In the late 1990s, a new application appeared on the World Wide Web. It allowed people from different places and different time zones the opportunity to simultaneously view a slide show, commonly PowerPoint, and to hear a speaker explain the details behind each slide.
The viewers also had the opportunity to send an instant message to the presenter with questions about a particular slide. The presenter could then either answer the questions via an instant message, or simply answer the questioner orally, so that everyone attending the Webinar could hear the response.
Webinars soon came to be recognized as an excellent vehicle for a company to get its message across to a discrete, tightly targeted audience. The audience would ideally be made up of an exclusive group of listeners who would be most likely to purchase the product that the company was offering.
This type of communication, the Webinar, gave both large and small companies great economies of scale. Given that many people throughout the world could be reached at an extremely reasonable cost, it permitted these companies to leverage their image and sales pitch to a remarkable degree.
Listen to Ted di Stefano (6:48 minutes)
A recent Google search on the term “Webinar” came up with over 9 million hits! Obviously, this type of marketing and communication has quickly become popular. Yet, many people still haven’t heard of the term.
A Typical Meeting
If you were invited to attend a Webinar, you would commonly be sent an e-mail with all of the necessary information that would allow you to join the other attendees at the allotted time.
As an attendee, you will be asked to call a toll-free number to join the Webinar. You will then go to the Web site where the slides for the Webinar are presented so that you can hear the speaker while the visuals are being discussed.
When the Webinar starts, the first slide appears on the Web site, and a speaker starts explaining the fine points of the slide. Usually, all callers’ voices are muted except those of the speaker and the host (assuming that these are two different people).
When the speaker finishes talking about a particular page/slide, she/he then advances to the next page. In most cases, viewers have no control over the advancing of the pages. Unless you have any questions, you basically just sit there and listen.
If you do have a question, as I stated earlier, you send an instant message to the presenter. The message appears to the presenter as well as to all of the other viewers. The speaker then has the choice of orally answering your question or answering your question on the Internet slide presentation screen.
Commonly, as previously mentioned, all lines are muted except for the presenter and the host company. The reasons for this are obvious — background noises such as sirens, horns, and conversations, can really distract both the speaker and the audience.
The last slide has the presenter’s contact information such as phone number, Web site, and e-mail address.
Why the Webinar?
This form of “meeting” allows you to focus on a target audience that you have differentiated from your universe of possible customers so that you are getting the biggest bang for your buck.
Assuming that you are properly identifying who your “best” audience is and have targeted that audience, this is one of the most direct, most effective and, yes, cheapest forms of marketing for your company.
I was recently asked to conduct a Webinar for an international software company and its subsidiary, ComputerShare and World Records. The subject was making Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance easier for board members. Since both of these companies are in the business of providing sophisticated software for corporate governance and compliance, I obviously mentioned them as an option for companies seeking software assistance.
The main point that I want to make is that the audience was so well targeted that most of its members were from Fortune 500 companies such as Bank of America, Wal-Mart, Chevron, and DuPont.
I won’t get into the fancier things that can be done with Webinars and Web conferencing. Suffice it to say that there is a good amount of flexibility for the company wishing to do a Webinar in order not only to attract the right attendees, but also to give them visuals and interactivity that really let the Webinar appear like a town meeting.
Once you get your customers’ attention in such an interactive manner, they are more likely to take the serious interest in your product or service that you are hoping for.
There are new tech words that are morphing into our vocabulary almost on a daily basis. “Webinar” is one of those words. It’s the latest tech approach to attracting and keeping a customer, and from everything I’ve seen and read, it works!
Theodore F. di Stefano is a founder and managing partner at Capital Source Partners, which provides a wide range of investment banking services to the small and medium-sized business. He is also a frequent speaker to business groups on financial and corporate governance matters. He can be contacted at Ted@capitalsourcepartners.com.