The space has become more crowded with more vendors and offerings. Where do you see the industry going in 1-2 years?
Video is the hot item of the year. Vendors are rapidly adding what they refer to as “high def” streaming video capabilities to their webinar products. I am comfortable with presenter video in smaller team meeting applications, but I am not a fan of live video for public marketing webinars. It puts a tremendous additional burden on the presenter, who cannot easily move around, look at notes, or check the web conferencing console without breaking eye contact with the audience. It is harder to create a professional corporate image with video because of the many subtle visual cues we respond to as viewers without consciously realizing it. Video also demands much more bandwidth, and companies run the risk of excluding or delivering subpar experiences for attendees with slower network connections. So I think we may see a wider adoption of video conferencing initially, followed by a pullback (at least for marketing webinars) while companies wait for infrastructure to catch up and for their production teams to learn a new set of best practices.
The other trend I see developing is a desire for easier monetization of webinars. This does not directly affect marketing webinars, but many companies want to deliver fee-based training, consultation, and support to a wider audience than they can reach with in-room seminars. There are not enough technology choices and integrated features in the market to make this easy and cost-effective to implement.
Have you leveraged webinars for your program? If so, share your successes, lessons learned and more below.
As I believe virtual events will or have already become an integral part of a marketing strategy, my goal is to highlight how to leverage this technology most effectively to achieve your communications and marketing objectives. In the essence of full disclosure, I was previously employed by two vendors in this space (Inxpo and On24) and am currently assisting Virtual Edge Institute for their January Summit in Las Vegas. I hope to engage key vendors and thought leaders in the space with more Q&A’s to follow. To kick off the series, I interviewed Miguel Arias of Imaste, a leading provider of virtual job fairs and tradeshow platforms based in Europe, via Skype and over email.
Miguel Arias is co-founder and COO of IMASTE. Miguel is also a proactive start up mentor, integrated in the Instituto de Empresa Business School Venture Lab programme. Miguel holds a MSc Degree in Civil Engineering from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and a Professional MBA from the Instituto de Empresa Business School, and is fluent in 4 languages. You can read his thoughts about the industry on his blog or follow him on twitter (@imasteips or @mike_arias).
Tell me about Imaste and how you began
Imaste is Europe’s leading specialist in virtual events, fairs and trade shows. Since its launch, we have delivered more the 100 virtual experiences in more than 15 countries. Imaste has strong partnerships with some of the major job boards across the globe, as well as with global corporations and interactive agencies, with a strong focus in the European and South American markets.
We started with physical job fairs and then moved to virtual, starting our work in Spain, and expanding afterward in the main European markets. We started by managing all the aspects of a physical event from organization, conception, logistics, sales, marketing to execution. We saw the real needs of our customers to go virtual and how they could benefit from technological platforms to obtain better results. 30 percent of our business is still physical with 70 percent virtual.
One of our first international clients was Monster, which provided us more awareness and an opportunity to work in many regions in a short period of time and also cooperate with other leading job boards, like curriculum.com.br in Brazil, Dridco in Argentina, Venezuela, etc.
Our market to date is 60-70% virtual job fairs and 30% mainstream tradeshows, with little demand for corporate events at this time. We’re strongly diversifying our reach; delivering more and more generic virtual trade shows (MBA trade shows, entrepreneur virtual events, franchising events, automotive industry trade shows…)
Does your physical background provide you an advantage?
We believe delivering a great virtual event is not just about the number of features or backend capabilities. It’s more about delivering a live experience that is equivalent to real life, and we’re experts in that.
Our solutions have an engaging look & feel and interface design, compared to other applications. Our attendees experience the feeling of taking part in a real event, where they can interact with others, learn, share and network. While other American competing platforms may have more reporting or data mining tools, we are focused on the user experience and real results gathering.
Is this all custom work?
Actually not. We completely customize the look and feel of our virtual events, and we also offer a great array of customization possibilities in the platform configuration and 3D environment set up. But we offer each exhibitor a complete backend to manage their content, leads and live interactions.
We will organize about 70 events this year in more than 18 countries. Therefore we have gathered a lot of experience in language customization, adaptation to cultural differences in many regions and server and data integration with various systems and infrastructures.
What is your webinar technology?
We have our own webinar application, but we have seen great apps being developed out there. Therefore we integrate our platform with other solutions. We also integrate with other type of applications such as Ustream and dimdim.
We believe that most of the virtual event platforms will be able to integrate with many of the existing webinar solutions in the future, therefore webinars are going to be a commodity in the market.
Tell me about a typical event?
We usually deliver main stream events that are open 7-10 days with 40-80 exhibitors for an event. We have an average of 100,000 unique visitors per event with a maximum of over 300,000 unique users and peaks of 80,000 users a day in Argentina. We’ve had simultaneous chats up of 1,000 attendees.
The landing page, interfaces look & feel and even 3D environments are customized on a case by case basis. For each client work, we work as an agency, offering training and continuous technical and operations support, which helps the client.
