Webinars has become an important toll for marketers. I asked Ken Molay, president and founder of Webinar Success, to share his thoughts on the evolution of webinars, how marketers can best leverage this for their programs, and what to expect in a couple of years. Here is Ken’s bio:
Ken Molay is president and founder of Webinar Success, a consulting firm that assists companies in producing and delivering effective and compelling web seminars. Ken combines a technical background with experience in corporate marketing and public presentations. He is a prolific blogger on the subject of web conferencing and its applications, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal and industry publications. He is a frequent public speaker on the topic of more effective webinars.
You’ve been writing about webinars for awhile. What is the most significant change that you’ve seen?
I started using webinars as a marketing tool some ten years ago. At that time, the concept was a novelty. I was constantly explaining what they were. Now webinars are ubiquitous and almost every business person has at least attended one, if not presented one. Attendance rates for marketing webinars used to be very high, averaging 50-60% of registrants. Now they average 33%. People will no longer attend just for the experience of trying out a new learning medium. As usage becomes more common, presenters spend less time and effort on preparation. This is rapidly leading to audience dissatisfaction as they attend more and more online sessions where presenters read text off slides, sound disinterested in their own material, and don’t seem to care about delivering value as much as collecting names and emails on the registration form. Companies who host webinars need to “up their game” and concentrate on creating value for their attendees in both content and presentation.
So webinars have become a key tool in a marketer’s toolkit. What are the top three things that marketers need to consider when using webinars for their programs?
a) The webinar title, promotional efforts, and content MUST be framed in terms of audience interests and benefits instead of the host’s informational content. Instead of telling your audience “We wanted to tell you about our latest offering” you need to tell them “Learning about our latest offering will benefit you in the following ways.”
b) Watch out for the “successful webinar” trap. Many marketing departments try a webinar and get good results on gathering leads and seeing a very positive cost-benefit. So the boss says, “Great! Do one of these a week. This is a cheap lead generating machine!” You end up with “list exhaustion” as people don’t want to attend that frequently and you end up with “presenter exhaustion” as there is not enough time to prepare and rehearse compelling content. Your presenters view it as an inconvenient distraction from their “real jobs”. Quality goes down, your audience stops coming, and your boss gets angry.
c) Your success in turning marketing webinar attendees into sales prospects is greatly influenced by your speed of response after the event. Don’t just dump the registration list into a CRM system for eventual follow up by a salesperson. A “follow up” call or email two weeks later has the same psychological impact as a cold call. You need to send follow up email within 24 hours of your webinar. Immediately following the event, have someone go through the webinar chat log or feedback responses, looking for people who asked a specific product question or requested a contact. Get back to them the same day. Have your supporting material or collateral ready to send… Don’t wait until after the webinar to assemble it.
The space has become more crowded with more vendors and offerings. Where do you see the industry going in 1-2 years?
Video is the hot item of the year. Vendors are rapidly adding what they refer to as “high def” streaming video capabilities to their webinar products. I am comfortable with presenter video in smaller team meeting applications, but I am not a fan of live video for public marketing webinars. It puts a tremendous additional burden on the presenter, who cannot easily move around, look at notes, or check the web conferencing console without breaking eye contact with the audience. It is harder to create a professional corporate image with video because of the many subtle visual cues we respond to as viewers without consciously realizing it. Video also demands much more bandwidth, and companies run the risk of excluding or delivering subpar experiences for attendees with slower network connections. So I think we may see a wider adoption of video conferencing initially, followed by a pullback (at least for marketing webinars) while companies wait for infrastructure to catch up and for their production teams to learn a new set of best practices.
The other trend I see developing is a desire for easier monetization of webinars. This does not directly affect marketing webinars, but many companies want to deliver fee-based training, consultation, and support to a wider audience than they can reach with in-room seminars. There are not enough technology choices and integrated features in the market to make this easy and cost-effective to implement.
Have you leveraged webinars for your program? If so, share your successes, lessons learned and more below.