Since 2020, shifts in event strategy to digital and hybrid events have pushed the webinar into a place of prominence in the B2B marketing mix. And even as in-person events return, webinars still offer a compelling way to deliver reach, depth, and engagement. Not only are they a more cost-effective option to engage buyers and customers, but the digital format also offers a treasure-trove of audience insights – when deployed correctly.
The keys to success lie in the addressing four distinct phases of each webinar:
1. Planning – align your webinar strategy to business and audience objectives
2. Promotion – maximize attendance through effective marketing of your event
3. Delivery – execute memorable and engaging webinar experiences
4. Post-Event – leverage content, data, and insights to extend impact
Ensuring each phase is carefully considered and executed will prevent fatigue and allow for maximum benefit from this medium.
Planning – Align Webinars to Audience Objectives
Every effective event starts with a well-laid plan addressing audience, messaging, and timing details to validate use of the channel.
Start by crafting an overarching channel strategy by considering the channel’s key characteristics and how they align with your customers’ needs and preferences:
- Reach: an extremely flexible format, webinars can function at any stage of the customer journey and provide moderate reach opportunities
- Depth of Information: similar to in-person channels – such as events, calls, and meetings – which offer high levels of interactivity and depth of information
- Cost: unlike other highly engaging channels, webinars function at a much lower cost per interaction
Continue your planning at the annual level and start by identifying the business and audience priorities that will provide meaningful engagement opportunities throughout the year. These can be driven by internal (ex: product launches) or external (ex: seasonal timing) moments. A comprehensive webinar calendar should be constructed using an audience-based view to avoid over (or under) scheduling a specific target audience and better coordinate with other parts of the organization when targeting a similar/overlapping audience.
With these pieces in place, begin planning at least 40 working days before the event and build an end-to-end schedule to detail the key activities, duration of activities, and owners. This level of detail will ensure enough time to develop a valuable experience for attendees.
The final aspect of planning is establishing KPIs and targets for the channel and your campaigns. Doing so will effectively connect webinars to business impact (leads, opportunities, retention, etc.). This measurement framework should also define the sales- and marketing-driven metrics to meet that business objective.
Promotion – Effectively Market Your Event
Promotion is a critical, often-overlooked area of driving for a quality event. Having the right type and number of attendees will generate meaningful engagement.
Good promotion starts early – at least three weeks in advance – as the majority of attendees sign up within two weeks of a webinar. Ahead of this window, develop a promotional cadence pre- and post-registration to maximize attendance. Consider tactics like personalized invitations from known contacts like account reps, weekly reminders, and last-minute reminders to encourage attendance.
A diversified promotion strategy will also increase reach and conversion. Focus on emails, your website, and third-party channels, since they drive 80% of registrations. Most importantly, consider the audience you are trying to reach and don’t count out channels that may be unique to them.
Throughout, leverage best practices in performance creative in the design of emails and landing pages, including benefit-led headlines, contrasting colors for CTA, and eliminating unnecessary design elements.
Execution – Deliver Engaging Experiences
Webinars come in a variety of formats that should be selected based on your goals and your speaker’s style. Doing so will create memorable experiences that effectively communicate your message. Regardless of webinar format, it’s ideal to include a host or moderator to guide discussion, manage Q&A, and reduce monotony.
- Presentation. The most common format that works well for visual content and relies more heavily on a high-energy, enthusiastic speaker over attendee engagement.
- Q&A. A high-engagement approach great for new or emerging topics and featuring an industry expert or company executive. Consider collecting questions in advance for more control.
- Interview. A controlled way to feature a high-profile executive or industry expert, which requires limited preparation to produce.
- Panel. Provides multiple perspectives on topics. Conduct a dry run for panelists to meet each other, prep, and align on key talking points.
With a format selected, map out the length and cadence of the event, looking carefully at where engagement opportunities can be created within the webinar. According to Citrix, unengaging content, text-heavy slides, and presenter style are the main causes for attendees to leave an event early. Elements like Q&A, audience interaction, and polls are great ways to keep audiences’ attention. They are also invaluable ways to gather timely audience insights that can’t be obtained through other marketing channels.
Post-Event – Leverage Content, Data, and Insights
These engagement opportunities can also continue post-event to learn more about your audience and make changes to upcoming webinars. A simple follow-up survey can improve promotion and registration (how did you hear about this webinar?), help plan future events (how would you rate the webinar?), build audience profiles (what are your priorities for the next 6-12 months?), or identify buying signals (would you like to schedule a meeting to learn more?).
Beyond making improvements to your webinar strategy, post-event is also the time to leverage the content and audience engagement from the webinar into ongoing impact across your demand generation efforts. Consider flagging engaged attendees for 1:1 follow up to build relationships or enroll them in follow-on nurture campaigns for aligned products or services. Also, get more mileage out of a webinar by posting video and assets and promoting sharing to colleagues (for attendees) and encourage on-demand access (for non-attendees).
How will you know it’s working? Use your measurement plan to establish consistent tracking of engagement and conversion metrics used across teams to establish benchmarks and track performance over time.
In a crowded environment, deploy best-in-class planning, promotion, execution, and post-event practices to stand out from the pack and avoid webinar fatigue amongst your audiences.
You can check out more B2B insights here, or learn more about our B2B capabilities.