A B2B Marketers’ Guide To Hosting A Successful Webinar
January 26, 2017
When it comes to generating leads at any stage of the funnel, webinars work wonders for your pipeline.
Whether you’re new to hosting your own webinars or already a firm believer in them, here are 7 steps to effectively plan, promote, execute and follow-up on your webinars, plus a free webinar checklist template to keep you on track.
1. Planning and choosing the (right) topic
The first step to hosting a successful webinar is having a solid plan with timelines and milestones. Here’s a sample checklist/project plan that will help guide your process and make sure you’re prepared and set up for success:
- Develop project plan and set goals (8 weeks prior)
- Finalize topic, title, abstract and speakers (6 weeks prior)
- Setup registration page, confirmation emails and reminder emails (4 weeks prior)
- Begin ongoing promotion (4 weeks prior)
- Send email invites (4 weeks prior, 2 weeks prior, 1 week prior, 1 day prior)*
- Draft presentation slides (2 weeks prior)
- Send email reminders to registrants (1 week prior, 1 day prior, 1 hour prior)
- Dry-run (1 week prior)
- Finalize slides (3 days prior)
- Pre-conference with speakers (30 minutes prior)
- Send webinar recording and slides (within 1 day after) to registrants
- Send follow-up emails and sales outreach (1 day after)
- Promote webinar recording and related content assets (ongoing)
*Seem like too many emails? It is, if you’re not segmenting your audience. Make sure you are excluding people who have engaged with your previous email invites.
The three key aspects of creating a solid plan for your webinar are understanding your goals, setting realistic expectations and choosing the right topic.
What are your goals for hosting a webinar? Do you want to generate leads? Become a thought leader? Move prospects through the funnel? All of the above? Whatever your goals are, your content needs to be tailored to meet these goals and your expectations need to align with your goals.
Set realistic expectations
You can’t expect the same turnout from a customer case study webinar as you would covering a general hot topic in your industry. Covering a hot topic may bring in 500+ registrations and a customer case study may bring in 150+ but if the majority of the people on the case study webinar are in an active buying cycle with your company, then the value outweighs the comparative “lack of registrations.” More isn’t always better.
Choose the right topic
You’ve set your goals, now you need to choose a topic that aligns with your goals. Notice I said, choosing the right topic, not just choosing the topic. My advice: Be where your audience is and understand their needs. Is there a highly trafficked LinkedIn Group or Forum site? Well, head there first and see what they’re talking about. Take notice of the types of questions people are asking and the trends. Is there an active member who is highly respected by the community? Ask them to be your next speaker.
Pro-Tip: Webinars are typically 60-minutes long. And in most cases, they shouldn’t be. People are busier than ever today, so asking someone to give an hour of their time for something that may or may not provide value is a tough sell. The level of time commitment required is just too high. Consider cutting it down to 20 or 30 minutes and trim the fat from your presentation so it’s all killer, no filler. Your audience will thank you. We recently hosted a 20-minute webinar on lead nurturing and the response was great. People loved the quick, snackable and informative format and since it was high level, it leaves room for a “Part 2” that goes into more depth for those who want to dig deeper.
2. Collecting registrations
Now that you have a solid plan in place, it’s time to work on setting up your process to collect registrations. Do you have a platform to host your webinar? If you answered yes, skip ahead. If you answered no, see below:
Before choosing a platform, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Do they integrate with your Marketing Automation Platform (MAP)?
- How is their recording functionality?
- Are there collaboration features?
With that in mind, here are a few vendors to check out:
So now that you have your provider, setting up your process to collect registrations is your next logical step. You should always start by integrating your webinar provider with your MAP… the only reason why you shouldn’t integrate with your MAP is if you don’t have one. Is it more work? Sure. But the value you get long-term is crucial. I highly recommend creating your landing pages, confirmation emails, reminder emails and follow-ups in your MAP.
Pro tip: If your webinar provider integrates with your MAP, ditch standard thank you messages for thank you pages. Leverage these to encourage additional conversions and engagement leading to a more qualified prospect. Think of it this way, you have someone’s attention, so make the most of it by having them consume more of your content. We’ve found that 35% of people who register go on to engage with additional content.
Once you’ve completed the tasks above, you’re ready to start promoting! When it comes to promotion, there is no one channel to rule them all. It really depends on what works for you – but you have options. I’ve had to promote webinars with no budget before, so I’m going to break this up into two sections: “Lean” marketing teams and teams with more resources for paid promotion.
Keeping it lean
If you’re a lean marketing team, you’re by no means doomed. Here’s where to start:
- Adding CTAs to your website, blog posts, etc.
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Posting in relevant LinkedIn groups
- Posting in relevant communities
- Partnering with companies (use lead sharing as an incentive)
- Interview someone from a big brand (it’s likely their company will help promote)
Spending a little to get a little
In addition to getting the word out with the ideas above, you might also look at paid promotion for your webinar via:
- Display ads
- Sponsored newsletters
- Social ads
No matter what channels you leverage to promote your webinar, your message will always be more compelling if it’s simple and visual.
Pro tip: If you’re leveraging email marketing, use day before and/or day of emails to create a sense of urgency (not to be confused with day before email reminders for folks who have already registered). In my experience, 25% of our webinar registrations have come from day before promotion emails.
According to Bizible, the average registration-to-attendee conversion rate is anywhere between 35% to 45%. This is pretty high relative to the conversion rate of a paid ad, but you’re putting all this work into planning the webinar, so you want people to attend. Cue up reminder emails to get more people on the line. As I mentioned above, sending reminder emails 1 week, 1 day and 1 hour before your webinar should do the trick, but if you want to take this one step forward, try to get it in their calendars by including ‘add to calendar’ links in your confirmation and reminder emails. You can manually add them using: http://addtocalendar.com/.
Pro tip: If your confirmation and reminder emails are created in your MAP, you can send a targeted email to registrants who haven’t added the event to their calendar, prompting them to do so. Typically using “Did not click link” logic.
The big day has finally arrived and your webinar is just a few hours away. My only advice is to be prepared. As a best practice, you should conference with your speakers 30 minutes before the event to make sure everyone’s on the same page and there are no audio or connectivity issues.
Pro tip: I hate to say it but no matter how much you do to prevent any hiccups, there are just some complications you can’t avoid… like your webinar provider having server issues (true story!). With that being said, you can always avoid any presenter complications by pre-recording your webinars. If you have the time, then it’s one less thing to worry about on the day of.
6. Following up
Now that your webinar went off without a hitch, it’s time to follow up with your attendees and non-attendees. Thank them for attending/registering and share the recording and slides.
As a best practice, you should send out everything by the next day at the latest to hold on to your attendees’ attention while you’ve got it. Once you’re more familiar with everything, you’ll probably be able to send everything out later that day. Keeping your follow up email as close to the event as possible keeps you relevant and top of mind.
Pro tip: Most webinar providers have the ability to add a “post-event survey” after your webinar has concluded. Use this opportunity to get feedback on the webinar and gather ideas for future topics or things you could tweak and improve.
7. Resources = repurposing
At this point, you’re probably feeling pretty good. Let’s keep the momentum going by repurposing your content. A good first step is to have the recording/slides live on the resources section of your website.
Here are a few more ways to repurpose your webinar content:
- Write a summary blog post
- Add it to your social queue
- Create small snackable audio clips intriguing people to learn more
- Add it to Slideshare
There you have it – your quick 7-step guide to hosting webinars. Don’t forget to get your free checklist template right here: PathFactory’s Webinar checklist. I hope this helps you take the leap into hosting webinars or helps you refine your process.