While conferences are a fun excuse to stay in a nice hotel for a night (among other benefits!), they’re not always the easiest for your prospects and customers to get to. That’s where webinars come in. Webinars are a simple, cost-effective way to have a great discussion with a large audience from the comfort of your home or office. What’s not to love?

A recent study from CMI found that marketers consistently rate webinars as one of the top 12 most frequently used marketing tactics, and among the top five most effective ones. This is great news for anyone who enjoys a good webinar. But here’s the thing: it’s easy to get caught up in webinar production and let all the attendee data you’ve collected slip by the wayside.

Let’s look at ways you can capture and use that data before, during, and after your session to get the greatest impact from webinars.

Pre-Event: Asking the Right Questions And Sharing the Right Content

One of the things that makes webinars so useful is that your attendees are generally required to sign up in advance, giving you a great opportunity to collect contact information and other relevant details. Many organizations simply opt for the default – Name, Email, Company, Title – and fail to dive any deeper. This is fine if you’re just looking to pad your email list, but really engaged registrants are hungry for more information on your topic – why would they sign up if they weren’t? Asking the right questions ahead of time means you can follow up with relevant content before the webinar, and ensure a higher turnout:

1. Go Beyond Demographic Basics. Knowing someone’s title and company name is great, but how do you know if they’re a potential customer, or just an interested attendee? As HubSpot points out, if you’re looking for higher quality leads as opposed to more leads, you need to dive into your buyer personas, and understand the kinds of questions you can use to segment leads. If your buyers tend to be larger companies with thousands of staff members, ask questions about employee size. If your platform excels with CRM users, ask what CRM your attendees are using. Keep the form as short as possible, but make sure you’re capturing the right data to help you segment your new leads.

2. Be ready with follow-up content. Many webinar platforms allow you to automatically push data into your Marketing Automation system – we make use of ReadyTalk’s fantastic Pardot integration regularly – and start analyzing registrants and sending out relevant follow-up data right away. If you’re asking the right questions and segmenting potential customers early on, have some relevant content ready to send them ahead of time. Is your webinar focusing on how different fertilizers work on different types of grass? Follow up ahead of time with a cheat-sheet on the types of grass you’ll cover so your attendees have an understanding of the topic before you get into the really good stuff during the webinar.

3. Make sure you send a pre-event email. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve been caught off guard many a time by a ‘Sorry we missed you!’ email in my inbox for a webinar that I forgot I signed up for. This is an excellent opportunity to provide more information on the speakers, and link to any other relevant pre-event downloads that you want to share with the audience.

During The Event: Keeping Engagement High

While you’re likely focused on making sure you don’t mess up your presentation, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your webinar is as engaging as possible for attendees once you kick things off.

1. Watch your current attendee number closely. People will come and go from your webinar, and it’s not unusual to lose about half of your audience from start to finish, but it’s something you can combat by looking at significant drop-offs during the presentation, and adapting your content accordingly. If you’re on point 2, and you’ve started to lose 3-4 people every few seconds, wrap up your topic and move on to point 3.

2. Flag questions appropriately, and answer as many as you can. It’s good to remind people that you are flagging their questions, and that you will be answering everything at the end if there’s time. Having a second person on board to co-administer your webinar means they can answer the easy questions about audio quality or whether the slides will be available after the presentation, and properly flag the questions about your content so you don’t miss a beat. People who ask specific questions about your product are prime candidates for a personalized follow-up email!

Post-Event: Using Your Webinar Data Wisely

Once your webinar has wrapped up, your webinar platform will likely give you an export of who registered, who attended, and how long those folks stuck around. If you’ve integrated your platform directly into your Marketing Automation system, there’s some really intelligent ways you can use this data to provide targeted follow-up content, and segment the right leads to move to your sales team:

1. Using attendance duration effectively. First off, knowing how long someone attended your webinar is an excellent gauge of their interest in your topic. Folks who tune in and drop off after 2 minutes shouldn’t be discounted – maybe they had technical issues, or had something come up – but in our experience following up early on with the leads that stuck around the longest pays off big time. Vidyard feeds the number of minutes a prospect attended our webinar into Pardot, and segments this list based on who attended 25% of the webinar or more. This gives us a list of prospects we can hand off to our sales team to follow up with directly, and another group that were excited enough to attend, but didn’t stay for the full show. The second group gets targeted emails with information that complements the presentation, and an encouragement to ask more questions so we can follow up.

2. Learn from today’s webinar to improve tomorrow’s. If more than 50% of your audience dropped off 10 minutes into your webinar, it may be time to re-evaluate your topic. How was this webinar positioned on the landing page versus how the content was delivered? Were there key points that people seemed to drop off en masse (i.e. several people dropped off after watching for 12-13 minutes)? Looking at how your audience behaved as a whole gives you excellent feedback on how your topic performed, what parts of the webinar encouraged people to stick around, and more importantly, what content needs work for the next time.

3. Host your recorded webinars, and continue to analyze the results. Webinars are an amazing stepping stone into a more comprehensive video marketing plan – you can host them on your site, encourage people to fill in their contact details in exchange for the opportunity to view it, and then measure the response on the recorded webinar. Leads that watch a significant amount of your recorded webinar should receive special attention. The average viewing span for top-of-funnel content is 30-90 seconds, so anyone who watches a half an hour of your recorded webinar is really, really engaged. Using a Video Marketing Platform to host your recorded webinars also means you can push this viewing data directly into your marketing automation platform, and segment leads similar to live webinar attendees.

Final Thoughts

A webinar isn’t over just because the live Q&A is finished. Webinars can live on in a dozen different ways like using webinar content as a blog series, reposting your slides on Slideshare, and turning a long webinar video into a ton of smaller ones. Planning ahead to divide your webinar topics into individual videos means you can easily edit your content once the webinar recording is finished to produce several videos for your other marketing initiatives, and get great teaser content ready for your next live webinar.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment – bring on your partners, invite your customers, hold round-table discussions – the opportunities really are open ended. Have fun with it, give your audience something they can use to be better at their jobs, and you’ll quickly find you have a dedicated webinar audience that isn’t afraid to tell their friends and coworkers to join them next time.

Jon Spenceley