Using webinars to promote your business, part I

By Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC
Owner, Raising Canine, LLC
www.raisingcanine.com

In part one of this two-part article, we’ll address the logistics of webinars. Part two will review how webinar marketing works, and give you some ideas of how to find your target audience. However, please don’t let yourself be limited by these suggestions — there is no real limit to what you can do with modern technology, or to the ways it can help make your businesses better and more profitable. So, let’s get started on some logistics.

Technology

A webinar is basically an internet conference or seminar. Most webinars are PowerPoint-based (or the Mac equivalent, Keynote): you will usually create a PowerPoint presentation, upload it to the webinar software, then use the uploaded PowerPoint as your guide while presenting your material. You can also use video clips and other visual aids, and you can share your screen if there is something on your computer you’d like to share with your audience.

You can do pretty much anything in a webinar that you’d be able to do in person. There are some logistical drawbacks, such as a lack of real-time, hands-on feedback, but even that can be managed through live streaming. Webinars can be very short (a half-hour or less) or very long (held over several weeks), depending on the goal of your seminar.

Both free and paid webinar services are available. My recommendation is to begin with a free service, until you reach a point where a paid service will both pay for itself and generate more income. This may never happen, which is fine — keep using that free service! Some of the free services that are available are freeconferencecall.com, anymeeting.com, and joinme.com.

Another option is creating a telecourse. Telecourses happen over the phone and are simply a conference call. If you’d like to have visual aids for a telecourse, they will need to be e-mailed to the attendees prior to presentation. As with webinars, there are free and paid services. Free telecourse services include freeconferencecall.com, freeconference.com, and joinme.com. You can also combine a webinar and a telephone call, but that becomes more logistically difficult.

In today’s world, most people are expecting webinars. Webinars happen online, so there are no long distance telephone charges, and people from other countries can attend without spending a fortune. Webinars are today’s standard for online conference calls and seminars, so unless you have a specific reason to use the telecourse format, I would highly recommend them.

Although I’ve given you some examples, you can google ‘free webinar services’ or ‘free telephone conferencing services’ to find what’s available, as it changes all the time. You may want to experiment with different services until you find the one that best suits your individual needs.

Live or Recorded

You can record your webinars, so you can offer that webinar on-demand after the live presentation. You can also hold an ‘audience-free’ webinar, which is simply a presentation with no audience. By recording an audience-free webinar, you can easily create a presentation that is professional and gets your material across without interruptions or distractions. There are advantages to both. In a presentation with an audience, you can interact and get to know your attendees. On the other hand, a pre-recorded webinar allows for a very professional presentation, which you can restart if necessary. You can decide whether to hold your webinar audience-free or live, depending on the purpose of the webinar. We’ll discuss this more in part two of this series, when we talk about how to use your webinars.

If you plan on having on-demand courses, be sure you can download your webinar and keep it on your computer (or in the cloud). Depending on the service, you may or may not have long-term access to their system.

Branding

Any time you market yourself, you should have branding in mind. You should have a logo and consistent colors and fonts, and your overall aesthetic should be consistent and recognizable.

If you haven’t already, I would highly advise investing in a graphic designer or creative professional to help you come up with your ‘look.’ It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be professional. You can go to a crowd sourcing graphic design company such as 99designs.com, fiverr.com, and crowdspring.com.

Free or Paid Webinars

You can use your webinar services to market yourself or to generate income. The two can overlap, but you should have a specific goal in mind and price your webinar accordingly. We’ll talk about those specific goals and the audience you may want to target in part two of this series, but I do want to discuss the logistics of paid webinars here, in part one.

Ideally you’ll have some kind of shopping cart, such as PayPal, Square, or Intuit. You can do it manually (e.g., have them call or e-mail you and you run their credit card, or have them send a check), but you run the risk of losing the impulse buyer. Also, it’s a lot more work for you, and the ease of the new credit card service companies, such as those mentioned above, make it a lot easier and make you look more professional. Even if you don’t do webinars, you should think about accepting credit cards in your business.

One thing to consider when looking into a shopping cart is that cart’s ability to interface with your mailing service (Constant Contact, MailChimp, etc.). You’ll want the ability to set up an autoresponder. An autoresponder will allow you to set up all the information your enrollees need ahead of time, and that autoresponder will be sent automatically when they enroll in the course. Again, this saves you a ton of time, and helps you avoid errors.

Logistics of Setting Up a Webinar

The first thing you should do is think about the goal of the webinar. Your goal should be specific and measurable. Decide if it’s going to be a paid or free webinar — this will more than likely depend on the goal of the webinar. Decide on a topic for the webinar which will help fulfill your goal.

Then it’s time to start thinking about marketing your webinar. Will you need to get postcards or flyers created? Do you have an electronic or print newsletter to send out? How much lead time does your target market need? Lay all this out and decide on a date and time; be sure to mark that time on your calendar.

Once you’ve decided on a topic for a paid webinar, you’ll set your webinar up on your website, then go to your shopping cart, create a product, and get a link for that product and insert it into the call to action button on your website. If it’s a very long link, you can go to www.tinyurl.com and get a shorter link for printed marketing materials, newsletters, etc.

Set up your autoresponder with all the information the enrollee needs and connect it to the product in your shopping cart.

Now, sit back and watch those orders come in! Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a lot of enrollments at first. Creating a market for your webinars will take time and persistence, just as any other marketing endeavor does.

Once you’ve created the actual webinar and begun the marketing process, you can create the actual webinar. You have plenty of time to create the webinar, depending on how much marketing lead time you’ve allowed. Don’t wait until the last minute, though. It’s always a good idea to start thinking about the webinar early — jot notes, create an outline, etc. — and let your thoughts bounce around in your head for a while, add or delete ideas, and so on. You probably don’t need to actually have the webinar loaded into the webinar software until a couple of days before the presentation, which allows plenty of time for revision.

The most important things to consider when creating the webinar are your goal and the expected length of the webinar. Remember, the first thing you did was set a goal for the webinar — it may be a marketing goal or a revenue-generating goal, but the topic should work toward achieving that goal. Again, depending on your goal and your audience, the length of the webinar will vary.

Finally, the day of the webinar, make sure all your ducks are in a row — the webinar is uploaded and working, your dogs are under control, the kids are with the babysitter, there’s a note on the front door to not ring the bell, etc. Be sure to check your email regularly up until the webinar begins, as you may have attendees who are having logistical problems. Have the link ready to copy and paste into an e-mail for those who did not receive the autoresponder — believe me, it happens!

So, those are the main logistic considerations, although others can certainly pop up! After you’ve done a couple webinars, you’ll find they’re quite easy and fun. In the next issue of The Scoop, we’ll discuss specific markets and how you might use webinars to target them.


SueJJSusan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC is the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, which provides remote education for dog behavior consultants, as well as business and marketing products and consulting to help their businesses, including an intensive course for those wanting to become professional dog trainers. Sue is also the co-author of the book “Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds.” Sue is certified through CCPDT and IAABC. She is an ex-Board member for the CCPDT, an active, professional member of both the APDT and IAABC, and was named APDT Member of the Year in 2004.