Let’s Play: Gamification in Webinars

One of my biggest pet peeves is when webinars are unnecessarily boring. So many people still have this idea of a webinar as a talking PowerPoint, delivered in a droll monotone by a presenter who would clearly rather be doing anything else. Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?* The presenter is not going to have any fun, so the audience better not either. To this, I say, HELL NO! Life is too short to deliver OR sit through a boring webinar.

There are so many ways to put a little pep in your webinars, and I have covered many of them in previous blog posts and presentations, but there is one idea that we haven’t talked about and that is gamification. Now, some of you are thinking that “gamifying” your webinars will distract from your incredibly important content, but the exact opposite is true. The more your audience is engaged, the more they will pay attention to what you are trying to say.

So how is this done? Are we integrating a Pac Man widget into webinar consoles now? Creative idea for a presentation, but no. However, all the interactive tools that we do have make for great opportunities to have some fun with your audience. Let me give you some examples of how I have done this in the past, starting with polling.

Most people use polls to take the pulse of viewers periodically throughout the webinar and that’s great. I love polls. But you can also use polls to turn less exciting reports or data into something more compelling.

The Guessing Game

Every year, ON24 releases our Webinar Benchmarks Report, which is loaded with tons of data on webinar usage. Some of it is really interesting and some of it is more…er…functional than interesting. I always deliver the results of the report in a big webinar (of course), and in the past, I have simply just relayed each of the benchmarks, slide by slide, nothing fancy. But one year, I decided to change it up by gamifying the entire webinar.

For each benchmark, I first pushed out a poll enabling the audience to guess the result. I would then push out their guesses and finally the actual benchmarks — often having a shared laugh at the accuracy, or disparity, of the guesses to the real result. The audience really enjoyed this and we had a ton of fun with the webinar. It also forced viewers to really think about the results, which I am sure enabled them to get more out of the benchmarks, and the webinar.

Webinar Trivia

Another fun way to add gamification to your webinars is by using the Q&A feature to do trivia with your audience. This can be done purely for fun or you can ask trivia questions that relate to your subject matter. It also enables you to give away prizes which people love and helps with branding.

Mix and Match

In a recent webinar, I asked the audience a Game of Thrones-themed question (“If Jon Snow was the lead singer in a current rock band, which band would it be?”), and holy cow, the webinar exploded with engagement. We literally had hundreds of people send it a submission within five minutes of my announcing the question. Behind the scenes, I had co-workers select the best of the answers and then I picked a winner at the end of the webinar (you really want to know don’t you? The winner was “Imagine Dragons”). People really loved this and were tweeting about it for hours after. We sent out a t-shirt to the proud winner, and many of the viewers from that webinar have attended future webinars to have another crack at the trivia.

Subdued Gamification

Now, there are some of you who are delivering webinars on very serious topics and may be worried that you need to maintain a certain “tone” that gamification would breach. Sure, sometimes. But gamification doesn’t have to be silly. You can simply ask your audience to be more involved in your webinar by challenging them to guess, suggest, or create feedback based on your content. You can use polls, Q&A, social media, group collaboration tools or come up with your own creative ways to get your audience to participate in your discussion — instead of passively watching it.

Webinars are magic for marketers because they offer a rare opportunity to truly engage your audience. A little gamification would certainly add more engagement and a whole lot of fun.

* If you don’t get this reference, you need to watch Ferrris Bueller’s Day Off immediately. Play hooky from work and do it.

Account-Based… Webinars?

This is a guest post from Nani Jansen, Director of Marketing Operations at Demandbase.

In B2B, marketing and sales need to work together. It’s not enough to just throw content into the pipeline and expect it to turn into revenue — you need to target high-value sales leads, and shepherd them through a long buyer’s journey. In our last article, we talked about how Account-Based Marketing (ABM) can unite your sales and marketing team. Here’s how you can apply ABM methods to your content strategy, and your webinar strategy in particular.

Account-Based Marketing at Demandbase

Demandbase  is a leading Account-Based Marketing platform. We’re used to getting results from ABM, but the ROI on our webinar strategy has been nothing short of spectacular. Since 2015, our webinar program has achieved a 231% increase in year-over-year pipeline generation. We’ve achieved that growth without filling that pipeline with low-quality sales leads — in fact, our lead targeting has improved in step with pipeline generation. In August 2016, 19% of webinar audience members came from our target accounts list. By February 2017, we had increased that to 35%.

