As buyers and managers, women account for just over half of all corporate purchasing power. As business owners, they're responsible for employing more people in the United States alone than the entire global workforce of Fortune 500 companies. Women started 70% of all new businesses over the last decade, making them a prime audience for companies selling to small business.

Consumer goods retailers and manufacturers have studied the psychology of selling to women for more than half a century. From the influence of elevator music in the grocery store to coordinating car colors with the hottest fashion colors on the runways of New York, specialty marketing to female consumers is commonplace.

However, more and more companies are beginning to question the importance of using a specialized marketing approach to reach women in business. Do women executives and business owners use different criteria in decision-making and vendor selection? This issue's dilemma asks: How important is it to tailor your marketing approach to women in business?

Want to leave the gender debate to the others? Let us know what keeps you awake at night. What dilemma do you take with you when you leave the office? Your peers would love to help. Write to us and ask our SWOT Team about your dilemma. Tap into the collective strength, wisdom and experience of this group. It works, and you could win a free copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

Revisit our previous dilemma—read below for your peers' best advice on how to launch a product in several markets simultaneously.

Unite and make a difference!

This Issue's Dilemma

SWOT Category: External Opportunity

Do we need a special marketing approach for our female clientele?

I've been reading and hearing more lately about the importance of reaching women buyers on a different level. We have successful Human Resource Automation software that we want to introduce into and position for new markets.

Over 75 percent of our user base, decision-makers and influencers are women. We are considering tailoring our approach to them and would like to hear feedback and experience from fellow SWOT Team members.

—Janet Helmsley, Company Anonymous

Previous Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Strength

How can we develop successful webinars that generate high-quality leads?

We are considering adding webinars to our marketing mix. I've attended quite a few of them and have seen a range, from “infomercial-style” to high-profile “celebrity” events, with most landing somewhere in the middle as product information sessions.

I'm not sure which is the best approach and am interested in what approaches SWOT Team members have tried. Please share your experiences. What methods did you use to increase attendance and the quality of leads?

—Anonymous, VP of Marketing

Summary of Advice Received

Anonymous, your experiences as a webinar attendee can be echoed by most. Unfortunately, the ones that are handled poorly are the ones we are most likely to remember, and they color our willingness to attend future events. Todd Davison, CEO of Bulldog Solutions, sums it up with this:

No one wants to attend a webinar that's an infomercial. Instead, pick a subject that really speaks to the audience you want to reach—one that is educational or answers a problem they face. What are your audience's “hot buttons?” If you offer a topic they need to know about, you'll grab their attention. Give them useful information and a learning experience.

We've come a long way in adapting a more customer-centric approach in marketing, but in many cases not far enough. Webinars are often misused as an opportunity to hard-pitch a company's wares in front of a captive audience. Unlike their TV infomercial counterparts, webinars are not as likely to keep the attention of a busy executive with offer after offer of “but wait, there's more.”

SWOT Team members provide their best advice for delivering professional and polished presentations, with a particular focus on hosting great events that bring you high-quality leads. Here's what they had to say:

  1. Qualify your reasons for hosting a webinar.

  2. Use four strategies for a full house.

  3. Keep the registration process simple

  4. Give attendees more than they expect.

  5. Don't forget the post-event follow-up.

1. Qualify your reasons for hosting a webinar

One thing we're constantly reminded of as SWOT Team members is to be specific about our objectives before we launch a marketing project or campaign, and webinars are no different.

Don't let the ease of hosting an event with a computer and a phone line lull you into a false sense of security. Webinars take work. Knowing what you want the end game to look like, before you begin, is critical.

Linda Kazares of ConnectedIN Media understands your challenge and points out that a common mistake in hosting events is spending too little time on pre- and post-event strategy:

By following certain fundamentals before, during and after the show, exhibitors ensure their success—more qualified leads, higher sales, lower overall costs, and shorter selling cycles.

First, establish a clear vision. A successful webinar event begins with a vision. Without a vision that everyone involved can internalize, the event is just an exercise in financial and resource consumption. Establish objectives by asking these two questions:

    1. Why are we hosting an event?

    2. Who are the best people to participate?

Set guidelines for what the company expects to get out of the webinar and define your measurement criteria. Qualify your objectives by answering the following:

  • Why is a webinar important at this stage of the company's development?

  • What do we expect to accomplish?

—Branding?

—New leads?

—Affirming our size and presence in the industry?

—Entertain or inform clients?

—Other?

  • Is the time spent on the webinar—from planning to tying up sales personnel—the best use of scarce time and resources? If not, what's the alternative?

The goals you establish drive everything else. Setting them down on paper and integrating Operations, Marketing, and Sales in the process will improve the chances you'll reach your target.

