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January 22, 2013

How to Leverage Virtual Events for Your Small Business – Guest Post

New technology like tablets, smartphones, software apps and cloud computing can help small business owners redesign their operational processes to boost productivity, improve collaboration and save money. If you need convincing, check out these blogs on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website.
Webinar for Think Entrepreneurship

One related tool that has withstood the test of time is the webinar, also known as web conferencing, which has been on the scene since the 1990s. A webinar allows conferencing events to be shared with remote locations, enabling real-time, point-to-point communication as well as multicast communications from one sender to many receivers. Its younger, more sophisticated cousin is the virtual event, which is simply a gathering of people sharing a common environment on the web rather than meeting in a physical location.

The SBA offers the following half-dozen tips for getting more from your webinar platform and virtual events:

 1. Use it as a post-sale educational tool.

You may already be using webinars as a sales tool to showcase products, generate leads and educate potential customers, but have you considered using them as a post-sale learning opportunity for existing customers? One option is to use virtual learning webinars to pass along industry trends and new innovations, or to complement or replace field seminars.  “They can help position your business as a genuinely helpful brand and establish you as the go-to expert in the field,” says the SBA.

 2. Use webinars to improve SEO.

Content is king when it comes to driving traffic to your website. By archiving webinars you can improve you company’s search engine rankings. Broaden your visibility with product demos and educational events that are not only posted to the archived webinars on your site but also linked to from social bookmarking sites and promoted on your own social media channels.

 3. Integrate webinars with marketing automation systems.

Get more from your webinar activity by automating your email invites and tracking registrant information, reminders and more. Marketing automation platforms offer sophisticated querying to track leads from the source, be it email, newsletters or sales efforts. They also offer real-time registration and attendance metrics in your automation system for dashboard reporting.

 4. Incorporate virtual events into your offerings.

Virtual events are a little like attending a traditional tradeshow or conference, but without the hassle or expense of traveling there. Larger businesses use virtual events to supplement conferences and seminars, and to extend them nationally and globally to even more users. Virtual events offer virtual hosts, streaming webinars, online exhibit halls and other features to get your message across. Use them to replace in-person meetings with partners and customers or to offer new product briefings or reseller training. These events are particularly useful because they can be pre-recorded and archived for “always on” viewing.

 5. Launch your new products with a webcast.

Achieve maximum visibility and impact when you use a webcast to create a hybrid event or replace a live product launch event. Webinar platforms and virtual environments enable the integration of social media interaction and live Q&A for maximum engagement.

 6. Don’t forget employee training and communication.

Webinars are particularly useful if you team is virtual or scattered. Begin by using them as an integral part of your employee learning program and then branch out by using them to keep employees informed of the latest company developments.

About the Author:
Beth Longware Duff is a professional editor and award-winning writer whose work on a wide variety of topics has been published in print and electronic media. She currently writes on a wide range of topics dealing with electronic payment processing and small business resources for Merc

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