The Insider’s Guide to Strategic B2B Webinar Campaigns

Webinars have been increasingly used as an interactive, visual form of content marketing, both educational and promotional. In fact, about 60% of B2B marketing teams make webinars a key part of their content strategy, as it’s easy to control the message that is communicated to your customers. That’s where strategic B2B webinar campaigns come in.

Webinars have been increasingly used as an interactive, visual form of content marketing, both educational and promotional. In fact, about 60% of B2B marketing teams make webinars a key part of their content strategy, as it’s easy to control the message that is communicated to your customers.

However, just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it is working; engagement rates for most webinar watchers are pitifully low, dipping to 15% in some cases. Getting your audience interested and invested in your message has always been a challenge, but capturing their attention is essential for growing conversion rates.

An unengaged audience is not likely to convert into customers. So you need to ensure that your watchers are actually listening and interacting with your webinar, especially while it’s in progress. Here are a few strategic B2B webinar pointers on how to do that.

Understand Who You Are Talking to in an Audience

Knowing your audience through and through is always the first step to a successful marketing strategy, and it’s no different when it comes to webinars. Using a webinar as a B2B marketing tactic is going to be different than a traditional approach, simply because of the kind of people who will be watching.

B2B customers are not your typical day-to-day consumer. B2B audiences are more motivated by relationships with a business and the measurable value that a product or service provides than saving money or buying the newest thing in the market.

In many cases, the people you are marketing to are upper-level executives who are highly knowledgeable in their industry (and, therefore, less easily swayed by standard pitches). Additionally, you will likely have to appeal to multiple people within an organization, rather than just one, as you would in B2C marketing. It follows that your webinar content should be highly focused on providing top-notch information and clearly demonstrate how your product or service will have a significant impact on the customer’s business.

Invite Your Audience’s Active Participation

Webinars must be interactive if they are going to drive engagement. If your customers wanted to tune in only to learn more about your company, then they could choose to do so from umpteen other channels, the simplest of them being your website. They choose to participate in a webinar because it is one way to interact with your business on a personal level while contemplating whether your product would work for them.

According to Bizibl’s “2017 Webinar Benchmark Report,” the most effective engagement tool during a webinar is a Q&A session between the speaker and the audience. You can collect these questions before the webinar begins through email or social media, or in real time on the webinar platform, which probably lets the audience post questions via a live chat. Answering these questions spontaneously is akin to creating personalized content or providing individual customer service.

Credit: Bizibl Marketing

A webinar should not be the same as a seminar, per se. Just listening to a speaker drone on for an hour (even when they are an interesting orator) can get fairly boring. Webinars provide you and the audience with the opportunity to have meaningful discourse, so make sure that your program is set up to promote two-way conversation.

Show, Don’t Tell

In general, most people tend to be visual learners, especially when it comes to marketing. Eight out of 10 customers would prefer to watch a video demonstration of a product, rather than read about it on a website. Plus, studies have found that when people learn online using visual aids such as video, they are far more likely to remember the information shared therein.

Again, show your customers exactly what you are talking about with live demos, rather than just explaining what your product can do. A webinar solution like ClickMeeting lets you use real-time screen sharing, file sharing, polls, private chats with simultaneous translation, and various collaboration tools to help guide your customers through a step-by-step process that helps them achieve their goals.

Credit: ClickMeeting

By sharing insightful tips and techniques live on webinars, your business can establish itself as a credible resource and an authority in your industry. Top B2B decision-makers are highly influenced by this type of hands-on thought leadership; an Edelman survey found that 48% of C-Suite executives cited educational content as the reason they did business with a brand.

Have a Plan Before, During and After

The entire process of creating a webinar as a part of your marketing campaign must be carefully planned from start to finish. First, you must determine why you’re putting together a webinar in the first place:

  • Is it to establish authority by discussing a technical topic?
  • Does it aim to educate your customers by explaining a complicated process?
  • Is it focused on brand awareness and top-of-the-funnel growth?
  • Is it a push for higher conversion rates from already engaged consumers?

Once your goals have been established, there must be a plan in place to ensure that your webinar brings in positive results. The number of attendees can vary greatly depending on a few small details. For example, people are far more likely (Opens as a PDF) to watch a webinar in the middle of the week (Wednesdays and Thursdays are best). Also, more people will attend a live webinar if they are informed of it a week or so before, rather than further in advance.

Credit: ON24

You also want to monitor audience sentiment before, during and after a webinar. Tracking ROI from marketing campaigns in general is always a challenge, but measuring results from webinars is the most difficult of all. Be sure that your team knows how to properly translate analytical data from the event and that they have the right tools to do so. Look into audience development tools, such as AmpLive, in conjunction with Google Analytics and on-site event tracking software for a better chance at determining ROI from webinars.

