Insurance professionals should constantly be on the lookout for efficient, cost-effective ways to increase marketing reach –and webinars can be an additional tool to help agents achieve that goal. Webinars – seminars delivered via the Internet – are a low-cost way to deliver valuable content to leads, prospects, and clients. So why webinars, what should you cover, who can help you deliver your message to your audience, and how can you market your online seminars?

Why webinars?
Webinars offer a number of advantages to insurance professionals and can be used for prospecting, training, ongoing communication with clients, and networking with others in the industry. More than an opportunity for a one-way lecture, webinars can help you connect with audiences through live question-and-answer sessions, polling, streaming video, and other interactive features.

Of course, webinars aren’t always the most appropriate way to communicate with audiences and will never entirely replace live, face-to-face meetings or annual conferences that allow industry professionals the opportunity to connect in person. What webinars can offer, however, is a convenient, cost-effective way to disseminate information to a large number of people and to offer those unable to attend the live event the chance to access recorded information via CD-ROM or on demand.

Content is king
When considering a webinar, there are three key words that should drive your process: content, content, content. To be successful and avoid the dreaded sales pitch, you need to ensure that you’re giving people information they need and want – information that can help solve their problems.

Successful presenters find that the topics that resonate most are those that literally provide information that can help their audience solve a problem, save money, or save time. They can also offer some specific, tangible benefit. In short, you need to give your attendees something of value – not of value to you, but of value to them.

Another big draw is a webinar topic based on a recent change of great significance to your desired audience – impending changes in insurance legislation, new service offerings that represent significant client benefits, new statutes that create opportunity or that help minimize risk — all hold the potential to be hot topics. Of course, not all topics will be hot. However, all should provide a meaningful benefit to those who attend.

Time is money: choosing a provider
It’s not difficult to produce a webinar, depending on your needs and the level of quality you desire. Selecting a service provider involves a number of considerations that include:

  • Cost. Cost is, of course, always a factor, but with webinars, it needs to be considered in relation to the level of quality that you and your prospective or current clients demand and the brand image you wish to convey.
  • Quality. The quality of your presentation will reflect on you and the services you have to offer. A program that starts late, is hard to hear (or worse, is full of static or the incessant beeping of people joining and leaving the event), is difficult or impossible to connect to, etc., is one you don’t want to be involved with.
  • Accessibility. The ease of accessibility for you, the presenter, and your intended audience is an important factor. You want to make sure that they can quickly and easily gain access to your program at low or no cost to them.
  • Polling capabilities. The ability to ask your audience members a question and get a collective response is very useful and can be used to give you an indication of your prospects’ and clients’ preferences on services, processes, and other issues that can help you make improvements that will impact your bottom line.
  • Interactive capabilities. Your audience will appreciate the ability to interact with you through live question-and-answer sessions. The ability to hear a participant’s question privately and then make a decision to share the question with the group at large is also useful.

When considering providers, ask for and contact references. You should never make a decision without seeking recommendations from those who have used the service you’re considering. Remember, your reputation is on the line. In addition, ask to see a demo or participate in an event to get a feel for what your audience’s experience will be like. While reviewing your various options, assume the perspective of a potential attendee and pay particular attention to the sound and visual quality, watching for delays, static, and choppiness. From a presenter’s point of view, you’ll want to consider how easy it is to use the program and navigate the system and its functionalities.

Marketing your event
The good news with webinars is that the least expensive marketing tactics tend to be the most effective. Blast email and prominent exposure on your Web site will provide the best response rate and offer the convenience of low cost and short turnaround time.

Timing, of course, is important. Unless you’re promoting a timely topic, you should try to give your audience about four to six weeks’ notice.

A short teaser email containing a link to a full Web brochure works well. The best teasers will include the title, speakers’ names, event date and time, two or three key benefits, and a link to the complete event details and registration information. Make it as easy as possible for those who click through to register.

While including a notice of your event within other marketing materials (e.g., e-newsletters or print publications) can be good ways to reinforce your message, make sure that you’re also using standalone promotional techniques to generate the most attention.

A breeze for presenters
The traditional webinar format involves both audio and visual components, generally through PowerPoint presentations viewed on the Internet. As a presenter, your job is easy – simply talk and move through your slides and you’re communicating with any number of individuals who can literally be anywhere in the world. Based on your needs and preferences, your webinars can be either one-way or interactive. Some vendors are also offering video options, giving you the opportunity to connect with your audience through live video or pre-recorded footage.

Low risk, high impact, and the ability to archive content for use again and again – what could be easier than a webinar?

Linda Pophal is the marketing and sales manager for KRM Information Services, Inc. For more information, visit www.krm.com.