In 2014, research from the Content Marketing Institute found that webinars were among the 12 most frequently-used digital marketing tactics and – more importantly – among the five most effective.
Since then, they’ve been adopted by increasing numbers of marketers who are reporting better-than-ever results: research released by CMI last year found that 66% of B2B marketers are using webinars and that they now rate them as the second most effective content marketing tactic out there.
Webinars can help educate customers (and potential customers), build relationships, and drive sales. Of course, they’re only effective if people sign up and attend – and if they give your audience what they want and are expecting.
Whether you’re walking qualified leads through your product or educating industry peers with a personal case study, your webinar has to deliver on its promises.
Thankfully, there’s no wizardry involved in driving webinar sign-ups and converting some of those who attend into customers. As with most forms of marketing, you can break down the process of creating and promoting a webinar into a relatively formulaic set of procedures.
Read on, and I’ll tell you how to drive webinar sign-ups, the ingredients that go into a successful webinar, and what you need to do to convert some (if not all) of your attendees into customers.
How to Drive Webinar Sign-ups
You won’t be converting people into customers if no one attends your webinar in the first place. Here are a few tips, tricks and tactics you can use to promote your webinar and maximize the number of sign-ups you get (and subsequently, the number of people who actually attend).
Pick the right topic
Choosing the right topic for your webinar is key to two things:
- Driving sign-ups
- Converting some of those sign-ups into customers
“While the content of your webinars is vital to success, everything rests on that topic. A killer webinar topic is what earns you greater exposure, more registrations, and sky-high attendance.” John Rydell, Meeting Burner
For this to work, you need to pick a topic that captures the interests of your target audience.
Here are some of the tactics I use when brainstorming ideas for webinars.
- Check the results of your site search. What questions do people keep asking?
- Which are your most popular blog posts? Could any of these benefit from further exploration or elaboration in a webinar?
- What questions are people asking in the comments of your blog posts?
- What themes do you find yourself explaining time and again? This doesn’t necessarily have to be online – it could be in a client meeting or when pitching for new business.
- Ask your customers if they’re interested in webinars and if so, what they’d like to see covered – send an email, call your best customers, or implement an on-site survey. Chances are some of the topics current customers are interested in will be relevant and useful to potential customers, too.
Once you have a list of potential topics, you need to narrow it down. I tend to do this by:
- Again, asking my customers what they think.
- Asking myself if this topic is genuinely useful and has a real chance of converting leads into customers.
- Asking myself what I would be most interested in, if I were my ideal customer.
- Being honest with myself about whether the topic is something I can do justice to.
- Simply following my instincts.
Contact your email list
Once I’ve decided on a topic for a webinar, the first thing I do is notify my email list. I’ll also create drip campaigns that send follow-up reminders to those who don’t respond.
When I have a confirmed sign-up I’ll get in touch with them personally and ask if they’d mind spreading the message to anyone else they think might be interested. I’ll also ask if they could share the details on social media.
Admittedly, this is a step I could automate. It would be easy to create an autoresponder that fires off a confirmation (something I still do) and asks the attendee to do some sharing on my behalf, but I feel that at this point, it’s important to make a genuine connection with each sign-up (especially since my end goal for the webinar is to get them to convert).
Co-market with another company
Approach other companies in your industry and ask whether they would be interested in co-hosting the webinar with you.
This achieves two things:
- It dilutes the pressure of hosting. Not only does this mean you can you share the prep work, it gives you someone to bounce off when you’re live on-air (and who can potentially answer questions you can’t).
- It essentially doubles your reach when promoting the webinar since you’ll be able to leverage your own and your co-host’s audience.
That said, bear in mind that you will have to work together when planning the webinar, even if the prep work is likely to be reduced overall. You can save time by assigning yourself and your co-host a specific set of topics or points to prepare for, then collaborate and bring everything together once you both have a solid idea of what you want to say.
Look for relevant newsletters and blogs
Find newsletters and blogs that are relevant to the topic of your webinar and ask them if they’d be willing to give your webinar a mention (alongside a compelling reason why they should).
Failing that, ask how much it would be to buy ad space on their blog or in their webinar (and don’t forget to negotiate).
