Webinars and web meetings are all the rage, but that doesn't mean that businesses who conduct them actually know what they are doing.
We spent some time with entrepreneur Wayne Turmel to see how his company had turned this fact into a business opportunity.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
We help people who use web meetings (WebEx, Livemeeting, Dimdim, Citrix and the 124 other platforms like them) use them properly.
Greatwebmeetings.com offers two services. The first is training and coaching sales people, trainers and others who are using these tools with the best possible presentation, sales and facilitation skills so their web meetings don't, frankly, suck. The second service is helping companies that want to do webinars to do them effectively.
Where is your business located?
Glen Ellyn, Illinois. But the great thing about the virtual world is I have clients in the UK and across the country.
When did you start the business?
It started officially January 1 of this year, when I got "taken out and shot" at my last job. I was blissfully let go.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
This is my first official business. My career goes from 13 years as a stand up comic to spending the last 14 years in the corporate training industry.
My last position was as the Director of Faculty (fancy word for lead trainer) for Communispond, one of the world's great training companies in the area of presentation skills. I had 40 trainers around the world who worked for me. I have spent years writing and speaking on management and communication topics, especially as host of The Cranky Middle Manager Show podcast.
Where did you get the startup money?
The nice thing about getting re-orged out of a company you've been with for a long time is you sometimes get a generous severance package. With modern equipment and the ability to work from home, the cost of setting up a company -- even one that works internationally like mine -- is so much lower than it was years ago. Gotta love the internet!
Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?
There are a couple of traditional training companies that have "web-presenting" programs (I wrote the one for my last company) but nothing as comprehensive as what I offer. There are also very good consultants like Ken Molay who hosts Webinar Wire, but again, they focus on how to market your webinar….I think my years as a communication skills trainer makes me unique because I focus, not on using the tools, but using them well. How do you do web demos that don't suck? How can you make what can be a dry presentation interesting and engaging?
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
I fully expected more companies would take advantage of the presentation and sales training aspect, but the consulting piece -- teaching people how to put together and deliver a great webinar -- is much more in demand than I thought. In fact I've just created a 75-page workbook called "6 Weeks To a Great Webinar" that is getting buzz and I haven't even published it yet!
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Had more money in the bank, but what are you going to do? I really think I should have spent more time on my website, but I didn't realize how I'd have to organize it until I saw how the market shaped up. I'll have to do a complete rebuild probably by the first of the year.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
My podcast, The Cranky Middle Manager Show, and my management column on the Management Issues site meant that I had thousands of people who knew my work and had a level of trust.
I have also done some YouTube videos and done a lot of writing. That free (but labor intensive) marketing builds a lot of credibility. Being a shameless media whore helps a lot.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Wait til I retire…You have to remember like most people who start businesses, being a subject matter expert -- the best at what you do (and I'm pretty #$%@#$Y^ good at it) -- isn't enough.
You have to be willing to spend time marketing, cold calling, etc. Without customers it falls apart really quickly.
Also, find a niche. I've found that software companies, because their sales model goes from general webinars to web-based demos, have been a great target market. They know that everyone's using these tools but few use them well and some are now stepping up to realize that they need to be better than everyone else, if only to stand out from the crowd. Also a small uptick in their close rates can mean a huge difference because of the size of their sales.
So, pick a niche and pound on it….but keep your options open. As I say, the "6 weeks to a great webinar" system is gaining interest because so many companies know they have to use them and don't know where to start. I never thought I'd be doing as much consulting as I am but when people asked, "do you do this?", what the heck was I going to tell them?
That's great advice. You have to adapt what you do based on feedback from the market. Wayne, thanks so much for sharing your entrepreneurial experience with us, and good luck in growing your business.