With another webinar in our “Back to the Fundamentals” series under our belts, I thought I’d speak a little to the power of offering your customers a value add of webinars.

Last Wednesday we had the fabulous John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing in to talk. He did a great job as usual and gave some really useful tips to the attendees. (You can listen to this webinar by going to the Back to the Fundamentals page)

Putting on a webinar is a lot of work. But if you plan right, it will go off without a hitch. Hosting free webinars or training sessions is a great way to give added value to your customers.

For instance -Palo Alto Software, in addition to the B2F series, hosts informational training sessions for all our software products every single month. The archived sessions are hosted on our website for people to watch them “on demand” and are always free.

In this first piece, let’s talk about the set-up.

Part One -Before the Event:

Create some goals– How many people would you like to register? How many people do you want to actually attend? (This number will typically be a smaller number than the number who registered). Will you push your product or service during the event or offer them a special price afterward as a thank you for attending.

Make all these decisions before hand because they will change the way you map out your webinar plan and market it.

Google Docs – If you’re working with a team of people, ie your webteam or IT person, a guest host, etc, it’s best to have your milestones and work flow written down so no one misses a deadline. Even if it’s just you, this is a great tool to keep your thoughts in order and you can access it from anywhere. I use Google docs because it allows me to share with all the people working on the event and allows real time collaboration without having to juggle multiple versions of a word doc and play “who has the most recent schedule” with everyone.

Webinar platform – Webex is arguably the most popular webinar platform out there. It’s a powerful and useful system and can handle a large amount of attendees. But it’s not the only game in town. There are other companies out there like  iLinc, or  ooVoo for very small one-on-one video webinars… do some research to find the one that works best for your needs and budget.

Topic – Have an engaging subject to talk about. While I’m sure you’re very excited to talk all about the product you want to sell, most people wouldn’t give up an hour of their day to sit through your demo. But? You’re an expert in your field, share your knowledge. Find a topic and focus on a portion of it. Give the attendee’s action points and give them something they can use right away. Information doesn’t count for much if they don’t understand how to put it into action.

Outreach- How do you plan to tell people about your event? Use your customer base to start with. These are your evangelists! Do you send out a newsletter? Include an article as a preview of the subject along with a link to register for the event. Send an email blast with just the basics of the event. Don’t overwhelm with too much information. You want to entice people to the event, not give them all the information before hand. Create an event alert in your Facebook or Myspace. Twitter and write blog posts supporting the topic and always include the link to register. You might think about creating a “badge” that goes along with everything. Think of it as the “logo” for the event.

Create excitement– You don’t want to flood your attendee’s but you do want to create excitement that they’re going to get a lot of good and valuable information by attending your event. Consider sending a survey a few days before the event to ask what they hope to get from the webinar. Listening to your audience will not only give you insight on what they’re expecting but also gives them a feeling of being engaged and included in the event and give them more incentive to attend.

Next time we’ll go over tips for the webinar itself and what goes on after the event is over.

‘Chelle Parmele
Social Media Marketing Manager, Palo Alto Software