July 2012

7 Webinar Mistakes

7 Deadly Sins of Webinars

By: Yin Chang, Phoenix Marketing Communications

Like weeds in a poorly kept lawn, webinars (or web-based seminars) are cropping up everywhere, promising answers to complex issues in one-hour or less. But more likely than not, these online events are doomed to failure before the first one goes live because webinars are most used for:

  • Blindly pushing out corporate messages without thought to the audience.
  • Vanity platforms for corporate senior executives.
  • A sales tool, thinly – if at all – disguised as an educational session.

While webinars have become the new push marketing – a marketing campaign that pushes the corporate messaging – it should be and really is a pull marketing campaign – where the audience is pulling information from the marketing campaign. Pull marketing campaigns are the ones most likely to engage the prospect, create an actionable purpose, and decrease lead time for sales.

Salvage your webinar program by avoiding 7 common errors nearly every company makes:

1. Not defining your objective(s) and goals. As simple and foolish as this may sound, less than 20% of company marketers define the objective(s) for a webinar program (let alone individual goals for each event). The objective normally has to do with either/or a combination of lead generation or building credibility and/or expertise in an industry. From there you can define your goals for each individual webinar including, but not limited to defining the target audience, target registrant number, etc.

Solution: Resolve to define each webinars objectives and set goals that can be measured against after the event. Some considerations for setting objectives and goals:

  • What are you seeking to accomplish with this particular webinar?
  • Who is the primary target audience? Secondary or ancillary?
  • What should be the measurement of success?
  • How many people do we need to have seen the event to call is successful?
  • How many new leads must we have in order to say that this has been a success?

2. Start thinking about your audience. While you’re already thinking about your webinar’s content, the first place to start is your audience. You may have pulled some great topics for this year, but remember to think about who your target audience is and back into the topic. This is where you want your sales hat on. While you’re not doing a hard sell, you are trying to build up your reputation as an expert in order to generate leads. While you have great topics, remember to align that with who you actually wish to reach. For example, if I’m seeking to reach IT folks responsible for database security, I wouldn’t put on a webinar about IT service management. Or, if I’m seeking to target the CIO or CTO, you need to think about what keeps them up at night (note: the simple answer would be budget cuts, but then you have to dig down deep to focus the discussion).

Understanding the target audience is the number one priority to creating good content. For example, if you’re hosting a webinar on software vendor audits, but your target audience is executives involved in IT asset disposal, hardware management or mobile management, it’s likely that you’ll be speaking to a handful of people. This audience doesn’t want to hear a generic presentation on software vendor audits. They want to know what it means to them. If the content were more focused on how IT asset disposal leads to millions of lost licensing dollars, it’s likely to generate interest in not only the IT asset disposal and hardware/mobile executives, but also anyone in procurement and software licensing.

3. Poor content. Not having content that people want to hear about is probably the number one complaint by people attending a webinar. How many times have you logged onto a webinar only to find that it’s a blatant sales pitch, a product demo or giving only superficial and generic information any entry-level person in the fill-in-the-blank industry should know when joining the company. It’s extremely frustrating for the attendee and also brings in question your company’s expertise. No one likes to waste precious time from their day. At best, the webinar attendee may listen as he/she wants to learn more about the product, but it’s more likely that – at worst – he/she has written your company off as having any serious expertise. So, stop wearing your sales hat and start giving content-rich presentations that will make people sit up and notice; send queries; and start conversations.

Considerations: Content is king. Content is the most important element for preparing your webinar. The success of your outreach effort is determined by what the content will be and help generate interest. Put yourself in the audiences “seat”, look at trends in the industry or the latest topic being covered by the IT trades. Knowing the industry will be the main guide to creating the content. Our experience has been that educational webinars offering more detailed information, industry guidance and, even to some extent, provides some forecasting of what’s to come are wildly popular. In IT asset disposal, topics on environmental legislative issues, data security and asset value recovery have been extremely popular.

4. No promotion or false promotion. The Field of Dreams’ adage – “If you build it, they will come” – definitely does not apply to web events. With the saturation of online information – not only webinars – it’s likely easier to garner attention to yourself at a stadium during a Yankees-Red Sox playoff than it is to drop one promotion on your webinar and think droves of people will come. The first step to successful a webinar is getting the content and speakers right. The second, but much harder step is understanding how, where and when to promote the sucker.

Considerations: While organizations are seeking to create an ongoing, lead generation program with their webinars, many often don’t succeed even when all the factors above are solid. Often times, companies look to webinars because they believe it is a less expensive method of creating a lead gen program since the only cost is the webinar platform, which is fairly inexpensive. However, it is vital to take into account the promotion aspect of the webinar. Some considerations to driving an audience to the main event:

  • Landing page. Having a single page dedicated to your event will help drive awareness, while providing more detailed information.
  • Promote! Promote! Promote! In all the appropriate places. From press release to social media, promotion is essential, but not the only form of activity. If you stop at promotion, you can easily fail in driving audience to the event or even driving the wrong audience to the event.
  • Paid publishing/sponsorship marketing. Visibility in the right outlets can increase attendance greatly. Some of this may be in the form of advertisements or online ads.
  • Pay Per Click marketing.
  • Association marketing.

5. Technology failure due to lack of preparation. A major killer for webinar events is the failure to pay attention to how to use the technology – whether it’s the host or the speakers.

6. The same speaker. Consider bringing in outside speakers or creating a speaking panel of industry influentials.

7. Don’t forget to do an after-market. Archive! Archive! Archive! There is no reason that you can’t have an after-market for your web event. Not everyone can make it and if you’re leveraging your webinars correctly for marketing and sales, the after-market is just as good as the live event.

The truth – and it can hurt – is that most companies host disappointingly unsuccessful webinars – with less than a dozen people in attendance and half of that is probably internal employees or competitors. If that’s the case, why bother?

Yin Chang is the President of Phoenix Marketing Communications. For more information about her Public Relations and Marketing Services, please visit: www.phoenixmarketingcommunications.com.