Webinars 101: Your Guide to Creating Webinars That Sell

If you think about it, the webinar is kind of like the dinosaur of the video world.

The format’s been around forever, and unless you’re in business, you probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. Many people believe that it’s dull and out of fashion. 

But, it’s the humble webinar—the grandchild of the boring seminar, with its un-ergonomic desk chairs and cork-walled claustrophobia–that businesses absolutely love. Why? Well for one, webinars are known to hold the attention of viewers for up to 61 min on average, which is unheard of in today’s attention economy:

Average attendance ratio of webinars
A look at the average attendance ratio of different types and lengths of webinars.

 

In this post, we’ll look at the ways in which webinars can help businesses boost their bottom lines—and how you can start creating a webinar, right now. Let’s dive into:

What exactly is a webinar?

A webinar is essentially an online event that people can attend and participate in while wearing their pajamas, from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. As you might’ve guessed, “webinar” is a portmanteau of “web” and “seminar,” but the possibilities go far beyond the single-speaker format.

You’ll often find that webinars share a similar structure with conference calls, only they have the added luxury of cool visuals and animations—basically, better production value.

Unlike its close cousins, the webcast and the screencast, a crucial element of the webinar is that it happens in real time and allows the audience to interact with the speakers and, in some cases, the content itself.

 

Webinars are too expensive. Do I really need to invest in one?

Webinars are the workhorses of the content marketing world. Though they demand a certain level of rigor in planning and execution (not to mention cost: a single webinar can cost anywhere between $100–$3,000 to make), when done well, they pay for themselves many times over.

They embody the values that small businesses in particular use to differentiate themselves: authenticity and customer connection. This can sound like a lot of marketing fluff, so let’s get down to brass tacks. How exactly do webinars benefit your business?

1. Webinars can be applied across the buyer journey

Buyer's journey representation
The buyer’s journey is a mental model that represents what goes through your customers’ minds as they go through the stages of deciding what to purchase.

 

A webinar is versatile. At the beginning of the customer’s journey, it makes for an amazing form of interactive content to draw them in; and further along the sales funnel, it’s an efficient way for busy executives and decision makers to learn to use your product or compare your services with others. 

As a bonus, webinars also remain useful long after they’re over. You can record them and use them to get information from potential leads in the future.

2. Webinar formats are super flexible

Depending on the stage of the customer journey (here’s how to map that out) that you plan to integrate it with, a webinar can take the shape of a presentation, a workshop, an interview, a moderated panel discussion—or if you’re dreaming bigger, a webinar conference with hundreds or even thousands of people. 

Again, webinars can also be repurposed as video content long after the event is over—if you have a YouTube channel and you know your target audience loves browsing YouTube, you can put the video up on your page:

Graph about the most engaging content for social audience
Hat-tip to HubSpot

 

3. Webinars generate high-quality leads

Webinars provide a wealth of metrics that allow you to build lists of high-quality leads. To participate in a webinar, prospects usually have to sign up, and then show up for your webinar event, which by its very nature is an interactive and participative medium. This way, you get buyers who aren’t just interested but also willing to make the time commitment. 

In 2017, video company Vyond (then Goanimate) reported that prospects were 150% more likely to make a purchase if they attended one of their weekly live-demo webinars

Webinar events are usually anywhere between 30–60 min on average, and if your prospect is watching one, it’s a hot lead. In the case of paid seminars, even hotter.

Now, let’s look at a couple of different ways you can use a webinar.

4 ways to use a webinar

1. Establish thought leadership through an online conference

Are you interested in building brand awareness or positioning your brand as a thought leader? Try organizing an online conference or a summit, like SEMrush did with its Global Marketing Day in 2019. Its sessions are still available online for all of its prospects and customers—past, present, and future.

SEMRush Global Marketing Day in 2019

 

2. Teach your customers how to use your product

If you’ve already snagged your customers, don’t waste this opportunity to extend your customer experience further. Use a product-demo webinar or tutorial to help them learn how to use your product—this is a great way to upsell or cross-sell on other products too.

See how Upwork and Open Dental used webinars to teach their customers about their products and services:

Upwork webinars
Upwork’s webinars offer a mix of app tutorials and continuing education for its users. It’s also made content more accessible by offering it in different languages.

 

Open Dental Webinar
With a complete list of objectives and time-stamped sections, Open Dental makes it easy for prospects and customers to use the software.

 

3. Nurture leads

Webinars can be a great way to build relationships with your leads and gently nudge them down the funnel toward becoming happy customers. Lead-nurturing webinars are geared toward prospects who are already aware of your product and need a little help to get more interested in buying it.

