For companies like France's Systar, the prospect of Web-conferencing has enormous appeal. The international software firm creates business process and analysis applications, and communication between overseas offices and customers is essential to its marketing and branding campaigns.
Systar's office in Fairfax, Va., was looking for a way to increase name recognition and market share in the United States. According to Kelly Michaud, Systar's U.S. events and lead-generation specialist, the challenge was to reach more customers without incurring huge travel expenses. "We didn't start marketing heavily in the United States until a couple of years ago, so we were kind of an unknown. We were finding it difficult to get potential clients to come to meetings and seminars."
The World Wide Web
Eventually the company struck on the idea of creating "Webinars," in which potential customers could log on to Web presentations and listen to the live narration via telephone. In addition to allowing the participants to be logged on from anywhere in the world, Michaud notes, Web-Conferencing helped the company better tailor its message by involving customers, company representatives and industry analysts. "The analysts are helpful, because many IT professionals listen to what they say before making a decision. With the three parties, it's a very attractive Webcast."
After experimenting with several firms, Michaud settled on Louisville, Colo.-based Web-Conferencing company Raindance. Bill Davison, Raindance's vice president of sales, says Systar's need to present globally is a big reason Web-Conferencing was so attractive. "Having moderators and participants across the country or the world is extremely common. It's one of the main reasons customers turn to Webcasting."
Unlike face-to-face presentations, Michaud notes, the Webcasts require some different skills and preparation. PowerPoint slides with builds, for example, do not work well in HTML format. "Every build has to become a separate slide, and one slide with a build could eventually turn into five slides."
She also notes that because the Webinar presenter is not speaking face-to-face with anyone, the company takes steps to make the presentations more lively. "With a Webcast, you may be sitting in your office reading your script – that can sound very flat. So I tell participants to give the presentation to us, so they know they are speaking to someone else."
Davison says Michaud's concerns about tone also bring another challenge – keeping the content short and sweet. It's a little more difficult keeping a participant's attention while they stare at a computer screen for an hour or more, he points out.
Michaud says the Webinars have been a successful marketing tool for Systar. The company continues to create and present them regularly, and the sales staff has even begun adding Web-Conferencing into regular sales calls. "Our sales force and marketing department now use Raindance three times a week. It saves money by not requiring us to travel to show someone our product. Rather, you can just take them through a Web tour right then and there."