And invite people in your industry or potential customers who live local to you. This can be really effective simply because a locally-hosted event (whether online or in the real world) feels more relevant to prospective attendees. We believe we’ll have more in common with other attendees and this can help alleviate any fears associated with participating in an event (a theory which again holds true for both online and real-world events).
To get even more out of this tactic, you can create multiple Eventbrite pages for the same webinar, in different cities.
Outreach to potential prospects
Use outreach to promote your webinar in the same way you might use it to promote content. Identify prospects who work in your industry, could potentially learn something from your webinar, and have the authority to buy .
Now is a great time to leverage your customer personas. Choose a persona (or personas) that best represents the ideal attendee for this webinar. You can then use them to increase the effectiveness of your outreach in two ways:
- Use the personas when searching for prospects who are most likely to benefit from the webinar (and subsequently convert).
- Qualify each potential prospect by determining how closely they match those personas before reaching out.
Email tends to be marketers’ first port-of-call when executing a cold outreach campaign, but don’t forget about LinkedIn – it’s ideal for figuring out whether you’re talking to the right “type” of prospect (i.e. someone who is in a position to buy), but bear in mind that you’ll need a premium account if you want to contact someone who isn’t one of your connections.
Post to relevant social media groups
LinkedIn and Facebook are ideal, for instance (there are hundreds of groups for pretty much every topic you could think of). Twitter chats are great for this sort of thing, too. Do your best to avoid mimicking the habits of a spammer, though.
Post to groups you’re already a member of and are active in. If this isn’t possible, try asking an admin for permission to post about your webinar before you hit publish.
Run paid social media ads
Use Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (or, if you like, all three).
The first step to promoting your webinar on Facebook is to create an event for it (you’ll find the link for this on the left of the page).
Next, click “Create Event > Create Public Event.”
Once you’ve created and published your event you’ll be able to pay to promote it using the Event Responses ad type.
Unfortunately, you can’t “create” and promote an event on Twitter or LinkedIn in the same way that you can on Facebook (which is understandable on Twitter; LinkedIn used to offer this feature but removed it).
Instead, on Twitter, you can simply write and promote a tweet.
To do this, you’ll need to head over to the ads page. From there, you’ll want to select the “Website Clicks and Conversions” ad type. You’ll be sending anyone who clicks to a dedicated landing page (I’ll be talking about this in just a moment).
LinkedIn is a bit different.
There are a few ways you can promote your webinar via the platform. You could sponsor an inmail (email within LinkedIn) that will be delivered to the inboxes of your target audience. Alternatively, you could create a text or display ad. You can start creating your LinkedIn ad over here.
Bear in mind that there’s no need to spend big bucks here – chances are you’re targeting a pretty niche audience, so a few dollars per platform per day should be enough to reach the type of people you want to get in front of, in large enough numbers to drive a few sign-ups.
Link to it on your website
Use sidebar ads and/or pop-ups. The most important thing is to ensure your visitors can’t miss it. At the same time, don’t be annoying. Ensure any promotional material on your website doesn’t affect the overall user experience.
Mention it in your off-site marketing
If you’re writing a guest post, mention your webinar in the byline. Taking part in a podcast or video interview? Tell everyone who’s watching or listening what your webinar’s about, when it is, and where they can find out more.
Basically, use every chance you can to shout about your webinar in the run-up to it.
Tell people in the real world
Attending a conference or networking event? Drop details of your webinar into the conversations you have with other attendees.
That said, don’t lead with it. You’ll probably (okay, almost definitely) come across as rude, pushy, and probably desperate – and no one wants to attend the webinar of a rude, pushy, desperate person.
Instead, wait for a suitable prompt or pause in the conversation to bring the topic up.
Create and optimize a dedicated landing page
If you do, it might rank in the search results, send you relevant traffic, and consequently lead to sign-ups. It also gives you somewhere to send paid traffic and to link to when you’re mentioning your webinar in any off-site marketing.
The page should include:
- A catchy headline.
- The date and time it’s due to take place (don’t forget to specify your time zone).
- A brief summary of the event.
- Details about the host (or hosts).
- Reasons someone should attend (i.e. what the webinar will cover and what they will get out of coming along).
- A clear CTA alongside a short sign-up form.
If possible, things that would be good to feature include:
- Videos of past webinars.
