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Webinars: are they for our industry?

Author : Garry Lewis, Marketing & Communications Manager, Mitsubishi Electric

26 January 2018

Garry Lewis, Marketing & Communications Manager, Mitsubishi Electric looks at whether webinars are a channel that can, and should, be applied to our industry.

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The webinar – we think we know what it is, we have probably attended one or two, and likely rejected a couple more. And it must be effective right, if 60 percent of marketers are now using it as a content marketing tactic?

But what have we really taken from them? How well have we been applying webinars for marketing purposes? Are webinars a channel that can, and should, be applied to our industry? 

Back to basics, what is a webinar? It’s short for “web-based seminar”, a “seminar conducted on the internet.” It’s a web conference that allows real-time, video or audio events, where participants can access and share documents from remote locations and reach a global audience.

Simply put, instead of travelling to a specific location for a meeting, exhibition or event, where only a few can be invited from a database, a webinar allows businesses to extend their reach and project their message.

Webinars can be used in a variety of different ways. From hosting online conferences, seminars and lectures to sales and marketing presentations, businesses can benefit. And the most effective webinars can help attract new clients and grow your business in a number of ways (here are seven for a start!):

1. Showcase your authority and trust

We are all vying for our customer’s attention and it is undeniably getting harder to stand out from the crowd. A webinar can help you to prove your expertise and engage with your industry knowledge, abilities, skills, products and services.

2. Create business relationships

A webinar allows your audience to get to know you, and what you do, on a much deeper level. And it’s an ideal opportunity to interact and ask questions in an environment where you have allowed dedicated time to respond; just like at an exhibition or event.

3. Understand your audience

Much like creating business relationships, webinars that are interactive also allows you as the host to get to know your audience, their needs and their greatest challenges. In doing so, you can develop a real understanding of what motivates them, so you can tailor your products, services and advice to match.

4. Raise brand awareness

The key to success in a webinar, much like a traditional meeting, event, presentation or exhibition is to deliver high quality content, and not simply use it as a sales pitch presentation. It’s much more likely to be remembered this way.

5. Affordability

When it comes down to it, the only real costing for your webinar is your time, together with your broadband connection, microphone and a webcam to get started. Enough said?

6. Re-purpose and record

If you’ve dedicated the time to preparing your content, why not record your webinar as a video, which is absolutely essential to today’s marketing efforts.  And re-use your script to provide extra value to those who couldn’t attend.  Turn it into a feature for a magazine or a blog series. Not only does this allow you to share your webinar content in a fresh and engaging new way, but also offers plenty of opportunity to extend its social media potential.

7. Be personal

We have alluded to this, but a webinar is an ideal platform for you to put a face and personality to your brand for your industry and target audience. This is absolutely vital to ensure success in marketing today. One only has to look at Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement for Facebook on the importance of staying connected for the right reasons. It’s about understanding the power of story, connection and real engagement, not just having a webinar for its own sake.

But before we all start checking our diaries to make space to host a webinar, let’s stop for a moment and consider what makes it really work and be effective to achieve these goals.

In my humble opinion, albeit no expert, the following supports delivery of an effective webinar:

1. Before, during and after engagement

Just like any marketing effort, it needs to keep an audience engaged through its life span. Right from its creation to ‘save the date’ and create the buzz, through to its welcoming and entertaining (yet informative) delivery; through to continued engagement in following up with participants and sending them additional information.

2. Be specific

The most effective webinars I personally have attended, have been focused on one specific topic. For example, most recently on the subject of GDPR, webinars have been invaluable to my learning. The most effective and memorable have stayed on point.

3. Be excited!

If you’re not excited on a webinar or animated about your subject, you can’t expect your audience to be. If it’s a specific subject of interest, that you can take an expert position, you should feel comfortable about the topic matter. 

However, on saying this, many of us are not comfortable in front of a camera or speaking to large audiences. Having some training can help with this and ensure you make an instant impact on your webinar. 

4. Choose the best format

Naturally a presentation is the most common format and is often presented in a well put together and rehearsed PowerPoint. 

But just as in a traditional seminar format, no one wants ‘death by PowerPoint.’ A webinar can offer a different agenda, such as an interview. An expert can share their screen and engage with their audience, answering either pre-prepared (getting people engaged before the webinar) or even live questions to become more of a question and answer session and really showcase a level of expertise.

Alternatively, a well-organised panel debate offers a level of engagement and presents an audience with different perspectives on a particular topic.

Or finally, if appropriate a product or service showcase is a great way to add an extra ‘live’ dimension to the webinar, so that your audience can really interact.

Of course, the best webinars will offer a mix of all of the above, to break up the risky monotony of a presentation with a live product demonstration and leave time for any questions and answers – all with an aim to make it interactive and memorable.

5. Don’t give it all away

Remember the aim of a webinar is just like a traditional event or seminar. Its aim is to share best practice in a real-time environment and offer actionable advice. Most importantly, you want to leave your audience wanting more, with a realistic call to action so they know what to do next. And they actively want to follow your instruction.

It’s clear that a webinar holds enormous potential when undertaken for the right reasons, with a subject of interest to an engaged audience. But there is one additional benefit, the ability to capture data on a global scale which really makes the webinar a powerful marketing proposition.

Remember the internet has no boundaries and in this respect, your webinar can reach a much wider audience (just think about time zones when setting it up!)

And not only are email addresses generally required to attend the webinar, but also an opportunity to establish real one-to-one connections with interested parties. Data can also be saved (if permission granted) to request feedback and actively (and personally) keep in touch.

All these factors come together to show why webinars offer the chance for you to present your ideas to a greater audience, to discuss a topic of mutual interest in an engaging manner. It’s an opportunity for our industry players to establish huge market awareness for specific topics, still make personal bonds and increase lead generation in the process.

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