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Why Death-By-Webinar Will Soon Become a Real Thing (And What to Do About It)

We’re now deep into lockdown, with perhaps some light at the end of the tunnel regarding some sort of return to normality.

One of the consequences of lockdown had been the huge number of webinars around at the moment. I wanted to share a prediction with you:

Within 3 months’ time, the phrase “Death by Webinar” will become common currency

Don’t get me wrong. Webinars can be amazing. We run them with clients at Front Line Genomics. So let me explain.

The natural response for many companies to lockdown is to bang out a webinar

Of course it is. And that’s not a bad thing. Event organisers have had to mitigate for lost events revenue. And companies who would usually generate leads or thought leadership via events have had to look for alternatives. Webinars are the perfect solution.

Webinars are also quick and easy to get going. Even for a technology dinosaur like me – just yesterday I was evaluating new webinar platforms, and found one where I could build, do basic marketing and run a webinar in less than 30 minutes from start-to-finish. (That’s not a boast. I really AM an idiot when it comes to these things. If you’re interested, email me and I’ll tell you which platform it was).

But webinars are also hard to do well

It’s not easy to (1) find engaging speakers, (2) market your webinar to an audience already being hit over the head with webinars, and (3) keep an audience engaged who can just leave whenever they like.

So, there are lots and lots of webinars, but lots of them aren’t that great.

In a strange way, that might be OK right now. There are so many people either working from home, or perhaps furloughed and looking to build their skill set or knowledge. Webinars fit the bill perfectly. And they are a nice replacement for physical events (a big plus being how easy they are to leave if the experience is poor, compared to a conference).

But things are changing. As I write, most companies have either started to announce plans to reduce lockdown restrictions, or remove them altogether (that’s another post all by itself). People are about to go back to work.

Taken together, you have the perfect storm of huge supply, low quality and dropping demand.

So, what do you do about it?

Firstly, it’s not all bad news. The reality is that webinars can be an amazing forum for telling stories, educating an audience, and understanding an audience and responding to their needs – if you get it right.

Also, there’s no doubt that the coronavirus experience will have re-moulded the world to embrace digital experiences more and more – it’s not just going to get back to how it was before. The world has changed, and the slow walk towards digitization has now turned into a jog.

So, despite the perfect storm I describe above, DO invest in webinars. But do it well. Here’s are 9 things to consider:

*** 1 ***

Have a crystal-clear idea of what you want to get out of the webinar

Thought leadership in front of 1000 people? An interactive masterclass with 25 people? Those are two very different types of webinar (arguably the latter isn’t a webinar at all). Who, exactly, do you need to get in front of? Document it, and build a plan to hit it. I am constantly surprised by how many marketers in companies I speak to do not have a clear idea of who is buying from them, and who influences that buying decision. Scary stuff.

Also, know what your want your ROI to be. If you need leads for the sales team, build a webinar to achieve that. If it’s aligning your brand with one of your customers, then you’ll need a different plan.

*** 2 ***

Choose the technology to match your objective

Don’t get too caught up in the different cutting-edge features of newly available platforms. Decide what you want to achieve with your platform, either now or in the future, as well as what strengths or limitations you have, and invest in a platform that does that for you.

Want to spend time learning from and listening to attendees? Get a platform that allows for Q&A and polling. Low on marketing resource? Get a platform that allows you to market your webinar straight from the dashboard without a fancy email system.

You get the idea.

*** 3 ***

Invest time in building a top-notch marketing plan, and commit to it

What you do will depend on your audience, but typically it will involve a mixture of social media, website promotion, target emails to your database, a decent lead time, partnerships with other organisations who serve your market (e.g. publications), and a great landing page and registration experience.

For more on this, here’s an excellent article from my friend Ricardo Molina at BrightBull. Helpful tip: He recommends to email webinar registrants one day and one hour before the webinar starts.

*** 4 ***

Have a mindset of helping, not selling (even if your main goal is to sell)

I’ve written about in more detail elsewhere –  the most important thing you can do is put yourself into the shoes of your audience. They’re typically not coming to your webinar to get the latest technical updates for your latest invention. They’re attending to get help with a real problem they’re facing, learn new stuff or for an emotional experience.