- A description of who should attend (that answers the question “Is this webinar for me?”)
- Additional CTAs (especially if the content extends below the fold or is long enough that you can expect mobile users to scroll).
You can see an example of a dedicated webinar landing page here.
Create a hashtag
Be sure to include it in your promotional materials and encourage attendees to use it anytime they mention the webinar on social media. This helps create buzz before and during the webinar (quick tip: ask a friend to live tweet it for you).
It also leaves a digital footprint that makes it easy for the conversation to be continued.
“Using a lesser-known hashtag will help ensure all tweets with the hashtag are about your webinar.
For example, we used #TwitterQA for our webinar with Twitter in January that was mainly a Q&A with an executive from Twitter.” Amanda Sibley, HubSpot
Send confirmation emails
Design a confirmation email that clarifies every detail of the webinar an attendee could want or need to know. Ensure this gets fired off automatically the moment someone signs up.
Send reminder emails
Ensure those who have signed up, turn up, by reminding them a couple of times in the day or two leading up to the webinar. This is critical – statistics show that only 40% to 50% of those who sign up to a webinar actually attend.
What Makes a Great Webinar?
If you want to convert webinar attendees into customers, your webinar itself has to impress.
“Good webinars can be a little like independent movies – they leave you feeling wonderful, inspired, and ready to take on the world. Bad webinars, however, are more like Michael Bay movies – after two hours, you begin to wonder how somebody could have possibly been paid to make something so unapologetically terrible.” Dan Shewan, WordStream
Here are three key attributes every great webinar needs to have.
1. It needs to be engaging
A great webinar needs to involve your audience – you need to interact with them. Simply talking to them (or more accurately, at them) for sixty minutes or so won’t work.
It will not, for one, get you customers (although it might get you a high drop-off rate – meaning you end your webinar with far fewer attendees than you started with).
Exactly how you make your webinar engaging will depend on the type of webinar you’re hosting.
If you’re demonstrating how to use your product, interaction and engagement will happen easily. Ensure everyone’s switched on and listening by regularly asking your audience questions, and encourage them to ask questions in return.
If your webinar is designed to educate your audience more generally (which based on the context of this article, it probably is) executing an engaging webinar is a little trickier.
What you need to do is treat it more like a presentation.
You’ll want to create slides that are image-heavy, while also providing enough information to remain useful after the webinar.
You’ll also want to begin the webinar with a genuinely interesting introduction (aim for exciting, if you can). Try opening with an anecdote. This will help you capture your audience’s attention, ensuring they want to stay tuned in and find out more.
A lot of great presentations begin this way. You can read some great tips on starting a presentation with a story here.
How your webinar will likely differ from an on-stage presentation (and where it becomes more like a traditional, real-life seminar) lies in how you will interact with your audience. You should be actively encouraging your audience to speak up when they have questions.
This will make a huge difference to how engaged they stay throughout.
As I’ve already said, your audience will switch off if your webinar revolves around you talking, and little else. Engage your audience by encouraging them to treat the webinar as a discussion, not a lecture.
2. It should deliver on its promises
Any promotional material you distribute ahead of your webinar should stipulate its contents. You don’t have to go into great detail, but attendees should have a solid idea of what to expect ahead of time.
They should also have an understanding of what they can expect to learn from the webinar.
The webinar itself, after a brief introduction, at least, should then reiterate what’s coming up.
Don’t let your audience down. Make absolutely sure that your webinar covers all promised topics in an appropriate level of detail.
Planning is key to making this happen, but so is staying in control. This is covered in a little more detail just below.
3. It has to be useful
It goes without saying that a great webinar needs to be useful to its audience, but how do you ensure all your attendees are going to get something out of it that’s worth taking away?
If you’ve accurately described the contents of the webinar in your promotional materials, you’re halfway there. Anyone who’s attending should be there because they’re expecting some (or all) of the subject matter to be useful to them.
That said, what you say you’re going to do, and what you actually do, can be two very different things.
Will a webinar be useful if the subject matter’s right, but the delivery is wrong?
Here are a few of the things I do before, during, and after I host a webinar, in order to maximize the value it offers to my attendees.
It doesn’t matter whether this is your first webinar or your fiftieth, you should always run through it beforehand – multiple times, if possible.
