BtoB

Webinars educate, drive brand awareness

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Information about your products and services is pervasive in today's marketplace. And much of that information isn't coming from you. With the wealth of today's user-generated content, buyers don't need to view a company's Web site or see product brochures. They're likely to have formed an opinion about your product even before beginning a buying cycle. Moreover, when they are ready to make a purchase, they'll likely have already decided upon a short list of vendors with which to engage. Nevertheless, marketers do have one channel where reaching out to prospects with appropriate information—in a gentle, persuasive way—is very effective. That channel is the webinar. Webinars allow marketers to relate to potential customers with the kind of educational information that generates confidence in a brand and interest in a product, and as such can serve as a wonderful way to interact with the market. The question-and-answer segment can provide a company with a stronger understanding of the concerns buyers face. And reaching out and listening to prospects helps build relationships that can have a significant impact on a company's growth and longevity. Working from a clear understanding of prospects' needs and business goals should drive your marketing strategy. At our company, for example, we deliver monthly webinars on topics of interest to prospects and customers, sharing best practices, revealing study findings and presenting case studies that detail many of the same issues and obstacles as the webinar attendees might have. And we take the time to ask for input on the types of content the marketplace wants to receive. This type of interaction is key: Marketing today is all about developing a dialogue between organizations and their markets. And b-to-b marketers must recognize the vital importance of listening to the market, as opposed to shouting taglines and slogans at it. They must take advantage of tools that enable them to participate in dialogues and forums as they occur. Educating the marketplace is key. Buyers are seeking as much information about new products and services as they can obtain. But just as important, they are eager to gather best-practice information and advice that will help them shine. They want to do business with companies that are willing to have conversations with them and form a relationship more like a partnership, rather than limit interaction to a selling opportunity. While the use of webinars is obviously a core communications channel that companies use to reach potential buyers, it's clear that no one channel can carry the load. B-to-b marketers create strong, brand-building programs when they reach out to decision-makers through a diverse network of touch points. To be optimal, all the touch points must work together. By all means, use webinars for all the reasons cited above, including their capacity to allow you to interact with customers and prospects. Then, blend in effective e-mail, landing pages, surveys, white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, direct mail, telesales and other marketing channels to communicate as well. Spread the message wide, but keep it focused. Whatever the channel, b-to-b marketers create a win-win scenario by continually supplying prospects with information that helps them reach their own business goals. Strong content and thought leadership aligned with the willingness to listen also helps build company credibility. Scott Voigt is VP-marketing for online marketing company Silverpop (www.silverpop.com). He can be reached at svoigt@silverpop.com.
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