Effective webinars are the hallmark of great B2B marketing programs. While traditional channels such as splashy events and country-wide road shows can be costly and deliver mixed results, webinars provide a direct medium to your target audience in a way that is affordable, uninterrupted, and hyper-personal.

Not to mention – webinars are a critical component of any good demand generation strategy. According to a new study by ReadyTalk, 60% of marketers are already using webinars as an essential part of their marketing mix, and 20-40% of webinar attendees convert into qualified leads for sales. Executed properly, webinars can spark new relationships, establish your brand as a thought leader, and provide a continuous stream of meaningful interactions with your buyers.

Though it may seem like a no-brainer, webinars must be well-planned and implemented with great consideration. Like other elements of your

marketing program, webinars should have a clear acquisition and nurturing strategy. The last thing you want is to ruin your first (and maybe last) impression with your prospect with a webinar experience that misses that mark.

Smart marketers will use every webinar opportunity to inform, entertain, and create memorable brand experiences for their audience. In this post, we’ve put together 5 strategies to help you surpass expectations and truly drive business results with webinars.
step 1 talent

  1. Get Kick Ass Talent (real thought leaders)

We’ve all been there: there’s a movie playing Saturday night and you have no idea what it’s about. But hey, it’s got your favorite actress. Why not? You buy the ticket.

In the same way your audience will come out of the woodwork for professionals they aspire to be like and want to learn from, you should partner with innovators who have achieved success in their field, overcome great challenges, and are willing to share their story.

Here is a great example from Hubspot, who teamed up with one of the leading optimization platforms, Unbounce, to produce a webinar on the best practices of landing page conversion.

Hubspot Unbounce Webinar Oli

They invited Oli Gardner, co-founder of Unbounce and former creative director to present key insights and actionable takeaways of creating world-class conversion experiences. This approach to webinar marketing not only promotes both companies as thought leaders, but paints the picture that HubSpot is a trustworthy company dedicated to being a resource for businesses.

Another example is one of our own – in this webinar, studioD partnered with content distribution leader Rebel Mouse and research powerhouse The Relevancy Group to produce a comprehensive session on the entire content marketing process.

Webinar RebelMouse studioD Relevancy Group Content Dominance

By selecting experts as speakers – studioD’s head of strategy and Rebel Mouse’s product team – attendees were able to hear first-hand from actual practitioners that live and breathe content marketing everyday.

step 2 value

  1. Provide Uncommon (or insane) value – they should be willing to pay for

Winning webinar content should serve up an over-the-top amount of value to your audience to make a lasting impact. Books have been written on the subject of delivering valuable communication – here is a quote from one of my favorites by Jay Baer in his disruptive book Youtility – “Your marketing should deliver so much value that your customers would be willing to pay for it.” Adopting this mindset toward webinar marketing helps two-fold, first – delivering content that will capture attention and second – building the desire to return for the next one.

Marketers are often inclined to hide this type of helpful information, or to charge a fee for it – but I would argue that that there is a greater payoff to playing with your cards showing. Right from the start, there will be an immediate and tangible trust built between you and your potential customer, which is crucial for early stage leads that have not been introduced to your business. Aside from financial and highly-confidential documents, a webinar that shares proven strategies and pertinent proprietary insights can only help make a good impression on prospects that are unfamiliar with your brand.

Take Act-On for example, one of the industry leading marketing automation systems: their webinar articulates in detail how to price and package agency services. Act-On could vary well take their learnings from working with agencies and charge a consulting fee, but here they give it away for free.

Try the tactics below and other ideas to deliver overwhelming value to your webinar attendees:

  • Share a helpful template or work-flow tool
  • Broadcast the findings of a new first-party data or industry report
  • List step-by-step how to overcome workplace obstacles
  • Tastefully showcase a real customer and business results
    step 3 timely
  1. Leverage real-time trends and topics people care about

You know when you’ve hit the right note. That blog post with the disproportionate amount of traffic, or that Facebook share that garnered likes for weeks. Engagement happens when we are in tune with what our audience wants and communicate the message they need to hear. This rings especially true when selecting your webinar topic.

Some marketers will try to tether themselves to breaking news without providing much value – while others will fall into the trap of only talking about their company’s products and services. I’ve found the most attractive and high-performing topics to be somewhere in the middle. Impactful webinars will play in the realm between “newsjacking” and product-centric content.

The first step is a taking a data-driven approach. Predictive tools such as Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, and BuzzSumo will give you categories and topic groups to think about. The search data and trends will prevent the subjective bias that usually stems from thinking that our customers are exactly like us.

Then comes time to practice creative empathy. If you have created buyer personas, you want to put yourself in their shoes as you come up with helpful, timely, relevant, and even provocative topics. What goals do your customers have? What pain points are they looking to solve? What do they need help with to excel at their jobs? Incorporate those questions into your strategic topic planning to draw new attendees to your webinars.
step 4 ux

  1. Provide an enjoyable user experience (even after)

Webinars as a marketing channel have progressed to the point where it is almost a weekly responsibility for ambitious professionals to attend thought leadership webinars to stay abreast of new trends and developments. In terms of user experience – the seamless and pain-free on-demand attendance process is not just a nice-to-have but a standard.

Here’s a great guide from GoToWebinar that explains the basics if you don’t have this down.

Today, you need to go beyond the basics to delight your attendees and create a memorable impression that will make them think fondly of your business – and choose you when it is time to buy. These include:

  1. Live polls and quizzes
    Polls and thought-provoking questions can serve as an attention-grabber for attendees and give your webinar a two-way, conversational feel. Most webinar platforms will allow you to survey your audience in real-time and enable attendees to raise their digital hand and take part.
  2. Social integration
    I will never forget my personal webinar experience when I tweeted to the presenters and received an autographed book in the mail the following week. Talk about memorable! You can achieve the same level of connection by encouraging attendees to comment and ask questions on their social network of choice.
  3. Timely and Contextual Follow Up
    Here’s where many marketers drop the ball. Rather than a generic “Thanks for attending” email, capitalize on the prospect’s interest by sending supplementary content that guides them along the sales cycle. Segmentation and personalization can help turn your correspondence into an engaging conversation with your buyer.

step 5 fun

  1. Have fun

No one wants to listen to a boring presentation, if you are having fun – your audience will too. Webinars will take on your brand voice and style, and allows you the opportunity to inject to personality, energy, and character of your company.

An enjoyable virtual presentation starts with the structure and flow of the webinar content. What is the story? Is there a beginning, middle, and end? What should we take away from this?

Here is a quote from Nancy Duarte, one of the leading authorities on presentations and the author of Resonate:

“Your audience is the hero of your presentation – they should feel that they are being taken on an incredible journey and at the end come away transformed and energized.”

We then come back to the idea of customer empathy – what type of webinar would you attend? What would make you think? What would make you take action?

In webinars and in all forms of marketing communication, the goal is to cut through the clutter and make a real connection that drives business results.