How did we drive such a big pipeline increase? Not by upping our cadence and throwing money at promotion — that would have diluted our leads, and made our efforts less valuable for the sales team. Instead, we actually cut our webinar cadence in half, and focused on making sure we had the right content, with the right promotion, and a finely-tuned follow-up strategy. Here’s how you can do the same:

Unite webinar marketing goals and sales goals

Put aside broad goals around registration numbers or total attendance — your sales team doesn’t care. In Account-Based Marketing, driving the sales pipeline is more important than filling seats. Have a meeting between marketing and sales to hammer out goals and metrics. For our webinar strategy, we focused on generating marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), sales-accepted leads (SALs), and pipeline opportunities. Your metrics may be different, but it’s important to choose measurements both teams can get behind.

Not only will that help create opportunities and bring in key clients, it will also bring both teams together. Sales will see that marketing is there to support them, take more interest in your webinar program, and be more reliable at following up on leads. And marketing will be able to demonstrate their value by tying webinars more directly to ROI.

These metrics will also help you refine your content strategy — particularly if you’re meticulous about tracking content engagement among high-value targets. What emails were opened by targeted accounts? What webinars (or blogs, white papers, etc.) did a new client consume during their buyer’s journey? You won’t be able to say “this webinar closed the deal,” but you will be able to see what helped turn a lead into a client, and tune your content and outreach accordingly.

Hone your sales enablement strategy

Use your webinar platform to track attendees and registrants, prioritizing high-value sales leads. Use poll responses, Q&A, and other data to pin down exactly what targeted attendee are looking for. Turn that data into suggested talking points for those clients to help them make the most of the opportunity.

You should also help sales prioritize all their leads, from targeted accounts all the way down to non-target registrants who didn’t attend. What attendees should they call up right away? What no-show registrants should get marketing emails with slides or on-demand webinar links? How can you segment your attendants to drive the priorities of the sales pipeline, without neglecting marketing pipeline concerns like lead nurturing?

Make sure sales are engaging webinar leads

Account-Based Marketing shows your sales department that you value their time, and are working to give them the best opportunities you can. That relationship needs to go both ways. Make sure that your sales team understands your webinar strategy, and is following up on your marketing leads. The goal isn’t just to get them to send out emails or make calls — it’s to ensure marketing and sales work together as a team.

That’s an ongoing process that depends on your follow-through. Shoot off an extra email, telling them about an upcoming opportunity. Welcome their feedback, and invite them to suggest their own webinar topics. Once both sides understand how much more sales and marketing can accomplish together, your ABM strategy will be unstoppable!

Webinars and ABM: Bringing Marketing and Sales Together

This is a guest post from Nani Jansen, Director of Marketing Operations at Demandbase.

What does your sales team think about your webinar marketing program? Do they see the sales leads you send them as a valuable source of contacts, or just more noise? Are the sales-qualified leads you send them converting, or are they just sucking up time?

If you can’t answer these basic questions, you’re not alone. Even with all the high-tech tools to gather data and drive the sales pipeline, the disconnect between sales and marketing is only growing. 50% of marketing leads never get follow-up. Even in companies where they do, it’s often seen as a just a distraction and a timesuck for the sales team, who simply don’t have a lot of faith in their marketing leads. On the marketing side of the equation, things are no better. As far as a lot of marketers concerned, if they’ve generated leads or driven pipeline, they’ve done their job — what the sales department does with those leads is the sales department’s problem.

It’s not always an issue. Some companies can just drive the marketing pipeline and let sales take care of themselves. But if you’re in B2B, or a niche where sales plays an outside role, you might need an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach to heal the rift between sales and marketing.

Sales and marketing leads: The root of the problem

The big problem is that marketing and sales have different views of what matters, and how to talk about it. On a basic level, they speak very different languages. Marketers are looking at signs of engagement with content. They’ll talk about a lot of “rates” — clickthrough, email opens, conversions, webinar registration and attendance. Lead generation is an end in itself, as is nurturing marketing leads.

