Multimedia-18Who doesn’t love a good webinar? All of the benefits of a conference panel or training session with the added satisfaction of being able to watch along from the office, or from home in your PJs and bunny slippers.

Webinars are a powerful, inexpensive way to connect with your target audience and they have all of the four major food groups of great content – real-time, measurable, engaging, and most importantly, re-useable. On top of that, you’re able to collect lead data from the minute people register! According to ON24, 5.8 million people registered for webinars last year and at least some of those folks are your potential buyers, so it’s time you control that conversation before your competitors do!

In this post, I want to break down my webinar best practices from running several of these babies, and attending hundreds more. Not all webinars are created equal, and if you want to set your next one apart, here’s how:

Plan Ahead, and Know Your Goals

Hosting a webinar isn’t just as simple as picking a topic and hoping for the best. Like every piece of content, your webinar should have clear goals, and a clear measurement of success. Here’s some ways you can break this down:

Set your goals early
Obviously these are all high-level outcomes, so you should definitely refine these to match the amount of effort you are putting into your webinar. The strategy you employ to reach these goals will also vary. Driving awareness about a new product may involve marketing your webinar to specific user groups that are currently underserved by existing offerings. Purely building a lead database may involve partnering with a high-profile speaker to increase the signup rate. Teaching attendees best practices about your product will involve heavily marketing your webinar to internal users.

Your goals are important, but you must also consider your attendees goals. If I had a dollar for every webinar I have bailed on because the first 20 minutes were a pure product pitch, I would have enough money to tour the world teaching people how to give better webinars. Your attendees are giving up their time to learn something from you – so you better make sure they learn something.

I’ve always been a fan of HootSuite’s ongoing webinar series:

HootSuite Webinar series is well done

HootSuite holds these webinars on a fairly regular basis, and gives attendees the ability to learn more about social media strategy, with a secondary focus on achieving results with the HootSuite platform. Some of these are more product focused than others, but for a social media newbie, they provide a great introduction to different social networks, and social strategy, without pushing on their product too heavily.

Partner with the Right People

If you’re looking to develop webinar content solo, you can safely ignore this part – but I do hope you’ll keep reading. Partnering up on your webinars has some really fantastic (and tangible) benefits.

Good webinar partners have three qualities – they’re relevant to your audience, their services or products are complementary to yours, and they’re as committed to the project as you are. As long as you can satisfy all three, you’re off to a great start. Let’s dive into these concepts a bit deeper:

1. They’re relevant to your audience. When Heinz Marketing was looking to talk about building and distributing video content they worked the discussion from two angles – Chris Donaldson from HandCrank Films provided hands-on insight from building powerful video content for his customers, and Tyler Lessard from Vidyard talked about how our customers distribute and measure the results of their video assets. Anyone looking to learn the ins and outs of video production would find both sides of this discussion especially relevant.

2. Their services complements yours. When we wanted to showcase how one of our amazing customers was using Vidyard, we looked for ways to partner up with other organizations to drive awareness. ClearFit also works with Marketo, giving us a great opportunity to show two complementary applications back-to-back, and teach attendees some awesome email marketing tips in the process. Our result? Over 700 qualified new leads and 16 new opportunities in the pipeline.

3. They’re as committed as you are. Driving attendance for webinars is not always an easy task, so you should always make sure your partners are going to work as hard as you do. At Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit this year, we teamed up with Influitive, Gainsight, DemandBase, Certain and ReadyTalk to host a series of pre-event webinars on topics from Why Webinars Are A Gateway Drug to Video, to How To Lose A Customer In 10 Days. The kicker was – all of us committed to promoting each webinar, even if we weren’t involved. The result was a huge jump in potential audience – over 40,000 twitter followers combined, and thousands of newsletter subscribers across all six companies.

As you can see, there are some great tangible benefits to partnering up with the right people to make your webinar more successful!

Engage with Your Audience Before Hand

As ON24 points out in their infographic, 42% of attendees register more than a week before the webinar. Combine that with the fact that only 42.9% of attendees will actually attend, and you have an opportunity to drive higher attendance numbers with relevant content.