Once your webinar is complete, you can make the videos available as part of a resource section of your website, as well as on your YouTube (or Instagram) channel. Digital marketing and competitive intelligence solutions can do this effectively. (Disclosure: the author works for SEMrush, which is one of these tools.)

Video marketing has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, and the engagement numbers are staggering. Branded content video viewership has grown by 258% on Facebook, and 64% of consumers have bought an item after they viewed a video on social media. What’s more, webpages and social media posts with video will keep a user’s attention 2.6 times longer than those with just text or images, thus increasing engagement levels significantly.

Over to You

Webinars provide B2B companies with the unique opportunity to engage with audiences through an interactive and informative process. No other marketing platform can provide something quite this in-depth. However, this does not guarantee success: webinars require a lot of strategic planning.

Make sure that you understand who your audience is and the type of content they are looking for. Fully integrate webinars into your marketing mix. Set goals and put in place tools and systems that will help you achieve your target ROI. Remember, webinars should be informative and educational, but they should also be engaging and fun. Keep things interesting by soliciting and answering questions. And do throw in a liberal helping of humor while you’re at it.

Using Webinars for Content Marketing

Webinars are a great opportunity attract an audience by providing useful information while also establishing your credibility and thought leadership. Here are some rules for making your webinar content marketing successful for you and your audience.

Webinars are a great opportunity attract an audience by providing useful information while also establishing your credibility and thought leadership. Here are some rules for making your webinar content marketing successful for you and your audience.

Content

If you’ve read any of my articles here on Target Marketing or over on my own blog at Andigo, you know I sound like a broken record preaching about the bedrock of your marketing being great information. Webinar content marketing is no different. You can’t sell. At least, not within content that is aimed at an audience that doesn’t yet know you. (You have more leeway — and you actually should be pointing out the benefits of your own process and your services — in content aimed at mid-funnel prospects.) So make sure your content is of value to your audience and is presented in more of a journalistic mode than marketing mode.

Length

An hour is the most common length, with a few minutes allotted at the beginning for late arrivals and “housekeeping items” — boy, do I dislike that phrase — and 15 minutes at the end for Q&A, leaving perhaps 40 minutes for the actual presentation.

This works well for many topics, but I would also urge you to consider a shorter format. There are very few things you can cover in complete detail in 40 minutes, so you’ll already be condensing. And an hour is a sizable chunk of your audience’s day. Since our content marketing goal with a webinar is to entice our audience into further action, there’s no reason to worry about being fully comprehensive. To succeed as content marketing, our webinar needs to encourage further action. More on that below.

Timing

Just because your webinar is the most important part of your day doesn’t mean it’s going to be the most important part of your audience’s day. So while you may think that scheduling later in the day will decrease attendance because, well, things come up during the day, you’ll likely find that even with that loss of registered attendees to life’s realities, sign-ups will be higher for afternoon sessions because many of us prioritize mornings for our most pressing work. As with just about everything marketing-related, your mileage may vary, so it really pays to test and to create your own benchmarks.

Promotion

Getting the most marketing bang out of your webinar means getting the word out, and you’ll need to kick your broader marketing machine into high gear. Don’t be shy about promoting your webinar, even if the initial response is positive. Webinars being used as content marketing, since they’re generally free, are an easy yes to get from your audience, but it’s also easy to get a lot of no-shows.

You may want to team up with another expert so that you get a multiplier effect — she brings her network, you bring yours, and you both are introduced to new people.

Don’t forget to reach out to influencers in related markets. These won’t be competitors, but colleagues whose audience and clients overlap with yours.

Making It Work as Marketing

You can’t sell if you want your webinar to be effective. I said that just a few paragraphs ago and I’m repeating it because it’s that important. However, you won’t be successful if you go into your webinar with a publishing mindset. That is, you need to present great information for your audience, but need to do so in a way that furthers your marketing goals.

So be sure to have your goals in mind before you start and be sure to build the tools you need into your webinar. It’s not realistic for you to expect your webinar to result in a fluyrry of RFPs or signed blank checks. (If only …) But you should expect to create the opportunity to create or strengthen an relationship as a prospect proceeds through their buying journey.

That means having content marketing machine in place with second- and third-level content appropriate for prospects who are moving through the funnel and gaining understanding. Your levels might look like this:

  1. The free webinar
  2. A free piece of additional content that requires them to visit your website
  3. Yet another piece of content marketing that requires an email subscription

From there you can continue to nurture the relationship until the prospect’s timing is right and you have the opportunity to make your pitch.

You won’t win all of those sales opportunities, but webinar content marketing gives you more of those opportunities to aim at, which will go a long way to keeping your funnel full and your bottom line healthy.

Looking for benchmarks for any of these ideas on timing, length, and promotional cadence? Check out the 2017 ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report.

A Pile of Content Is Not the Answer

“Can you just create some compelling content that everyone will love?” Ever hear that? Well, that’s not how a content marketing strategy works: There is no magic fairy dust to sprinkle over the content creators to make them generate more, fabulous content. (Trust me, I wish it was that simple.)