On the sales side, they’re interested in accounts and opportunities. Driving the sales pipeline means upselling accounts and creating new opportunities to close the deal. Sales leads — even good ones — only matter as much as the results they generate.

That different language is matched by very different success metrics. A marketer can succeed by boosting SEO, increasing registration and attendance, or getting a higher CTR — it’s a numbers game based largely on how users interact with content. They also look to turn marketing leads into better leads, which in theory should create opportunities for sales. However, if the marketing department is creating its own metrics of what constitutes successful lead nurturing, they may not actually be driving good sales leads.

And things get even worse when marketing tries to solve the problem by just driving more marketing and sales leads. If sales already sees your leads as questionable, piling more on could just devalue them further in the eyes of sales. The sales department is concerned with building relationships and revenue. 10,000 new MQLs won’t matter to them, unless they’re getting the opportunities they need with the right clients.

Account-Based Marketing

As a leading ABM platform, Demandbase sees fantastic results in B2B industries that depend on good client management. ABM works by uniting sales and marketing around the accounts that are most likely to convert. Instead of an organizations to “drive leads,” marketing is there to support sales, by targeting the accounts and sectors that matter. That doesn’t mean you can’t do SEO, or nurture low-priority leads — both those have a place in ABM. What it means is changing your priorities to creating custom content around sales opportunities, and tweaking your metrics to support the goals of your sales team.

ABM and webinar marketing

Marketers find ABM easy to understand when it comes to creating custom content. If you’re going after Company X because your sales team really wants them as a client, of course you’d want to customize your messaging to their needs. Many marketers already do this to some extent — for example, with customized emails to Company X decision-makers or extensive segmentation and regional targeting. But does ABM apply to a broad-based awareness tactic like webinar marketing? Shouldn’t you just focus on factors like lead generation, lead nurturing, and thought leadership the same way you always have?

But ABM actually can make webinar marketing a lot more effective, by tying your webinars to outcomes. It becomes less about driving big registration gains, and more about using your marketing pipeline to drive sales opportunities around the accounts they find valuable. That means prioritizing interaction with certain clients, letting sales know when you get a bite, and arming them with the content they need to make the most of a particular client’s registration. If the CFO of Company X registers for a webinar, what messaging should you use to contact them? If they attend, what messaging will help sales turn that opportunity into a meeting? If they don’t attend, what kind of follow-up email will help drive them down the sales pipeline?

Marketing and sales, together at last

It’s easy for sales and marketing to step on each other’s toes and even view each other as adversaries, but at the end of the day, where all on the same team. By directing your metrics, content, and promotion strategy towards common goals, ABM can help that team win!

On-Demand Webinars: Tailoring Your Program

Looking for great webinar guidance? Get the freshest webinar tactics and strategies at Webinar World 2019.

This is a guest post from Allison Moehlenkamp, Senior Marketing Specialist at RSM and Jesse Dang, Marketing Campaign Program Manager at Twilio.

Does your company use webinars as a tool to build interest, grow leads, increase your brand voice, or just deliver great content to your audience? For most organizations, the answer is a combination of multiple factors, but the importance of each factor can vary radically based on the industry, segment, and particular organization. In our last blog, we talked about the similarities between the Twilio on-demand webinar program, which focuses on the marketing funnel, and the RSM program, which is centered around delivering timely and relevant tax, audit, and consulting updates (and as an added value, the vast majority offer CPE credit) — but the differences are every bit as important.

On-demand webinars in marketing and training

As a communications platform geared to a broad range of tech industries, Twilio is a great case study for marketing webinars. Twilio’s customers include a wide range of industries with unique messaging, calling or other communication needs, which means the content has to be geared around the buyer’s journey.

While many companies mostly use webinars at one stage of the marketing funnel, Twilio gets good results from webinar content at multiple touch points. Once a live event is over, we repurpose the content into on-demand webinars for lead nurturing, using five lead tracks. Not only does that nurture leads and get more eyes on the original content — it also generates registration and attendance for future events.

At RSM, many of our webinars are offered as continuing education classes. As a leading tax, audit and consulting services provider for the middle-market, we understand the need for professionals to stay up to date on the latest issues critical to their business, as well as the need to fulfill educational and professional licensing requirements. work with a large professional network who depend on our CPE classes to hone their skills and meet licensing requirements.

