on stageWhen you were a little kid, did you and your friends ever put on a show? Figure out a routine to perform or joke to tell or song to sing? Then build a stage and make some costumes – all for the thrill of performing in front of an audience? Did anybody come other than family and neighbors?

When you decide to do a webinar, you put so much work into it: planning the content, finding the right speaker (or doing it yourself); making all the arrangements, building a slide deck…it would be almost criminal not to get the biggest audience possible.

You want as many people as possible to know about it so that everyone who might want to attend would have a chance. (Not to mention that people who are motivated enough to swap their contact info and time for information may be much better qualified as potential buyers than the casual website browser.)

Let’s talk about getting those “butts in seats”, as the performing arts folks say.

1. Variety is the spice of life (or at least the spice of promotion)

Use as many different relevant channels as you can, and link them to your registration page so people can get there in one click. Make it trackable. Use different URLs for each channel, so after the event you can track which channels delivered the most (or best) registrants. This can help identify which promotional channels are working best for you.

2. Use email strategically

Design and copy

Think hard about your design and copy. Don’t leave anything to chance.

example email

  • Your subject line should be short (70 characters, including spaces) and compelling, with a benefit. Do an A/B test to maximize an outcome of interest.
  • Make your invitation copy as short as possible, and use compelling images, including a headshot of your presenter – people like seeing who will be presenting.
  • If there are graphic elements to the presentation, consider using a strong one if it adds to the impact of the email.
  • Review your entire invitation and include benefits where possible. Make it utterly clear what’s in it for the attendee and what action they can take after being present.
  • Make registering for the event your only call to action, and use a button or graphic to make it obvious.
  • Put this call to action at the beginning and end of your message, so people don’t have to scroll up or down to get to it.
  • Ask people in your organization to add a line to their email signatures that promotes your event, including a link to register.
  • Consider prizes or incentives (“First 50 to sign up—“… “Enter a drawing for—”).

Email distribution

  • Choose your list thoughtfully: If you can segment by a factor, do so – think about A/B testing here as well. You’ll probably use your in-house database of customers and prospects, but you may choose to buy a targeted list or pay a third party to mail to their list. If you do this, make sure your messaging is tailored to that audience. You might also have the email invitation look like it comes from the third party. Be careful about using lists from two sources, so you don’t duplicate.
  • Plan invitations: According to recent research by ON24, promoting a webinar more than seven days before the event can increase audience size 36%, even though most registrants sign up within a week of the scheduled date. Sending a final invitation within 24 hours of the start time can increase registration 37%.
  • Timing: Plan to accommodate registrants in as many time zones as practical. In the U.S., an 11 a.m. Pacific time garners the most attendees, followed by 10 a.m. The least popular time is 8 a.m. Pacific time.
  • As far as days of the week go, for most companies a Tuesday timeslot appears to get the most attendees, followed by Wednesday.
  • Confirmations: Use an autoresponder email so the registrant gets immediate acknowledgment. Add a calendar blocker to the confirmation email to allow registrants to easily add the event to their calendars.
  • Reminders: Multiple reminders work best. Send a reminder the day before the webinar, and again a few hours in advance on the day of.
  • Post-event follow-up: Send a thank-you within 24 hours or less, and include any content that was promised. Be sure to include a link to the archived webinar; close to 25 percent of webinar attendees will watch the recorded, on-demand version, and many people who skipped the live event will watch the recorded version on their own time.

3. Build a killer landing page

You’ll be driving people to a landing page to fill out a registration form. Make sure it has the same look-and-feel as the email, with the same language and graphic elements. Keep it as simple as possible, with just the one call to action: Fill out this form.

registration page

  • The landing page should have a recap of the webinar’s benefits.
  • Keep the registration form brief. The shorter the form, the more people will complete it. Cap the registration form at eight to ten fields.
  • The best registration process offers one-click registration or one-click access to a simple registration form. Requiring two or more steps to register, or making it hard to register in any way, will lower your registrations.
  • If the registration form is consistently abandoned, reexamine it and try to cut out all but the fields you think are most important. For example, requiring registrants to enter physical mailing addresses is usually unnecessary. If you must have this data, consider asking it on a progressive form, later in the relationship.
  • Use the data you collect from the registration form for segmentation. For example, you can send emails suggesting certain products, webinars, or demos based on the type of organization a person selected that they belong to. (Of course, it’s best to make such emails opt-in only.)

4. Use the same social media that your prospects do

If you’ve developed target personas, you’ll have a good idea of the social channels your prospects like to spend their time on. Put your emphasis on these places. Set up event pages on sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and promote the webinar on Twitter and on your organization’s blog.

  • On Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn, follow a similar time frame to what you would use for email notifications – create the event pages roughly two weeks in advance, and a day or two before the event, post a reminder that the webinar is coming soon.
  • On Twitter, the two-week warning probably will not be effective. Tweet about the webinar a day or two before and a few hours in advance.
  • Create a custom hashtag for the event and put it on your slides, perhaps in the footer. Encourage people to tweet questions and comments using that hashtag during the event.
  • Ask your presenters to promote the social media URLs you create.
  • Include “invite a friend” links to the webinar on all emails, blog posts, and social media announcements of the webinar.
  • On every platform you use to promote your webinar (with the possible exception of Twitter), be sure to include instructions for how to join the web and audio portions.

5. Leverage the high-traffic places on your website

  • If you have a section listing upcoming events, be sure to list your webinar here.

landing page

  • Consider a colorful promotion on your home page.
  • Write a blog post about the topic, and make learning more at this webinar the call-to-action.
  • Use icons or images on sidebars to draw attention to your event, and have them click directly to the sign-up page.

Promotion is really important. You don’t want to throw a party without sending invitations, so make sure you go far and wide with your outreach.

For a complete soup-to-nuts primer on creating and executing professional webinars, visit the Act-On Center of Excellence and read the eBook “Best Practices for Planning and Executing Webinars.

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