I try to do this alone and with a test audience (even if that test audience is just one person). In order to replicate the real deal as closely as possible I’ll always encourage my test audience to put me on the spot and ask questions.
I push attendees to ask questions
Okay, I know this is something I’ve mentioned a lot in this article, but it’s because this is just that important, not only from the point of view of keeping your audience alert and engaged, but because seeking clarification on anything anyone’s unsure about will make a huge difference to how much your attendees get out of the webinar.
I take (and keep) control
So far I’ve put a lot of emphasis on how important it is to encourage your audience to ask questions – both to keep them engaged, and maximize the value they get from the webinar.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to take that back.
It’s also critical that as the host, you retain control of the webinar and ensure it doesn’t veer off topic.
If that happens (and in most successful webinars, it will – simply because the more engaged people are, the chattier they are likely to be) don’t be afraid to interrupt, put your foot down, and get everyone back on track.
I wrap up with key takeaways
I always ensure my audience has taken my most important points on board by wrapping up with a list of key takeaways. I tend to include these on my final slide, too.
Of course, you should still allow time at this point for additional questions.
Plan to run over your allotted time, but let your audience know that the core portion of the webinar has wrapped up and what they do next is up to them. If they want to stick around to ask questions or simply listen in on the Q&A, they can. If not, they’re free to leave.
You should also make it clear that you’re open to receiving (and answering) questions at any point in the future, too – that if they can’t stick around because they need to be somewhere else, or they think of something they want to ask later down the line, you’re happy to hear from them, and would actively encourage them to get in touch (this bit’s a win-win for everyone).
How to Convert Attendees Into Customers
So far you’ve learned how to drive webinar sign-ups and host a webinar that your attendees actually enjoy and genuinely benefit from.
But that’s not really why you’re here, is it?
You’re not hosting webinars out of the goodness of your heart (unless you are, in which case you have my utmost respect). You’re hosting them because you want more customers.
Here’s what you need to do in order to keep your attendees engaged after your webinar wraps up, and boost your odds that some of them will turn into customers.
Wrap up with a clear CTA
After your key takeaways but before your Q&A, make it crystal clear to your attendees what you would (in an ideal world) like them to do next.
You and I know that this is to buy your product, but in practice you’re going to need to be a little more strategic about how you broach the subject.
Instead, briefly (very briefly) explain the benefits of your product and how it can further address the pain points affecting your attendees (those same pain points that likely brought them to the webinar).
Then, tempt them with an offer designed just for them, and explain what they have to do to take advantage of it (needless to say, you should ensure to make that last bit as effortless as possible).
Follow up shortly after
This part is important whether or not an attendee converts into a customer. Exactly how you do this is up to you, but I’d usually advise keeping it simple and sending an email.
First and foremost, you should thank each participant for attending.
Next, request feedback. Ask them:
- To rate the webinar on a scale of 1-5 (or 1-10 if you prefer).
- What they liked best about the webinar.
- What they liked least about the webinar.
- If there was anything they hoped to see covered that wasn’t.
- If there was anything specific they think you could improve upon.
I’d also advise asking them for suggestions for future webinars. Is there anything else they’re looking to learn about (or hone their skills on) that they feel a webinar could assist with?
Last but not least, wrap up with a CTA.
Create a customized landing page
I’ve already mentioned creating and using a custom landing page to promote your webinar and drive traffic and sign-ups. That still stands, but it can also be used as a conversion tool.
When your webinar wraps up you can change that landing page into a lead generation page.
This can (and probably should) include:
- The slides from the webinar.
- A video of the webinar.
- Your contact details (and a CTA encouraging attendees to get in touch if they have more questions).
- Product details.
And most importantly of all…
- Details of the exclusive offer you’re making available to attendees (along with a clear CTA).
Use email drip campaigns
Not everyone who attends your webinars will respond to follow-up emails, and even fewer will convert into customers.
Email drip campaigns help you streamline the process of nurturing leads and targeting those who don’t respond.
You can read a detailed guide to creating and executing effective email drip campaigns here.
Have you ever hosted a webinar? How did you like it, and how did it benefit you? Did you manage to convert any attendees into customers? I’d love to hear about your experiences, so it’d be great if you could leave a comment below.