Businesses with a global client base have had to look to technology to replace face-to-face communication since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Terry van Rhyn of Ashgrove Marketing assesses the role of webinars in the marketing armoury
At the beginning of the year I saw a headline asking if the webinar was dead. Had we known what was coming – more than seven months of travel restrictions so far due to the coronavirus pandemic – it would have seemed a silly question to ask but clearly we didn’t know any better then.
While we live in a wonderful bubble of normality on this beautiful Island of ours, many local companies continue to operate in a B2B environment with their client base spanning the globe. This includes my own company and, this year, the way we have been interacting with them has been anything but normal.
Ashgrove has operated in a B2B environment in the US since 2007. In an average year, I visit nine times. This year I’ve only been once, which was in January.
I’m not entirely unhappy about that as it has freed up a lot more time and increased my productivity in other areas. It’s also good for my carbon footprint. (I’m still planting trees to try and offset all my previous journeys…)
Reflecting back, I now question all those trips every year to visit my off-Island clients when communication tools like video conferencing and webinars are commonplace and the technology behind them is so much improved.
It is, of course, human nature to conduct physical meetings, partly to pick up on subtle body language signals and to evaluate the mutual chemistry. But as things stand, that luxury will not be a reality any time soon, other than with clients based in the Isle of Man.
So video-conferencing and webinars are very much on the agenda and the good news is that they can, with preparation, be very effective. Industry reports suggest that around 73% of marketing and sales leaders say webinars are one of the best ways to generate quality leads while a survey by on24.com suggests 95% of respondents see them as important in their marketing strategy.
One of the reasons they are so popular is that the content can be very flexible – you can deliver a presentation, run a Q&A, invite guest speakers, show video, bring up stats. Whether you’re promoting a product or service, or delivering thought leadership or industry comment, there is no need for death by PowerPoint when there is so much dynamic content at your disposal!
But there is much more than content to think about. Which platform will you use? How will you invite viewers? When is the best time to hold them?
Some of these things will be dictated by the existing habits and preferences of your clients or the time zones they are working in. I’ve heard more than once that Tuesday mid-mornings are the optimum times for best attendance – I’m not too sure how true that holds now it has been widely quoted!
You can also choose to pre-record a webinar. These generally have the advantage of being slicker as you are forced to present your ideas in a concise and compelling manner and don’t risk running over time or someone hogging the microphone.
As well as keeping the presentation tight and focussed on the delivery of the key messages, the client can also decide on the appropriate time to review the message.
One downside of the pre-recorded webinar is the opportunity for viewers to ask questions (although with good planning you could prompt questions at the invitation stage and try to fit the answers into your recording). This two-way interaction is vital for some communications such as coaching, training or workshops so a live webinar is going to work best on these occasions. (And if you plan to record a live webinar for future use you need to make sure your attendees are aware of this!)
With all the hard work you have put in, it’s sometimes easy to overlook that you need to promote your masterpiece effectively to the right audience to get a good attendance. The best route to success is to offer several access points – through targeted emails, your website and also via social media to make sure there are plenty of opportunities for people to see it and sign up.
Don’t forget that to remind everyone of the event a day or two before and even more importantly follow up with a thank you email after the event. These people have willingly given you their time so they are hot prospects worth engaging!
With Covid-19 still at large, it looks like online will continue to be the way forward for businesses in the B2B space and possibly the way forward for good. Sadly, the travel and hospitality industries will suffer as a result, but perhaps they will be able to adjust and find alternative and exciting new markets to offset the loss of the business traveller market.