On-demand webinars need to provide viewers the information they are seeking. By providing a combination of well-curated clips, full webinars, and CPE credit courses, RSM can serve that whole audience, and turn viewers who might initially want some quick info into customers and prospects.

Measuring on-demand webinar ROI

We’re both ON24 users, which means we can measure pretty much anything we want and feed the data into our marketing automation. However, the data that matters most in webinar marketing isn’t necessarily the same data that’s important for virtual training. Even within an industry and use case, the metrics for ROI can vary considerably. For marketing, it depends a lot on what part of the marketing funnel you’re focusing on, and many companies focus on top of the funnel issues like demand generation. In Twilio, however, the data showed us that webinars are the top drivers of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs). Focusing our eyes on MQLs gives us an easy way to gauge the effectiveness as we tweak and refine our on-demand webinar program.

Webinar training requires a different approach to metrics. You need to use engagement data in a pretty concrete way — to see if your audience understands the data. Virtual training in RSM’s industry also requires us to make sure our audience are actually the webinars — not just skipping to the end and plugging in answers. ON24 allows us to embed questions throughout our classes, and ensure our audiences are doing the work required to earn their CPE credit.

However, that data also helps tweak our on-demand webinars to measure and improve ROI. We can look at the non-credit courses and see information like who is watching them, when, and for how long. By paying attention to audience interaction from a targeting and scheduling perspective and plugging that data into Eloqua, we can see what our audience is interested in learning, and schedule new live webinars to meet in a way maximizes signups and attendance for particular audience segments.

Get more from your webinar content

You wouldn’t only give a whitepaper out on one particular day, or take down a blog post after only a few hundred people have read it, but many people do just that with their live events. Whatever your industry, a well-designed on-demand webinar program can ensure your events keep delivering value to your company, long after the big day has passed.

On-Demand Webinars: 3 Rules For Everyone

How can you get more engagement from your webinars? Learn the tips, tricks and tactics that make webinars work at Webinar World 2019.

Interested in what the most powerful webinar platform can do for you? Check out our free 30-day demo

This is a guest post from Allison Moehlenkamp, Senior Marketing Specialist at RSM and Jesse Dang, Marketing Campaign Program Manager at Twilio.

On-demand webinars help marketers, educators, and thought leaders meet their audiences on their own terms, and on their own schedules. That’s crucial for marketers — according to Gartner, 80% of the buying process will take place with no direct human interaction by 2020. At the same time, customers still demand personalization and authentic, interactive experiences. But it’s also crucial for training webinars, online CPE courses, and other applications outside of marketing, where an expert speaker can provide insight and authority in a way a white paper or reading assignment can’t. Whether you’re driving the marketing funnel or delving into some serious professional development, making your content available as an on-demand webinar after the event lets you meet your audience on their own terms. We come from very different companies that use ON24 in very different ways, but webinar best practices hold from industry to industry and company to company. Here are three things our on-demand webinar programs have in common.

On-demand webinars at Twilio and RSM

RSM and Twilio are very different companies that use on-demand webinars for different reasons. RSM US LLC is a leader in tax, audit and consulting services, specializing in the middle market. Drawing on a large professional network, nationwide and in 120 countries, we work with businesses to bring the right team to the project, with the right approach.

RSM’s webinar program focuses on delivering timely and relevant tax, audit, and consulting updates to clients and prospects, and CPE credit is often offered and awarded to eligible participants. These virtual training webinars are interactive, requiring students to view all the content and answer questions to earn the credits. As an added value, on-demand webinars allow students to learn on their own time, even if they can’t make it to a particular class.

Twilio uses webinars in a traditional marketing role. As a communication platform, delivering a global, scalable telecommunications API, Twilio relies on multi-channel campaigns to connect with developers and decision makers. Our platform and infrastructure address a wide range of use cases involving communications, from streamlining dispatch notifications for repair technicians to providing the tools to automate phone surveys. As such, webinars are a key ingredient in complex, multi-channel campaigns to connect with stakeholders. We’ve found that there are three key things on-demand marketing and training webinars have in common:

1. Your webinar platform needs to go beyond merely archiving video

Whether you’re involved with marketing, virtual training, thought leadership, continuing education, or all of the above, on-demand webinars will give more value to your audience (and more audience to your brand!). However, the value requires a platform that can go beyond merely archiving your video, with features to engage viewers, target content, and record results. As a continuing education provider, RSM needs the ability to test our audience, and hold them accountable for viewing the content. ON24 gave us the tools to verify on-demand students were actually watching the webinars, and to quiz them at various points throughout each training.

