Lead Generation: 3 basic tips for webinar newbies
Marketers rank webinars among email newsletters, Sales calls, whitepapers and thought leadership articles as top lead generation tools, according to the chart at right from the just-released MarketingSherpa 2012 Lead Generation Benchmark Report (free excerpt at that link).
But Jeanne Hopkins, Executive Vice President, Smartbear Software, advises that if you’re new to webinars, proceed with care.
“Unfortunately, most people think that having a webinar is easy,” she says. “That’s because they don’t prepare enough. Webinars are very resource intensive if you want to produce results.”
And, if anyone knows, it’s Jeanne.
She was most recently vice president of Marketing for HubSpot where, under her leadership, the organization held webinars that attracted 25,000 sign-ups, 10,000 attendees and 3,500 new leads. She’s been a marketing executive since well before webinars came into existence, and leveraged their predecessor, the teleconference.
She draws from this experience to inform her three most important tips for novice webinar producers.
1. Know your audience
Give them information they want and need. That doesn’t include a demo of your software, tool or service.
“Webinars are an online learning event. You have to figure out who your audience is and what they want to know,” she advises. “If your goal is to demonstrate your product, just record a demo and post it to your website. Don’t expect people to give up an hour of their time on a Tuesday afternoon for a sales pitch.”
2. Conduct the webinar internally first
This isn’t a dress rehearsal. It’s executing every aspect of an entire webinar – including the registration, speaker and platform – for people inside your organization before it’s ever promoted outside.
Your goal: Attain an honest assessment of your presentation, and work out any challenges before taking it public.
Ask your audience to watch out for these all-too-common webinar pitfalls:
- A tone of voice that sounds like you’re reading a script as opposed to speaking to the audience.
“People don’t like to be read to,” states Jeanne. “It’s boring.”
- Talking too fast.
- Poor sound quality. Never use a speaker phone.
- Not having enough slides. Expect to develop a slide for every minute of your presentation.
“You shouldn’t have a slide up for five minutes unless you’re explaining the GNP of the United States,” says Jeanne.
- Problems with the platform. Dealing with the unexpected for the first time is much easier in front of an internal audience.
“Glitches always happen, no matter what platform you’re using,” she warns. “You just have to be prepared for things to go a little sideways. Do your best to deal with them, apologize to the audience, and go with the flow.”
- Taking on more than you can handle.
“If I was doing my first webinar, I would only commit to 30 minutes. That will allow for plenty of time for question and answer,” she says.
- A weak introduction. Jeanne recommends starting off the webinar a couple of minutes to the top of the hour to allow attendees to download their webinar platform.
- Haphazard production. In addition to the speaker, make sure you have at minimum
– a host to introduce the webinar, agenda and presenter and
– a producer who can check questions on the platforms and on Twitter.
- Not delivering what you promise.
“Sometimes, people may promote a webinar and promise, for instance, ‘Learn five ways to incorporate Twitter into your business model,’ and it turns out the webinar doesn’t address that at all,” says Jeanne. “That’s misleading, and it irritates people.”
3. Never rush the planning
Once the challenges have been identified and resolved in the internal webinar, it’s time to take it to an outside audience. Jeanne provides the following basic timeline for webinar production:
12 weeks out – Set the groundwork
- Choose the date.
- Select the speaker.
- Select the platform.
- Write your landing and registration pages.
8 weeks out – Prepare the presentation
- Start framing the PowerPoint slides.
- Create a Twitter hashtag to place on all slides so attendees can easily tweet questions and key points. You may also want to assign someone to tweet key points throughout your webinar.
4 weeks out – Begin promotion
- Send an email to your audience directing them to your landing and registration pages.
- If you’re working with a partner, ask them to do the same.
10 days out – Promote some more and practice
- Leverage social media to promote the event, including blogs and Twitter. Ask partners to do so as well.
- Rehearse the webinar with your speaker.
- Create an email thanking attendees for participating or registering. Let them know how they can access a webinar replay and slides.
- Make sure all equipment is fully functional.
- Make sure the room from where you’re presenting is quiet and you will not be disturbed.
- Be ready to send out the thank-you email immediately after the event.
After the event
- Send replays and slides as soon as possible to registrants.
- Post the video replay, with timestamps, to websites and blogs.
- Share replays and slides through social media.
- Give them to your sales team; advise them to send it to hot prospects.
- Repurpose your content as much as possible; create an e-book.
“Webinars are a performance, but they’re not your second grader’s dance recital,” says Jeanne. “They are your brand. They are your thought leadership. It’s critical to invest the time and resources to do it right and attain the return you expect.”