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Bolster direct marketing with webcasts

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In the last few years, webcasting has come into its own in support of direct marketing efforts. A webcast provides the intimacy and interaction of a live presentation while delivering one of the key aspects of direct marketing, immediacy. Yet, as with any tool, a webcast is only as good as the people using it. A poorly executed webcast not only will not add anything to your campaign but can take the energy out of it and derail it entirely. To make sure you get the most out of your time and effort, consider the following tips when you set out to create a webcast.
  • Identify goals, strategy and a plan. When webcasting was first introduced, companies were very careful to ensure they knew why they were offering them and the results they wanted to achieve because of the amount of effort they required. Now, because webcasting is so common and the technology needed for one is easy to use, some initial steps are often being left out in the rush to get the next webcast out. Start by knowing what your goal is for the webcast, and then building a strategy and a plan that will help you reach that goal.
  • Use a catchy title and description. Grabbing prospective attendees' attention up front will help your webcast stand out from all the other emails and announcements your target audience receives and ensure they know there's something in it for them. As you develop your title and description, be sure to keep the messaging consistent with the rest of your campaign.
  • Develop a promotion plan. With your message aligned with your overall campaign, it's time to start promoting your webcast. Start with marketing tools that have little or no cost attached to them, such as your website, intranet and email blasts to prospect lists. Send two or three email invitations, paying special attention to recipients who may already have opened other messages in your campaign. Create a robust microsite that easily walks respondents through the registration process. Social media tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can help you spread the word quickly.
  • Create memorable content. In webcasting's virtual world, content is king. Select speakers who know your campaign and can engage your audience. Invite industry experts, customers or high-profile pundits to join you and help draw more participants. Even though you are supporting a direct marketing campaign, keep the topic general rather than specific to your products or services. Adding to your prospects' knowledge will attract more interest than a blatant sales pitch. Such a neutral approach will also increase your chances of bringing them back for another webcast down the road.
  • Use slides as visual aids, not visual points. While it's not uncommon to see a PowerPoint presentation packed with information on every slide, the truth is having too much information distracts from the presenter and usually ensures that attendees will have trouble understanding and remembering the material. Instead, use your slides to guide your conversation. Use graphics frequently. With type-heavy slides, include only the main points and just enough to help viewers keep their place. Your presentation will be more natural and it will be easier for attendees to stay focused on your message and calls to action.
  • Perform post-event analysis and follow-up. Evaluate your content, presentations and event from your own perspective as well as that of your attendees. Read feedback, survey results, chats, polls and Q&As from the session. Determine how many people actively participated and whether their comments or questions were appropriate to the topic. Also, use your webcast as a conversation driver, not an isolated event. Nurture interest afterward by blogging about it, and posting to discussion boards or groups.
Eric Vidal is director-product marketing for the event services business segment of conferencing and collaboration company InterCall (www.intercall.com). He can be reached at ericv@unisfair.com.
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