Twilio also needed to go beyond video archiving with on-demand webinar program, and gather data from viewers for a different reason: targeting. Twilio uses webinars as part of a wider marketing program, employing use-case focused content and sophisticated lead nurturing. ON24 helps us drive our marketing funnel, with registration, attendance and engagement statistics they can use to target the right content to the right user on the right channel.

2. On-demand webinars aren’t just rebroadcast live webinars

It’s great when your viewers sit down and watch your training webinars or marketing presentations from beginning to end, but that’s not always how it works. With on-demand content, you’ll often get better results with shorter, targeted clips. RSM used these “snackable clips” following a two-hour post-election webinar on the tax and audit implications of the election. By providing a library of small, accessible clips, We were able to continue to use the content to engage customers and drive traffic to future virtual training events.

Twilio uses a similar strategy, using ON24’s ability to divide webinars into chapters for easy navigation. Twilio extracts short, 2 to 3-minute video clips to drive registration for the complete webinar.

3. On-demand webinars must be easy to find

Your on-demand content can give insight into a whole segment, or answer very specific audience questions. You can lure people into on-demand webinars or drive registration for your next live event. But whether your webinars give major ROI or just sit there depends on you. Your content needs to find your audience, because most of the time, your audience isn’t going to work that hard to find your content.

For Twilio, that meant creating an entire learning center as an extension of our main page. Webinars are packaged by use case and carefully targeted to the correct segment. RSM puts an equally high priority on making content easy to find. By tagging webinars the way we want our customers to find them, we can turn casual searchers into an engaged audience.

All great on-demand webinar programs have one basic thing in common: they get everything they can out of their content. Whether you’re training professionals or pouring leads down your marketing funnel, that doesn’t change.

Customer Spotlight: Miles Szoda, Jameson Publishing

If you want to know what webinars are all about, ask the experts! Our Customer Spotlight series gives webinar producers, promoters, and presenters from leading companies a place to share their secrets for a successful webinar program. In this post, we talk to Miles Szkoda, Web Content Manager at VertMarkets/Jameson Publishing.

 

So tell us… why webinars compared to other channels?

Based on the topic of our presentations and how long a person remains on the webinar, we can usually gauge how interested someone is in a a topic and how qualified of a lead they are. Broader topics can usually be used to grab people who are still at the top of the funnel and just gaining knowledge and researching, while more product- and detail-specific presentations usually catch people who are narrowing down products or close to making a final decision.

What are your metrics for success? Why?

We partner with a lot of people for webinars and normally we focus on lead generation. We also try to ensure we have minimal drop-off during the webinar so we can be sure we have targeted the right audience with our messages and that we’ve developed the right content for them.

What’s your webinar promotion strategy? What channels seem to work the best for you?

Right now we focus a lot on email marketing, but we also mix in some social through Twitter and LinkedIn.

What’s your on-demand strategy? Why is this important?

We do some on-demand events and will normally promote our most recent webinars in our weekly newsletters and on social media. We often host the on-demand versions as archived copies on our website to generate leads internally, instead of through the ON24 portal since we currently don’t have a CRM system that integrates with ON24 (ours is proprietary).

How do you actually get your webinar registrants to show up to your webinar?

We use a few pre-webinar emails and a few timely tweets and LinkedIn posts as reminders. We really like the way ON24 has the pre-webinar reminder emails built into the system.

How do you continuously engage your audience during your webinars? Why is engagement important to you?

For some webinars we will poll our audience early on to learn more about them so we can tailor the presentation to them and keep the content more relevant to keep them engaged. For others we poll them throughout the presentation with questions that they would be interested to know how their peers would respond to. Screen shares are common when we have someone talking about a specific software application so that the audience can actually see how something works or we use videos to show it in a similar way.

