Why your webinar is not working

Webinars can be great marketing tools for awareness and lead generation, provided you do them right. However, running a successful webinar is often easier said than done.

webinar marketing primary

Spoiler alert: The single point of failure for webinars often boils downs to this – failing to recognize that webinars DO NOT have a life of their own outside of a wider B2B marketing campaign. Attempting to treat them as a standalone marketing tool and relying on them to single-handedly deliver the MQL goods is a recipe for disaster. Here’s why.

When was the last time you were satisfied with your webinar’s ROI?

Marketers love webinars. There isn’t one B2B CMO that I speak to that doesn’t raise the question of timing for their next webinar. And quite rightly so. According to ReadyTalk, 62% of B2B marketers currently use webinars as part of their content marketing programs. Webinars are indeed incredible marketing assets. Managed correctly, they can help strengthen a company’s brand awareness, increase market exposure and generate qualified leads.

However, simply hosting a webinar with great content does not guarantee its success. Far from it. Lets face it, webinars often end up being failures.  Many great markers have tried and failed, wondering why their webinar results end up missing the mark.

Why did your webinar flop?

As with all other elements of a great content strategy – ebooks, whitepapers, blogs and videos – webinars aren’t meant to stand alone. A webinar is just a one tactical piece of marketing. It can work really well but only if it is created from the very beginning as an inherent piece of a larger marketing campaign. The bottom line: a webinar by itself cannot survive in the wild.

How to approach webinars the right way

Webinars are not special – they are an integral part of your overall marketing strategy and a larger campaign, and should be approached as such. The key to a successful webinar involves solid planning and good management from start to finish – and even after. The bottom line: you will need to think strategically, as well as tactically.

Step 1: How to set KPIs

Any effective campaign begins with setting KPIs and deciding on exactly what you want to achieve from it.  Hosting a webinar is not exempt from this rule. And the webinar’s KPIs should be part of the larger campaign’s KPIs...not standalone. Before doing anything else, sit down with your team to determine your end goals and set KPIs for your event. Focus on SMART goals, measure your progress as you go and make sure you stay on track.

Step 2: What is your homework?

Once you’ve determined your objectives, you can proceed to the pre-webinar preparation work.

Answer the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What will the subject matter be? (What topic would interest your audience and provide real value?)
  • Who are your speakers? (Are they qualified, subject-matter experts who are relevant to your topic and audience? Are they engaging speakers? Is their accent clear?)

Pick your battles

What is the topic you are known (or want to be known) for? Don’t jump on a topic just because it is “hot” and everyone around you seems to be running a webinar on it. 

As mentioned above, the webinar is not a standalone piece of content so ensure it is aligned with your overall content strategy. For example, if up until then you have been talking about endpoint protection for SMBs, expecting a crowd from financial enterprise space to show up for your webinar without any prep work is beyond unrealistic. Choose a subject which allows you to plan ahead for subsequent follow-up webinars and other pieces of content (not just a one-off discussion).

Step 3: How and where to promote your webinar?

“To get the most from your webinars, you should plan to promote them before, during, and even after the live event.”  – Mark Bornstein

Good promotion is essential to generate sign ups. Social, paid, email blasts...well, you know the drill. 

  • Email: Make sure to send out three key reminder emails to your registrants: right after registration, one day in advance, and 10-15 minutes before the live event.
  • Social: Use paid and organic promotion on social media to generate interest and grow your audience. Consider a special giveaway for people who tweet or share your webinar.
  • Timing: When exactly to start the promotion? Reports show that starting early on and continuing until the very last moment is the key. Webinar benchmark report by On24 shows that one in five registrants sign up for a webinar more than 15 days before the event, while a staggering 26% of webinar registrants sign up the day of the webinar. According to Brighttalk, webinars are the most successful when they are promoted around 3-4 weeks out and through the live day. “Starting now” reminder emails sent 10-15 minutes before the event are extremely effective, with 35%-40% CTR on average.

