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7 Steps to Powerful Online Seminars

For many businesses, particularly service oriented businesses, getting up in front of a group of prospects with the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise is one of the best lead conversion opportunities going.

webinarHolding workshops and seminars live and in person has long been an effective tool. The web makes this tool even more powerful and more affordable as it allow you to conduct online versions of seminars that don’t require you to rent a room or your prospects to leave their homes and offices.

Online seminars are a marketing tool every business should consider adding to the mix. Below are seven steps to consider to make your online seminars pay.

1) Get sponsored

Before you go too far down the seminar path consider getting sponsors to join you. This doesn’t have to be some big name corporate deal, give strategic partners the opportunity to join you in promoting your educational sessions for the right to call themselves a sponsor. Round-up prizes from related businesses that want the exposure their prize garners in your promotion. Free stuff drives enrollment!

2) Educate, don’t sell

Make certain that your “free” session is packed with content so good people would pay for it. That’s the expectation these days. If you create seminars that are basically veiled sales presentations, you won’t reap the benefits of this expertise play and people won’t come back or tell friends about your great seminars. There’s a time and place for the sales pitch, but only after you’ve established trust through sharing valuable information. People are OK with a “here’s the sales pitch” at the end of a presentation that was time well spent.

Consider creating a series of events and promoting them together. This can help build momentum and allow you to build a loyal following.

3) Pick your platform

There are dozens of online platforms for hosting your web seminars but choose your platform with some considerations in mind.

  • Free may not be the best option if you are using this tactic to demonstrate how professional your business is.
  • Look for a tool that offers some interaction tools such as polling, questions, chat, even video
  • Make sure your chosen tool can handle the numbers you plan to enroll
  • Be certain you can easily record your sessions for future marketing use
  • Look for ease of use and follow-up reminder email automation

GoToWebinar (a sponsor of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast), Acrobat Connect and WebEx all offer the features above

4) Cause interaction

Use the functionality of your online webinar tool to get the audience involved. Polls are a great way to take the temperature of your audience and the results can make for both interesting discussion during your session and follow-up discussion in another form of content such as a blog post. With small groups you may want to allow video or audio chat, but it’s always a good idea to take questions from the attendees. Most platforms also allow you to conduct a survey at some point in your presentation. This is a nice way to end a presentation to get feedback from the audience and even let them vote on other topics they would like to hear in the future.

5) Create a backchannel

Lots of people attend webinars these days and share information they hear with their followers on Twitter. It’s become common practice to create a hashtag for your events so people who attend or those that don’t have an easy way to collect all of the comments made by listeners. Some presenters go as far as having an assistant monitor and tweet during the presentation to keep the conversation lively and accurate. This free PowerPoint Twitter Tool allows you to create tweets and have them posted automatically during your presentation.

6) Have bonus content

Because there is so much free information out there online the expectations for what you provide as free package have grown. In addition to the event itself consider creating a PDF workbook or collection of blog posts from yourself, related bloggers or strategic partners and delivering that document along with your follow-up. This gives you another reason to reach out and remind your attendees about the great content and gently about the products and services you offer.

7) Promote the archive

Use your chosen platform to record your presentation. Upload your recorded session to a video host such as Vimeo or YouTube and embed the video in a web page surrounded by additional resources and further reading links related to the topic. This is a great way to use the session for future marketing efforts and create the kind of page and content that search engines love. Consider using a service like CastingWords to transcribe the session, combine three or four session with video, transcript, resources and your collection of blog post PDF and you’ve just created a product that you can sell!

Handling all the moving parts of setting up, promoting, running and archiving live events can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but the long term payoff in terms of expertise, content, and trust building is worth every bit of it.

Image credit: hildgrim

10 Small Business Lead Nurturing Tools

lead nurturingLead nurturing is the act of following up with leads in a consistent and, hopefully, logical way moving them gently along the path of becoming a customer.

In some high end, long decision process selling environments it’s the only way a sale is made. “Hi, glad to meet you, call me when you’re ready to buy,” isn’t a very nurturing approach.

In today’s marketing world smart companies are tapping powerful nurturing tools and technology to help their prospects get to know, like, and trust them, make sales when competitors can’t get past the front lobby, and charge a premium for their products and services.

In some cases it’s a matter of automatically dripping more and more information, in others it’s case of knowing exactly when your prospect is showing interest and in still others it can come down to gaining greater knowledge about your prospect by simply using technology to understand their behavior. (Don’t worry, none of this need be done in a creepy way, it’s all a matter of using technology and the information your prospects willing share.)

The secret is to stay top of mind and continue to educate, but do it ways that have impact.

The following ten tools are ones that I would suggest to most any small business owner to use in tandem with a cadre of education based marketing content in the form of ebooks, audio, video, newsletters, surveys and seminars.

1. BatchBlue – a lightweight CRM tool with a twist. BatchBlue makes it very simple to add your prospect’s social media profiles thereby having access to their blog and twitter feeds right at the point of interaction. Really great for your journalist target market too!

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The Telephone Doesn’t Use Any Gas

Technology and data speed advances have made the use of web meeting technology a no brainer for even the smallest of businesses. In the fast paced world we live in, the ability to get a group of folks together online is such a powerful way to conduct business.

As more and more folks use this technology (and with $4/gl gas) it even starts to make sense for the local business to conduct meetings across town. Think about how many times you have jumped in the car, driven 30 minutes to make a 10 minute presentation, chit chatted for another 20 minutes, jumped back in the car for another 30 minutes and, let’s see – invested 90 minutes in that 10 minute presentation. As you utilize web and other tools such as web collaboration tools and teach your customers to use them as well, your effectiveness and efficiency will soar.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you never venture out and grab some face time, I’m just suggesting you can be smart about employing technology to help you get more done with the same 24 hours everyone has in a day.

Here are some great ways to use webinar or webcast technology

One to one seminar – When you create a webinar or sales presentation using a web technology you can invite someone who calls in to jump online and walk through the archived presentation on the spot.

Peer to peer seminar – Get two or three happy clients to agree to be panel members for a discussion about the problems in their business or industry and gently explain how your business or product is addressing this for them. The key here is transparency. Don’t let your guests sell. Make it a thoughtful, meaningful discussion among peers that you just happened to host.

Live with you – If you’ve got a workshop or seminar you are currently presenting, take it to a teleseminar. Invite clients and prospects to attend via the phone. Create an ongoing series and watch attendance climb.

Interview an expert – You would be surprised at the quality of guests from around the world you can convince to present to your clients and prospects. It’s a win for all involved. You get great content and the presenter may get added exposure for a book or other project with little time investment on their part.

Co-branded panel – Gather up a couple related businesses and put on a panel discussion on a hot topic. Everyone on the panel invites guests and everyone gets exposure.

Sponsored show – Go out and find a sponsor who would like exposure to your audience and allow them to promote in and around your teleseminars. For instance, if you are a CPA with a series of tax savings presentations for small businesses maybe a company that sell tax software would sponsor your sessions. There are lots of businesses out there that want to jump into this kind of marketing but don’t want to do it themselves. Give them the opportunity to help you.

Q and A time – Set a time each week, say Friday at 2 pm and advertise an open line to get your burning questions answered about a topic. Maybe it’s interior design trends, best software tips and trick for business or anything of interest related to your business. You promote the free time, hang out on the line and answer questions when they come in.

Another powerful benefit of systematically presenting information in events of this nature is that you can and should record the events and interviews you conduct and archive them on your website or turn them into an audio CD to distribute through other forms of marketing.

There are many choices for web meetings these days. Let me know what tools you have found and what ones you like and don’t like.