Video conferencing is no longer a competitive edge. It's essential equipment for prospect and client engagement, thanks in large part to the COVID pandemic restrictions on meeting face-to-face.
Corporations, mid-size companies, even small businesses use video conferencing to engage with customers and prospects. Growth is almost off the charts: What was almost a $4 billion business in 2019 is slated to surpass $20 billion by 2024.
So, if you're wondering what the new normal looks like, video conferencing is one of the mainstays. But what system to purchase?
There are many established platforms that businesses prefer. Some of the big names include:
- Microsoft Teams, which is compatible with the Microsoft 365 tools and a full spate of apps.
- Google Hangouts, a cost-effective option with nearly universal availability.
- Zoom, whose participants grew 2900% between 2020 and 2021.
- Cisco WebEx, which was designed with large businesses in mind.
While there are many good options, you have some serious considerations before going shopping, so let's jump right in.
Your most important consideration is what you want to do with video conferencing and where you want to do it.
- Objective: If you're planning one-on-one calls between a sales rep and buyer, your needs will be different than if you want to accommodate a whole team of buying decision-makers and a sales team. At one end of the spectrum, a rep may get by with a computer with in-line audio and video capabilities. But if you expect salespeople to put on presentations, real-time demos and whiteboarding, you'll need to map out a plan.
- Types of Calls and Users: Sales meetings aren't the only applications. You may want your system to support employee meetings, customer support, virtual tradeshows and customer interviews. There are options for all of these, and you may find that you need more than one solution.
- Location: Similarly, your video conferencing locations can range from a sales rep's cubicle or remote workspace to a central video-enabled meeting room. You'll need the right video coverage and acoustics for each.
- Number of Users: You'll have to plan for the number of users—both at your end and at the customer site. For one thing, the number of sales and technical reps in the room simultaneously will determine the choice of audio and video capture you'll need. Software, too, will matter, especially how it is set up to display participants on the call.
- Hardware Platform: While much of the software technology you'll need for video conferencing is housed in the cloud and accessed through the Internet, you'll still need some equipment and want to make sure it's compatible with your tech stack. At a minimum, you'll need cameras, displays, speakers and microphones, and depending on how sophisticated you plan to go, there are CODEC units (coder-decoder) and sound and video cards to consider. The good news is that companies like Logitech, Poly and Neat are increasingly bundling videoconferencing equipment into units to accommodate any space, purpose or hardware platform.
Video Conferencing Features
Features are where you can let your creativity loose and imagine the possibilities. Your budget will most likely decide how vivid and interactive you make the experience for buyers.
- Multimedia Support: Multimedia today goes far beyond PowerPoint. You can choose platforms to support PowerPoint, chat rooms, pre-recorded videos, spreadsheets, Google Docs and more.
- Engagement Tools are interactive features that help your buyers participate more fully. Screen share has been around for years; now, imagine interactive whiteboarding that lets all participants communicate visually. And when you have large groups of viewers, you can provide tools that support real-time polls, comments and questions.
- Auto-Record: If you plan to archive your events and use them for sales training or to collect buyer insight, then look for a system that automatically records every event. When people get focused on their presentation, they can forget a little thing like remembering to press record. Let the system do it for you.
- Search: And speaking of archiving, consider an archiving repository such as HeyMarvin or UserZoom that makes it easier to review recordings and find what you're looking for. Most tools in this category feature search, auto-transcription, and annotation, enabling your team to get more out of your recorded events.
- Analytics: Because reps can always improve their video conferencing skills—style, content and use of multimedia—it helps to know what buyers think. Feedback and comments only tell part of the story. Because viewers also vote with their eyes, you'll want to analyze prospect and customer engagement through attendance rates, drop-off numbers and replay views.
- Security: Because video conferencing utilizes the Internet (broadband and cloud technology), you'll need to factor in security and privacy. It’s wise to make network security a priority. Also, you’ll need to have control over access and attendance. In addition to discussing security with your vendor, you'll likely want to include video conferencing in your corporate security policies.
- Technical Support: It's a good idea to have an extensive online troubleshooting library and live support when needed.
- Integration: As video conferencing becomes a mainstream sales tool, you'll want as much integration with other tools and analytics as possible. That’s because it isn't easy to plan for what you'll need. So look for a platform with a history of integration support.
- User Interface: The display interface that both reps and buyers use must be designed to promote customer engagement. Easy-to-use and access to tools and features are a must. The key is to enable participants to focus on their conversation rather than fiddling with technology.
To sort through the many video conferencing solutions for prospect and client engagement, you need to know what to consider and make a list of your requirements. Then review the options and their pros and cons. Finally, select the solution that best meets your needs. And remember, it's not all about the bells and whistles. Instead, look for what best accommodates your customers and prospects to facilitate better engagement between reps and buyers.
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