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Using the web to conduct seminars or deliver product education can be a potent yet cost-effective way to reach a global audience.

BY SANGEETA ANAND

Tight market deadlines and increasing pressure on marketing budgets are factors encouraging New Zealand exporters to find more efficient ways to reach their markets and suppliers. Webinars not only offer a cost-effective alternative to a physical meeting, they save valuable time while offering most of the benefits of the real thing.

WHY WEBINARS

Webinars enable a direct relationship with prospective clients and suppliers in remote markets. As part of a well researched and implemented export marketing plan, webinars may help New Zealand exporters create sustainable, long-term business relationships, says a New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) spokesperson.

“Webinars, particularly live ones, provide an opportunity to ‘meet’ the people behind a business, and to build awareness of your company’s brand.”

Exporters can deliver high-impact presentations using a telephone and computer. The power of a webinar is the simplicity by which a strong audio and visual message can be sent to a dispersed audience, says Vicky Labroski, marketing manager (Asia Pacific) for Arkadin, a global audio and web conferencing provider.

“Companies in New Zealand looking to export can use webinars to maximise visual impact and extend reach to those who cannot attend a live product showcase.

“You are also helping the environment by reducing the pollution from transport.”

WHEN TO USE A WEBINAR

Webinars can be used in any situation where the audience is physically removed. For example, car-maker Nissan has a global presence and uses webinars for regular sales meetings with field staff.

New Zealand exporters can make presentations to suppliers or buyers located in another country or dispersed location; they can be used for new stock demonstration, weekly team meetings or quarterly supplier announcements.

“Webinars are perfect for sharing pricing spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations or your entire desktop.

“They can create a perfect environment for brainstorming, idea exchange or showcasing a new product,” says Labroski.

Webinars also provide valuable market intelligence. “They can be a low-cost way of helping to test the appetite for new services and products in international markets,” says the NZTE spokesperson.

“Webinars can work well as educational events, when the audience wants to learn more about how to solve a problem. Therefore, they may provide an opportunity for New Zealand companies to position themselves as experts in niche fields.”

THE RIGHT WEBINAR SERVICE PROVIDER

Free and paid-for services are available. While the free services can be useful for smaller, internal audiences, exporters should consider the risks associated with security and reliability while running external meetings.

“To confidently convey a critical message, new product launch or company announcement, organisations need to rely on companies like Arkadin that are dedicated to providing a professional service,” says Labroski.

Before hiring a webinar service provider, the exporter should run a trial (but real) internal webinar, probably with their remotely located staff. They should look for potential issues like difficulty of set up, the quality of audio and video, and technical service before, during and after the webinar.

It is worth checking whether the service provider can offer a copy of the webinar to publish on your website for clients or others who could not attend. Seeking client references from the webinar provider is essential too.

Most providers offer two types of pricing plan: pay-per-user-perminute or pay-per-licence. The cost will depend on the duration and extent of services bought.

PREPARING FOR A WEBINAR

One of the reasons many exporters don’t use webinars is technophobia – fear of technical difficulties. But they’re not complicated.

For the moderator, or host, the webinar provider will give you a dial-in number, a PIN and a web link where the webinar will be streamed.

These details remain yours for as long as you need.  Similarly, a PIN is given for the participants. The PIN is unique to moderator and participants.

“This is an added level of security provided by Arkadin for the moderator. It enables moderators to confidently host a webinar anywhere in the world,” says Labroski. “As a participant you will receive an invitation with the dial-in details and a web link.”

The dial-in number and PIN provide access to the audio part of the webinar while the web link is crucial for the visual component. “Essentially, the telephone and the web are integrated to provide a seamless virtual meeting,” says Labroski.

Moderator and participants require a telephone and computer. However, if there are participants who cannot access a PC and the internet, they can join in via a telephone conference call.

MISTAKES TO AVOID

Webinars provide an audio and visual communication channel, yet lack the personal touch. While a good medium for breaking the ice, beginning a relationship and even for follow-ups and after-sales service, it may not be the best way to persuade your prospects and close a sale.

A common mistake is lack of clear goals for the virtual meeting. “You need to have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve before committing to use webinars,” says the NZTE spokesperson.

The spokesperson adds that webinars are not appropriate for a sales pitch; they are for education.

“Ensuring you provide relevant and focused information that helps the audience understand how your company’s products and systems can help them is important.

“Your marketing tools provide a critical first impression. Spend time producing worthwhile content that is suitable for the international audience and that reflects your company’s brand.” [END]

Sangeeta Anand, is an international writer specialising in business, supply-chain and technology. She has written for several publications in New Zealand and overseas.

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