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Feb 07, 2001
Case Study

Web Conferences Beat Road Shows in Terms of Cost, Attendees and Sales Lead

SUMMARY: If your email inbox is anything like ours, you've probably gotten a lot of sales pitches from Web conferencing vendors recently. (Also known as "virtual events", "webinars" or "webcasts".) Now that business travel has been cut back and trade show attendance is down sharply, Web conferences are the marketing tactic-of- the-month. But, beyond the hype -- is this a tactic that could really work for you? Check out this detailed Case Study about how one marketer has used Web conferences to grow sales, and make up your own mind.

Like many B-to-B companies, AXENT Technologies (now part of Symantec) used to do a traveling road show seminar to reach potential buyers of products. Corporate Events Manager, Matthew Valleskey explains, "We'd go out twice a year to 20-25 cities and do a three and a half hour breakfast seminar. However, we found we were reaching the same people all the time and the cost and time involved to put these things together was getting really disturbing." Valleskey needed a way to reach a broader audience at a lower cost.


AXENT decided to test substituting live Webcast seminars for in-person events. The company's products were fairly expensive, ranging from $5000 to millions, so Valleskey wasn't depending on the seminar to make a final sale, but rather to educate prospects enough to move them to the next stage in the sales cycle. Therefore, instead of creating a seminar focused baldly on sales, Valleskey invented a monthly series of Webcast events that were truly educational.

He says, "The content was created by technical product managers -- they weren't marketing people. We stressed to presenters that the seminars were designed to be educational." Seminar titles, such as "Everything you need to know about VPNs" and "Everything you need to know about firewalls", were created to sound enticingly educational. His team members Kristen Gifford and Tammy St. Laurent would set up the process each month and manage the event.

Each webcast was just an hour long and consisted of 30 minutes of educational information about the topic, 10-15 minutes of sales pitch for AXENT's appropriate product, and 15 minutes of live Q&A. Attendees could email in questions at any point. The Webcast was based on Powerpoint slides with some animations and live online polling. Valleskey decided to steer away from live product demos, and he substituted a conference call line for voice over IP, because he felt the some attendees' bandwidth wasn't good enough yet.

Valleskey turned to the Lead Generation Manager, Barbara Thomas, who tested a variety of tactics to get executives to sign up for the Webcasts, including broadcast email campaigns to a house list of customers and prospects, advertising on his company Web site, notices in his company email newsletter, sponsorship ads in third party email newsletters, and of course direct mail.

Each Webcast only had "seats" for 100 attendees. Once one was filled, Valleskey added more to fulfill all requests. He also offered an archive link to executives who couldn't make the broadcast.


Webcast seminars beat traditional road show seminars hands down in terms of number of attendees, cost and sales lead "heat."

Valleskey's Webcasts cost just $21 per attendee versus an average of $175 per attendee for a road show. Executives were also more likely to accept a Webcast invitation -- AXENT was only able to persuade 4,944 executives to attend road shows in 1999, while 13,269 execs happily signed up for Webcasts in 2000. Quality did not go down as quantity rose, in fact just the reverse. Barbara Thomas says, "Webcasts have a much higher hot and warm percent over cold. For an in-person event we'd get maybe 2% hot, 15% warm and the rest cold. Online we're getting a much higher rate of 5% hot and 25% warm. That's fabulous."

In terms of traffic generation, Thomas found that email campaigns to the house list pulled the best, and email newsletter sponsorships also worked "very well." The only loser? She says, "Direct mail got us a negligible response. It's not worth it."

Last but not least, Vallesky found it took about 300 acceptances to fill 100 Webcast seats; and offering invitees the chance to sign up for the archived version if they couldn't make the live one was inspired. Hundreds took advantage of this.

VENDOR NOTES: After researching about 10 different companies, Valleskey selected Placeware to handle the webcasting. He says, "They had all the options we wanted, plus we had total control over the actual webcast site. With some of the other ones, you have to submit your materials to them and they set it up."

CREATIVE NOTES: Copywriting short email newsletter ads can be harder than you think. Here are two samples of Valleskey's ads to inspire you in your own efforts. (Note: the links are no longer good so we've replaced them with fake XXXX links.)

Newsletter Ad Sample #1

AXENT's VPN Webcast-Win a Palm Vx!
"Everything You Need to Know About VPNs." Learn how to: Implement VPNs for site-to-site, extranets, and remote access. See the differences between firewall, hardware, software, and router VPNs. Overcome interoperability, security, and IPSec concerns. Reduce costs and increase bandwidth & uptime.Register today: http://www.XXXXXX.XXX.

Newsletter Ad Sample #2
Subject: Attend FREE SSO WebCast!

Learn "Everything You Need to Know about Single Sign-On (SSO)" to enable employees to readily access corporate information while ensuring that your business-critical information is secure at all times.

Register for AXENT's WebCast today -
See Also:

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