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Which online meeting platforms are suitable for marketing, sales and service?
Online meetings and webinars for B2B companies
The topic of online meetings has been placed high on the agenda of many companies as a result of the coronavirus epidemic – quite simply because offline meetings are virtually impossible in times of a pandemic. But health concerns are not the only reason why web meetings have become more and more widespread in recent years. After all, Webex successfully went public 20 years ago. Since then, a flood of new tools has entered the market, making it difficult for organizations to find the right solution for their needs and not only cope with the digital transformation but also see it as an opportunity.
Web meeting, webcast or webinar? Zoom, GoToMeeting or Microsoft Teams? The answer to the question of which online meeting tool offers the right solution for your needs is quite simple – it depends. For example on whether employees working from home or from different locations need to internally coordinate their activities, whether you’re concerned with presentation appointments for customers, new customer acquisitioning or sales appointments. This guide explains which platform is suitable for a specific application.
The world of online meetings
There are many forms of virtual meetings, and the online meeting tools serve different purposes and meet different requirements. Below, we have grouped online meeting and event tools into various categories to illustrate which form of web collaboration is possible and which platforms are suitable. However, the grouping into categories does not always exactly concur with the functional cut of the solutions: Some providers combine different functions into a single platform or (as is the case with Microsoft Teams) integrate them into an entire product world.
Instant messaging services
Instant messengers are used for informal internal one-to-one or group communication using text, audio and video chats and for exchanging documents. “Informal” means that no appointments or meetings have to be scheduled for this form of communication. In principle, anyone can be accessed by anyone at any time – the only limitation being a person’s absence or the internal “competition” for available chat and meeting times. Instant messaging platforms therefore replace and bundle the relatively unstructured exchange of news and views in everyday working life that otherwise takes place face-to-face or via e-mail and telephone. However, as soon as larger groups or external participants need to be invited to a virtual discussion, most instant messaging solutions reach their limits.
Examples of chat platforms: Slack, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams
Web meeting software
Formal meetings are organized using online meeting software; with this software, screen content (e.g. presentations) can be transferred from the PC of a moderator or participant to the monitors of the other participants. This is complemented by integrated audio, video and text chat functionalities. Meetings are usually scheduled, but can also take place “ad hoc”, and are intended for an essentially closed group that can be made up of internal and external participants. These classic online meetings replace traditional offline meetings and can also include, for example, appointments with customers.
Well-known examples of online meeting solutions include LogMeIn GoToMeeting, Zoom Meeting, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts Meet and Cisco Webex.
Virtual whiteboard solutions
Whiteboard solutions display teamwork in real time and make it possible, for example, for several people to write and draw on the same whiteboard or pin virtual post-its on a shared work surface. They are used primarily for brainstorming, scheduling meetings, group work and interactive training sessions. They are often used in combination with web meeting or online training software as most of these do not integrate such powerful whiteboard features.
Examples of common whiteboard solutions are Miro and Mural.
Webinar and online training tools
Webinars (= web + seminar) are offered to customers or interested parties who register for them via a personal invitation or a link. Webinar solutions are based on the “1-to-many” lecture concept with presentation mode, webcam and screen sharing. Participants can give feedback during the presentation via text chat, but are usually muted in the audio conference. A good webinar software offers a wide range of specific functionalities, e.g. reminder e-mails to registered participants, a webinar landing page with topic descriptions and a login functionality as well as feedback channels such as surveys, votes or hosted question rounds. In webinars, the event host usually works on the basis of role distribution: One organizer can invite several speakers or moderators to share their sound, camera and screen and manage the feedback response of participants. Webinars replace conferences and presentations, whether internally, in sales or for customer training sessions. Webinars that are well attended are ideal for acquiring new customers.
Tools for online training sessions, i.e. virtual classrooms, cater to specific learning needs. These tools have more interactive elements such as test formats and feedback options, as well as integrated payments processing for course fees and issuing certificates of participation. In so-called “breakout rooms”, training participants can work on topics in small groups and thereby intensify what they have learned.
Examples of webinar platforms are Zoom Webinar, GoToWebinar and Cisco Webex; well-known online training solutions are GoToTraining, Cisco Webex Training, Blackboard, Saba and Moodle.
The term webcast is a combination of “web” and “broadcast”. Webcasts are more comparable with “live TV” than with an “online meeting.” They are either live web events that take place on a fixed date or recorded webinars that can be called up on-demand. With webcasts, the focus is not on participant interaction but on delivering a presentation to a large audience (1-to-very-many). They are intended for larger anonymous target groups of the kind associated with trade fairs or product presentations. Organizers and moderators guide the participants through the program and can share their screens, cameras and sound flexibly and play prepared videos. Live videos with product demonstrations or interviews with experts, for example, can be provided online as webcasts. Webcasts are not only cheaper than elaborately produced advertising videos; they also appear more authentic and are an effective means of generating leads. They can be made freely accessible by all, or the participants have to register.
Hybrid events are a special form of webcast: These are events using analog and digital components, such as a lecture to an audience that can react to the presentation with applause or by participating in a question and answer session. The presentation is streamed directly (usually delayed by a few seconds) or provided on-demand.
Well-known webcast offerings include GoToWebcast, Microsoft Teams live events, ON24 and Samba Live
Virtual events belong to the top tier of online collaboration: These are online events which, like a local congress or trade fair, bundle a large number of exhibition stands, presentations, sessions and interaction formats. Virtual trade fairs are held on fixed dates, with lectures and discussions following a fixed agenda and participants allowed to visit specific topics and interact with the speakers. Moderators guide the visitors through the virtual events which take the place of a real event.
Examples of virtual event tools: Slido, Expo-IP, Ubivent, Inxpo, Bizzabo
Selecting the right provider
When searching for a suitable platform, it is important to be able to correctly assess the features and priorities of the various solutions. What functions and possibilities do they encompass, what is their purpose and how important are they for your organization? You must also decide whether you want to pursue a “best of breed” strategy and, for example, license the best offer in its solution category, or lower the functional depth and instead choose a software with a wide range of functions able to handle as many of the above-mentioned application scenarios as possible. Big differences also exist between vendors when it comes to the possibilities of integrating with their marketing automation and CRM solutions. Your sales department will probably have a keen interest in also finding new prospective buyers directly in their CRM system who have registered for a webinar – along with the questions the lead had asked during the event. Your marketing department will certainly be interested in an easy to use and CI-compliant system by which invitations to the events can be handled across all channels. Your employees want a web-based tool that is easy to use and intuitive.
As a professional platform-independent service provider, Publicare supports companies in screening the numerous options and identifying the right offering for your requirements. In addition, we offer comprehensive services for planning, registering applications, preparing and holding online meetings, webinars, webcasts and virtual events of all kinds.
We will be happy to assist you with advice and support.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or require help in deciding which online collaboration platform to choose. Just let us know and we will be happy to help.