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Best Practices for Webinar Marketing

Internet marketing firms have been advertising Webinars in my Web Digest For Marketers email newsletter for well over 10 years. I've also been hired to speak at dozens of Webinars myself.

Below are my top tactics for getting the most out of your Webinar events.

1. How Far in Advance Do You Start Advertising Your Webinar?

If you start too early, people often forget what inspired them to sign up in the first place. In Web Digest For Marketers, I've noticed Webinar sponsors typically think advertising more than two weeks in advance is too long a lead time.

Most advertisers of Webinars I know think a day or two before the event is too late to advertise, as B2B execs (assuming that's your target) often already have their schedules booked.

Having said that, sometimes I see ads run just prior to the event in order to re-stimulate interest in those who already signed up, or to give a last opportunity for interested parties to register.

Sometimes people don't sign up for a Webinar or white paper the first time they see the offer. It may be on the second or third pass (or even when the ad is seen in another venue) that convinces them to sign up.

2. 50% Rule

From what I've observed over the years, roughly 50% of those who sign up actually wind up attending the Webinar.

This means that once you reach your target threshold of registrations, you'll want to continue to promote the event because it is a safe assumption that many who sign up will in fact not attend. You want to avoid investing lots of money in a Webinar only to have too few people attend.

3. Who Should Attend?

A Webinar is an event just like one that happens in real space. Assuming the topic is of interest to your target audience, they're going to ask similar questions. One such question is "Who Should Attend?"

One effective way to communicate this is to clearly list it in your ad/offer. Both those who are within and outside of your target will appreciate the clarity you show by stating whom you want to reach, whether it's specific types of companies or specific titles/areas of responsibilty.

4. Do Dry Runs

I have been hired to speak at dozens of Webinars over the years. It is imperative to do as many dry runs as possible, so long as you are controlling the speaker's time. This may be difficult with guest speakers who are time-crunched.

I typically do at least two dry runs the day before the event, so if graphics are loading slowly or there is a change in ordering, there is a little production time left before the actual event. Dry runs are especially important if the speakers are being piped in from different locations.

If the speaker is in one place, and the graphics he's talking about are being controlled from a different place, it is critical that the person controlling the graphics knows when the next graphic is to be presented and how long it takes to deliver it to the slowest user out there.

5. Keep It Short

Most Webinars I've spoken at start with a 5-7 minute intro (or less) and then I'll present my content for 20-35 minutes. In a speech I give in real space, a keynote is typically 45-60 minutes.

Because people invest less time getting to a Webinar event than a real space event (and they are often multitasking in their office while attending a Webinar), their attention span tends to be shorter.

After my presentation, there is typically a short demo or explanation of what the sponsoring company does and how they operate. A surprising number of attendees stick around for these post-presentations.

People want to know what the sponsoring company's business model is and how they differentiate themselves from their competitors (whom they sometimes mention). This "pitch" is educational in its own right.

6. Being Judged by the Company You Keep

Of course, other Webinar formats work differently. Perhaps a well-known research firm publishes data, and a senior member on the panel presents those results. This is also effective, as people often judge firms by the company they keep. It's quite a statement and investment.

7. Send Reminders

When people sign up for your Webinar, don't forget to ask for permission to use their email addresses. This way, you can remind people of your upcoming event.

More sophisticated firms will email helpful pieces of content to those who've signed up. This way, the audience becomes more familiar with the speakers, anticipates hearing more about the topic and is reminded of the Webinar itself.

Don't overdo the reminders, though. They can get annoying and be counterproductive if they're overused.

8. Oh, You Missed It

For those who missed it, no worries. That's because you're going to email them and show them where they can see a recording of the Webinar at their convenience.

Remember, many people are apt to sign up and not make it to the live event. You might as well try to recoup some of those who missed it, no?

9. Sales Lead Leakage

Probably the biggest sin in online marketing is the dropping of qualified sales leads that register for Webinars and white papers.

The more sophisticated advertisers in Web Digest For Marketers break leads down into 4 or so categories. The A and B leads are contacted within 48 hours after the event.

The C leads are often put into a so-called "warming tank," where they are nurtured over time. This nurturing may be by way of useful emails sent to these people, or human contact weeks or months later.

But so very often, marketing departments somehow disconnect from sales departments and huge numbers of leads are just dropped. This is wasted money falling to the floor.

Before holding a Webinar, buying media to promote it or writing the copy for the ad offers, make sure your internal lead routing process is air-tight.

10. Don't Read Your Webinar Speech

Nothing sounds so boring as listening to someone read their presentation verbatim. This does not mean you should wing it. Far from it.

When I give a presentation, I practice it out loud six times. I don't actually write out the speech. I have what I call "connectors," which are words on cue cards that lead me from one point to the next.

By the time I'm finished rehearsing the speech, the bulk of it is word-for-word exact from one rehearsal to the next. Once it is "rote," I then feel comfortable enough to "riff" live at the presentation.

This riffing comes across as spontaneous, and the audience senses and enjoys this. Over the years, I've also found it is the live riffing that gets picked up by the press.

11. Prep for Questions

If you're going to have a Q&A session, it's a good idea to ask for questions prior to the Webinar. No one wants to be the first person to ask a question. Once the ball gets rolling, others tend to jump in.

Don't throw yourself Nerf ball questions. They only come across as a shill for you to give pat answers. You'll lose credibility if you do this. You want challenging questions.

Don't be afraid to pause before answering. Pauses indicate that you are being thoughtful about what you say next. This goes for answering questions as well as the content of your speech.