How Does Your Webinar Stack Up?

OK, I admit it. Here at ON24, we may be just the tiniest bit obsessed with webinars. We think about webinars. We write about webinars. We dream about webinars. And, of course, we deliver webinars. Then, once a year, we step back to do something completely different: we measure all of the thousands upon thousands of webinars.

Our annual Webinar Benchmarks Report lets us take a detailed look at the wide world of webcasting to identify key trends and actionable best practices. The insights we get are so interesting that we can hardly wait to share them with you in a special edition ON24 Best Practices Webinar. This year, webinar marketing maestro Mark Bornstein dove into the benchmarks data and brought us four data-driven webinar tips that you can start using today:

Don’t Shortchange Your Promotion Cycle

Over and over again, we hear that the single biggest webinar challenge for marketers is driving registration. So why are so many people only sending out one or two emails to promote their events? Our benchmark data shows that a full 23% of webinar registrations come in more than two weeks before the event. WOW.

If you’re only promoting your webinar for a week or two and only sending out a couple of emails, you are missing out on an enormous potential audience. Instead, plan on a promotional cycle that lasts around three weeks, and send at least three emails (at ON24, we usually send a mix of formatted HTML and plain text emails to appeal to a wider audience). And don’t forget the day of the webinar itself! More than a quarter of all webinar registrations come it at the last minute!

Don’t Fear the One-Hour Webinar

Think all your content needs to be snackable? Think again! Since we started tracking webinar benchmarks, we’ve seen the average viewing time go up every year, reaching an all-time high of 57 minutes in 2016, up from 38 minutes in 2010. As much as people love infographics and listicles, there’s also a huge appetite out there for long-form, in-depth content — and the 2016 data shows that nothing satisfies an appetite like an engaging and interactive hour-long webinar.

Get Interactive

When it comes to webinar interactivity, Q&A still leads the pack. In our study, we discovered that 81% of webinars include a Q&A portion. But there are so many more options available! Social tools are on the rise this year, with nearly 1 in 3 webinars integrating social media. And polling and surveys are still strong performers, each making an appearance in nearly a quarter of all webinars.

If you aren’t using these tools in your events, you could be missing out on a chance to engage with your audience in a fun and meaningful way. And if your event attendance is falling short of the average 57-minute mark, adding moments of interactivity may draw people in and keep them around for longer.

Have an On-Demand Strategy

Believe it or not, 1 in 3 people who watch a webinar miss the live date entirely, as they would rather watch it on-demand. Let’s face it: we’re all getting used to an on-demand world of binge-watching and streaming services that put the viewer in control of the media experience. So, why would webinars be any different? As marketers that means that we need to think beyond the launch date alone. When planning your webinar promotion strategy, you need to have a plan for promoting the on-demand version of the webinar as well so that you don’t miss out on a much larger potential audience. 

There are a lot of ways to promote on-demand webinars, from banner ads to emails. Personally, I’d recommend a nice blog post — after all, you’re reading this one!

For more great tips and a ton of webinar data, catch up on our latest edition of the ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report.

Three Things Your Audience Wants from Your Webinar

We all know what we want from our webinars: more leads, more exposure for our company’s thought leaders, and more chances to share our message. But what about the people who attend those webinars? Ultimately, our webinars are only successful when everyone gets what they need — and giving your audience what they really want means understanding why your audience is attending, and ensuring that you cater to their content needs.    

How do you do that? Easy! Just follow these three tips for giving your audience what they really, really want:

Create an engaging experience

Sure, you could just let your audience stare at slides for an hour. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, you should think about every webinar as an opportunity to craft an immersive, engaging multimedia experience. Put your presenter on camera and add video clips or screen sharing to your presentation. Build in time for interactive tools like polls and surveys.

Every time you can get a response from your audience — whether it’s a click to download more content or a simple smile — you’ve succeeded at engineering a valuable fan experience.

Give your audience a chance to be heard

The number one mistake people make with webinars is assuming that the presenter is the only one talking. False! Everyone who signed up for your webinar is there for a reason: they want to know more about how your products will make their life easier, they need answers they haven’t been able to find anywhere else, they want to catch up on the latest trends in your space, etc. But unless you listen to them, you’ll never know what those exact reasons are and they won’t come back for more.

Q&A is the easiest way to give your webinar audience a voice (and most of us do that already), but it’s hardly the only option you have. Integrate social media tools into your webinar environment so that attendees can ask questions and share their experiences with a broader audience, but without leaving your event.

You may even want to include idea storming or group chat tools so that the audience can share their excitement, questions, and expertise with one another. Attendees will walk away from your webinars feeling like someone was really listening. And that’s always a great feeling!

Bonus points if you pass on these questions and conversations to the rest of your marketing team so they can pinpoint common themes around which you can develop related content. Pass this information to your sales team too so that they can send related content to qualified leads.