At this stage, case studies, live workshops, and report summary webinars are your go-tos:

Scavuzzo's Case Study Webinar
AFS Technologies shows how they helped their client, Scavuzzo’s, through a case study webinar.

 

4. Educate your prospects

There’s no better way to give value to your prospects and customers than by educating them. It’s perhaps the most generous and empathetic form of content available. (And can help you maintain a high customer retention rate too.) This can be extended across to any format too, whether it’s a panel discussion or a straightforward single-speaker presentation: 

RISMedia Webinar Series
This webinar by RISMedia brings some industry leaders on board to teach agents how to work with first-time homebuyers’ anxieties—a great value add for their prime customers.

 

HealthStream Webinars
Health HR company HealthStream offers webinars available even to people who might be outside its target audience.

Set up your own webinar in 4 steps

Step 1: Zero in on your webinar strategy

Just as you wouldn’t publish just one blog post as part of your web content strategy, you can’t expect a single webinar to be the answer to all of your business content goals. 

In fact, on average in 2017, companies produced anywhere between eight to 34 webinars per year, with real estate firms topping the list:

Graph about how many webinars do industries produce yearly
According to GoToWebinar’s Big Book of Webinar State (2017), a business produces an average of 23 webinars per year.

 

You need to have an overall webinar strategy that generates measurable results and drives action—but as with all forms of content, keep your customers’ best interests in mind. This means doing things like placing the call-to-action at the very end—and don’t “pitch slap” before you’ve managed to convince your viewers of your value.

Set a goal and pick a topic

Work with your marketing team to identify marketing objectives and your sales team (effective teamwork is crucial here) to understand your customers’ pain points and common objections. Nobody understands your customers better than your sales team, who have to overcome these objections on a daily basis. Think about the stage of the buyer journey your customers are at, and plan your webinar content around each stage.

Choose a format

Once you know what you want to cover in your webinar, decide on the format. Are you hoping to close a sale? Try a product webinar. Want to generate leads? Offer interesting workshops and tutorials. Play with formats and go beyond the single-speaker method. 

Typical webinar formats
1. Q&A

B-School Q&A

 

A webinar can be as simple as a Q&A, and this is especially popular among education businesses. For example, to promote her video-based training program, BSchool, Marie Forleo ran a Q&A webinar.

2. Interview

Interview with Tony Robbins

If you can, interview a special guest or celebrity. At the end of this interview with Tony Robbins, Eric Worre gives viewers a special offer on one of his products.

3. Tutorial
Elearning Brothers' senior members teaches how to create designs on PowerPoint
Elearning Brothers get senior members of their design team to teach their viewers how to create their own designs on PowerPoint.

 

Teach your customers what they want to know through an online tutorial, as though it were a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). In this webinar, the Elearning Brothers team take questions throughout as they demonstrate their expertise. 

4. Moderated panel

The quality of the speakers you bring in on a moderated panel webinar can make your business look professional and pretty impressive. These panels can be conducted entirely online or IRL with all your speakers in one room.

Panelists joining in through webcam
A moderated panel can have panelists joining in from their own locations through webcam.

 

SCU Webinar: DACM Student Panel
Students from the SCU College of Eastern Medicine talk about their experiences as part of a webinar aimed at prospective students.

 

5. Live-streamed event

Remember that episode in The Office where Ryan tries to get all of Dunder Mifflin’s offices to tune into the party at the New York HQ? That would be an example of a (failed) webinar event:

Kelly Kapoor Did NOT Like Ryan's Dunder Mifflin webinar event.
Kelly Kapoor Did NOT Like Ryan’s Dunder Mifflin webinar event.

 

Step 2: Produce your webinar

Plan, plan, and plan again

Here’s the thing: a webinar is susceptible to all the accidents that a live event is. So, yes, make sure you have a good webinar tool in your marketing stack—but also plan well and prepare for the worst through regular dry runs and tech checks, all the way up to a few hours in advance. A webinar could have the greatest script and the best speakers, but technical glitches can kill it. 

One of the best ways to make sure things go smoothly is by using a reliable webinar tool that gives your audience a good interactive experience. For example, RingCentral Webinar™, provides HD video and audio quality and supports up to 10,000 attendees and 500 presenters:

RingCentral meeting and screen sharing

 

Pro-tip:

If you’re serious about your webinar strategy, you should have a way to look at registration and stats to help you sharpen your presentation and improve sign-ups and engagement over time.

Step 3: Promote the heck out of your webinar

Promotion is a mission-critical step that can either fire up hot leads or throw them into an ice bucket. Therefore, pay as much attention to promotion as you would to the presentation and scripting itself. 

Pre-webinar

1. Begin promoting your webinar at least three weeks in advance on all your social channels (more on social media best practices here) and websites, increasing the frequency of promotions closer to the actual event. Launch key promotions on Tuesdays and preferably early in the morning before 8:00 a.m.

