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.