By STEVE WILLIAMS

Co-Founder / Chief Creative Officer

Aug 21, 2021

What To Avoid When Launching A Webinar Presentation Program

Webinars are one of the most effective lead gen strategies available to B2B marketers, with the added ability to have impact at every stage of the buying process.

Building and maintaining a successful webinar program is hard work. Effective planning and execution requires resources, research, organization, perseverance and commitment but the rewards for getting it right are substantial. Adhering to the core set of best practices outlined in my previous post will put you, and keep you, on the right path, but avoiding some of the most common errors is also a good way to increase your chances of success. Here are a few to avoid.

The most common error, and the one that can potentially cause the most damage, is not putting enough effort into really knowing your audience. Because your company interacts with your customers on a regular basis it’s easy to assume you know all about their needs, preferences, dislikes and so on but unless you’ve actually done the research you probably don’t have all the needed insight.

Taking the time to identify and validate the needs of the people you are targeting is the cornerstone to any effective marketing effort.

  • Do you know what topics are of greatest interest to your target audience?
  • What information do they use to make decisions as they identify, evaluate and select partners?
  • What are the key stages in their unique buying cycle?
  • Who the influencers are that they turn to for guidance?

The topics that are most relevant to your services or products, or that you have the greatest amount of expertise in, may not be the ones that are of most interest to your prospective customers. Do the research and learn what is most important to each segment of your current and prospective customer base. How much value you create is directly correlated with how relevant your content is to your audience’s interests. 

Once you are confident that you know what information will be most relevant and is of the greatest interest to your audience, the emphasis shifts to execution.

A great Webinar/Sales/Marketing strategy that is poorly executed is a waste of your resources and your audience’s time and suggests you don’t value the relationship.

Again, your audience is giving you their time, so you need to make them feel special every minute of the engagement. Depending on who you are targeting and the depth and complexity of the content, you’ll want to customize not just the information but also the format in which it is delivered. For example, a webinar focused on a deeply technical topic targeting engineers might include a lot of data or schematics or background material so you would likely want to initially present the information in a visual format (slides) and make them downloadable and include links to any reference material.

Whereas, a webinar, targeting executives, about the best strategies for expanding into a new territory might have a panel format with a moderator and multiple speakers and be more effective using live video. Match your content with the format preferred by your audience and you will see improved engagement and completion rates, ultimately leading to more conversions and/or higher customer satisfaction scores. 

One of the more frequently overlooked elements of execution is the presenting skills of your featured speakers. Finding presenters who are experts in their field and can speak knowledgably about their assigned topic is the first priority. However, just because someone is deeply versed in a topic does not mean that they are an effective speaker.

There is a bit of a social contract in any webinar – I give you my time and a little information about myself and, in return, you provide me with useful content.

Implicit in this agreement is that the content will be presented in a way that is engaging and accessible. A speaker with poor presentation skills is not living up to that expectation and this will be evidenced in the results. You may see much higher drop-off rates during the presentation, fewer downloads, minimal engagement during the Q&A session and, ultimately, a lower conversion rate. It’s worth repeating, your program’s success rate is only as good as the weakest link in the overall chain and the presentation skills are often where quality issues are seen. Remain open-eyed when evaluating the skill sets of your speakers and ensure they get the training needed to feel comfortable and communicate successfully. 

How Should I Be Measuring Success for my Webinars?

There are many ways to measure the impact of a webinar program and they all start by ensuring you have clearly defined goals. Ideally, these will have been reviewed and approved by leadership, in both Marketing and Sales, because any marketing investment will ultimately be evaluated using an ROI metric. Demand gen is a good place to start but when your strategic imperative is to position your company as a thought leader it’s helpful to be more specific and identify metrics that contribute to volume and quality of leads generated. As referenced in Pt 1, the three phases of a success webinar program are Registration, Delivery and Follow Through. Therefore, you should have unique KPIs for each of these stages. 

