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Knowing where to start with webinars as a lead-generation source can be daunting for most marketing executives. It's tempting to host a one-time, make-or-break event that alone will determine whether webinars will continue to be part of the corporate marketing plan.

However, it takes time to understand how to devise the most compelling topics, and even more effort to plan how to reach the target audience with this relatively new marketing tool.

The reality is that B2B sales happen over a period of several months as trust builds between the prospect and the seller. Webinars may be used not just to bring new leads in the door but also to move existing leads through the pipeline to a final contract.

Therefore, rather than a one-hit approach, it makes more sense to determine where webinars fit into the overall sales cycle. A more productive approach is to review the next six months of the marketing calendar to see where webinars may fit as an integrated part of already planned campaigns.

When looking at a marketing plan, the following offer opportunities to evaluate possible webinar placement.

Product Launches

Hosting a webinar around the problem that a new product is designed to solve is an excellent webinar draw. It's never a good idea to blatantly promote a new product, especially in a webinar title and description. Doing so would turn off prospects and keep attendance low.

Instead, focus webinar content on the industry and the problem at hand; and, if possible, use a neutral outside expert. If the webinar offers valuable information, prospects will naturally turn to the webinar-sponsoring company for solutions.

Capability Promotions

Between product launches companies typically design marketing campaigns focused on key differentiators. If, for example, a company or service has an especially interesting security aspect to it, an integrated campaign on that topic with a webinar as part of the promotion could be powerful. Combining a webinar with a whitepaper can lead to a substantial audience draw.

Vertical Campaigns

If a vertical marketing approach is being taken for a specific campaign, it is an excellent opportunity to integrate a webinar into the plan. The more specific the audience, the more successful the webinar will be.

Webinars targeted to vertical markets can be promoted via specific sponsored newsletters, tradeshows and events, blogs, social networks and local meet-ups.

Industry Events

Is there major industry tradeshow or event on the schedule? Use that venue to inform prospects about a webinar specifically related to the topic of the event. Pay attention to the timing of this approach. The webinar can be pre-promoted using the tradeshow's attendee list (if access to the list has been negotiated) and hosted the week following the event, signing up additional attendees at the event venue.

Another option is to promote heavily at the show and hold the webinar several weeks later, allowing time for attendees to place the webinar on their calendar.

Regulatory Changes

If target prospects are facing new regulatory requirements, chances are it's top of mind to them, and using it as a webinar topic will no doubt bring attendees. However, be sure to have a valued perspective or information to enhance the prospect's understanding of the regulatory implementation.

Major Analyst Reports

Some reports are scheduled to appear annually, such as the Gartner Research Magic Quadrant reports. If a great positioning is expected, then a webinar should be placed on the schedule for report time. Of course, wait until the report is published to understand placement and positioning before beginning promotion.

The webinar topic can be centered around the theme of the report and a copy of the report offered to participants. (Usually these reports must be purchased from the analyst service.)

Channel/Partnering Programs

If a partnering program is already in place, an excellent way to increase attendance and interest for a webinar is to leverage these partnerships. A broader, more appealing topic can be created, joint opt-in email lists can be used and the cost of the webinar can be shared. It's a win for both parties.

Geographic Expansions

What better way to introduce a company to a new geographic area than with a locally focused webinar? Take the time to understand local customs for email, phone usage, language translations and time schedules before launching an international webinar, however. Customs vary from country to country.

* * *

Once a few webinars have been run successfully, the bottom line business value they bring to the sales cycle will be quickly realized. From there, new ideas for additional Web events and ways to cross promote with other marketing campaigns will no doubt follow.

The power of webinars to impress prospects adds another dimension to your marketing campaigns and, if titled and promoted wisely, can result in more qualified prospects to hand to the sales team.

Continue reading "Eight Ways to Integrate Webinars Into a B2B Marketing Plan" ... Read the full article

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura Heinrich is principal of Chocolate Vine (www.chocolatevine.com), a provider of webinar services; she has over 20 years of marketing and information technology experience. Reach her at info@chocolatevine.com.