As a content marketer you know that quality content is the key to driving traffic and audience engagement. Your blogging efforts are 99th percentile, you’ve mastered distribution, seamlessly integrated your social media marketing efforts to your overall content marketing strategy, and now you’re looking for new ways to reach potential clients.
Where is the webinar in your content marketing plan? Many companies experience a “content confidence gap” when it comes to hosting a webinar. The reasons for this gap that we hear most from clients are concerns about their organization’s ability to present a fresh, relevant perspective, the fear that no one will attend, and stage fright. If you’ve suffered sleepless nights imagining all the worst possible scenarios that could cause a live event to derail, you are not alone! But consider the rewards.
A webinar is a dynamic and cost-effective way to drive high-quality leads. It requires a lot of your content marketing know-how to recruit the audience and then keep them, but in the end, it’s worth it. In fact, the Content Marketing Institute’s study, “B2B Content Marketing: 2013 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America” cited that 59 percent of respondents are currently using webinars in their content marketing strategy and that webinars are a top 10 B2B content marketing tactic. The webinar is content that works.
Careful planning will still the terror inside you so that you, too, can jump on the webinar bandwagon. Use this checklist to create a (nearly) fool-proof plan and give yourself the confidence you need to create a remarkable webinar that will leave people asking when you’ll be scheduling the next one.
1. Consider your audience
The first step in webinar planning is to create a clear picture of who you are targeting. The great thing about webinars is that they can play a role in your marketing efforts in different phases throughout the sales funnel. Targeting folks at the top of the funnel? A webinar that positions your organization as a thought leader is a great way to alert prospects to your company’s service offerings in your area of expertise. Demos and excerpts from case studies are excellent tools for audiences who are midway through your sales cycle, and a webinar focused on how-tos or process can be extremely useful for customer onboarding at the bottom of the funnel. Webinars can also be useful in nurturing relationships with existing customers—just be sure the content of your presentation is properly aligned to the audience you want to reach. Which brings us to the next point…
2. Choose an appropriate topic
Of course, no matter the audience, the topic you choose should be both useful and compelling. The goal is to incorporate a set of key points to help your audience solve a problem or achieve a goal. You should be able to easily answer the question, “What value will the audience gain from attending this webinar?” If you can’t, you need to rethink your subject matter.
One other important thing to consider when choosing a topic is how you will be able to leverage it for future use. Webinars shouldn’t be a one-and-done deal. Choose a topic that will provide just as much value for prospects three, six, or 12 months down the road and you can multiply the value of your event several times over. You’ll definitely want to make a recording of the webinar available for download on your website—require email contact information in exchange for the download to maximize your prospecting potential. The planning stage is the best time to brainstorm ways to repurpose ideas from the webinar into additional content, not after the fact. A properly planned topic will provide endless opportunities for additional content, like blog posts, social media updates, eBooks or whitepapers, SlideShare presentations and more.
3. Select your presenter and partners
Give serious consideration to who will lead your webinar. Naturally, it makes sense to choose a subject matter expert so that it will be educational and of value for your audience, but also consider that your presenter should be someone who is charismatic and engaging. You could present the world’s most educational webinar, but if your presenter can’t keep the audience interested it won’t matter. This is especially true for B2B businesses that need to keep the attention of attendees on sometimes less-than-riveting topics.
Another option to think about is adding one or more co-presenters. This provides a way to include different perspectives on your chosen topic, and can break up the monotony of a single voice talking for an extended period of time. Another bonus of co-presenters: they can help you reach a wider audience. Look for people who are influencers in your field to increase credibility and audience reach.
4. Get the timing right
You want people to actually attend your webinar, right? Then make sure you schedule it for a time that is convenient for the target attendee group. B2B organizations should avoid weekends and consider slower working hours (around lunchtime, for example) to maximize attendance. Other audiences (like students) may only be able to attend in the evening, after school hours. If your audience is located across the country or internationally, it is important to keep time zone differences in mind. Also related to timing: don’t be late to your own webinar. Attendees are investing valuable time to learn more about your company or subject—respect it, or risk losing their trust from the get go.
