Content marketing offers a high ROI and is relatively accessible, so it’s become radically popular as a means of promoting a business. The flip side to that popularity, of course, is that competition is rampant, and it’s harder than ever to stand out from the crowd. If you want any hope of actually reaching your target audience, you need to offer unique content, in new forms that your competitors will have a hard time mimicking. One of the best ways to do this is through a relatively old, yet startling under-utilized medium — the webinar.
The trouble with getting started
You might already be familiar with webinars, and know (at least to some extent) how effective they are, but you’ve probably never actually done one. You aren’t alone; 90 percent of marketers report considering webinars as a form of engagement, yet only 60 percent of them take action on it, as reported by Jarek Waielewski of ClickMeeting. Why is this? A big part of the problem is that marketers often don’t know where to start. They understand the idea of webinars, and may even know how to host one, but they get stuck on topic generation or lose momentum when it comes to putting the pieces together.
To overcome this, you first need to understand why webinars are so effective to begin with.
Webinars have a number of distinct advantages over other forms of content marketing:
1. Drawing a crowd. First, webinars give you the ability to draw a crowd over time. An article, for example, might generate a spike in traffic when it’s first published, followed by a trickle of users as it remains up on your website. But a webinar demands at least a month of prep time leading up to the actual event. Focusing all your users together in one event makes the event seem more powerful and gives you a boost in both visibility and credibility — especially if you promote your projected attendance levels in advance.
2. Interactivity. One of the greatest advantages of webinars is their degree of interactivity. In most webinar formats, it’s not just you giving a spiel to a group of silent users; instead, these users can submit questions to you, live and engage with you in discussion (as long as you allow it). This level of interactivity blurs the line between content and social engagement, and makes the format especially appealing to participants looking for that extra level of value in their content needs.
3. Personal authority. Webinars also give you a chance to show off more of your personal authority on the subject at hand. While it’s possible to prepare your speech well in advance, speaking about a topic makes you seem more authoritative than if you were merely writing about the topic — it’s implied that you have a greater degree of innate knowledge this way. Still, you can’t rely on a script, or else you’ll sound robotic and over-rehearsed. Immerse yourself in your subject so you truly are an expert.
4. Showing, not telling. According to Neil Patel, “Visual content is today’s marketing milieu to get in front of your users in powerful, interactive, and meaningful ways.” Online users are getting sick of written content, and content that only describes things to them in a distant way. Instead, they want to see things unfold before their eyes. They want hands-on demonstrations and showcases, and webinars allow you to give them to your audience. The format naturally lends itself to showing, rather than telling, and that makes them much more powerful than your average post.
5. Future value. Webinars may seem like one-time events, making them inferior to the semi-permanent state of things like blog posts and whitepapers. However, it’s a best practice to record your webinar and offer it as a download on your website after you’ve completed it. This will give your attendees something to refer back to if they want to remind themselves of a topic you’ve covered, but more importantly, it gives you a permanent asset that you can promote in the future. This becomes increasingly effective as you develop more webinars, eventually building yourself an archive that your users can access at any time.
6. Information exchange. Most webinars require some form of user signup before allowing entry to the presentation — and you can even include this barrier before you allow users to download your past webinars. This may affect attendance slightly, but it enables you to gather instant information on all your participants. Even if your webinar doesn’t go well, or if you don’t receive much in the way of interaction, you’ll increase the size of your email list and have a handful of potential leads to follow up with when the webinar is over.
If you want to be successful, you have to overcome the initiation barrier; put a webinar on the calendar. Commit to a topic, set a date, and start attracting potential viewers through email blasts and social media promotion. You’ll get some feedback to help guide your material, but more importantly, you’ll put pressure on yourself to actually follow through. Webinars are extraordinarily powerful — but only if you actually end up hosting them.
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