Webinars Are Great, But...
Upon arriving to the hotel you work through any last minute challenges with AV and catering. You make them change the tablecloths that are too stained. You wipe down the dishwasher spotted glasses. You make sure there is one of those cheap company pens at every chair. Everything is ready and you still have thirty minutes to go before your attendees arrived.
Or maybe not. It’s five minutes before the hour and no one is there. OK, you think, this is a big city and traffic can be an issue. You breathe a sigh of relief as your first attendee comes in the room and makes themselves comfortable at the furthest table away from you. You try to make small talk but he or she is intently studying the brochures you laid out – or at least pretending to.
Top of the hour and one more person wanders in. “How’s traffic?” you ask. “Oh, it’s always bad here,” is the reply. “OK, we’ll give everyone a few more minutes,” you respond cheerfully, hoping the tension isn’t obvious in your voice.
At ten after, you still only have two semi-interested people in the room. Now, you need to build up your energy level so you can give a convincing presentation to two people. If you can close even one of these guys it will make it all worthwhile.
You take a huge swig of bad hotel coffee, refill your cup, and suggest that they move closer to the front of the room. “We have plenty of room,” you say as though it's a good thing. Taking pity on you, they do just that, and you start your presentation while silently vowing never to let this happen again.
If you’ve been in marketing for more than 10 years, chances are good that you have had a similar experience—and hated every minute of it. These experiences are why I am such a fan of online webcasting tools and services. Other than presentations at conferences, I haven’t delivered an in-person presentation in years.
Webinars are less expensive than on-site seminars. You can drive higher registration because people are more likely to accept a webinar invitation than a seminar invitation even if they are not sure of their schedule. No-shows still tend to be high because schedules change, but you can drive no-shows to the recorded version. You can also reuse the recorded presentation on your website to drive lead generation long after the live event.
Finally, recorded presentations give you a great tool for showcasing your own skills next time you’re in the job market. If your name is prominently attached, posted webinars can increase your Google presence (as well as your company’s) and are tangible evidence of your expertise and communication skills. Always a plus!
But, webinars are not without their own challenges. Here are a few mistakes to avoid.
Mistaking registrations for opportunities
To deliver real value and increase attendance, many marketing people organize webinars around issues that are important to the customer. Great strategy!. Today’s consumers expect to learn something from the presentation itself regardless of whether they are in the market for the company’s product or service. They may not have an immediate need but by their interest in the topic they are identifying themselves as being part of your market. The problem is when marketers treat all registrations as interested buyers and toss the “leads” over to sales for follow-up. This leads to the next mistake.
Not following up
Marketing has given sales 100 names of registrations for the webinar. Of these, 25 attended, but the rest must be interested, otherwise they wouldn’t have registered, right? Sales calls the first few names to discuss the value of the product or service and quickly finds out the list is unqualified. Needing to meet this month’s quota, sales goes back to the pipeline of opportunities they know are in the market. The webinar attendees (and registrants) don’t get followed up on and you’ve just widened the chasm between marketing and sales.
Not nurturing the opportunities
The solution to this challenge, of course, is for marketing to have a lead nurturing program in place that keeps the company top of mind until they are ready to engage with the salesperson. Webinar attendees and registrants should be qualified for their interest and readiness to speak with sales. If not ready, they should be nurtured with regular communications, ideally opt-in, such as e-newsletters containing relevant and valuable information. Only prospects that say they are specifically ready to speak to sales should be turned over to the sales team.
Not measuring long-term value
Obviously, this approach will cut down on the number of leads generated from your webinars, but it will increase your sales/seminar ratio because follow up has dramatically improved. If you have a long sales cycle, it’s easy to lose sight of which campaigns produced which sales.
I worked with a marketing team that spent 30K putting on a webinar. They outsourced some of the seminar marketing and material development so their costs were fairly high. They had 100 registrations and roughly 40 attendees.
On the surface, the seminar didn’t look like a great success because there were many leads that went into the nurture program but few that went to sales. (They could have done a better job setting sales expectations.) Looking into the results a few months later, however, they found that two of the webinar attendees had bought products totaling more than 100K each. And, many of the leads from the webinar that were being nurtured were now in the sales pipeline.
One shot wonders
The final mistake to avoid is the curse of the one-shot wonder. Your webinar campaigns should fit into your overall market strategy. You should target the same audience as you do with other campaigns. Your messages should be similar. Ideally, you will offer more than one webinar on this or related topics. You can even offer the same webinar multiple times in a live or recorded format. Webinars, although much easier than in-person seminars, still take effort. Maximize the time and effort spent in any way you can.