A tale of two companies and their webinars

What is it that you really, really want to have happen as a result of your web seminar?  I mean really.

This point should go without saying, but it’s violated so often by purveyors of crappy online presentations that it’s worth tackling…via a brief case study that makes for a long blog post.

Consider this true story of two software companies who each obviously want to sell more product.  We’ll call them Gaius and Titius, and here’s a comparison of how their ultimate is different in how they executed on a web seminar program.

Product, Packaging, and Price
Gaius sells boxed software that provides sophisticated reporting and analysis.  It’s about $900.

Titius sells hosted supply-chain management software (“software as a service”) and accompanying professional services.  An annual engagement can run $25K to $250K.

Sales Approach
Gaius uses a small outside sales crew for major accounts, but most sales and deal qualification are done by an inside sales team.  The sales cycle is ~45-60 days.

Titius uses an outside sales team.  The sales cycle is six to nine months.

Demand Generation
Besides going out to the house email list of ~20K records, Gaius rented 100K email contacts from a suite of industry publishers.

Gaius has a house file of ~3500 email records.  While they buy display ads in industry publications for exposure and to drive lead capture on their website, their complex sale means they’re talking to many prospects in the same large account.  Most of those are identified through the sales team’s account management.

Primary Objective
Gaius’ primary objective is the ‘bounce back.’  In direct mail language, this means they need the otherwise unknown lead to register for the web seminar with valid contact information so that the inside team can effectively follow up.

Titius’ primary objective is thought leadership in support of the supply-chain management methodology.

Gaius’ needed to create an buzzworthy event that would cut through the noise, get the attention of press and analysts, and get cold prospects to show up.  They planned a product demo around a big new product release.  The opening few minutes of the web seminar was a welcome by the CEO, and this was followed by a product manager delivering features-advantages-benefits via PowerPoint and then a live product demonstration.

Titius needed to reach multiple different influencers in an account with content that spoke their language, building support and advancing the sales process.  For this they called on guest presenters, primarily industry analysts, customers who could deliver compelling case studies.  Each seminar targeted a different persona in the purchasing process – economic decision makers, technical decision makers, operational influencers.

Offer & Call-to-Action
Given the primary objective of capturing a lead, Gaius opted to offer a sweepstakes-oriented offer – register for the web seminar and be entered into a drawing for a tricked-out laptop.  Obviously they wanted people to attend the event, but their primary objective was accomplished simply if there was a registration with valid contact info.  The nature of the giveaway ensured that prospects offered up valid contact into (versus registering anonymously with a santaclaus at hotmail.com -type email address).

Titius’ need was the opposite – they needed people to attend and listen to the whole of the presentation.  Their offer was a variety of smaller giveaways that attendees only qualified for if they stayed until the end of the event and completed the post-event survey.

Gaius scheduled their web seminar for twice in the same day, once at 7am Pacific and once at 4pm Pacific.  This not only provided a choice to western hemisphere prospects, but provided business-day attendance options for EMEA and East Asia/Australia.  With 5200 registered, they had ~1900 attend, meaning the quantity of questions flying in was huge.  Interactivity with the audience was minimal (unfortunately!), but a few key questions were marked for answering in a Q&A session at the end of the presentation.  If you want to see how it’s possible to be interactive with 1000 people in the audience, watch the recording of my presentation found here.

Titius, on the other hand, executed a monthly “thought leadership series.”  Their audiences averaged 50 in size, and they optimized interactivity between presenters and audience members by making sure presenters were prepared to answer questions throughout the presentation.  This ensured attendees got their questions answered – arguably as valuable to influencing them (or more) as the rest of the presentation.

The moral of this abbreviated story?  A webinar is not a webinar is not a webinar – it’s an event that needs to be executed according to what you really, really need to accomplish.  Both companies succeeded in what they wanted to accomplish by going beyond thinking about making an ‘online presentation.’

Get specific about what you want – and plan everything else around that.

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