Every time I open my inbox I have an invitation for another webinar. It’s a popular marketing tool that can be very effective, but how do you get your company’s webinar to stand out and attract the right audience? How do you select a topic and determine the best speaker or choose the best day of week and time to have it? There are a lot of logistics to consider when planning a webinar, so I recommend starting with a detailed production schedule. This should include everything from creating the initial timeline, determining methods for measuring and analyzing metrics, and developing a strategy for post-webinar follow-up. This article will provide you with all of the basic tools you’ll need to establish a webinar marketing strategy and execute the logistics involved in pulling off a successful virtual event.
What exactly is a webinar?
Also referred to as a “webcast,” a webinar is a web-based seminar, lecture, workshop, or training session that is transmitted over the internet. A webinar is not intended to be a sales pitch, rather, it is supposed to be a live online educational presentation, so keep the topic informative and save the sales plug for a different medium (or at least hold off until the last slide to briefly tout your business). Per Mike Agron, an executive webinar producer, “Think of a webinar as the beginning of a process to develop a virtual relationship with the people attending your event by sharing your thought leadership. The end goal is to stimulate their curiosity enough to want further conversations with you so you have an opportunity to convert them into customers.”
How do I get started on a webinar plan?
First, you need to determine a relevant and compelling topic to your business and choose a thought leader to lead the discussion (or leverage an analyst, industry partner, or subject matter expert). You should prepare an accompanying slide deck that can be shared via various web meeting platforms such as GoToWebinar, WebEx, or Live Meeting. The slides should not be text heavy but rich in graphics, which will lead your presenter to speak in a more relaxed tone versus simply reading bullets from a slide (and on this note, limit the speaker notes in the presentation to discourage the use of the crutch). This will also encourage your audience to stay more engaged as they won’t be tempted to read ahead and skim over the content on each slide.
Scheduling Your Webinar
Consider trends when selecting your webinar day and time. Typically, the best attendance rates come from events that are scheduled on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 10-11 a.m. (PST). However, if you are thinking about attracting a global audience, you might consider scheduling it earlier, for example, from 8-9 a.m. (PST). A best practice is to have the webinar last either 30 minutes (20 minutes for presentation and five minutes for questions) or 60 minutes (45 minutes for presentation and 10 minutes for questions), leaving yourself a cushion of approximately five minutes in case things run over (and if they don’t then everyone always appreciates an extra five minutes back in their day). Lastly, you should ALWAYS rehearse the webinar in advance to ensure your speaker will be able to keep the presentation to the allotted time.
Once you have determined a topic and set a date for your virtual event, you’ll want to market it to encourage attendance. As you prepare to promote your webinar, remember to create the following promotional pieces (at a minimum): email invitation, banner ad, registration landing page, email reminder of upcoming event, and follow-up email to send after the webinar. All of these promotional marketing items should include basic information such as: webinar title, brief description, bulleted key messages, call-to-action, speaker info, date and time, who should attend. ON24, a global leader in webcasting and virtual events, recently published Webinar Benchmarks Report (2013 Edition), in which they state that email invitations are the most effective way to drive webinar registration.
A Webinar Invite Should Include the Following:
If you have a database of contacts, definitely reach out to them (via email, direct mail, phone call, etc.) to notify them of the upcoming event and encourage their attendance at least two to three weeks prior to the event. ON24’s benchmark report findings also indicate that by promoting a webinar more than seven days in advance can increase audience size up to 36% and further promotion within 24 hours of the event can increase registration by 37%. Be creative in attracting your audience – use banner ads, co-produce with a partner or affiliate, leverage social media, issue a press release, or offer registration incentives (for example a gift card for a randomly selected registrant or a free download of a business report). And, get your registrants to help promote your webinar too. If they are interested then most likely their co-workers will be too. You can enlist their help by embedding social media links on your landing page so that additional registrants can easily share the invitation to the webinar with their colleagues.
Collecting Analytics on Registrants
Registration for the webinar is a GREAT way to collect data on people who are interested in your company, product, or simply the topic of your webinar, and that data is gold to your sales team. Don’t lose the opportunity to gather information by requiring the basics such as full name, title, organization and email address. But, don’t get too greedy by requiring too much data for the registration process or you may discourage attendees. From the behavior of your registrants and attendees you can deliver detailed analytics about the customer profile to your marketing and sales teams. For example, total viewing time indicates level of interest, results of polls and surveys provides detail on pain points and product/service requirements, and content downloads indicate interest levels in products and services.
Logistics and Rehearsal
Before the webinar, be sure to rehearse technology and logistics with your moderator. Coordinate cues, determine who will manage slide advancement, practice transitions between speakers, prepare polling questions and seeded answers, conduct dry run through slides for time, etc. The rehearsal provides an excellent opportunity to review the slide deck to trim any unnecessary slides and identify issues such as any typos, as well as ensure that the flow is engaging and content is compelling. On the day of the webinar, consider having an internal source dial in to listen in and troubleshoot audio and/or visual issues. Make sure your speaker is in a room that will not be disturbed and that they have turned off all audio devices. And, I highly recommend setting the controls via the software tool so that the ONLY audio is coming from the speaker (everyone else is automatically on mute).
After the Event
Following the event, consider offering an on-demand video and audio recording of the webinar for those who were unable to attend the live event. You can also continue to promote the webinar via social media, newsletter or email campaign to encourage those who missed out to still take action and watch/listen to the webinar on demand. This helps extend the life of the event and, according to ON24, by driving exposure to the on-demand webinar you can actually increase viewership by over 25%. Additionally, collect all of the registration and attendee data and provide final analytics to the webinar team (include the number of registrants, number of attendees, type of attendee in terms of company and title), and then segment the leads and provide them to the sales team.
Lastly, I highly recommend reading Webinar Ready: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting Successful Webinars by Mike Agron. This comprehensive guide includes many helpful checklists and maps out best practices for before, during, and after the webinar to ensure a successful outcome. Now that you’re armed with the tools to plan, manage, and execute a webinar, you should be confident in adding virtual events to your integrated marketing mix.
Graphic Source: http://createyournextcustomer.com/2015/04/22/best-practices-executive-brief-webinars/