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Case Study: Entira Proves Farmers Need Web Conferencing, Too.

When you think of farming, cows and pigs may come to mind long before Internet technology. But farmers need Web conferencing too, as Mike Karst, senior partner with agricultural marketing firm Entira, recently discovered.

In October, the marketing and strategy development company created a successful webinar that brought farmers together with the suppliers who sell to them through Infinite Conferencing’s complete event management program.

When the Memphis-based partner was searching for a Web conferencing company, he had two goals: to find a service that could allow callers to be anonymous, and that could charge users a fee. In Infinite, he found both.

“Our goal was to conduct a webinar in which the participants could remain anonymous from one another, so they could ask very open and honest questions,” Karst says. Why was this anonymity so important? “If the farmer knows exactly who’s asking the question, they may not answer truthfully,” he explains.

As far as charging call participants, it seemed like a good plan for providing farming suppliers precious information that farmers don’t want to part with freely. “We wanted a way for the suppliers to ask some really open questions at a low cost,” he says.

To begin looking for Web conferencing services, Karts conducted a basic Web search. After trying several companies, he says he found himself “unhappy either with price or performance, depending on whose service it was,” he says. “We’re a small firm, we can’t afford big licenses. Infinite had really good performance and good value for the price we paid.”

After selecting Infinite, Karst conducted a few smaller online meetings with clients to get used to the service. But the real test was the webinar itself.

In preparation, Karst and his coworkers at Entira determined the number of people they wanted on the call. They decided on a total of 20, with 15 paying individuals. The company then picked three guest speakers—all farmers—who would present the initial information to callers.

“Two days before the webinar, we practiced the presentation, and tried out the tools, so everyone at Entira knew how to use them,” Karst says. “Then we set up the Web page to sign people up, and Infinite helped us send out the initial letters and the reminders. That took a big load off of us—we normally do all the mailings ourselves.”

On the day of the call, Entira found there were more interested participants than they’d planned. “So we had to add a few extra people, which was a good thing,” Karst says.When everyone had joined the call, there was an “open lobby” in which people were able to greet each other and talk freely. Then the guest speakers began their presentation.

Participants joined in from across the country, including Indiana, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska and Texas.

“While the farmers spoke, the suppliers typed in questions,” explains Karst, who was the question moderator. “We had six pages of questions in less than an hour.” He presented the questions he’d compiled, and then opened up the last 35 minutes of the call to an open question and answer session..

The call, he says, turned out to be a valuable exchange between the farmers—the customers—and the suppliers.

"It was a really open exchange between the farmers--the customers--and the suppliers. Honestly, the farmers said some things the suppliers didn't really want to hear. But they were pretty good about hearing bad news, and it worked out really well."

Just how successful was it? Karst says many participants asked if they could purchase tapes of the call, and Entira has even heard from several non-participants hoping to order copies. The webinar will remain accessible for free to participants and for a fee to non-participants on the company’s Web site.

Karst attributes this to the “high marks” they received from participants, the strong customer service they received, and most of all—Infinite’s ease of use.

“One of the nice parts for the participants was that it was easy for them to view,” he says. “There weren’t a lot of extra buttons; we didn’t have to go through long instructions on how to use it. There weren’t a lot of distracting features on the front page that kept them from watching the presentation.”

But perhaps the biggest sign of the webinar’s success is in Entira’s plans for the future. “We’ll absolutely be using Infinite’s services again,” Karst says. “We anticipate conducting calls like this once a month from now on.”


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