For this edition of Quarterly Content Corner, I want to highlight a digital content channel that’s been underutilized (at least in my opinion) the last few years: webinars.
Webinars haven’t always gotten the best rap. If you’re like me, you have nightmares of webinars you’ve attended in the past that were nothing more than a person reading straight from a copy-heavy PPT presentation (*shudder*). Sure, those were boring. But they likely were also heavy handed on the “sales pitch” and not so informative about anything else.
No wonder some marketers still shy away from webinars as a sales and marketing tool! But this is (almost) 2020. And the good news is that webinars have come a long way. Today’s modern online interfaces allow presenters and companies to interact with audiences, engage in real-time conversations and share salient information along with all points of the buyer’s journey. All while instantly measuring the impact of this marketing tactic. And it’s a great way to talk with customers and prospects, rather than at them. Here’s why content marketers should give the stalwart webinar a second chance.
AWARENESS TO NURTURE, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
The tired, sad webinars of old fall primarily into two categories: a barrage of stats and facts slapped together to create a top-of-funnel “trends” piece, or a stodgy PPT presentation chock full of hard-sell product details.
So, today, it’s hard to break marketers of the habit of thinking that webinars are only for “one reason” or good for only one part of the buying cycle. The reality is, you can create a webinar for every purchase stage your target audience encounters. Sure, you can do an educational, awareness-type webinar for potential customers. But you can also invite existing customers on to do a live case study discussion for an audience in the consideration phase. Do you have a difficult product to describe, but one you know active buyers would be interested in if they understood it? Perfect. Do a live demo webinar where you walk your audience through it – and answer their questions – in real time. Want to nurture existing customers? Create mini webinars just for them on topics that augment, and relate to, what they’ve purchased (helpful “did you also know?” tips, how the product works well with another product, etc.).
The bottom line is that you can use webinars to drive engagement—and measure that engagement in real time—across all phases of the customer journey, adding value along the way. As an added bonus, webinars (which can live on as videos and be hyper-targeted and specialized) fit in well with rising customer demand for more video and more personalized, engaging content: 83% of marketers believe that video is becoming increasingly important, 72% of consumers say they will now only engage with marketing messages that are personalized, and the average user will spend 88% more time on a website with video content.
A CAPTIVE AUDIENCE (BY CHOICE)
Given both your and your audience’s time is precious, webinars are a great marketing alternative (or add on) to all the time and effort that’s put into other channels and vehicles like email, social and direct mail. Think about it: If you’re able to put together a webinar on a topic that strikes a chord with your target audience, and they register, you’ll have their attention for an entire hour (or however long you want your webinar to last). Considering the average webinar attendee viewing time is 61 minutes, there’s a good chance you’ll retain the bulk of your audience the entire time.
Depending on what part of the buyer’s journey your webinar is meant to target, you have the chance to establish yourself and your company as a thought leader and expert, or educate your audience on challenges and “ah-has” they might not have considered.
- Share video
- Poll attendees to help them see how they stack up to their peers
- Share additional marketing materials within the webinar resources section
- Do a product demo
- Conduct a round table conversation with the audience participating
The sky’s truly the limit when it comes to what a modern webinar can do. So, toss out those tired PPT slides and rote scripts. Instead, talk with your audience. After all, you’ve managed to get people to put aside a large chunk of time just to hear what you have to say. Be sure to make it count.
ALWAYS-ON AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT
We’re used to instant access to everything. And marketers’ audiences are no exception. Add to that the earlier fact I alluded to—that video remains one of the most popular content consumption vehicles—and you have the perfect recipe for the success of an on-demand webinar portal or platform.
Today, when you present a live webinar, it’s not over when the clock hits the hour. Once complete, webinars have long shelf lives and even longer tails. To get the most bang for your webinar buck, you want to make sure every webinar goes up on a branded, on-demand page right after it’s over. Attendees can re-watch it. Folks that missed it can still catch it. And everyone can still submit questions and interact with the content as if it were live. You can even assign folks to field questions that come in after the fact and keep an eye on any lead-gen potential, or tie on-demand interactions to social platforms.
But what’s even better with an on-demand portal as part of your website is that, once someone watches one webinar, you can immediately serve up additional related videos or webinars that might interest them. Or they can search on their own and consume more content that’s up their alley. Either way, you and your company benefit from the on-demand content “Netflix effect” we’ve all heard about. Audiences having what they want, when they want it, available to watch 24-7-365 on their own time and terms.
You can even create pre-recorded, “straight-to-on-demand” webinars to populate your website dedicated website page or portal without losing the interactivity or engagement value of live webinars, but with the benefit of more quickly getting relevant, robust content in front of target audiences. It’s a win-win for marketers and audiences alike.
EFFECTIVE SALES TOOL
Believe it or not, webinars also act as a great sales tool. In fact, 73% of marketing and sales leaders say webinars are one of the best ways to generate quality leads.
At a time when quality MQLs are valued over simply amassing a large quantity of un-qualified leads, webinars present themselves as a great tool to weed out the duds. Why? Because most modern webinar consoles and platforms offer ways for marketers to track audience interactions that happen during the webinar, from who answered poll questions and asked questions of the speaker, to who downloaded additional materials and answered post-survey questions…and who stayed on the longest. Every engagement action can be assigned a behavioral score that, when added together, creates an overall engagement score. Those leads with the highest engagement scores can be qualified for handover to sales, while others can be assigned to follow-up nurture streams or other contact strategies based on whether they scored in the medium or low range. And this can even be incorporated into an overall lead score involving contacts your organization already has within their marketing automation platform.
By leveraging webinars as a way to generate quality leads for sales, the chances are greater that your sales teams will have conversion success and that they’ll begin to ask for more webinar opportunities.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
See, webinars aren’t so bad after all. They can actually be fun and engaging and useful, if approached in a modern, interactive way. I implore you to give them a second chance (if you’ve dismissed them) as part of your content stream. You might be pleasantly surprised!
Come back and check out the final Quarterly Content Marketing Corner of the year at the end of Q4. It’ll be a roundup of, and look back at, hot content marketing topics from 2019! Until then, stay up-to-date on B2B trends and Outlook client highlights right here on our blog.
Do you have a strong opinion about the value of webinars in today’s marketing mix? Are you hearing about new developments on the horizon? We’d love to hear from you! Tell us in the comments, or connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
Author: Stacy Greenberg, Content Manager, Outlook Marketing Services
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