In-person events have been canceled leaving startups with holes in their lead funnel. While there are many virtual events being organized, a common approach to fill the void is to organize a webinar. Ideally, you’d create a regular series of webinars that will help drive leads and start to fill the funnel back up again.
But if you haven’t organized a webinar before, how do you go about it? Here are some quick tips.
1. Buy or build
The first decision is to create your own or to join an existing webinar program organized by an events company, an analyst firm, or media publisher. You may get lucky and be able to join a partner’s program for a one-off, but most likely these other options will require budget (think $15,000). Some will come with a guaranteed number of qualified leads, which could be a good option for a resource-stretched marketing team. Others will simply provide the subject matter expert, an analyst say, and you have to drive the operations and promotion.
If you haven’t had experience in participating in a webinar and are cautious about the spend, it might be a good idea to roll your own first, then scale up to the more costly options. If you have an experienced speaker in your ranks, and have worked with webinar organizers before, that might be an easier option – just move the events budget over and carry on.
2. Choosing a webinar topic and speakers
Let’s say you decide to produce your own webinar this first time out. A key to getting people to come is a compelling topic. Many startups are creating webinars – what will make yours stand out? Hint – if you want to fill the top of your funnel, it’s not a demo of your product. Take a look at webinar platform, BrightTalk and do a quick search for webinars in your field. It’s likely there will be quite a few – that’s who you are competing with for the attention of your audience. So think of a topical, must-see, educational subject for your webinar. What would you carve out 40 minutes of your day to see?
You’ll also need to choose who the panelists are. Within your startup, there will likely be some clear candidates. Who do you normally field to speak at a conference? If you have a customer and feel good about bringing them in, that would add some credibility.
3. Selecting a webinar platform
There are a lot of webinar hosting platforms out there. Here’s a list on G2 Crowd reviewing them, and here is another on TechRadar. The more feature-rich will integrate with your CRM, and have tools to directly promote your webinar to your audience via email and advertising. The sophisticated ones like BrightTalk and ON24 come with plenty of options, which you’ll need to pay for. So again, depending on your experience and budget, this might be something to work towards with this first go-around. One simple option? Zoom Webinars – low cost, rich features like an integration with Hubspot, and probably a tool you are already all too familiar with.
We have our topic and the platform – now let’s get the audience. Best option? Email. The people in your contact database who already know you. The webinar is a great chance to turn subscribers into leads, and uplevel leads into MQLs. Think about the topic and match it to personas and segments which might benefit the most. It will be tempting to blast the whole database – but is it relevant to them all? Probably not.
You’ll want a sequence which is something like 14 days out, 7 days out, and the day before to get the signups. Plus reminders to the registrants the day and hour before with the details. We have found the first email being an HTML designed promotion, followed by text-only reminders works well for open rates and clicks. You might want to experiment with the timing and format. Perhaps an extra send 21 days before gives your audience more time to plan, or perhaps three sends just creates fatigue and gets in way of your other email marketing.
Also, consider promotion over organic social channels and some paid media – LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Paid Search and Display. This is a chance to get some new leads into the funnel. You can also add the webinar to the website, email footers, newsletters and other promotions you have in place.
How many signups is a good target? For this first time out, if you can get 40 registrants and 15-20 attendees, you are on track. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on the target audience, but below a certain threshold, perhaps this isn’t the right channel. If you get more – great! (And please share your tips with me).
5. Hosting the webinar
Before the big day, you’ll want to organize a dry run with your panelists. This should not just go through the content of the deck, presentation style and timing, but also make sure you know how to run the webinar software. Ensure each panelist has the right technical set up – microphone, camera, and green screen perhaps. A small investment here can make a big difference to the production quality of your webinar, particularly if you plan to use it afterward as a conversion event on the site.
Most webinar platforms have interactivity tools like Q&A, hand raises and polls to keep your audience engaged and to make sure they get the most value from your session. You’ll want to get these set up in advance, and perhaps have a technical co-host running those while the presenters do their thing.
There are many factors that go into a good presentation, the key factor – preparation. Success on the day is earned before it even starts. On the day – just let all that prep shine through. Oh, and don’t forget to record it.
6. Follow up
You did it – people came and it all went smoothly. But you’re not done yet. You’ll need to follow up with all those who attended and the absentees. What happened to those guys? We’ll never know but we can still give them a chance to see the webinar. You’ll want to set up a landing page with the recording of the webinar and the slides, plus perhaps a couple of other assets to continue the conversation and add more value. This is a good place for a guide and a CTA for a demo for those interested in taking that step.
Send thank yous to those who came, and sorry to miss you notes for those who missed the session, directing them to your landing page. You can also gate this with a form to put up in the Resources section of your site, and add into other promotions such as paid media. By some estimates, up to half of a webinar’s total audience come after the live event itself, so don’t miss out on that value.
7. Lessons learned
Congratulations – your first webinar is done and dusted. It’s time to start the next one, but before we do, let’s make sure it’s better. What did you learn? Look through each of these tips to see where you could improve. For instance, should you bring in the analyst for the next one as a bigger draw? Did you nail the topic or was it too high-level? How did the platform work out – did it have all the features you need? How can you get more attendees for the next one? Where were the drop-offs in conversions to registration? How did it go on the day? Was that microphone crisp enough? Do we need better design on the slides? And what was the reaction to the event? How did the follow up go – were there any MQLs which moved to SQLs or even Closed – Won deals? Perhaps it’s too soon to tell but can you get a read on the quality of the audience and their relevance to your offering?
While there are many factors that go into delivering a successful webinar series, hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to take the initial steps in organizing your first webinar, and getting that lead funnel full.
Morgan McLintic is the founder of Firebrand. With over 25 years’ experience in the tech sector, he advises clients about their marketing and PR strategy. Prior to Firebrand, he was the founder of digital communications agency, LEWIS in the US, growing it to 250 staff and $35m revenue.