We also offer orientation tests, which is a compatibility test that matches an attendee with prospective exhibitors that match his or her profile. This is used for all kind of trade shows, not just virtual job fairs. We narrow down the best prospects and affinity based on the responses. The exhibitors then also provide their responses which is how the matching works.
This information is stored in the attendee’s profile. The companies can also view the matches for follow up for sales and recruitment pre-screening.
What is the cost for your events?
We deliver low-end, basic solutions with look and feeling customization, but no registration or feature customization. Using one of our templates with basic functionality and 25 exhibitor booths the cost is about US$12,000.
High-end, standard solutions with complete functionality (registration tool, real time written and video interaction, orientation tests, etc), some degree of customization and around 40 customers is about US$30,0000.
If we incorporate video production and complete customization, then this can be up to US$60-80,000.
What is the timeline for an event?
We can develop an event in one month and the bottleneck normally is on the client side, in their sales process. Normally we provide marketing training, sales training and logistics training to communicate the work load and the expectations. A virtual event is not just a fancy website. The partner needs to understand how dynamic the event is. Sometimes in Spain, we even do the sales and logistics.
We are a partner throughout the whole process, providing timelines, documentation, control, etc.
What are your future plans?
We go where the client needs us. We have created corporate environments and believe there is more need for all kinds of virtual trade shows, not just virtual job fairs.
Till now, Europe doesn’t have much business in virtual events, but this is rapidly changing. We will face the challenge to remain leaders when the market consolidates and the American players start their operations here. But Europe is a difficult market, with many particularities, and we have the experience, contacts and resources to grow in our own playground.
We plan to deliver some events in the US by the end of the year, but our main market is Europe and South America.
Where do you see the industry going?
A definite trend is that most physical events are going hybrid event, as physical want to go virtual with tighter integration. As an attendee, you’ll go to a physical exhibit and shout your experience in Facebook, while you favorite some content virtually and gather physical samples. You’ll have networking in virtual and meet in physical.
We are continuously developing our platform; in the next weeks we will announce the new version, with many exciting new features. We are moving into full screen mode with more smooth video integration and much more.
We do not believe in avatar based immersive technologies for virtual trade show purposes, As users lose so much time learning how to set up their avatar and walking around, and the event is about getting information and interaction as soon as possible.
There will be an increase in networking, in 3D experience, physical virtual connection, and interaction (better chat, 1:1, etc.).
In the end it’s all about online collaboration with real time interaction and communication tools in 3D alike intuitive environments, having a sense of being there, then.
A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Jason Falls of Doe Anderson and Social Media Explorer. After a beautiful meal at Il Fornaio with Jason and his wife, we sat down for a quick video about social media and communciations strategies. Here is a summaryof this video.
Communications Strategy: Traditional and Social Media
* Communications strategies for traditional PR is typically one that looks at talking points and messages we want to communicate via traditional media
* Traditional media is about one-way communciations with the audience
* With social media, traditional media is no longer part of this as now you’re going direct to the consumer
* No longer is it one-way communications. It’s about how you can create a strategy to communicate these talking points in a conversational way
Different for B2B and B2C?
- Not necessarily as B2B is in between the two extremes of traditional media and social media
- Regardless if this is B2B or B2C, social media requires a conversation
- How can you be nimble in your conversations
Tweet this on Twitter
PRMM Interview with Jason Falls regarding social media and communications strategy by @csalomonlee: http://twurl.nl/a70p7g
In late April, I met Christian Jurink a of Attack Marketing at the Event Marketing Summit. I was intrigued by how guerilla marketing can reach your audience/consumers and drive them to action. And yes, that is a champion sumo wrestler in the background. Attack does work for a sumo organization and have adopted him as their “mascot.” Here is a quick summary of our conversation:
Economy’s Impact on Guerilla Marketing
1. As budgets are being constricted, really need to be more creative to connect with consumers
2. Guerilla marketing is a cost-effective way to do that while honing in on your consumers and talking with them there
Key Benefits of Guerilla Marketing
1. Proximity marketing – it’s about honing and finding key consumer and being near them
2. About driving people to retail and converting to a sell
3. Can be anywhere your consumers are and driving them to retail
As I mentioned in my post about tips for your youtube video, I am experimenting more with the power of video. When possible, I will interview interesting individuals and their marketing (this includes social media and public relations) campaigns. My inaugural video is with Jeff Stai, Owner of the Twisted Oak Winery. He is known as @eljefetwisted on Twitter and El Jefe on the El Bloggo Torcido (Twisted Oak blog).
Jeff is a very personable guy and I think this personality is the key to his winery’s success. He has developed a loyal following of wine lovers (I’m a new fan) through social media. To me, the net net of Jeff’s success is that social media allowed him to connect with his fans and create a community that is engaged with the winery.
Isn’t that what ALL of us are trying to do with marketing?
Cece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.
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