Engagement is important because if we have people on the webinar but no one is paying attention, when we follow up with anyone afterwards or invite them to attend another webinar we’re not going to get much response. We want people to come back and to respond positively to us in the future.

How do you work with other departments to promote your webinars? Any learnings you can share?

We’re a relatively small/medium sized organization so there isn’t a whole lot of departmental separation when it comes to promotion. We have a list of promotion tasks for each webinar and we make sure that each webinar is promoted based on that list and we evaluate it regularly to ensure we’re using every channel available to us to ensure we get the most success for our partners.

What are you best practices for working with presenters?

We’ve found that you really need to ensure you understand the presenter and adapt to how they work. If they have the time available, want to understand every aspect, and have full control of everything, you need to make sure you make more time and have more time available to teach them the controls and how to use everything. If they are very busy and just want to hop on, move the slides and do their presentation, you need to be grateful for their time and cognizant of it, ensuring you don’t run over and even stopping a few minutes early so you have time for a brief wrap-up afterwards without exceeding the limit.

Normally we send presenters a meeting invite for at least 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after the webinar, but at times we’ve done 30 before if there are multiple speakers just to give more time in case anyone has problems connecting or there are any hardware issues.

As an webinar expert — or, as we like to say at ON24, “webinerd” — what tips do you have for others looking to improve their webinar program?

I think there are a lot of things people can do to improve their webinars, but really asking for feedback from your audience is one of the best places to start. You can’t get any better advice than that from the people you are trying to either influence or sell something to.

Webinar Marketing: Year One at The Linux Foundation

This is a guest post from Emily Kurze, Marketing Programs Manager at The Linux Foundation.

There are a lot of problems a good webcast platform will solve. It can eliminate many technical challenges to host a webinar, give registrants a more intuitive and enjoyable UI, and provide a suite of tools to get more value from on demand webinars.

But if your company is new to webcast marketing, there are a lot of problems it can’t solve. It can’t prevent your webinar presenters from flaking, or your microphone from going out. It can’t stop you from overestimating (or underestimating) audience interest in a topic, or missing an opportunity that seems clear in retrospect. You still need to learn your market and make your own mistakes. Here’s what I learned in my first year of webinar marketing at The Linux Foundation.

Experiment to reach your webinar audience

The Linux Foundation is a nonprofit that provides events, training and certification, open source best practices, marketing, and promotion necessary to build, scale, and sustain critical open source projects and communities. Best known as the home of the Linux kernel development, our work extends far beyond Linux. Essentially, we exist to help support and manage over 100 different open source communities across diverse technology verticals including security, networking, cloud, automotive, blockchain, embedded, and web.

When we selected ON24 as our webinar platform, we had a broad range of goals. We wanted to migrate our legacy on demand webinar trainings for our developer audience, experiment with new topics to generate interest in new communities, and create content that would be useful for our users. Our first webcast had fantastic results — over 3,000 registrants, and more than 1,500 net new. It looked like our webinar program was an instant success.

But those numbers were a blip. Our second webinar had less than 1,000 in attendance, and our third webinar got hardly any. The numbers picked up again, and we ended up with a total of 11,000 registrants out of 13 webinars, but it didn’t break down how we’d expected. Our presentation on blockchain technology for business, seemed like a safe bet, because Hyperledger is one of our fastest growing projects and is generating a lot of interest in our community. Very few people actually showed up. Hosting a webinar on Raspberry Pi seemed like a shot in the dark, because our organization isn’t involved with it. We ended up seeing a huge turnout.

Our biggest takeaway was that successful webinar marketing in the open source community thrives on the same spirit that drives the community itself: experimentation. When you have a large, complex market, there’s not always a magic formula that will deliver every time. You just have to try new and creative ideas, and see what works.

Vet your webinar presenters

An interactive webinar can be a thing of beauty, incorporating gorgeous slides, engaging surveys and quizes, and rich audience interaction. But no matter how well-designed your content is, if you don’t have an engaging speaker, you’re probably not going to have a successful presentation. That’s why if you’re hosting a webinar, you need to vet your presenters not just as thought leaders, but as speakers.