2. Use four strategies for a full house

All other factors being equal, attracting a large-enough audience to make hosting an event worthwhile is a challenge in itself. Todd Davison offers his expertise on how to gain adequate attendance:

1. Leverage existing relationships. Take a good look at your trade groups, associations that pertain to the topic, your affiliates, and your vendors. How can they help? Perhaps they may co-sponsor the event; publicize it in their newsletters; place a registration link on their Web site. Ask them to participate in some way.

2. Use your customer base. Unless you're a one-product or one-service provider, your existing customers should be contacted often. They already know the value of your company and are very likely to attend the webinar. However, all too often, they may not know about your new offerings. They are your best prospects.

New, qualified prospects are the lifeblood of any company. The goal of the webinar is to identify and deliver them. It's easier for new prospects to respond to an informative webinar, because their worry about the sales pitch is lessoned.

3. Merge promotion into your normal marketing program. That is the most economical method, because there is little or no additional cost. All your advertising—search engine ads, newsletters, e-mail, banner ads, your own Web site, even print and broadcast—is ideal for mentioning the webinar and giving the link to register. It's a response builder also.

If you exhibit at a tradeshow, have fact sheets and registration materials on display and urge staff to meet, greet, and mention the helpful free webinar. Talking about the webinar may quickly lead into serious discussions of products and services on the spot.

4. Special campaigns get attention. In addition to merging the webinar promotion into your normal marketing, test some solo offers. These should feature the content, the value of attending, the convenience, and provide an easy way to respond. As you discover the value and results of webinars, you'll budget more for special campaigns.

3. Keep the registration process simple

Companies often falter with the registration process, either asking for too much information from prospects or not offering enough information about the webinar event to compel them to attend.

An Anonymous SWOT Team member offers this advice for streamlining your registration process:

Develop a simplified registration process. Limit your sign-up form to contact information and one or two quick qualifying questions. If you can get potentials clients to the webinar, you will have more opportunities to communicate and qualify. Don't let your registration questions scare them away.

It's also important to give enough information about the event. I have seen sign up forms where they ask a long list of qualifying questions, and say almost nothing about the event, including the date and time. When I see that, I know right away that the webinar is really a product pitch session.

We've also instituted a “follow-up after registration” campaign. Things always come up and we lose registrants. When we follow up with several reminders 10 days before, 3 days before and the day of the event, our attrition rate goes down.

4. Give attendees more than they expect

Never underestimate the power of incentives and bonuses to motivate action sooner rather than later. Although they should not be used as the primary draw for your event, they can provide additional value to your attendees and increase attendance. When tied in with the central topic and theme, they can also help to further qualify the interest of your attendees.

Soni Pitts, Founder and Coach of Restless Spirits, offers this refreshing insight into the impact and power of delivering surprise bonuses that exceed the expectations of attendees:

Always leave your attendees (who should be thought of as guests, really) with more than they came for. In some cases, that might mean following up the webinar with an unannounced special offer or bundle that puts your guests in the position of “special and appreciated customers,” but doesn't have that faint tinge of cheesy marketing that the same offer, advertised ahead of time for the sake of funneling in attendees, acquires.

In other cases, it may mean creating a special resources Web page for guests that gives them exclusive free access to valuable information, services and/or resources related to your webinar subject—information that is not covered by, and is therefore a value-add, to the webinar content.

In any case, always make sure your webinar guests leave the presentation feeling like they were “positively” misled by your marketing promotions—they signed up for milk and cookies and came away with champagne and caviar.

5. Don't forget the post-event follow up

Now that you've filled the event and dazzled your attendees, what's next? Follow up, follow up, follow up. This vital and often neglected last step is really a first step in the next stage of your sales cycle.

An Anonymous SWOT Team member offers this formula for maximizing the value to you and your attendees in post-event follow up:

Set the expectation of webinar attendees that you will be following up after the event. Conduct a survey at the close of your event to gain immediate feedback and further qualify attendees. This also opens the door to dialogue for your post-event follow up.

Aggregate survey results into a report that will help attendees understand how they measure up on a particular issue. This gives you something of value to offer to prospects on your follow up call, and makes it worthwhile for them to invest their time in completing the survey.

After the event, send each attendee a thank-you email and get your sales force on the phone to make personal contact with those who expressed serious interest. This should be done within two days of the event for maximum impact.

Great, quality leadership, SWOT Team—thanks again!

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your responses to this timely topic. All of the advice we received was insightful. Thanks for your participation. We appreciate it!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Yvonne is a “customer engagement coach” and President of EVE Consulting, helping companies achieve sustainable market leadership through the power of customer engagement.