One of the programs I manage within our affiliate department is the global Skype affiliate program. As the reach of our affiliate program has grown across countries such as Australia, Russia, North & South America, the UK, and Europe, it has become increasingly difficult to be able to communicate with all of our affiliates at the same time and to ensure that what we’re discussing with them is relevant. We continue to use crucial communication methods to speak to our affiliates such as newsletters, tweets, forum posts and emails as well as the all important face to face meetings & phone calls; however we wanted a more personal approach to our communication with our affiliates. We aim to host Affiliate Days with all of our clients, in which affiliates are invited along to meet key client contacts, share their opinions and receive insight into upcoming marketing plans. As Skype’s affiliates are scattered around the globe, we knew that an Affiliate Day would be extremely difficult to plan and implement in one country. We decided instead to run an affiliate webinar, hosted on Skype.
Before we held the webinar, there were a number of points that we needed to consider with regards to planning and co-ordinating. Firstly we had to consider when we were going to host the webinar. We decided in January that hosting the webinar in late April would give us enough time to agree on dates and times with affiliates and also co-ordinate other necessary administration. Outlined below you can see the key aspects and considerations we went through during the organisation & lead up to the webinar:
We launched an affiliate survey in January to obtain affiliate’s thoughts and feedback of the affiliate program. One of the questions we asked affiliates was if they were interested in attending a webinar with ourselves and Skype. We had a fantastic number of responses to the survey, which meant that we were able to begin with a good number of affiliates to contact directly and ask if they’d like to attend our webinar. We sent out a number of emails to affiliates who had indicated interest and confirmed the number of attendees to 20; a number that’s manageable in order to ensure that everyone on the call had a chance to contribute/ask questions should they wish to.
Before sending the invitations to those affiliates who were interested in attending the webinar, we had to work out which time zone to host the webinar in. The majority of affiliate attendees were either in Europe or Canada, with one in Australia and one in the US. As we, the hosts, were in the UK and our attendee from Skype was in New York we decided to host the webinar at 4pm BST as this worked most appropriately for the time zones involved. Once we had decided on the time zone and date, we worked with our affiliate network, Commission Junction, to obtain our affiliate’s addresses in order to post out personalised invites. Along with a printed invitation to attend the webinar we also sent affiliates a Skype headset and some Skype Credit – affiliates fed back to us that they really appreciated this personal touch. We wanted to be able to give affiliates an experience of the brand and hopefully become Skype advocates.
We sent the invitations out 4 weeks ahead of the webinar, in order to try and keep the date fresh in affiliates’ minds but also to ensure that we had enough notice of how many would be able to attend. We then had to follow up separately with emails to each invitee to see if they were still able to attend and to then ask them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to allow us to share Skype’s marketing plans with them. All attendees were happy to do this and it meant that we could make the webinar more interesting and insightful for affiliates. Throughout March we also worked alongside Skype to create the presentation that we would host on the Webinar, from an agency’s perspective we wanted to provide affiliates with an update on what we’d been working on for the program and what we hope to introduce to the base across the rest of 2012. Skype wanted to inform the affiliates of some key product updates and give affiliates an insight into product benefits and how they can promote Skype more effectively. The presentation was to provide affiliates with a look into what Skype are planning as a brand for 2012 and what Skype are looking to achieve in specific territories across the world. Having the knowledge of where affiliates were attending from also helped to ensure that the content that was to be covered was relevant to them.
Day of the Webinar
As we were hosting the Webinar via Skype, we had to ensure that we had all affiliates added to our profiles on Skype and that we had enough Skype Credit in order to have a Skype call with 17 people. This is because in order to have a call with the number of people we had on the webinar, we would require Credit in order to be able to host this. We then had to ensure that everyone was online at the correct time and had to add them to a group conversation. It was necessary to have two people hosting the webinar; I hosted the call from my computer and made sure that affiliates could contact me outside of the group conversation whilst my colleague led the presentation. Having the NDAs signed ahead of the webinar meant that we could share the presentation deck before the webinar started.
We also wanted to record the webinar so that we could share the session with any affiliates who were unable to attend on the day, to do this we used Vodburner, a device designed by a Skype affiliate, that allows users to record Skype video calls and edit them for free.
The timing of the webinar was also crucial; we left ourselves an hour and a half to go through the presentation and also wanted to allow affiliates to ask questions once the presentation was complete. It was also a great chance for affiliates to feedback their thoughts on the program and have discussions with other affiliates, similar to themselves.
After the Webinar
Following the webinar we were really keen to get feedback from affiliates on how they felt about the Webinar and to see if it matched their expectations. We sent a survey to all affiliates who had attended and received feedback which helped to confirm that it had gone according to plan. It was also a way for us to find out about which additional points affiliates may like us to include in future webinars. Through our continued communication with affiliates on the lead up to the webinar we were able to set-up individual calls with them following the webinar to discuss their performance and thoughts on the program which has greatly helped in improving our engagement with affiliates.
Key Takeaways if You Are Planning a Webinar
• Create a checklist of what needs to be done ahead of the webinar and work this back from your webinar date to planning date
• Consider time zones and locations of attendees
• Think about the need for NDAs to be signed and how any documents will be shared
• Decide on a platform to host the webinar
• If you want to record the webinar, ensure you’ve tested the recording device beforehand
• Where possible have a trial run of dialling everyone onto the call
• Always ask for feedback – you never know what others may have wanted/expected from the session
What We Achieved from the Webinar
• Better relationships with affiliates due to increased communication
• Affiliates fed-back that they felt more engaged with the Skype brand
• Helped us to learn what to prepare for ahead of future webinars
• Knowledge of what affiliates would like to see from future webinars