2. If you want to continue using this webinar after the live event is over, create an SEO-optimized landing page that emphasizes the value of your webinar, provides a sneak peek into the real event, and declares urgency (include a countdown timer and add “Only 30 slots left!”.

Keep the sign-up form short and sweet, with form fields that capture the most relevant information; this is how you’ll build your list of leads. Here’s an example of a simple, no-frills landing page used by Spendesk:

Spendesk's landing page
Spendesk’s clean landing page creates urgency while telling the reader what value they’ll get out of watching it.

 

3. If the webinar is the main course, pre-webinar content is an unmissable appetizer. Roll out relevant blog articles, teaser videos, and podcasts that give your prospects an idea of what to expect and drive up registrations. And don’t forget to send reminder emails to make sure your sign-ups actually turn up!

 

Post-webinar

1. Get in touch with your prospects right after the webinar is over. Send a thank-you note to your participants, and provide them with a PDF of the webinar presentation used (if you have one), a recording, and access to any other relevant material.

2. Make your webinar available on demand on your website for future prospects. (But make sure you ask them to fill out a form to receive it!) This way, you can continue to build up your list of leads.

Karla Dennis Video Library
Long after the event has taken place, this webinar’s video recording is still available to prospects.

 

3. Create post-webinar blog articles and podcasts to extend the life of your webinar so that it continues to add value to your customers while remaining fresh in their minds: 

RISMedia Webinar Recap
RISMedia offers an article recapping its webinar, while providing a recording at the bottom of the page.

 

Step 4: Sharpen your presentation.

Can your audience see you and interact with you in a webinar? Yes. But depending on the size of your webinar and the number of attendees you have, you won’t be able to see everyone. If you’re new to this, hosting a webinar can be an awkward experience. Ann Handley of Marketing Profs describes the experience of presenting a webinar like this:

“The workshop… was online, which meant the 30 or so attendees could see and hear me… but I couldn’t see or hear them. That’s always a weird experience: imagining an audience that’s there—but also not there. The webinar experience reminds me of when I used to stage musicals in front of my dresser mirror in my childhood bedroom.”

Practice is absolutely essential, and speakers have to put in extra effort to engage and connect with the audience.

Empty presentation room
Giving a webinar feels a lot like presenting to an empty room, except you are plugged in to an audience that couldn’t possibly fit in it.

 

For a webinar to be truly engaging, your presentation has to be sharp and hold your viewers from beginning to end. Pack your presentation with a high value-add per minute and make your webinar ultra-interactive with polls and Q&As.

 

Interactive webinars are the best webinars

The web is full of unmemorable clutter, but an interactive webinar can help you stand out. Most webinar software makes it possible to add interactive elements, but you should also rely on your own skills and screen presence to keep audiences engaged.

3 ways to make your webinar more interactive

1. Keep chats open

As a presenter, you probably won’t be able to see your audience, look into their eyes, and gauge their understanding. Keep a chat window on and running so that you can answer questions as you go. You can also encourage your audience to live-tweet or post screenshots from the webinar throughout if you have a helper who can check for you while you’re focusing on the webinar itself. 

Cambridge Development Department chat window
The Cambridge Development Department has a chat window open for questions throughout its seminar on Real Estate Basics.

 

2. Use gamification to keep audiences engaged

Polls, surveys, and questionnaires are great for boosting engagement on any form of content, not just webinars. Stop, pause, and ask questions—it’s the best way to gauge your own performance as a presenter too. 

Webinar 201: The Advanced Guide to Webinars
In “Webinar 201: The Advanced Guide to Webinars,” the presenter pauses, polls his audience, and then shows them the results to keep them engaged.

Webinar 201: The Advanced Guide to Webinars

 

3. Use eye-catching visual elements

Skip out on stock images and try to create stimulating visuals. Don’t crowd your slide out with words. If you have a tendency to do that, strive to maintain a decently large font size, like 32pt.

Michael Maher and Jack Cotton Business Planning 2013
Throughout this webinar, presenters use interesting visuals and have a worksheet for the audience to follow along.

 

Virtual whiteboard
Tools like RingCentral let you draw on a virtual whiteboard throughout your webinar so that you can demonstrate your points with diagrams.

 

Supercharge your marketing with webinars today

Although the webinar is an old format that hasn’t changed too much, some creative businesses have managed to leverage the technology to turn the form into something that’s actually valuable and interesting. 

This is a tremendous opportunity for you to carve out a niche and make an impact. What will your first webinar be about?

About the author

    Author

    Helping you grow your business with the latest in customer service, productivity, collaboration, sales, and marketing.