Make sure they feel like they’ve learned something new

These days, it seems like everyone is constantly juggling a million items on their to-do lists. So when someone carves out an hour from their busy schedule to attend your webinar, they expect to get something truly valuable from it. Keep that in mind as you’re planning your presentation: are you covering the same old ground, or are you exploring new trends, revealing unexpected results, and sharing new tips to make them smarter and faster at their job. 

Everyone who comes to your webinar should walk away knowing something they didn’t know when they signed up. Don’t solely use your webinars as a platform for pitching your products. Instead, focus on best practices and actionable advice that your audience can put into practice right away. Doing so establishes you as a trusted expert, leaving your audience with nothing but positive feelings about you and your webinar.

Of course, this is just the beginning!

Freshen Your Webinars With Tweaked Formats

How awesome are your webinars? That shouldn’t be a hard question, but for too many of us, too much of the time, it makes us stop and wonder if people are snoozing through them. Do you feel like you’re producing fantastic, useful content, but for some unknown reason it’s not connecting with your audience?

If you keep delivering the same webinar over and over without shaking up your format, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’re leaving your audiences yawning instead of fist pumping. Fortunately, with a few easy tweaks, you can deliver a webinar that’ll make your fans sit up and take notice. Let’s consider seating arrangements. Sometimes all you have to do is shake up your webinar format to create a more engaging, interactive experience — and here are five ways to do just that:

The Chat Show

When you have a really great presenter, they don’t have to be an expert on everything. Instead, put them in the anchor chair and bring in subject-matter experts as guests. Your high-energy host can set the tone and keep things moving along at the proper pace, putting even camera-shy guest experts at ease. Meanwhile, the subject matter experts can share critical information and field audience questions in real time. It’s the perfect blend of education and entertainment. Imagine a Jimmy Fallon-type presenter hosting a webinar… your audience will for sure tune in and be engaged with this format.

The Panel Discussion

If you want to bring in several different expert perspectives, you may want to trade in the chat show for a panel discussion. In this format, the presenter becomes the moderator, leading a panel of subject-area experts in a lively conversation about the subject of the webinar. The moderator should come prepared with discussion topics, but the audience can contribute significantly, either by submitting their own questions or responding to in-event polls. This style can create a lively debate if you bring in presenters with differing views, making for a potentially very exciting group chat box. 

The Coffee Talk

When it comes to casual and engaging webinar formats, you can’t beat a coffee talk. All you have to do is bring together three or four well-informed experts, give them a topic, and the webinar content creates itself. Coffee talks have a natural, conversational flow that feels fun and authentic. Your audience will want to get in on the conversation, so make you sure you provide plenty of opportunities for them to engage, such as Q&A, polls, surveys, or group chat boxes. The best part about this format is you likely won’t have to create any supporting slides.

The Interview

Standard, lecture-style presentations are a time-honored strategy for delivering information to an audience. But why not mix it up a little? The question-and-answer interview format makes the audience feel like they’re getting the inside scoop. By moving your expert from the presenter’s podium to the interviewee’s chair, you may get a fresh perspective on the content. The interview format is a natural fit for guest speakers like customers, partners, analysts, or industry experts.

Live Case Study

There’s nothing like a case study. It gives prospects a chance to see how other companies are using your products and services and hear, first-hand, what they can expect from you. So why not turn your best case study into a webinar? Invite a satisfied customer to share their experience with your webinar audience. The presenter can guide the conversation, while video and screen share can be integrated into the webinar to help the customer share their story in a more visual-forward manner than you would normally be able to present a case study.

As long as you keep your webinars fresh and engaging, they will continue to be your best tool for engaging customers and prospects at any stage of the funnel. By simply moving around the seats and experimenting with alternative webinar formats, you may find that your webinars are easier to follow and your audience learns more and retains it longer — not to mention the fact that you get more effective branding for your company and both internal and external experts. 

 

Give Webinar Marketing a Personal Touch

When it comes to large-scale communications with a personal touch, you can’t beat webinar marketing. Unlike white papers — or even massive in-person events — webinars really give you a chance to get personal and get real with your customers and prospects.

In last week’s live webinar, “How Personalization Can Drive Webinar Success,” Mark Bornstein walked us through some simple steps to make a real connection with webinars. In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights:

Send a thoughtful invitation

People are much more likely to respond to an email when it feels like you went the extra mile for them. So make your webinar invites more meaningful! It only takes a little effort to make a huge impact.

  • Write like a person. It’s all too easy for marketers to fall into bad habits and churn out emails that sound like a corporate jargon generator. Yuck. Remember that you’re writing an email for a real person with real concerns. Use “you” a lot and focus on what they’ll get from the event.
  • Segment your database. Not all customer needs were created equal. If your email service allows it, try sending a different, customized message to your most important segments.
  • Personalize the subject line. Nothing grabs someone’s attention like their own name. Try adding a variable field for first name or company to your email’s subject line: “Hey Jon! You’re invited to a webinar”

Be a considerate host

Whether you’re throwing a party or delivering a webinar, it’s no fun for anyone else if you make it all about you. Instead, look for ways to turn your presentation into a conversation, and get the audience engaged.

