After Howes was injured in 2006 while playing professional arena football, he spent six months in a full-arm cast and another six months in rehabilitation. With plenty of time on his hands, Howes began to spend his days online visiting social media sites and posting blogs. As he honed his skills in using social networking as a marketing tool, he saw an opportunity to create a business selling this expertise.
“First I co-wrote a book about using LinkedIn to generate leads and win customers,” he explained. “Then I started creating digital products to sell, but I didn’t have a good way to reach potential buyers. I was traveling all over the country to sell books, speak at conferences and host events. I was hustling, sleeping on couches and pulling in only a couple of thousand dollars a month.”
Howes didn’t see the potential for growing his business until he participated in his first webinar. A friend who was holding a webinar “boot camp” invited Howes to speak as an expert on LinkedIn and recommended that he offer a digital product at the conclusion of the presentation. “I had actually never heard of webinars before and was clueless about the logistics of making a product available for sale, but friends helped me set it up. Then, I was nervous because I could see there were 700 people attending—the biggest audience I had ever spoken to. I presented my talk and at the end offered a $150 training product to the audience. I was amazed to check my PayPal account and see $6,500 in it. It opened my eyes to a whole new world.”
Howes’ next foray into webinars took place several months later when he teamed up with Malarkey, a Twitter expert, to co-present on using LinkedIn and Twitter to build a business by generating more leads and winning more customers. “We were both webinar novices and our presentation wasn’t the greatest—we had only a few slides and were sitting in the basement, but we got 1,300 registrants by leveraging lists developed from social media channels. We offered products at two price points—$100 and $500—and this time there was $12,500 in the PayPal account.”
From the beginning, Howes and Malarkey have used GoToWebinar as their web event platform. Although they evaluated other products, GoToWebinar proved to be the best and most affordable solution. Malarkey noted, “GoToWebinar has been really consistent and reliable for us. Although no solution is perfect, we find GoToWebinar 99 percent flawless. In contrast, we hear complaints about other providers.”
Howes added, “I use other products occasionally when presenting as a guest speaker on someone else’s webinar, but I like GoToWebinar best.”
Inspired Marketing not only continues to offer free, educational webinars on social media strategies, its core business, but also presents fee-based training webinars for client companies. Webinars are recorded and made available as home study courses. Attendees, who are located around the globe, are typically entrepreneurs, small business owners and professionals across all industry sectors, as well as authors and social media marketing experts.
Inspired Marketing has come a long way since that first web event. In 2010, the partners presented more than 300 webinars (both their own and through other people), and anticipate over $2.5 million in sales for 2011.
Howes noted, “Webinars are an incredibly efficient way to generate business. They are extremely powerful tools. For example, in January 2011 we had sales of $250,000 from just seven GoToWebinar events.” The partners attribute their high conversion rates to live, online training rather than an asynchronous approach. “Webinars increase leads and help us convert better than anything else because they allows us to ‘introduce’ ourselves to potential customers for a longer period of time and help us close the sale more effectively,” he added.
In addition to impressive bottom-line results, GoToWebinar provides intangible benefits—in particular, the convenience of being able to present to a live audience without having to travel. “It’s important for Sean, who has a wife and children, to minimize time away from home.” Howes added, “I, however, like to travel. GoToWebinar makes it easy for us to collaborate on an event even if I am in London, Paris or Australia. It gives us the flexibility we need.”
Based on their own success with webinars, Malarkey and Howes saw an opportunity to teach others about the advantages of web events. They developed a series on how to use webinars to generate leads and win customers. “In the online marketing space, webinars have really taken off. We want to push our webinar training products aggressively to capitalize on this increased awareness,” said Malarkey.
Another new area for Inspired Marketing is the use of automated webinars. Recognizing that live events are far more effective than recorded trainings, Malarkey explained that they have found a way to offer what appears to be a fully live webinar yet seamlessly incorporate a recorded segment. By scheduling the event for a specific time and providing a live introduction and question and answer period, they retain audience interest while sparing themselves from having to present the same material over and over.
Howes concluded, “GoToWebinar is the number-one software to help us generate new leads for the business and introduce content and products to potential customers. I’m convinced there is no better way to host a webinar, thanks to the ease and function that GoToWebinar provides. Inspired Marketing would not be growing as fast without it.”