5. Promote, promote, promote
Don’t let the work you’ve done creating a compelling webinar go to waste by failing to publicize it. Here are a few suggestions for promoting your webinar:
- Website: Websites are still the number one tool for a successful marketing campaign, so don’t overlook this important piece of the promotional puzzle. Create a landing page that includes all the relevant details and a call-to-action that drives customers to register.
- Email Marketing: Send out a series of emails to your subscribers to alert them to the event. Make sure you include all the pertinent data like date, time, length, topic, and presenters. Drive home a message about the value of attending—what is the takeaway for the attendee? And, don’t forget to include a link to your registration page!
Tip: We’ve seen that attendance numbers can jump dramatically in the day or two leading up to the event, so be sure to send out a reminder one day and one hour in advance to capitalize on last-minute registrations.
- Social Media: Post your event on all your social media properties (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at a minimum). Pick an interesting statistic or thought-provoking question that your webinar will cover as a teaser. If you’ve chosen a hash tag for your event, be sure to include it to help build buzz.
- Blog: Drive registrations by writing one or more blog posts that tease the topic of your presentation. Provide basic information or spin off a related subject. Always include a registration call-to-action so readers can learn more by tuning in to your presentation.
- PPC and Other Paid Media: Consider setting up Google, Facebook, or other paid media campaigns to drive traffic to your webinar’s registration page. Include terms that are specific to the topic you’re covering to increase your chances for relevant clicks.
- Influencer Networks: If you decide to include a co-presenter, be sure to take advantage of his or her network, too. Send out promotion and registration information to this additional audience via email and social media, and consider guest post opportunities for your blog.
6. Create a knockout presentation
Once you drive prospects to the webinar, you’ll want to wow them with an impressive presentation. A traditional webinar broadcasts live audio that syncs with a PowerPoint slide presentation that you control, but don’t be afraid to include multimedia elements like video or animated infographics to add visual appeal. We recommend limiting the amount of text on slides—it forces the presenters to discuss the topics without simply reading from the slide deck, and also ensures that your audiences must truly tune in to obtain all the useful information from the presentation.
7. Practice until it’s perfect
Practicing your webinar prior to the date of the event is key to ensuring seamless execution. Technical issues will make your organization look disorganized and unprepared, and worse yet, appearing anything less than 100 percent familiar with your topic will lead your audience to question your credibility from the start. To avoid these issues, schedule a dry run (or two) in the days leading up to your event to give yourself time to get acquainted with all the technical aspects of your webinar platform. Practice issues like phrasing, transitions, and answers to questions you anticipate from your audience.
8. Nail the follow-up
If you want to capitalize on your efforts (and of course you do), be sure to nail the follow-up. Send an email to those who attended with information on how to contact your company if they have any questions about the presentation. You can also reach out to those who registered but did not attend with information on how to download the recorded version of the webinar. Most importantly, you want to be sure to thank everyone who attended. Acknowledge their time investment, and show your appreciation. A little gratitude can go a long way.
The ultimate value of hosting a webinar is really this: The typical prospecting meeting involves just you and a prospective client. One prospective client equals one opportunity. Webinars, on the other hand, offer you the chance to talk to hundreds if not thousands of clients at the same time. Many prospective clients equals many prospective opportunities. And while many of those prospects might balk at taking a one-on-one meeting because they’re not quite ready, the webinar offers a chance to get to know you and your company without feeling the pressure of that meeting. If you can put your fear factor aside and use these tips for a well-planned webinar, you will find an educational, social and inexpensive way to reach new audiences and drive quality sales leads.
Do you have other ideas for hosting a successful webinar? Cautionary tales to share? Let us know in the comments or contact us for help setting up your next webinar. For more tips on adding to your content marketing strategy, download our eBook, “How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.”