A webinar is a unique type of content. It’s one thing to get people to register for your webinar, getting them to show up at a specific time and date is another story altogether. So why don’t you get your business development representatives to call people up and confirm their attendance in advance, just as you would do with an offline event? Long story short – make sure that webinar sign up forms require a valid phone number and pick up that phone.

Finally, reach out to your large, established partners or affiliates and get their help with promoting your webinar. Not only does this increase your chances of success, but it also broadens your reach and helps bring in new leads.

Step 4: Best practice for webinar delivery

Webinar lengths have only slightly declined over the past several years, dipping from 41.4 minutes in 2013 to 39.2 minutes in 2016. At the same time, minutes viewed per webinar has actually increased, signaling higher engagement. This is great news since webinars encourage two-way participation. Create interactive webinar experiences and make sure to take advantage of engagement tools like polls, Q&As and attachments.

A Q&A can be embarrassing if there are no questions from the audience at all. To avoid awkward silence, make sure to prepare questions and answers in advance just in case. And don’t forget to ask colleagues to take part in the webinar and actually ask the questions. DOH!

Do test the hosting platform in advance and ensure that all speakers and moderators hold a dry run before the webinar itself.  Don’t brush over the quality of the presentation, the recording, and the platform that you’ll be using to go live. During the webinar, assign a moderator to monitor the webinar itself as well as your social media channels. They should help answer questions, respond to comments and build hype.

Step 5: Follow up with intent

Your job as a marketer doesn’t end after the webinar - in fact, it’s critical to have a post-live promotion plan in place.

Gilles Bertaux, co-founder of Livestorm, recommends delivering special attention at the end of your webinar. “Send the video, the slides, a transcript of the questions - maybe even some data. This way you ensure more visibility and potentially a better conversion next time,” he says.

About a third of people who ever see your webinar will do so by watching a recording after the event. It is always a good idea to have on-demand video available and distribute the recording of the webinar through a gated landing page to keep generating leads. It is extremely important to support and promote your webinar after the live event to take advantage of its long-term lead generation potential, so make sure to have a solid post-live strategy in place.

Step 6: How to really nurture your leads

Webinars are powerful tools for lead nurturing, so you’ll want to make sure that you set up some proper nurturing strategies in advance.

Segment all your contacts into several groups:

  • Group A - Signed up but didn’t attend
  • Group B - Attended
  • Group C - Neither, but the content of the webinar is relevant for them

For each group, you’ll want to have separate post-webinar nurturing campaigns in place to re-engage your prospects and keep them moving along the buyer's journey.

Your nurturing flows should end about a month after your webinar. This is when you’ll be able to start analyzing the results and determining the success/failure of your event.

Step 7: How should you analyze the results?

Only after your nurturing flows have run their course, can really start to gauge the success of the webinar by measuring SQL and MQL you got as a result.

Two extremes of huge success or total failure are easy to gauge, but most webinars will fall into a grey space in the middle.

To truly understand the success of the webinar, make sure you understand the industry benchmarks. Specifically, you would want to measure:

  • The absolute number of attendees. What is a good number of viewers? There is no universal answer, the number will depend on the industry and the type of the webinar - some are intended to draw large audiences, while others are niche and targeted to a specific segment. 

While conversions ultimately trump quantity of attendees, it is still an important metric to measure.  According to On24, over the past few years, the majority of the webinars (46%) drew audiences between 200–299 attendees, while according to Brighttalk 45% of webinars attract between 1-100 views.

  • Registrant to attendee conversion rate. According to webinar benchmark report, the average rate is 40%, so a rate anywhere between 35% and 45% should be considered a strong result.
  • Lead quality. The number of closed deals, MQLs and SQLs is the ultimate measure of a success of the webinar. This number will vary from company to company, and should be measured against your own data. Did your webinar perform better or worse than other types of content?

Final thoughts

So, this is it. Next time you want to run a webinar – go for it, but don’t rely on this nor any other marketing tool to single-handedly deliver the MQL goodness. Webinars are great, but have no life of their own outside of a wider B2B marketing campaign. Attempting to treat them as a standalone marketing asset would almost certainly be a recipe for disaster.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the Fall 2018 digital issue of CIO