Who uses webinars? The most common webinar leaders seem to be independent consultants who are their own brand, who are their own business. For them, webinars are both branding and customer acquisition, and there is often a package or product they are trying to pitch – the online equivalent of back-of-the-room book sales.
But a lot of other B2B companies are also using webinars to reach customers, primarily to generate leads.
What these two groups of webinar leaders have in common is that they both operate globally or at least nationally. Their clients could be anywhere, and they generally are everywhere.
But what about local business? Can local business harness the power of webinars for growth, too?
The very question is counterintuitive, because the huge benefit of using webinars is that you can reach out to 10 or 20 or 30 people in different corners of the world, all at the same time. Webinars are global. This benefit is lost on local businesses…or is it?
Make the city small again.
In Iowa City, it’s no big deal to pitch all your clients in a rented hotel room. After all, you can get from one end of the city to the other in ten minutes. However, trying to do the same thing in Dallas is quite a different matter. After all, you can get out from your parking lot in ten minutes…on a good day.
So if you are thinking of selling through a live seminar in a big city, maybe you should think about using a webinar instead, despite the hotel conference room obviously being more cheese-Danish-friendly. You might lose some of the energy, but you’ll make up for that with increased attendance. No longer will there be the huge transportation barrier, so many people you might otherwise lose will tune in.
Train across the city.
If you do training, you can make it easier for everybody by removing that transportation barrier. Roxana Nasoi of SERPlified was training freelancers in Bucharest, and she chose to do it by webinar. “Instead of people coming to the workshop right after work, tired and not in the mood, I’d give the chance to stay at home. Being freelancers, it’s the first thing for them – from home, comfort.”
Bring your team together.
If your business is dispersed across a large city, such as a retailer with 8 or 9 outlets, or a sales force spread out across the city, a webinar might just be the way to keep the team up to date. Your mobile team can all gather together for the latest developments so that they not only know what is going on, but build team spirit at the same time.
There is an element of training involved in this approach, too.
Take the team on a trip.
There might be a huge value to attend that industry conference in San Francisco, but there is an even huger cost to fly the whole team from Lansing out there. However, there is a much lower cost to fly one member of the team, then to lead a live Webinar on site, broadcasting back to the team in Lansing.
In fact, travel cost savings is one of the benefits identified by Jan Enns, who runs training webinars for municipal governments. “Not everybody is located in the big city, and travel budgets are sometimes tight. People from smaller towns can participate in a webinar, even if it would be harder to afford a conference-type event in the city.”
Reach out to customers.
If you have a fairly loyal customer base and an identifiable niche, you could use webinars to introduce products. For instance, a pet store could host a webinar each time it has a few new items for cats, and invite all the cat-owner clients to attend. What a powerful tool this could be if combined with an online order form and a home delivery service. A local business could make life so easy for its customers that the competition would be drooling.
A car dealership could run car-care webinars live from their garage, and subtly sneak in some information about new models, and less subtly remind people of service packages such as winter tune-ups and tire rotations. They would remain top-of-mind with consumers, keep customers loyal for servicing, build anticipation for next vehicle purchases and probably attract quite a few new customers, too.
This works for B2B marketing, as well. Jan Enns often leverages webinars for lead generation. Once participants get a taste of a program’s value from the short webinar, it is a much shorter leap to sign up for a full-day, live session.
Deliver a service by webinar.
Almost any training or how-to service can be delivered by webinar. Virtual companies and people working online know this. There is no reason a local business can’t also do this, as Fit Liner Training is doing for its fitness clients, with the motto: “Train under supervision from the comfort of your home.”
Fit liner is using the ClickMeeting webinar services, which is developer friendly; they actually plugged into the API so that customers had a single sign-in and payment process. Not only can people train without having to go to the gym and pay big bucks for a personal trainer, but they don’t have hassles with their online experience, either.
Keep them loyal.
One of the most innovative ways a webinar can be used locally is to invite customers to join in after their purchase. For instance, you have just sold a piece of equipment to a customer, and with their invoice, you show them the invitation to discover “9 more really useful ways you never thought you could use your Equipment”. Tell them to invite a friend. And bring popcorn.
This post-sale strategy will solidify the customer’s loyalty for the next time they need similar equipment. Let’s face it, this is something they will remember, because nobody else is doing it. It will get them talking among like-minded consumers of similar equipment. And it will bring some new customers to the webinar.
The SEO advantage.
How many local businesses have top-notch content on their websites that drives natural link-building and social signals? Not many. Webinars can drive traffic, and people will link to them and share them on social media.
In fact, you could send each participant a video or a link with a prompt to tweet or to share on FaceBook. “Webinars are great content for sharing on social media and building up your website’s profile,” says Keran Smith, Chief Strategy Officer of LYFE Marketing. “It is content, in every sense of the word, and it has the allure of appearing interactive, even after the fact.”
And in the waiting room.
Sure, put them up on your website, but what about in your waiting room. Medical offices and garages, children’s activities (such as dance and gymnastics) – so many waiting rooms, so few webinars in them. Waiting rooms are boring and video can help better engage the waiters. The best way to get people to sign up for your next webinar is to show off past webinars, at the same time solidifying your relationship with your customers.
Expand around the world.
Of course, the most obvious way for a local business to use webinars for growth is by reaching out to new markets beyond the local community. This is a cost-effective way to expand one’s market. The business in Iowa City does not have to open up an installation in Davenport right away; it can first build up a customer base without the start-up costs of a new location, then open up a storefront when its customer base is already in place.
Roxana Nasoi discovered that her Bucharest webinars were increasingly being attended by people outside the capital, in other corners of Romania, without any proactive outreach. Such is the viral nature of webinars, breaking down the barriers of geography.
It also means that the business in Iowa City can reach markets in Saskatchewan, Maryland and Norway – anywhere, really. It means that a local business … doesn’t have to be local anymore.
I am sure there are dozens of other ways that a local business can grow stronger by using webinars. But ten ways is enough for now.