Webinars are an effective yet underutilized marketing technique. Webinars can overcome geographic and time constraints, educate customers, generate qualified leads, and establish your organization as an authority in its industry. With many people working from home and in-person conferences cancelled because of COVID-19, webinars are more valuable than ever.
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.
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 practical solutions. Case studies are ideal to illustrate solutions.
Find experienced assistance. Have someone with a good understanding of webinar equipment to assist with the planning, promotion, and the webinar itself to make sure everything goes smoothly, advises Vikas Agrawal, co-founder of infographic design agency Infobrandz, in Search Engine Journal. “They don’t necessarily have to be knowledgeable about the webinar topic, but they should be able to troubleshoot issues and moderate interactions with attendees,” Agrawal says.
Consider your equipment. Your equipment is critical. Rather than relying on the built-in microphones on your laptop or desktop computer, use high-quality headset microphones or landline phone to ensure that the audience can clearly hear your presentation. It’s also advisable to have a backup computer and spare batteries in case you experience technical difficulties. Also print out extra copies of your slides so you won’t miss a beat if you encounter a glitch.
How to Increase Webinar Registrations
Create a compelling title. Selecting a topic and a headline with excellent search potential will garner more interest, advises Arment Dietrich CEO Gini Dietrich. For instance, her team produced a webinar on Google analytics. Instead of calling it “Advanced Analytics,” they named it “The Lies and Truths of Google Analytics,” a more enticing title.
Shoot an engaging one-minute “commercial” that describes what the webinar will cover, Dietrich suggests. Then post the video on your website or blog, distribute it through the social networks, and include it in email marketing. “Human beings are visual creatures. You’ll be amazed at how well this one thing works,” she says.
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. Promote to them via email.
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. Even Fidelity Investments, with a deep bench of financial experts, invites outside professionals to participate in their webinars. Make sure in advance that the guest’s talking points align with your organization’s beliefs and product messages.
Offer it for free — usually. Prospects are more likely to provide their contact information if the webinar is free. If your goal is to generate leads or introduce a new product, then free is mandatory. In some cases, however, it’s appropriate to charge for a webinar if the content goes beyond your direct business interests and features independent content experts. “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. Online advertising can also produce webinar registrations, though it can add substantially to promotional costs. Focusing on the benefit to the audience is critical.
Schedule it wisely. The best time to schedule a one-hour webinar is 11 a.m. Pacific time (2 p.m. Eastern), according to research by ON24. That avoids the lunch hour on the West Coast and the lunch hour on the East Coast. Mid-week is the best time to schedule webinars and to send promotional emails; Mondays and Fridays are less effective. People are too busy catching up with work on Mondays and too eager to leave on Fridays.
Promote it early. Longer promotions attract larger audiences. In the past marketers typically sent promotional emails a week or two before the event, but almost a quarter of attendees registered more than 15 days before the event, according to research by ON24. Don’t hesitate to send promotional emails three, four or six weeks before the webinar.
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.
Retaining the Audience
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. Structure your webinar to identify and solve the audience’s pain points.
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 best strategy is to produce unique, engaging and highly visual content. While discounts and other benefits for the people who watch live can be effective, 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 all the technology involved in the webinar in advance, especially the quality of the microphones and audio feed. 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 it. 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 video on YouTube and other video sharing sites.
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. Following proven strategies will help you create produce webinars that rise above the competition and meet your marketing objectives.
This article was first published on April 28, 2016, and updated on April 13, 2020.
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.