Right now, mid COVID-19 crisis, that’s more important than ever. People will remember how you made them feel in their darkest hour. So, don’t sell to them. Help them.

The paradox? You’ll sell more that way.

*** 5 ***

Precision over scale is usually the goal

Do not be seduced by partners who can promise you 1000 leads for a webinar, without any supporting information.

You can get 1000 leads, but how good are the leads? How likely are they to buy from you, now or in the future? If working with a new partner, how are they acquiring the leads? Are they blasting a database into submission with daily emails that damage your brand? Or are they carefully targeting the right people within their database with a crafted message?

In addition, one of the main benefits to webinars is the ability to gain precise insights from and about your audience. That’s both about monitoring who is responding to your message and how they’re responding to it, but also about getting insights from them before, during and after the webinar.

You need to get the right audience in the room to do this. Prioritise achieving this it over getting large numbers of attendees.

*** 6 ***

Support your webinar with carefully crafted content, both before and after the webinar

Remember, if your ultimate objective is to grow your business by selling more stuff, make sure the experience that you give people who attend the webinar is focused on helping them.

What happens before and after the webinar is important. You can preview the webinar by interviewing your webinar speaker/s, or crafting an article that helps to educate your intended audience on a topic, with the promise of more during the webinar. And afterwards, you can summarise the webinar in a brief post that can be used to prioritise leads (which of your registrants viewed and shared this post?), but more importantly, help them maximise the ROI on their time with you.

*** 7 ***

Choose your partners carefully

This one is CRITICAL. Unless you have experience of delivering webinars, or are willing to invest the time to make it a mainstay of your in-house marketing capabilities, you’ll want to partner with someone who can help you.

But evaluate your partners carefully.

As the COVID-19 crisis hits the events industry hard, every events company under the sun is pushing out sales webinars left, right and centre. But do they have a digital audience? Have they invested in REALLY helping your market before (or do they just bang out an annual conference for the cash)? Do they have an articulated mission beyond profit, one that’s valued by your audience?

Think carefully about whether you want to align your brand with theirs. And have some criteria against which you want to evaluate your partners. I’ve written a detailed post on how to do that here.

*** 8 ***

Make the actual webinar experience for attendees amazing

Here are some tips:

Start with the audience experience. Think carefully about building the story/narrative, as experienced by webinar attendees. Think about how you can help them, what they can learn, how that’s tied to your solution, and – most importantly – how you will make them feel. Do this before you even start your marketing campaign.

Practice using the webinar platform well before the webinar itself. Make sure the person running the webinar, the speaker/s and any guests know how to use it.

Let your audience see who’s talking. If you can, pick a platform where attendees can see the speakers. They’ll want to see who’s speaking to them, just like at a conference. It’s an important part of the experience.

Engage your audience regularly. For instance, start with a poll, invite Q&A, have intermittent polls, or someone on hand to answer technical questions. Look after your attendees – imagine they’re at a dinner party in your home, and treat them just as well. And get feedback from them afterwards.

Help your audience. Ensure you have clear takeaways for your audience, and deliver them. Again, your main objective should be to help your audience, not sell stuff.

*** 9 ***

Benefit from the long tail (and help your audience out even more)

The webinar’s over, and that’s the end, right?

Wrong. You’re probably just over half way there.

Firstly, if you can, record your webinar and make it available on demand. Let your registrants know you’ve done that (so they can attend again in case they missed anything – track it if you can), and also use feedback (hopefully positive) from the webinar to market it to people who couldn’t make the live version.

In addition, use the content piece you generate that summarise the webinar in your marketing campaigns (don’t make it a sales-y message – make it something valuable and/or that helps them with a problem they’re facing).

At Front Line Genomics we have one client that generated over 1000 additional leads after the webinar through the use of such a piece, which after further qualification turned into over 100 new leads for their sales team. I can’t disclose the client’s name, but contact me if you want to know more.

This article is one of a series of articles designed to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some other posts in this series:

Why helping, not selling, is the smartest marketing approach right now.

How to evaluate new webinar partnerships

3 major forces re-shaping the business landscape due to COVID-19

Marketing best practices during COVID-19: Building success during uncertainty