Here’s some strategies you can use to build engagement before your users have even signed up:

For Invitees

When you’re inviting your prospects, try to give them all of the information they need to decide if this webinar is right for them, or more importantly, if it’s right for someone on their team. Here’s an example of the info we sent out for our ClearFit webinar:

Our invite for our Clearfit Webinar

In this email, we give a brief overview of the topic, look at the three key take-aways that attendees will receive if they choose to attend, and give a brief overview of each speaker so they know who they will be hearing from. It makes for a bit of a longer email, but our invitees can easily look at this email and know whether this webinar is right for them, or better suited to someone else on their team.

For Registrants

If someone has registered for your webinar, they’ve given you their contact info in exchange for the opportunity to learn from your expertise. At Vidyard, we try to follow up with registrants before the webinar with relevant blog content so they are armed and ready to take full advantage of the lessons given in the webinar. Our objective for this is to get as many registrants to attend as possible. According to ON24, the average webinar viewer is engaged for 45-60 minutes which is the kind of engagement you can’t beat with other content types. Nobody spends 56 minutes reading your blog post, but if you can entice a prospect for an hour with your webinar, it’s safe to consider them a highly qualified lead.

Make Your Content Easy To Divide up

Nina covered this topic pretty heavily in her post Webinars Are Your Gateway Drug to Video Marketing but I want to hammer it home because it’s very important.

If you want your webinar content to live on well past the day of your webinar, you have to plan this out before hand. Recording your webinars are a great idea, but it’s no substitute for the real-time experience. Attendees have the opportunity to ask questions, direct the conversation, and request more info. Watching a recording doesn’t give you the same power, so you’ve got to plan for this in advance. Here’s the engagement stats on a full, hour-long video:

Webinar should become shorter to suit audience's actual attention

Not necessarily what anyone wants to see. You can avoid this by ensuring your webinar content can be broken up in to chapters. Prospects are much more likely to engage with a large number of shorter videos than to sit down and watch your full hour-long webinar in one sitting. Look at ways to break your webinar up into chapters, and use iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to edit the recorded webinar after it’s all said and done. Your prospects will thank you for breaking up your content into manageable chunks, and you’ll be able to measure which chapters were most effective. Win-win!

Engage With Users Afterwards

Once your webinar is over, you can email everyone a quick thank-you note, and send them off to your sales team for follow up, right?

Maybe. But I can guarantee you’ll have more luck with the prospects that register for your webinar if you tailor your messaging to their level of engagement. Steven Moody put together a great post that covers this topic, and here’s a few tips from my own experience:

Engage with those who show interest

Once you have the recording of the webinar available, send this out as a secondary follow-up so engaged prospects can make their way through your content again, and unengaged leads have a follow-up opportunity to hear more!
No two webinar attendees are created alike, so following up with a one-size-fits-all message won’t be well received. I’ve attended several webinars that I received “We’re sorry you couldn’t make it!” emails afterwards, and needless to say I didn’t become a qualified lead, let alone a potential sale.

Make The Most Of Your Recorded Webinars

Last but not least, making the most use of your recorded webinar content is key. Webinars require a small amount of time and effort in exchange for a wealth of content opportunities, so as long as you’ve followed my advice on making your webinars chapter-friendly, you should now be sitting on 2-4 recorded pieces of content. Without diving too deeply into where to distribute your videos here’s some tips on what to do with your newfound video marketing assets:

  • Schedule posts on YouTube.Looking for a way to start syndicating your content to your audience? Release a chapter every week, and promote it through your social channels. You’ll start to build an audience for your scheduled content!
  • Summarize the points, and add the video to a blog post. This gives readers two ways of interacting with your video – they can watch a chapter, or they can read your summary and get the key points. Either way they’re digesting your message!
  • Add it to your resources page. We have a resource page for Vidyard and it’s the first place our recorded webinars end up. Offering people the ability to access content on-demand is a great way to keep content driving value long after its recorded.
  • Use it as teaser content for future webinars. If you’ve recorded a particularly great chapter from one of your past webinars, use this in your follow-up emails to recent registrations! This is an easy way to get potential attendees excited about your next webinar while providing valuable content from your last one.

Now What?

I hope you’ve walked away front his post with some new knowledge about how to get more value from your next webinar! We’ve got some great ones planned for the next few months with our friends and partners, so subscribe to our newsletter to stay in the loop!

Jon Spenceley