Use Webcasts to Reach Clients as Travel Declines

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With most travel budgets dwindling in the corporate hi-tech sector, it is harder to tear precious sales prospects from their desks to come and hear an educational product seminar. Across the hi-tech industry, enterprise companies are requiring knowledge on how to invest their information technology infrastructure but have less time and resources to do the proper research.


This is when marketers can get creative.


Always looking for a new way to reach our target audience - senior level IS/IT CTOs and CIOs - F5 Networks' marketing team faced the challenge of getting a series of messages to a specific audience of IT professionals in a creative and efficient way to save time and money for both us and the sales prospect. We needed to reach certain individuals responsible for keeping their business-critical Internet sites operating at top performance. And we had to ensure we got in front of purchase influencers, buyers and the people who would implement our equipment.


Webcast technology has proven effective, but continues to evolve. The industry is still in the acceptance mode of this type of marketing medium. There's been more talk recently about how the use of streaming media for broadband interactive marketing initiatives is paying off. And given that e-mail/online is the chosen method of communication with our target audience, it made sense to invest in this technology.


Even more so, as we looked into it, we found that not only were Webcasts getting the attention of the business professionals we wanted to reach, but also the cost-per-sales lead was amazingly lower than what it cost to get the executives out to seminars and sales events. Data from the Center for Exhibition Research show that Webcasts typically generate a higher-quality sales lead for around $100, where leads from sales calls will cost $259-$185; from trade shows, $142-$185; and from road shows, $150-$250.


Committed to this emerging medium, we partnered with ITworld.com not only to produce the Web-based event but handle the audience development, editing and tracking that are critical for an effective broadband interactive marketing campaign.


Our objective for this program was three-pronged: reach an audience of IT professionals, educate them about F5 Networks' solutions and generate quality sales leads for our sales team. Once we persuaded the target audience to view the program, our goal was to educate them about our product offerings and produce qualified sales leads via the registration, survey and audience polling questions.


The ITworld team of producers, marketers and electronic publishing specialists worked closely with the F5 Networks marketing team to develop the program. With a goal to generate at least 1,000 quality leads, we were fortunate to have access to ITworld's mammoth database of active IT professionals through its 38 newsletters and IDG news readers. Needing to first drive viewers to the site to view the Webcast, marketing the program to its 800,000-plus electronic newsletter readership as well as the family of leading IDG IT publications gave us a strong base to work from.


In a few weeks we were ready to go. F5 Networks debuted "Creating an Application Aware Network" that was hosted on ITworld.com (www.itworld.com/itwebcast/f5_control/) and accessible 24 hours a day for an initial three-month period. The ITwebcast platform is designed to provide an engaging viewer experience by combining high-resolution video and audio, slide and Web page presentations, search functionality, multi-language transcripts, an interactive Q&A capability and numerous other resources. It all can sync to exactly where the viewer clicks in the table of contents.


The on-demand program generated more than 1,000 quality sales leads with a cost-per-lead lower than other marketing programs. We were thrilled, as we didn't have to wait long to see results. Most importantly, we delivered qualified leads weekly to our sales force to follow up with. And the leads are still coming in.


Webcasts will remain a key component in the F5 marketing mix for the coming year. They are a cost-effective and direct way to educate our customers, partners and prospects on F5's industry-leading Internet traffic and content management solutions.


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