I have a simple method of seeing if a presenter is a good fit for our webinar program: I call them. Since I can’t see the presenter, they need to grab me with what they’re saying — and compete successfully with my inbox for my attention. Sometimes it works, and it feels like we could talk for hours. Other times, it’s hard to follow what they’re saying and I find my attention drifting. Either way, I know whether they’re the right person for the presentation.

Hosting a webinar is all about preparation

Creating a webinar isn’t difficult, but it does take a lot of steps (24 of them in my workflow). When you try to keep it all in your head, it’s easy to forget where you are in the process — especially when you’ve got five or six presentations in the works. Use a detailed checklist, with every step planned out, and pay attention to what works. You might find elements of your webinar promotion aren’t working for your organization, it’s important to identify and eliminate those so you can spend time on what does work. For example, if you have little registration success from a particular social channel, don’t waste time continuing to promote there. You could also discover webinar tricks and best practices that work for your own organization. If you have a lot of experts in-house, you may want to have an extra speaker on call in case your presenter can’t make it.

Your webinar program is a work in progress

You’re not going to know exactly what’s going to work for your company from the first presentation. Successful webinar marketing means sticking with it, challenging your preconceptions, and learning what works for your organization.

Webinar Strategy and Best Practices: A Small Business Guide

This is a guest post from Steve Winchester, Vice President of Marketing at Rego Consulting.

There’s a big difference between webinar best practices and webinar strategy. Best practices are universal. Everyone should be planning their events months ahead, so that nothing is left to chance. Everyone should use repeatable processes, track engagement, coordinate and follow up with leads.

How you do those things is where webinar strategy comes in, and the answer is going to be different for each industry and organization. Some presenters will script a live webcast to the second, while others will leave room to improvise. Some companies need to coordinate their video content with a unified marketing strategy, while others can benefit from casting a wider net and seeing what works. Here’s how we at Rego Consulting found the magical spot where strategy and practice meet.

Investing in the right webinar platform

Rego Consulting is a leading Project and Portfolio Management (PPM) consulting firm. We’ve implemented and supported PPM systems, helping companies manage projects more effectively and efficiently, from small organizations to large enterprises with over 35,000 users. When I joined Rego, we were already using live webcasts, but we didn’t have the right tool to implement webinar best practices. We used Google Hangouts, which was fine for training, but when it came to lead generation focused webinars, it lacked the features you need to execute an effective marketing strategy.

We needed a system that would let us repurpose our content for on-demand webinars, so our attendees could show other stakeholders what they’d learned. We needed to be able to track engagement, automate follow-up, and use rich content. In short, we needed ON24, so we could start following webinar best practices and meet our marketing objectives.

Rego is a small company, and successful small companies have frugal CEOs. It wasn’t enough to show that we could do on-demand webinars or create content more efficiently — there had to be a solid business case. I pushed for it, because the case was beyond solid. I wanted to make webcasts the central piece of our marketing strategy.

Choosing the right marketing strategy

I didn’t come in as a webinar fanatic, and I certainly didn’t go to bat for ON24 on a whim. I made my decision by looking at how our company fit into the market. Rego isn’t a big company, but we have some crucial advantages in our segment that we could leverage via marketing. The bigger players weren’t investing in messaging around PPMs, and the smaller companies either didn’t value marketing or they didn’t have the budget. We’d see them imitate our content, but they never came out with something all that exciting or new. We had a better marketing team, who could communicate more effectively, but that wasn’t enough to really differentiate ourselves. What would really differentiate us was our thought leadership. And webinars provided an excellent venue to highlight that leadership.

Emphasizing webinar strategy let us use our marketing focus and expertise to pull ahead of the pack. Our goal was not to wow a few attendees with live webcasts — but to use on-demand webinars to expand our audience. Additionally, we’d use other thought leadership channels like white papers and other content to drive registration. We developed an approach that we knew our competition would be hard-pressed to replicate.

Developing a winning webinar marketing program

We knew all the critical webinar best practices. We planned or webinars out months in advance, integrated our events with the rest of our marketing program, and made the most out of every piece of content. Our webinar strategy made this easier in some ways, because it was based on our product and market expertise. We didn’t have to fish around for new topics or reach out to new communities in the same way some companies do.

