3 Webinar Solutions To Know & Love

By Allison Howen

Gone are the days when the only way for a business to hold a conference or seminar and deliver a message to a large group of people was to do so in person. In 2014, companies are putting technology to use and turning to webinars.

Webinars are essentially seminars, or meetings, that are held on the Web. This marketing tactic is becoming increasingly popular as it enables businesses to reduce event and travel expenses while still sharing their products and messages with a global audience. Webinars offer other benefits for companies too, such as lead generation and brand awareness opportunities.

In order to experience the benefits, businesses must not only create a content plan for their webinars, but also choose the right technology to help them run and promote their events. While there are many platforms available on the market (for a complete list, visit wsm.co/webinarsolutions), the three solutions discussed here are suitable for every kind of 'Net professional, regardless of expertise or industry.

AnyMeeting - The Small Biz Star

AnyMeeting is an online meeting solution that is ideal for small businesses. Through the platform, Web professionals can conduct a variety of meeting types, from one-on-one video calls to a 200-person webinar.

AnyMeeting offers an assortment of features, including the ability to create custom registration forms so businesses can collect insights from attendees. In addition, the platform offers post-webinar surveys and social integrations so marketers can promote events on Facebook and Twitter.

Easy as 1-2-3

Get your webinar up and running in three easy steps - wsm.co/runevents

Although not the most popular registration choice, companies can also sell tickets to their webinars using AnyMeeting's ticketing feature.

"If a presenter is seeking leads for their business by hosting informative webinars for prospective customers, they may not want to sell tickets in order to maximize attendance," said Costin Tuculescu, CEO and founder of AnyMeeting. "However, if the content of the webinar is itself the presenter's product, then they may want to charge for attending."

When it comes to the actual presentation, AnyMeeting provides screen-sharing capabilities for hosts, allowing them to share anything from PowerPoint presentations to Web pages with attendees. Participants can also interact with presentations via the platform's in-meeting chat feature or by virtually "raising their hand" to let hosts know they have a question.

AnyMeeting definitely excels when it comes to usability, but there are other sophisticated solutions on the market that also deserve a look.

ON24 - The Funnel Focuser

ON24 is a webcast solution for businesses of all sizes. The platform can be used to host events with more than 10,000 attendees, as well as offers an assortment of tools to help marketers garner the best ROI from their webinars, including analytics and integrations with customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing platforms.

For instance, ON24's real-time graphical dashboards include detailed, custom reporting on activities of each attendee, including total viewing time, content downloaded, poll questions answered, questions asked, survey results and group participation. Through the platform's reporting, hosts can gauge the level of interest and the value of each lead. Using ON24's Webinar Benchmark Index, marketers can even compare their webinars with those of their peers and use the data to improve the performance of their programs.

Perhaps the best capability of ON24, however, is its ability to integrate with marketing automation platforms, including Salesforce, Marketo and Eloqua. By integrating ON24 with marketing automation platforms, ON24 VP of Marketing Lars Christensen notes that marketers can quickly evaluate registration data and load it into CRM systems for future sales initiatives.

"ON24 customers have near-immediate access to registration and webcast data that can provide demographic and behavioral insights," said Christensen. "These insights work to shorten sales cycles and can be leveraged to qualify leads more effectively and identify sales-ready opportunities."

ON24's reporting features and integrations make it a great solution for small and large businesses, but Cisco still may be leading the pack when it comes to scalability.

WebEx - The Lead Manager

Cisco's WebEx Event Center is a leader in the webinar space thanks in large part to its scalability, reliability and robust feature set.

The WebEx platform supports up to 3,000 attendees and comes with tools to help users manage their events from start to finish. For starters, the platform offers customized forms that enable marketers to collect both personal and demographic information from attendees. Plus, marketers can include standard and customized questions within registration forms to gather unique insights and identify the most qualified leads.

When it comes to event management, users can automate certain tasks within the platform's Event Center dashboard to save time spent on tasks like registration approvals. WebEx also offers automated email functionality to help marketers stay connected with participants before, during and after an event.

During the presentation, WebEx provides a plethora of interactive features to keep attendees engaged. For instance, hosts have the ability to display up to five panelists at a time, or just one speaker in full-screen. Hosts can also share presentations, demonstrate products and stream video files. Moreover, speakers can interact with attendees in real-time via polling, chat and threaded question and answer functionality. If all of the aforementioned features seem overwhelming, WebEx offers collaboration services to provide clients with expert help.

You're Invited

There are many reasons businesses should host webinars, but the challenge is finding the right technology to support the event. Outlining goals and expectations, however, can make the research process a much easier task.