  • Don’t be too formal. The old slides-and-presenter webinar format can be a lot of fun, especially if you have a great presenter. But why shake things up a bit? Try different presenter formats, such as interviews, expert panels, or coffee talks.
  • Give them what they want. After really great webinar, the audience walks away full of ideas about what to do next. Pack your webinar with valuable info and actionable tips.
  • Listen. There’s nothing people love more than sharing their own experiences. Include polls, surveys, and Q&A to give your audience a chance to talk about themselves.

Let them know they matter

Show your audience how much they mean to you by inviting them to engage with your company again.

  • Stay in touch. Most leads start to go cold pretty quickly, so reach out within 24 hours with a follow-up call or personalized email.
  • Show them you were listening. But don’t just make a generic follow-up call! Ask them if they had any questions about the webinar they just watched. If the lead asked questions or responded to a poll, use that as a starting point for your next conversation.
  • Offer a fresh experience. It’s a good idea to offer them another piece of content, but make sure it isn’t more of the same. The next step should take them deeper into the buyer’s journey, whether it’s a white paper, a data sheet, a live demo, or an invitation to another webinar on a different topic of interest.

By making your webinars into genuinely personal experiences, you’ll increase attendance, engagement, and interest in your brand. For more great tips like these, watch “How Personalization Can Drive Webinar Success” on demand.

Nurturing Leads With Webinars: Awareness is Just the Beginning

The buyer’s journey has changed due to the high-quality information now easily available to prospects. B2B technology buyers are using this information in the early stages of the buying process and aren’t engaging directly with salespeople until much later. However, as buyers change their habits, there is an opportunity for marketers to play a bigger role.

Marketers’ primary goal is straightforward: to identify new prospects and progress them from one stage of the buying process to the next, ultimately moving them to the purchase stage. But how do you guide a lead from the first inquiry to a lifetime of customer loyalty? At ON24, we know that webinars are key in moving leads from one stage of the sales funnel to the next. In fact, according to Forrester Research, webinars are the #1 marketing tactic at each stage of the sales funnel.

Many of you may be using webinars to spark general interest and increase awareness, but that’s only the beginning. If designed with the buying cycle in mind, webinars can be an extremely effective method for moving prospects from awareness to purchase.

The secret to nurturing leads with webinars is delivering the right content at the right time. For example, while demonstration webinars are appropriate for bottom-of-funnel stages, they do not work well for top-of-funnel lead generation programs.

Here are some examples to illustrate how you can successfully use a webinar solution in each stage of the sales funnel.

Awareness

Prospects in the awareness stage are researching information to learn about your company – and others – so they can begin to evaluate options. At this stage, your objective is to win the prospect over with your company’s unique approach and value proposition. An effective webinar at the top of the funnel should demonstrate your company’s thought leadership perspective and your expertise in the field. Get one of the leaders at your company on board to discuss your specific point of view and how your product is at the cutting edge of the industry.

Consideration

Your prospects in the consideration stage are looking for answers. It’s now your responsibility to provide information to help move the prospect closer to making a decision. At this stage, webinars work best when they provide general solution-based content that explores typical challenges and benefits without highlighting the specifics of your company’s solution. One way to bring this to life is by having an industry leader, not a company spokesperson, host your webinar to discuss potential solutions to prospects’ problems.

Evaluation

By this stage, your prospects know that your particular technology is a possible solution for them but might not be convinced that you’re the right vendor. Therefore, you must influence them with the specifics of what your company offers and the benefits you can provide. In order to convey this through your webinar, call on your best advocates, customers! A customer in the same industry can describe your solution in detail and demonstrate the return on investment during a webinar. Hearing from a current customer can convince prospects that your company has a solution that can satisfy their needs.

Purchase

At the purchase stage, your prospect is ready to make a decision, and you’ve made it to the list of the top two or three choices. Now’s the time to demonstrate the superior features of your solution and highlight your competitive differentiators. Try teaming up with your company’s product manager to host a webinar to demonstrate the key features – and their benefits – that will positively influence your prospect’s decision.

Once you master the ability to tailor your webinar content to each stage of the sales funnel, you’ll find webinars to be an extremely effective method for moving prospects from one stage to the next. The equally important webinar analytics measure attendee engagement, progression through the funnel and behaviors, allowing you to identify sales-ready leads in real time and follow up with the most qualified leads immediately.

And webinar analytics become even more valuable when integrated with your CRM and marketing automation platforms – like Act-On – and incorporated into your lead scoring and nurturing programs. So what are you waiting for? Optimize your marketing program with webinars to accelerate your prospects’ journey through the buying cycle – from the first inquiry to revenue.

Ready to learn more about lead nurturing? Access our Lead Nurturing Toolkit, and you’ll learn about the lead marketing lifecycle, lead nurturing segmentation, automated email programs, and lead scoring. We’ll give you a blueprint for implementing long-term lead nurturing programs that will deliver more leads and higher close ratios.

“Nurturing Leads With Webinars: Awareness is Just the Beginning,” as posted on the Act-On Software Blog, 4/7/15