Are webinars becoming less effective? Maybe not!
Webinars have been used by tech companies for 15+ years. They work because they both generate leads and help you build your brand. While there has been a resurgence in their effectiveness most of this year, there has been a significant change in the fourth quarter that requires an adjustment in the way you use them.
In this post, I cover why Webinars surged as a lead generation tool in 2020 but waned this quarter, why they are not dead as a tactic, and more importantly, what you need to do to benefit from webinars as a marketing tactic going forward.
Why Webinars Work
There are basically five reasons that webinars are a tried and true marketing tactic:
- Generates leads – They are a proven way to generate leads, especially to attract prospective buyers who want to be educated.
- Builds your authority – By educating your prospects you are implicitly seen as an authority in what you do.
- Builds your brand – A great webinar creates a positive image of your business and your brand.
- Creates content – You can repurpose the webinar presentation and recording to create blog posts, infographics, and more.
- They are flexible – There are many ways different ways to use webinars from general market education to implementing best practices.
The resurgence of Webinars and Virtual Events
Prior to COVID, webinars were on the wane, as it was getting harder to get people to register and attend them. During COVID, this changed.
With millions of workers at home, webinar registrations soared. Why? Personally, I believe that there are several reasons:
- With less time spent commuting, many people have had more time on their hands.
- In some cases, workloads declined as business stalled. Many of us have used our spare time to catch up with getting better educated. Webinars are clearly seen as a way to be better informed.
- More importantly, as we have all become more isolated, webinars are a way to connect and feel part of a community again.
Marketers switched their focus back to webinars and virtual events and it has been an effective strategy.
I launched my own business this year using webinars and workshops to attract a new audience and it has been very effective. In fact, Healthlaunchpad Connect came out of a desire by webinar and workshop attendees to connect with each other.
In addition to a growth in the usage of webinars, virtual summits have exploded.
With the cancelation of trade shows and conferences, these periodic opportunities to connect and sell were a major disruption for marketers. Virtual Summits have been a way to get some of this back.
I am not going to cover Virtual Summits in any detail here, but if you are interested, you can view a recording of an excellent presentation on Virtual Summits given by Jon Samsel, the CMO of Verimatrix, and Erin Farrell Talbot, a PR expert, who has been working in this area for some time.
Are Webinars On The Way Out Again?
The resurgence of webinars seemed to carry on through the Summer but since Labor Day, it feels like the trend is reversing.
I am seeing and hearing about much lower registrations across the board. It has become much harder to get people to register.
Are webinars passé again? I am not sure. I think that the drop-off in their effectiveness may be due to several short-term factors.
Firstly, business is getting somewhat back to normal and workers are busier again so, at least for now, prospects have less time to spend on webinars. Moreover, there is a huge amount of pressure to make up for a lost time in the final quarter of the year.
Secondly, there appears to be an end-of-year push to generate a ton of leads in a hurry. Many marketers are resorting to webinars to do that.
My inbox is jammed with webinar invitations, many on the same subjects. The increased competition for webinar participation means that prospects’ “webinar-viewing time” is spread thin.
It’s unclear, whether or not webinars will ever return to COVID-level participation, but I have noticed something unusual that warrants further consideration.
Lower Participation But Higher Engagement
I have noticed with the webinars I run for myself and clients that, while the quantity of registrants has fallen the quality has improved. In some cases, I am seeing much higher attendance rates.
While registrations are down, attendances are increasing. I have seen attendance rates of 70% rather than the typical 25-35%.
The people who are showing up seem much more engaged. They may be more actively looking to purchase what you are marketing.
I have also noticed that multiple people from the same firms are showing up.
This is often because somebody within their own organization has passed along the invitation email.
If you are selling something that involves multiple stakeholders, this is a very positive signal. It may indicate that the organization these people work for is actively in the market for what you do.
So how do we adjust to the new reality?
How You Should Shift Your Webinar Approach
Assume Lower Attendance and Registration
It’s unclear what will happen in 2021 but I am assuming that when it comes to webinars, the old normal may be the new normal. It may be harder to get the levels of participation that we saw in the Spring.
Shift Focus To Mid and Lower Funnel Events
The key implication of this is that webinars may be a less effective way of generating early-stage prospects who are in the market to be educated, aka Upper Funnel.
These prospects have become increasingly evasive and loathe to register for anything.
However, prospects who are further down the funnel and more actively engaged in a buying process need more information and education. Shift your use of webinars to mid and lower-funnel prospects.
Focus on Practical Training Rather Than General Education
As you shift to reaching buyers who are deeper into the buying process, you need to adjust the topic. Prospects who are lower down the funnel want much more practical “How To” content, e.g. implementation best practices, risks considering, hands-on deployment examples, and technical details such as integration issues.
Design For Higher Engagement and Interaction
The nice thing about having a smaller number of participants is that you have the option of making the event more interactive. With my own webinars, I prefer to use “regular” zoom rather than the webinar instance. This means that attendees are invited to switch their cameras on and ask questions directly rather than through the Q&A feature. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but it makes the events much more memorable and fun.
Workshops Rather Than Webinars
One way to make an event more interactive is to design it as a workshop rather than a webinar. When an event is a webinar, I suspect that most attendees are multitasking and doing email with the webinar on in the background.
If the event is a workshop, attendees expect to get involved and know that they will be asked questions and will be invited to participate.
For example, if your event is about implementation, you can run it as a workshop about all the risks that could derail a deployment and have an exercise where the participants work on mitigation strategies.
Have a Compelling Next Step
This is critical. So often the next step is that you will receive a recording and incessant follow-ups from SDRs. Instead, take the next step something practical and highly specific.
For example, if you have run a workshop on risk mitigation, invite a diagnostic to dig deeper on implementation risks. The benefit of fewer attendees is that you can be much more precise and targeted in your follow-up.
Smaller and More Often Rather Than Big Bang
The challenge of webinars is the work involved in creating a BIG event.
You have to create a compelling topic, find speakers, get them to create a great presentation, run a series of mass email blasts, and possibly spend money with a third party to promote the event. It’s hard for most organizations to do these frequently.
The benefit of smaller events targeted at mid and lower-funnel buyers is that you can run the same event multiple times.
You can create 3-4 webinars or workshops over a quarter and then run them repeatedly as a series, basically rinse and repeat.
So those are my tips. If I have missed any let me know. If you need help, please book a call with me. I would be delighted to talk with you about your strategy. You can book a call below.
Hope this helped!
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