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this, or some approximation of this:

Compelling Content MemeAnd how many times did you cringe and make this face/gesture before quietly retreating?

Firefly Mal gifThat’s not how a content marketing strategy works: There is no magic fairy dust to sprinkle over the content creators to make them generate more, fabulous content. (Trust me, that would come in really handy during busy weeks).

And to piggyback off of that, no one should be patting themselves on the back for producing a bucket full of content assets … “Hey CMO, look at me … in six months my team has created 48 blog posts, 25 whitepapers, 12 webinars and a partridge in a pear tree!” The question in response to that should be, “And how do they all work together to deliver a customer experience?” Usually the answer is the faint thrum of crickets.

But Wait, There’s Hope!

If Joe Pulizzi is the Godfather of Content Marketing, then Robert Rose is The Consigliere … or if we want to take a step away from organized crime references, he’s the REALLY smart uncle who knows just as much as the Godfather, and honestly, why isn’t he … okay, getting off track.

So. Robert Rose. Super cool guy, super smart guy, and I got to meet him last year at Content Marketing World. When the editorial team got together in the spring to pitch session ideas for our Integrated Marketing Virtual Conference this year, I suggested the topic of repurposing content (very hot), and then said, “Hey, what if we ask Robert?”

Flash forward to now, a handful of days after the virtual show, and yes, Robert was able to join us, yes he delivered a fantastic session titled “The Content Show That Never Ends: Repurposing Like a Media Company,” and yes I created the following meme about 10 minutes after the session wrapped (priorities, folks):

Hey Frank memeSo in those 30 dazzling minutes what did we learn?

  • In every great content-driven experience you hear people raving about, it’s the collection of assets, not any one, that provides value.
  • A reusable content plan that can be measured in multiple ways over time can only help your marketing strategy.
  • More common than not, marketers have a disconnected pile of assets, and they’re unable to measure the efficacy of a program because it’s not program. Instead, it’s tactical support of a campaign. Or as Robert quipped, “You have assets coming out of assets.”
  • You can build a better content marketing strategy if you start at the end.

RRIMV_slideNow, this is just a mere taste of what Robert shared with IMV attendees, and I don’t want to share any more than this because you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t listen to the man himself.

Good news for you: If you missed the show on Thursday, it’s on-demand until Sept. 27! Register, if you haven’t already, and check out Robert’s presentation (and then stick around for a few of the others to get other aspects of your marketing in order).

It’ll get you thinking about how you can smartly repurpose content, but better yet, it’ll help you reframe how you look at content and the customer experience.

 

How to Follow-Up on Webinar Leads: Don’t

The best follow-up to your webinar is no follow-up. Today’s most successful webinars are moving the lead from warm to warmer — right on the webinar. From that moment forward there is no need for 95 percent of what we see today, i.e., follow-up email techniques that are ineffective and just plain awful.

The best follow-up to your webinar is no follow-up. Today’s most successful webinars are moving the lead from warm to warmer — right on the webinar. From that moment forward there is no need for 95 percent of what we see today, i.e., follow-up email techniques that are ineffective and just plain awful.

Jordan Barta of Paychex puts it this way in a recent blog post.

Prospects don’t have “time for you to ask them about their strategy, or if they have questions about your product. They want solutions and innovative ideas.”

So do you even need email follow-up?

What If Your Webinar Did This?

Imagine your webinar closing the prospects. Not on a sale, but instead, on a pre-sale first step that connects with their buying journeys. A step that moves them forward on making the eventual purchase commitment.

What can you literally do for a prospect, right now, that will prove your most costly, comprehensive solution is worth it?

Can you provide a few results in advance of purchase?

Depending on what you’re selling, following-up with webinar leads can be on an “as needed” basis. Because the webinar itself can close prospects on:

  • A low-cost, easy to afford starter product that makes taking action irresistible
  • A “next step” free offer that provides small but immediate, tangible benefits

Coming at the end of your webinar, your “next logical step” may come in paid or free form. The idea is to get customers investing in themselves — in a way that delivers results in advance of a larger purchase commitment.

Thus, your offer (paid or free) should produce near-term gratification. Proof that considering a larger investment is worth it.

Educating Your Prospect Is Not the Goal

Educating your prospect is a weak goal for your webinar. Instead, make your No. 1 goal to provoke action. Encourage prospects to act on a promotion designed to prove you:

  1. understand their problems or goals
  2. have a different approach to solving/reaching them
  3. are more qualified to help than the competition

What’s your unfair advantage? Let them taste it via the webinar and, afterward, a promotional first step. (bringing them toward their goal)

Your webinar’s goal isn’t to educate potential buyers. It’s to show them the better way, make it seem 110 percent do-able. Give them confidence in your better way and in themselves.