I started my first small business nearly two decades ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and meaningful interaction with my customers meant calling them on the phone or paying a personal visit.

Times have changed. We're all connected now, and no one is more grateful for this technological marvel than I am. My current company is dedicated to guiding entrepreneurs through the labyrinth of business credit and financing. One of our more effective educational tools is a little something known as a webinar.

A webinar is basically a seminar conducted over the internet. Instead of brushing your teeth, dressing up, and driving across town to listen to an expert speak in a packed hall, you can simply plop down at your computer and interact with them as if they were in the room with you.

Here are five ways that hosting regular webinars could give your company a shot in the arm:

1. It adds a personal touch.

A webinar allows you to create a very personal connection with both customers and potential customers--an immediate, palpable intimacy that you just can't get through reading an article or glancing at a brochure.

This isn't to denigrate the value of posting great content on your blog or having an informative printout ready to go for conferences, but it does add a tool to your belt that's unlike any other--real-time instruction and advice from a trusted member of your team.

2. It accommodates all types of learners.

For some people, webinars are simply the easiest way to learn and understand complicated material. They can pore over books and online articles until the sweat stands out on their foreheads, and still not get half the value they would by simply sitting down and listening to a 20-minute presentation by a living, breathing expert. This is especially true of small business owners, who are constantly time-strapped and doing at least two thing at once. 

Webinars are a smart and effective way to reach out to individuals who prefer to sit at the feet of a teacher than study the words of one. There are plenty of them out there, and this is your opportunity to draw them in and win their loyalty.

3. It opens up a dialogue.

A written article doesn't allow your customers to ask direct questions and receive direct answers in return. Neither does a prerecorded video. Webinars give you the option to open up a question-and-answer period with your audience and address individual concerns.

This adds another layer of familiarity with your audience and gives them an opportunity to become even more acquainted with your product and services. It's a confidence booster to think, "Hey, I'm interacting with an pro," and the more confidence your customers feel, the better.

4. It allows you to obtain contact information for follow-ups.

If you use the correct platform, you'll gather valuable contact information from your webinar's participants. This will give you an opportunity to follow up with them and create deeper ties.

A quick story to illustrate: My company's resident webinar guru recently conducted one for an SBDC event. Afterward, an audience member contacted her asking her for a copy of her book. They ended up emailing her that they'd signed up for an account with us, applied for a business credit card, and were eager to further their education. 

Without the unique format of the webinar, Gerri might never have made contact with this individual, learned that they ended up taking her advice, etc. Instead, she was able to establish a connection with an enthusiastic small business owner who ended up becoming a new customer.

5. It establishes your legitimacy.

It's pretty badass to be able to claim expertise in an area as important to our economy and to millions of people all across the country as personal and business credit. My employee produces a ton of excellent written content for us, but there's nothing quite like hearing her speak about a topic she's spent years and years mastering.

You could do the same for your own business. Whether it's pest control or dentistry, there are audiences hungry for information on how to solve a particular problem in their lives, and it's up to you to show them why they should trust you to be their problem-solver. Using modern tools like webinars will allow you to do just that.