  • Registration – Establish a goal for the number of registrants you want to attract. Have specific goals for each channel you use to recruit (email, LinkedIn, SEM, etc.) and adjust these goals over time as you gain insight into the relative success rates of each channel. Track the success rates of each channel over time and adjust your goals as you learn what works best with your audiences. Measure both response rates and attendance rates by recruitment tactic and monitor how different messaging works across different channels.
  • Delivery – Your primary KPI will likely be completion rate. If an attendee stays logged in through the entire presentation of your webinar than that is a pretty good indication the content and presenters kept them engaged. Of course, they could also have lost interest at some point, opened another tab, begun a conversation with a colleague or just been multitasking, so it’s also helpful to look at engagement metrics during the webinar. For example, were participants submitting questions, answering poll questions, viewing speaker’s bios, using the chat function and did they download any materials offered during or after the presentation. Every action is trackable and looking at this data in aggregate gives you great insight into what your audience finds value in.
  • Follow Through – Your post-webinar measurements efforts fall into two buckets. First, how do you monitor post-engagement activities? As suggested in Pt 1 you should be sending follow up emails with a summary of the key points from your webinar, links to the presentation, links to downloadable materials and invitations to future relevant webinars you have on the schedule. It’s critical to have a measurement plan in place that covers all of these. Second, you’ll want to make sure you have an effective feedback loop in place with your sales teams. As discussed previously, you’ll be sharing all relevant data on customer behavior with sales, so that they have greater insight into prospects before contacting them. In return, it is extremely useful to receive feedback from sales on how that information is beneficial to their efforts. Find out what data they found most useful and what information they didn’t have that would have helped them. 

The Flywheel: Bringing It All Together

Recently, the concept of the “marketing flywheel” has been getting a lot of attention and gaining traction with brand marketers. It’s a powerful idea worth exploring and in a subsequent post we’ll cover the broader topic, looking at how embracing the flywheel approach to drive marketing efforts at the enterprise level can increase both efficiency and effectiveness. For now, let’s just consider how your webinar program can both contribute to and benefit from a flywheel approach. 

Let’s start with a very simple explanation of the flywheel concept. Historically, marketers have used the “funnel” as the framework for how prospective customers follow a linear path from (1) becoming aware of a brand, to (2) considering purchasing, to (3) purchasing, to (4) becoming loyal and ultimately (5) advocating for that brand. However, as the entire dynamic between customer and brand has changed, driven primarily by the increased exchange of information facilitated by the internet, this model fails to incorporate the additional value that the customer brings to the relationship. 

We all know the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Receiving a recommendation from a trusted friend or colleague carries more weight than any marketing message. With customers now having the ability to share their experiences with thousands, even millions, of other potential customers, the impact of customer advocacy has been increased by an order of magnitude. Just look at the impact of influencer marketing. Using the flywheel approach, brands can leverage the effort they put into acquiring one customer to gain a multitude of more customers, depending on the number and strength of connections that one customer has and the quality of the experience they have with the brand. So, by delivering a great customer experience, marketing can build increasing momentum behind a brand that over time requires less and less effort to maintain the pace at which that brand is growing, as long as all customers continue to have that same great experience. With this increase in the power of the customer, consistently delivering high customer satisfaction, and facilitating the ability for customers to share their experiences, should become the top priority for any brand.

So how do webinars fit in? Webinars are actually one of the most productive components contributing to a flywheel strategy, especially if your content is constructed with thought leadership as a core pillar of your overall program. Here are a few ways in which webinars help build momentum for your marketing flywheel:

  • The content presented in your thought leadership webinars will be both broad and deep, allowing for it to be repurposed into multiple formats, broken down to cover different specific topics and presented in different sizes over a longer period of time, helping populate your content calendar for many months.  
  • Thought leadership is considered high-value content which builds affinity and trust with both existing and prospective customers, increasing the likelihood they will proactively share your content. 
  • Webinars can have a long shelf life if the appropriate topics are selected. A deep dive into an area of interest for customers can remain relevant and valuable for months or even years and recorded webinars are available to your audience 24/7. Marketers can even make slight updates, adding new information to recordings, to ensure the content remains fresh and accurate. If your target audience is large enough, and you manage your customer data effectively, you can continue to promote your webinars long after the initial broadcast without fear of sending redundant messaging or seeing a significant drop-off in attendance.

How effective a flywheel strategy becomes is entirely dependent on how much energy you put into it. The harder you push and the bigger it is the more momentum you build up behind it and the less energy you need to expend to keep it running. The same holds true for a great webinar program. The more effort and time you put into establishing a repeatable process built on knowing your customer, providing a great experience, and identifying and avoiding the pitfalls, the less effort you will need to keep the program up and running. Get the fundamentals right and run hard out of the gate and you’ll get a great return on your webinar investment for years to come. 

The Violin Club Podcast – Thought Leadership Content Marketing

MISSION SUCCESS: A Virtual Event Action Plan – In the episode of the Violin Club Podcast, Steve & Chris discuss their customer engagement action plan designed to help businesses get through today, survive the next 90 days and craft a strategy over the next 18 months until you reach mission success. (38 mins)

Target Audience: Chief Marketing Officer, Business Unit Leader, Marketing Manager or Product Manager in industries such as Aerospace, Advanced Manufacturing, Software Automation and Transportation Mobility. It also applies to other B2B sectors where the customer buyer’s journey involves an engineering design process, production assembly and OEM supply chain.

The Violin Club Podcast is available on most major podcast players including: