Making Memorable Webinars

A truly humbling experience is to give your first Webinar as an analyst. I remember it well; my voice projected the “deer in the headlights” image that we all try to hide but the world sees anyway. Giving a good Webinar is a natural talent for some, but for the rest of us it takes work and concentration.

I just had to write about this subject to share with you a hilarious moment on a Webinar I recently attended.

One software company had their Marketing VP do the moderating, and I could have sworn it was Wink Martindale, former game show host from the voice and intonations. He did the global sales pitch to set up the slides for a product director who took over for the in-depth slides and a product demo. She promptly went through the slides, reading them to the online audience, and then switched to her desktop to launch her applications.

At that instant her personal and professional lives got graphically blasted across the Web to everyone online: a matrix of over two dozen icons complete with the title of links. As if her laptop was even enjoying the moment, the application stalled and the icons stared back at all of us on the Webinar for a good minute. Of all the icon titles “Hot Fireman wants cool fun” seemed the most clicked on due to its location right next to the application’s icon. On went the Webinar with the presenter and the marketing VP seemingly unaware of too much information being shared. Aside from a side-splitting laugh, it got me to thinking about just what makes for giving good Webinar.

Not Just for Leads

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Webinars are just for snapping up leads and moving them through your pipelines. There are in fact many different types of Webinars, and ironically some generate greater quality in sales opportunities than the pure-play sales pitch. Here are the types of Webinars I’ve seen working well:

  • Thought leadership. These are Webinars that are used for communicating how a company is delivering a next-generation platform or technology in anticipation of customers’ needs. Thought leadership Webinars are great for defining a new direction for an entire company, as is the case with SAP NetWeaver for example.
  • Staying in touch with the customer base. Surprisingly many companies are not doing these — yet has done this well to show its customers how to get more from their applications and data for example.
  • Recruiting partners and strengthening alliances. Microsoft is very strong at this, as they have done a remarkable job of turning around their relationships with partners in key selling vertical markets. They have created a strategy specifically for strengthening alliances and bringing market and product intelligence to their resellers and development alliances.
  • Educating about over selling. Best practices in Webinars squarely hit this target and look to educate the audience about the topic of interest, and don’t go immediately into the sales pitch and try to close the Webinar participants immediately.
  • Voice of the customer in disguise. Even analyst firms do this and many participants are more than willing to share what’s going on in their companies online. The fact that the nuggets of information gleaned from asking for a Webinar’s audience to share their insights is invaluable — it’s insightful, alive information — and it impacts the direction of the analyst firms doing this. More companies need to take a clue from analyst firms and go after these nuggets of information and model strategies based on them.

Lessons Learned

From having given Webinars as part of my job to now being an attendee for many of them, there are lessons learned that any company looking at this approach to communicating with prospects and customers needs to keep in mind:

  • No Wimps on Webinars. Don’t torture your audience with a terrible speaker just because they have an impressive title, even if that title has a “C” in it — yes even your CEO may stink at Webinars and he or she needs to know that. Monotone speaking, and the cardinal sin — lack of passion — means that person should be not giving a Webinar. Be strong and tell the truth, because your prospects will eventually hand you the truth anyway. Respect the attendees time and only put your best presenters on these Webinars.
  • Don’t live just for the A leads. Any given seminar will get only 30 percent attendance from the registrants, and of those attending, 1 in 10 are typically ready to buy. If you get 200 registrants and go through these assumptions you will end up with six solid A leads. Too often the 194 other registrants are tossed. You can gain a competitive advantage by going after that other set of registrants and mining them.
  • You are there to solve the customer’s pain, not talk about how great your company, your product or you are. Put company, product and self-promotion in the backseat and focus on your participant’s pain and talk in their terms. Honestly focus on how to solve their problems, even give away insights that will help them with their problems that they dialed in looking for assistance with. You may recoil and say “why will they buy then?” but building a relationship with prospects begins when you realize you get what you give, so why not overbalance the scales in service to prospects and customers? Makes sense and works.
  • Offer a recorded option quickly after the Webinar is over. This is critical for the other registrants that may have had something come up at the last minute and they could not attend. Be sure to include the visual portion of the Webinar as well, even an Adobe Acrobat PDF file of the slides as well.
  • Evaluations and ROI. Many companies quickly do the math of cost per attendee when cost per sale is the most important one. The focus on solving pain is critical and will grow future attendance because you’ll be earning the trust of prospects. All things being equal, get in the mindset that a Webinar is not a closing event but one that feeds the beginning of your pipeline and most importantly, educates the prospect. In that vein, do evaluations using or any other web-based survey Web site to get results quickly, within 24 hours would be best as the Webinar is fresh in the minds of the attendees.
  • Timing is everything. A short-sighted friend gave two weeks notice to everyone, including immediate family, for his wedding. We were all bachelors at the time and noted that he was really giving his free-wheeling and wild oats days two weeks notice. The same holds true for a Webinar. Give 30 days notice and avoid Mondays, Fridays and anytime around a holiday or trade show. Common sense, but planners get so close to their events they forget about the rest of the world.

In summary, Webinars are a powerful way to connect with prospects and underscore your companies’ credibility. Focus on educating and delivering insightful content and you’ll win fans in the pipeline and in your customer base alike.

Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He is the author of several books on making the most of analyst relationships, including Best Practices in Analyst Relations, which can be downloaded for free.

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