Webinars are an effective yet underutilized marketing technique. Webinars can overcome geographic and time constraints, connect with customers, educate customers, generate qualified leads, and establish your organization as an authority in its industry.
Surprisingly, only 31 percent of marketers hold webinars, according to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2C Content Marketing survey, while 93 percent utilize social media content, 80 percent use e-newsletters, 74 percent produce videos, and 67 percent have a corporate or brand blog. Marketers may avoid webinars because they are time-consuming to produce. Some may fear their technical aspects; others may dread speaking to a large audience.
These are tips from PR and marketing experts that can help you develop and hold successful webinars that attract attendees and generate interest in your company’s products.
How to Increase Webinar Registrations
Know your audience. Understanding your audience is the first step to creating a popular webinar. Develop a definitive picture of your audience, their needs and “pain points.” The best topics address common problems the target audience faces and offer a solution. Case studies are an ideal way to illustrate solutions.
Segment your audience. Addressing the needs of everyone is impossible. Therefore, segmenting your audience as much as possible is a critical first step, stresses Robin Neifield, CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., in a ClickZ post. Identify the types of firms, job titles and functions your webinar would appeal to the most. Determine what information they seek, questions they ask, and reasons for attending the webinar.
Address disruption in your industry. Topics on industry changes and confusion often attract greater audiences, notes Mike Agron, executive webinar producer and co-founder of WebAttract, in a Convince & Convert post. Webinars in sectors dealing with disruption, such as Aerospace, Automotive, Healthcare and Life Sciences, typically enjoy large turnouts.
Consider a guest speaker. Inviting an influential individual as a co-host can attract more attendees. The expert can also add credibility to the educational or promotional messages. Make sure in advance that the guest’s talking points align with your organizations beliefs and product messages.
Offer it for free — usually. Prospects are more likely to provide their contact information if the webinar is free. In some cases, however, it’s appropriate to charge for it. “If your topic merits an in-depth workshop, don’t be afraid to create one, and actually charge for it,” advises Wendy Marx of Marx Communications.
Limit registrations. Restricting registration, to 30 seats for instance, creates demand. The average webinar has about 28 attendees, although size varies. “You may end up limiting it to just 10 spots, or even 100,” Marx writes. “You can always extend other invitations to webinars on the same topic in the future, so you’re not excluding anyone. You just want to make your audience feel exclusive.” In setting limits, plan on some no-shows.
Pursue all available promotional means. Marketing the webinar through all possible channels, including your website, blog, email newsletter, social channels, press releases and offline channels is the best strategy to attract attendees. Advertisements in online newsletters for your industry niche and in search engines can also produce webinar registrations, though advertising can substantially add to the promotional costs. Focusing on the benefit to the audience is critical. Sending a reminder to attendees before the event will help them to remember to log in.
Schedule it wisely. Scheduling a webinar to accommodate standard business schedules will draw more attendees, although that’s difficult to do for a global business that wants a worldwide webinar. It may be necessary to schedule more than one webinar to accommodate widely spread time zones – or create a digital video version of the webinar for distribution after the webinar. If you’re on the East Coast, an early afternoon time is also appropriate for West Coast customers. Also, customers are more likely to respond to an invitation for a webinar to be held in a week rather than in a month as it creates a greater urgency.
Create a countdown. A countdown timer can create a sense of urgency that may result in increased registrations. Your last reminder to participants should go out three hours before the webinar.
Extend the promotion period. Beginning the promotion two weeks or more before the event allows more time for multiple emails that promote different aspects of the webinar. Many companies first send emails a week before webinar, but 42% of webinar attendees register more than eight days in advance, according to an ON24 white paper 10 Common Webinar Mistakes.
Optimize registration forms. Research shows that only 48% of those who open the registration page complete the registration, according to ON24. The usual problem: Registration forms are too long and design is unattractive or inconsistent. The solution is forms that request only basic information and contain consistent colors, imagery and language.
Start strong. A major challenge is that webinar participants frequently drop out within the first few minutes or even the first several seconds. Long-winded descriptions of you and your company or idle commentary prompts listeners to bail. Begin with a clear, concise agenda that shows what listeners will gain. Concise information about the sponsoring company and brief bios of the presenters’ accompanied with their headshots, help retain interest.
Stress educating, not selling. “Educating is the new selling. This cannot be emphasized enough. Think of your audience’s needs or problems,” emphasizes Bruna Martinuzzi, president and founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., in the American Express Open Forum.
Request attention. Ask participants to turn off their electronic devices. Don’t be shy about giving a friendly reminder to the audience to remove all distractions.
Offer engaging content. The goal is to produce unique, engaging and highly visual content. While discounts and other benefits for the people who watch live can be timely, the rest of the webinar should contain evergreen content that can be watched at any time, writes Kyle Ora Lobell for Convince & Convert. Video clips, appropriate anecdotes, examples, and relevant quotes help keep attention. References to well-known experts add interest and credibility.
Involve your audience. Interactivity is key to keeping the audience tuned in. Consider interactivity tools such as the whiteboard, chat rooms or the “raise your hand” features. Ask participants questions at strategic intervals, such as after topic sections. Ask them to vote on questions and then provide the results. Perhaps counterintuitively, well-timed pauses also help. Structuring the webinar in sections and answering whiteboard questions after each section helps stimulate interest.
Rehearse it. Test in advance all the technology to be used, especially the quality of the microphones. Practice sessions, ideally before an audience of your colleagues, can reduce nervousness and eliminate glitches and unwanted delays that may prompt viewers to exit.
Create engaging graphics. Build visually interesting slides with powerful images that illustrate key points. Support those images with a few bullets that highlight key messages. Beware of excessive text. PowerPoint slides crammed with line after line of bullet points bore viewers and prompt them to leave the session. And don’t just read your bullet points. Listeners will feel like they are listening to your notes. The best presentations let the speaker tell the story, not the slide.
Repurpose. Marketers can consider repurposing webinars into different formats, including blog posts, white papers or social media posts. Record the presentation and post it on the corporate website as a downloadable or streaming video file. Also post the file on YouTube and other video sharing sites. Post the content on SlideShare. Condensing versions of webinars in video blog format can extend their reach, says Dane Frederiksen, owner of Digital Accomplice. Many people would like to attend webinars but lack the time to attend the complete sessions during the day, she points out in a post for the Content Marketing Institute. Include appropriate contact information on all files distributed to other sites.
Follow up. Many webinar attendees resent follow up phone calls from sales representatives. Leaving an after-hours voice mail or sending an email follow-up is less intrusive, less irritating and can achieve equivalent results. The content of the follow-up should take the tone of trying to determine if there is anything more you can do for the attendee. Offering additional information works best.
Bottom Line: As more marketers turn to webinars to educate prospective customers and generate sales leads, competition for customers’ time and attention intensifies. Many webinars don’t gather sufficient registrations or don’t retain attendees’ attention. This advice will help you create produce webinars that rise above the competition and meet your marketing objectives.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.