As we gained experience, we were able to refine both marketing strategy and best practices. We took a very formal approach to our live webinars, scripting things down to the finest detail. We developed ideal timing for establishing each phase of the project, from nailing down topics at the beginning of the year, to the kickoff meeting 90 days before the event, to the day of the presentation.

And it worked! Including clips, on-demand webcasts and live events, we had a total of 51 webinars in a year, with 1,800 attendees. Our on-demand content was doing its job, bringing in 32% of the views in the first year. And just as importantly, we knew were getting the right eyes on our presentations — our 80% registration-to-attendance ratio told us that.

Mastering the Webinar Introduction Script

It’s funny, when it comes to webinar best practices, the one thing that rarely gets discussed is the opening. And openings are important. I have attended and delivered a LOT of webinars in my life and it occurs to me that the most boring section of most webinars is actually the intro. There, the host will greet everybody and go through some kind of housekeeping section that feels like the presenter would rather be doing anything else in the world. It’s often painful to listen to, even if some of the information is important.

Do we will still need to do webinar intros and housekeeping? Sure — they establish the host, set the tone and provide valuable information to the audience about how to navigate the next hour. Can this be done better? You bet. Here are a few tips that will help make your webinar intros much more effective.

Set the tone

So many webinar presenters have a weird misconception by about tone. They believe that webinars have to have a dry, professional, but personality-less feel to them, and tend to speak to the audience in a monotone voice, like they are reviewing tax documents. Horrible!

When you greet your webinar audience for the first time, do it with energy and enthusiasm. Let them know that they are amongst friends. Give them a warm greeting and show them that they are in for a non-painful, and perhaps even fun, hour of education and inspiration. Even if you are delivering webinars for a serious industry such as healthcare or financial services, that doesn’t mean that your webinars should feel emotionless. There is nothing wrong, EVER, with greeting your audience with a smile.

Don’t read your abstract

Another strange thing I see companies do at the beginning of webinars is to read the abstract or email promotion for the event they are already attending. Hey, they are there, you don’t need to convince them again! They know why they signed up and are in your webinar and ready to go. The best way to keep your audience is to get on with the show.

Master the webinar basics:

Script the intro, carefully

I often get asked if webinars should be scripted and my answer is always a definitive no… except for intro scripts. There is simply too much detail to review with your audience to try to memorize it all. You have enough on your mind just preparing for your presentation. Also, you want to make sure that you get the instructions right. There is nothing worse than someone stumbling through housekeeping recommendations, confusing the audience before the presentation even begins.

Housekeeping: Be thorough but quick

If you have set up a bunch of features for your audience, you certainly need to point them out. There is nothing wrong with reviewing all of the features of your webinar (free content downloads, Q&A, links to other assets, etc.) but do so quickly. Try to review them in order, perhaps reviewing widgets from left to right to make it easy to follow. And don’t leave your smile at the door. Maintain your happy demeanor, even as you read the script.

Choose one CTA to emphasize

Most of the extra webinar features that you make available to your audience are there to elicit an action. Perhaps you are linking to a free trial or a demo. Maybe you are using your webinar to promote another upcoming event. There is a limit to how much you want to do in your housekeeping, so try to focus on one key CTA that you can emphasize as something that your audience should pay special attention to.

Use a visual

A lot of companies actually create a housekeeping slide to show what is available in the webinar console. The speaker can either highlight what is on the slide or simply let the audience view for themselves during the welcome, saving more time for content. If you do this, however, it’s as important to make sure that you are constantly updating that slide as you customize each webinar console.

Some companies have even made housekeeping videos that run before the webinar starts. This can be a fun way to check the housekeeping box — but it’s hard to make changes to a video, so be aware.

Save the intros

One thing I always thought was awkward is when webinar hosts introduce speakers, then pause to review the housekeeping, then go back to the speakers. The audience can get confused as to who is who, and you end up having to re-introduce the speakers all over again. This is especially true for audio-only webinars. Welcome your guests, review the housekeeping and then segue to your speaker and content introductions. It will make everything flow so much better.

A webinar is just like any other type of entertainment. People can lose interest quickly if the beginning isn’t engaging and the show isn’t easy to follow. Greet your audience with a smile, quickly let them know what they need to know, and get on with the show.