Remember the days when teleconferencing was all the rage? B-to-B marketing consultant Oveda Hancock of The Adevo Group, (who's been there, done that and then some) says that Web chats are not only much easier for marketers to run, but also chats are more likely to generate warm sales leads for you.
B2B Web chats operate just like B2C Web chats that you may have seen at AOL or Yahoo. Visitors log into a chat room online, and post their questions to a moderator. Then the guest star types in the answers to the questions. The event is more exciting than pre-written interviews both because it's live, and because readers get a chance to ask their own questions.
Here's what we learned from Hancock about running B-to-B marketing chats easily and effectively:1. Strategy:
Chats are a good way to open conversations, educate a marketplace and keep sales leads warm. Don't expect to close deals with them. Your guest star should be an expert that prospects want to interact with, such as an outside analyst or a techie at your own firm. Sales people are verboten.2. Scheduling:
Schedule a chat to last 30, 45 or 60 minutes. Hancock says the best days of the week are Tuesday-Thursday. "Mondays are horrendous and Fridays are difficult."
The best time is 2:30pm in the time zone the majority of your prospects are in. Hancock says, "Executives feel they need their mornings free to be productive, then at 2pm they are just trickling back from lunch. If they are just 5-10 minutes late for the chat, many people won't bother to attend at all. So, try 2:30pm."3. Getting Attendance:
Market your chat through the media that works best for you. Email, telemarketing and direct mail all work for different marketers. Hancock suggests sending the offer twice to your best list, to get the highest response.
To boost response, offer an incentive. Hancock says high-level execs prefer useful white papers featuring information that can improve the bottom line. Influencers (such as mid-level techies) can be won over with concrete gifts such as a leather card case. Don't use a high-ticket sweeps though because no one ever thinks they'll win.
Don't just publicize a day and time for the chat. Instead, tell people they need to register to attend. Create an auto-email that immediately sends every registrant an "official" ticket number so they feel they have "something tangible." (Yes, it can be the same number for everyone - they won't know.)
Two-three days prior to the chat, send a reminder email (or telephone call) to registrants that asks "if you can't make it, please forward your ticket to someone in your organization who can." You can also ask for pre-chat questions so people are sure their questions are answered. (Having a few canned questions on hand during the event itself can be a big help to get more questions flowing. Nobody wants to be the first to ask questions in front of their peers!)
Send one last reminder email the morning of the event. This reminder can make a critical difference in your attendance figures. Total conversion? Hancock says if you are marketing to a highly targeted list you can get 10-20% to register to attend a chat.4. The Chat Itself:
As we mentioned above, have a few canned questions ready to get things started.
Allow attendees to choose whether they'd like to be anonymous or not. According to Hancock usually about 50% will choose not to reveal their names, partly because their companies may not allow it. C-level execs are definitely more likely to attend a chat that allows anonymity.
Let everyone know at the start of the chat that they will receive a transcript afterwards. This allows them to relax and participate, rather than worry about taking notes. Also let everyone know that all pertinent questions will be answered, even if there's not enough time during the chat itself. You can add on answers to extra questions to the end of the transcript afterwards. Some companies even allow attendees up to 10 days after the event to send in follow-up questions.
Warn your guest star that you prefer all acronyms and other shortened technical terms to be spelled out whenever possible. Also, get a list of URLs that your star might link to, and check them for accuracy prior to the chat. URLs are easy to get wrong! 5. Post-Chat Follow Up:
Hancock highly recommends you send every participant a thank you note after the chat. When possible include a personal note about the executive's own participation, such as 'Your question on XYZ was a valuable one.' She says, "In our thirst to grow business on the Internet, people have lost touch with the human rules of business. Send a thank-you!"
Instead of sending the transcript as-is, bear in mind your company's professionalism will be judged by it. So, have a grammatical expert clean up punctuation, spelling and any incorrect URLs first. Plus, add in explanations for any acronyms or jargon. Then, after including additional questions that came in after the chat, send a copy of the transcript to all attendees in a format that's easy to read such as Word.
You should also consider sending a copy of the transcript, or a link to where it sits on your site, to everyone who couldn't make the chat itself. Let them know you're sorry they couldn't make it, you hope they'll find this valuable and you hope to see them next time.
VENDORS: Here are links to the five service providers Hancock recommended who can power your chat event:
NOTE: Hancock can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.