Yesterday I highlighted depressing statistics from an Allegra and Ascend2 study on "Content Marketing Trends from the small and medium-sized business perspective." We found that executives at very small companies viewed webinars as ineffective and difficult to create.
I promised to suggest ways that small companies can improve in both areas, even when faced with limitations on resources, strategic sophistication, and budget. So here goes…
Since the study responses primarily came from executives and managers rather than "worker bees," let's start with the issue of strategy.
Tip number one is to give each webinar a specific goal it should achieve. It is common for resource- and time-constrained companies to try to get more bang for their buck by making webinars serve multiple purposes.
Too many businesspeople think of webinars like television infomercials. They try to combine initial awareness-building, credibility establishment, needs-based marketing, product education, defeat of sales objections. and inducement to place an order.
That's a lot to take on, and it raises difficulty levels through the roof. You end up with muddled messages appropriate for prospects and customers at different points in the sales/marketing cycle, too many informational points to deliver or to remember, and an overload of content that has to be skimmed through too quickly.
So create a content marketing strategy that separates content into goal-based and target-based use cases. Each piece of content (in this case, a webinar) can be shorter and clearer. Promote them unambiguously, letting people know exactly what audience the webinar will be appropriate for. Let your audience opt not to attend, leaving you with fewer numbers of attendees, but greater influence over the ones who show up, because they are the audience the content is built for.
Tip number two is also for managers and executives. Find the best public speaker in your little business, and make her or him the official webinar voice of the company. Make webinar satisfaction survey results part of their job evaluation and performance review. Give them the time and the mandate to create great webinars as part of their job… Not as a distraction from their job. Webinars present your company and offerings to the world. How they are presented matters. A lot.
Tip number three relates to difficulty in creating a quality webinar. Stop trying to make a webinar emulate a white paper or data sheet. Too many webinars are created as e-Books on PowerPoint slides. They are designed so that the slides can stand on their own as a handout, with the presenter left to read the text to attendees. Not only does that take a lot of work, it results in something that attendees hate, leading to dissatisfaction and ineffectiveness.
The reference study claimed that "photos/illustrations" are among the easiest types of content to create (proving that responses came from executives rather than designers!). Okay, then get more photos and illustrations into your webinars. Most of my webinar slides consist of a title to get a single point across, with a full-slide graphic illustrating an evocative supporting concept. It keeps things moving, keeps audiences listening, and keeps informational points separate and distinct.
Want an even easier way to create webinar content? Get some subject matter experts. Create a short agenda of discussion topics. Create a simple title/graphic slide for each topic. Create a slide for each speaker, with their headshot, name, and title. Then let your "voice of the company" webinar speaker lead the subject experts through a round table discussion of the planned topics. You show the slides that correspond with topics and the person speaking. Easy and engaging.
Finally we come to budget. Here we have to deal with costs involved in webinar production versus costs involved in webinar promotion. The latter allows an infinite range. You can spend as much on "marketing your marketing" as you have available. Most expensive is list rental or partnership with a publishing company that has a huge opt-in contact list they can mail to. That's probably not reasonable for small businesses. But there are plenty of things you can do to promote your webinars on a budget. Examples include:
- Give your sales team a registration link to add to their email signatures
- Put a news release on the wires with registration details to get it indexed in search engines
- Promote it on your website home page
- Put it in your blog or newsletter
- Put it in a popular industry newsletter
- Ask a bigger partner to participate as a guest expert and promote it to their house list
- Mention it on a professional interest group on LinkedIn or Facebook
As far as production budget, we all know the big name webinar technologies who spend a lot to advertise themselves. Most of them have little interest in serving the micro-business market and little incentive to offer you price breaks. But there are alternatives that can cost much less to license and use for your webinars. Make sure your chosen technology can handle your projected maximum audience size and the type of content you want to use (such as animated PowerPoints, live screen sharing, or video clips). You may need to give up some flexibility and functionality in favor of lower prices.
I hate to start throwing around technology suggestions, as I haven't used some of the smaller products and for every one I mention, I get hate mail accusing me of favoritism from competitors that didn't get mentioned! I have no stake in these, but just to give you a taste of some lower cost alternatives that can potentially satisfy smaller business needs, try browsing through my list of vendor links on the Webinar Success website. You'll find names you probably aren't familiar with such as:
And many, many more.
I'll close with a final reference back to that previous article. Webinars tend to be rated highly effective across larger-sized enterprises as content marketing vehicles. While larger companies have an advantage in terms of available personnel and budgets, there is no reason you can't benefit from webinars in your small business as well.