Hobart cooks up leads with foodservice webinars

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HOW HOBART USED WEBINARS TO GENERATE LEADS Objective: Food equip-ment provider Hobart Corp. wanted to generate leads and position itself as an authority on topics of importance to its audience of restaurant owners. Strategy: The company hosted a webinar on restaurant sustainability practices, focused on educating attendees with case studies and expert commentary. Results: The webinar drew more than 400 attendees, providing Hobart with valuable leads and also giving the company insight into its audience's needs and concerns. BY MARY E. MORRISON Hobart Corp., a provider of food equipment and services for the foodservice industry, wanted to generate high-quality leads and position itself as an authority on topics of importance to its audience of restaurant owners. At the same time, the company wanted to highlight its energy-efficient products, which help restaurants consume less water and electricity, enabling them to be more environmentally friendly while saving money on operational costs. In November, Hobart partnered with Reed Business Information's Chain Leader magazine to run a webinar titled “How to Build a Sustainable Restaurant and Apply LEED Standards.” The webinar was one of five that Hobart ran this year, working with various publisher and association partners, and has provided the company with a means of connecting with customers and gathering qualified leads. “We're providing content that is of greater value to our end users than just sending them a catalog or having them see one of our print ads,” said Sarah Puls, VP-brand marketing at Hobart. “It allows us to demonstrate our commitment to them and gives them great information that a lot of other marketing vehicles can't provide.” The Nov. 11 webinar featured three speakers and highlighted a case study on how McDonald's Corp. implemented sustainable practices at one of its Chicago locations seeking LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a standard for green building design. Participating in the webinar were a McDonald's LEED quality manager; a representative from the Food Service Technology Center, who shared sustainable tips and equipment recommendations; and a Hobart LEED expert, who talked about case studies and energy-efficient foodservice equipment. The webinar included a PowerPoint presentation along with audio, and lasted about an hour. The program also pointed attendees to an extensive sustainability resources section on Hobart's Web site, featuring more case studies, audit tools and information on rebates. The last 10-to-15 minutes of the event was reserved for an audience Q&A, which provided important insight into the audience's concerns and needs, said Tammy Monroe, associate director of public relations for HSR Business-to-Business, Cincinnati, Hobart's marketing agency. “It allows for a forum where we can gauge what else they're interested in,” Monroe said. “We find a lot of what we said [during the webinar] sparks questions.” The webinar drew 405 attendees—valuable leads that have been fed into Hobart's CRM system and directed to Hobart salespeople. Puls said she expects those leads to generate sales in the next year or two. “It puts us in a better position with our customers,” she said. “It allows us to demonstrate to them that we're here to help them run successful businesses. It's a vehicle that I much prefer, frankly, over print advertising.” Hobart plans to expand its webinar program next year, Puls said, addressing such additional topics as increasing revenue with improved menus and food ingredients. M
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