For years, webinars have been a very popular channel for communicating and connecting with the marketplace. And as webinar software platforms have become easier to use, filled with amazing new features and stay very affordable, there’s never been a better time to include webinars in your marketing program.
But first, why even consider including webinars in your marketing & sales efforts? Maybe more than any other marketing tactic, they can support your revenue growth efforts in a number of ways:
- Putting on and promoting a webinar builds awareness across the markets you serve.
- They generate qualified sales leads; by giving up some of their valuable time to attend a webinar, participants are telling you that they have an interest in that particular topic – a good place to start a buying-selling conversation.
- They are an effective way to share your knowledge, helping to position your firm as an SME (Subject Matter Expert).
- Because it’s being delivered visually, webinars help participants to get to know-like-trust the presenter and your firm.
- Webinars are a non-threatening/non-salesy way to nurture sales leads and stay in touch with existing clients.
- Finally, the timing is right for webinars. Because of the pandemic, everyone has gotten comfortable with online communications.
Producing Effective Webinars
If you decide to take the leap, here are a few guidelines for producing effective webinars:
- Use the webinars to share genuinely beneficial information. Inform, educate or challenge the attendees. Solve a problem, explain a new methodology, technology or application. Talk about trends in the industry.
- PowerPoint slides need to be clean & simple… with only a few words and strong graphics. If all you’re going to do is read bullet points to the audience, why do it? Use the words as ‘talking points’ and let your presenter be the star of the show!
- Practice is key… not just the presentation, but also the use of the webinar platform. Schedule a ‘dry run’ a few days before the actual presentation date to work out any kinks.
- The webinar has no value if no one shows up. To drive large registration numbers, you’ll need a strong promotional effort… including email, social media, digital ads, personal invitations, phone calls and, of course, your website. Based on our experience, the best response rates will come from promos launched less than a month before the webinar… and likely less than two weeks out. Though you can get registrations several months out, those are the registrants least likely to actually show up (because their schedule will have changed in the interim).
- Part of your promotional plan is to make sure you’ve got a good landing page and an easy-to-complete form the attendees will use to register. Most of the commercially available platforms include this as part of their package.
- Presenting webinars will generate sales leads. Of that, there is no doubt. But the realvalue comes in following-up with the participants. Whether you choose to employ emails, phone calls, drip campaigns or some other tactics… you must have a follow-up plan.
- Pick the right topic. It seems sort of obvious, but it’s not as easy as you think. First, who are you trying to attract… corporate researchers, brand managers, marketing executives, etc.? From what kinds of companies? Any particular industries? The audience you want to target will help determine which topics you select. But more importantly… you need to select a topic that your target audience wantsto learn about – not just one that you want to present. Important: Don’t shy away from topics that might attract a smaller (but targeted) audience… there’s nothing wrong with that. The fact is, there are no topics that will appeal to everyone.
- “Think first to help… then to sell.” Webinars can be a really outstanding marketing vehicle and an important catalyst for filling your sales pipeline. But even if you follow all of the guidelines above, you will still mess it up if you turn the webinar into an online sales pitch. Do that, and you lose all credibility. Think of a webinar, not as a selling opportunity, but as an educational, positioning and relationship-building opportunity. The selling will come later.
Before you jump into webinars with both feet, here are a handful of ‘logistics’ questions you’ll need to answer to produce the best webinars possible:
Which platform will we use? There are dozens of webinar platforms available for fairly minimal costs… a few of the more popular ones are:
Each has their own set of bells & whistles, so do your research (YouTube is great for this) and play around with a free trial before you decide.
How do we maximize attendance? Getting someone to register is Step 1. Step 2 is making sure they show up… and that’s where ‘reminder emails’ come in to play. The software platform you select should have automated reminders built in. Your emails should include: a confirmation email at the time of registration, then reminders at 2 weeks out, 1 week out, 3 days out, 1 day out and the morning of. Plus, an after-webinar ‘thank you’ with a link to the recording.
Which days are best for presenting? Traditionally, the middle of the week (Tues-Wed-Thurs) have been the best days for hosting webinars. But, depending on your audience, this is something worth testing. Last Fall, we did a series of webinars on Tuesdays… with very good registration and attendance numbers. This Spring, we presented the same topics, but on Fridays… with record-setting registration and attendance numbers. Don’t assume… test!
How long should my webinar last? When most people think about a webinar, they think it will be an hour-long commitment. But that’s an awfully big “ask” from someone who doesn’t know you. Especially when the first 10 minutes are a company sales pitch (don’t do that!). Consider capping your presentation at a half-hour (plus a few minutes for Q&A)… a much more manageable timeframe for getting onto the participants’ calendars. And if you have 60 minutes worth of content, break it into two, 30-minutes presentations.
Webinars have been – and continue to be – a powerful and effective marketing channel. And as businesses continue to adopt a work-from-home structure, using online platforms for communications become more and more common… making webinars a ‘comfortable’ way for participants to access new information.
Final comment… the three most important guidelines in putting on webinars are:
- Know your audience and pick a topic that they want to learn about
- Promote the webinar like crazy
- Don’t sell… teach
Follow those guidelines and you can’t help but be successful. Good luck!