According to CMI’s newly released 2012 B2B content marketing study, marketers give webinars the second highest effectiveness rating as a content marketing tactic. Why, then, do only 46 percent of marketers use them? They are, after all, another great way to showcase your quality content and position yourself as a thought leader in your marketplace. Perhaps webinars are underutilized because, from planning content to getting attendees, you’ve got a lot of hurdles to jump through and the last thing you want is to feel like you just hosted a party and no one showed up. To avoid that embarassment – and to ensure successful webinars – here are seven tips to incorporate into your content marketing webinar strategy.
1. Build an in-house e-mail database of customers and prospects
When it comes to webinars, content may be king — but the email database rules. The most effective way to promote webinars is through email marketing to a list of people with whom you already have an affinity/relationship. You can have the greatest content, but without a substantial in-house database of subscribers, you’ll struggle to get attendees. If you already have e-newsletter subscribers, you are well ahead of the game because you have a following who trust you as a resource of information. But if you don’t, your first step will be to start building an e-mail database by offering free e-newsletters, white papers, or other content assets on a regular basis.
2. Free or fee: Decide how to position your webinars
In a publishing company I worked for, we produced well-attended paid monthly webinar programs. They delivered real value – strategies, tips, and how-to information that attendees could use in their jobs. But when we tried offering sponsored webinars free to attendees, we got a fraction of the numbers we’d normally get. Why? People may have thought the free webinars would be commercials for the sponsors (although the promotions made it clear they weren’t). Also, there’s a perceived value when a fee is charged.
If you are building a webinar program to provide valuable, educational content to your subscribers on a regular basis, consider offering the sessions at a deep discount or no cost to subscribers, and charge a fee to nonsubscribers. There are many factors to consider when deciding how to price your webinars. Whether or not you charge a fee, remember that your audience’s time is valuable, and your content needs to be so as well…So make sure you don’t waste it by always delivering valuable content.
3. Keep the webinar content tightly focused
It’s better to go in-depth into a narrower topic than to skim the surface on a broader topic. The highest-rated webinars I’ve produced are the ones that provided valuable detail on a specific topic, including strategies and tips. Most webinars are about an hour in length for the presentation, followed by a Q/A session. So if a speaker tries to present a broad topic in that hour, she’ll end up skimming the surface and not having time to give valuable strategies and tips. To prevent this mistake by your speakers:
- Get the PPT presentation from the speakers two weeks advance to give yourself a chance to review it and ask for a revision if needed.
- Have a speaker prep session one week in advance, in which the speakers will rehearse their presentation.
4. Always deliver high-quality webinars
While webinars can be a “content marketing” tactic, when you are planning your webinar topics, you have to remove the word “marketing” from your mind. Never make your webinar content about your product or service, or even plug your product or service.
You want your viewers to have the best experience, which means you need to pay attention to technical quality. Here are a few tips:
- Work out any technical issues that your presenters may be having when you do the speaker prep session.
- Have your presenters dial in and login 30 minutes in advance of the live session to ensure they are ready to start right on time. During this 30 minutes, go over the flow of the call, answer any last minute technical questions, do a sound check, and eliminate background interruptions like cell phones.
5. Always deliver value to attendees
When planning a topic with presenters, I ask presenters for the top five or six key points that attendees will learn and how attendees will benefit (such as, attendees will do something better, save x amount of dollars, prevent these mistakes, etc). If presenters cannot answer this, there’s a high probability that the presentation isn’t going to deliver valuable content. It’s better to revisit the focus of the topic than to move forward with a weak presentation. On the other hand, if your presenters provide solid strategies with benefits, it will make great fodder for your promotional copy.
6. Don’t promote your webinar series as a “series”
Even if you’ve planned a series of webinars, do not promote it as a series. Promote each event as a separate, stand-alone webinar topic. As in the old direct mail guideline, too many choices can depress response. It’s the same with webinar promotions.
The temptation is to promote the entire series, offering a discount for signing up for more than one date. You are asking your prospects to choose between paying full price by signing up for one date, or getting a discount by committing to a number of dates. If they are unsure what to do, the easiest decision is to put the decision off for later. Then later comes and goes, and they never sign up. Believe me, you get very few people signing up for a whole series, and you lose people who would have signed up for the individual webinar date had you promoted it as a stand-alone event.
7. Offer an on-demand (streaming) recorded version of the event
Attendees benefit from on-demand webinars because they can view the event at their convenience, and they have the ability to share the link with other people on their staff. For paid events, I’ve priced the on-demand version at the same price as the live event. But if attendees registered for both at the same time, they would get a 50 percent discount on the on-demand version. Also, you can work with your technology provider on how long the on-demand link remains active for a registrant (normally 60 or 90 days after the purchase date). After you’ve gotten a few events under your belt, you can create a nice online library of archived events.
Overall, webinars, when done right, can provide enough value for your business to make them a leading component of your content marketing efforts. So give them a fighting chance. You won’t hit them all out of the ballpark, but even if you have some low-attendance events, don’t give up.