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:
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:
Need a webinar presentation template? Grab this free editable template, with nine custom slides, that our Design whipped up with ❤️:
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
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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!
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.
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:
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:
Practice is absolutely essential, and speakers have to put in extra effort to engage and connect with the audience.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Originally published Mar 01, 2020, updated May 24, 2021