How to Build a Webinar Program That Actually Drives Leads

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Webinar platforms are quickly becoming an essential part of the martech stack. The reason is simple: webinars drive leads. But as with most marketing programs, the right execution is essential to make a webinar program work. After all, if you’re going to ask someone to take 30 minutes to an hour out of their day, you better deliver a satisfying experience.

I’ve boiled down the best practices for scaling a webinar program into a series of repeatable steps at the planning, execution, and post-webinar evaluation stage. Here, I’ll outline the steps at each stage, and share a framework for tracking the success of your own webinar program.

Webinar Best Practices: Planning Stage

Get the right equipment
When it comes to webinars, the right tools separate the amateurs from the professionals. First and foremost, you need to pick the right webinar platform for your team and budget.

Ten popular webinar platforms include:

  1. On24
  2. GoToWebinar
  3. WebEx
  4. Adobe Connect
  5. Ready Talk
  6. Cisco WebEx
  7. Adobe Connect
  8. MegaMeeting
  9. ReadyTalk
  10. Onstream Webinars

Note that pricing for webinar platforms varies widely based on features. If you’re having trouble deciding between platforms, I suggest playing around with the software compare feature on G2 Crowd. This tool allows you to read reviews from users of myriad software platforms (not just webinar platforms), request quotes, and request more information from the software provider.

Use a headset and a land line phone
After you’ve picked your webinar platform, the next priority item is audio. You need to make sure your webinar audience can hear you loud and clear. Using your computer speakers, plugging headphones into your mobile phone, or talking into a speaker phone simply won’t cut it.

When running a webinar program, it’s best to have a healthy skepticism toward technology. Remember, even the most reliable internet connection can putz out on you. If it does, your VoIP connection will be lost with it.

Avoid a phone or headset that relies on WiFi (such as a Bluetooth headset). The implications here should be obvious, but to make it painfully clear: if you’re using a Bluetooth headset and your WiFi goes down, your audience will be left in the purgatory of radio silence.

Unfortunately, silence rarely generates leads.

That’s why it’s a webinar best practice to dial in from a landline and use a headset to remain hand-free while presenting. Look for a headset with a headset jack that you can hardwire. We use this Polycom headset, which is compatible with our land line phones here at TrackMaven HQ.

While you’re at it, invest in an Ethernet cable to hardwire your computer to the Internet as well. (Again, on the day of your webinar, you don’t want to be at the mercy of spotty WiFi.)

Brainstorm webinar topics and titles
The origin of the word “webinar” is traced to the late 1990’s, when the Internet first made it possible for educational presentations, or seminars, to be disseminated online. Thus, the World Wide Web allowed seminars to become webinars.

When brainstorming your webinar topics, it’s best to remain to the educational intent of of its offline brethren, the seminar. Consider:

  • What unique skill set can I share with others?
  • How can I help others better use my product/service?
  • How can I help my audience understand major industry trends?

Important Note: Once you’ve brainstormed a few topics, you can’t just slap a title on your webinar and expect the masses to flock to it. Choosing the right title for your webinar is just as important as determining the subject matter itself. Keep in mind that your webinar title will be used in promotional emails and posts on social media.

Good webinar titles check at least one (and preferably all three) of the boxes below:

If you’re in marketing, we’ve compiled a comprehensive library of over 200 marketing webinars, sorted by category. Peruse this list to get a sense of common webinar title conventions, and the components that make a title stand out from the competition.

Arrange for someone else to introduce you
There’s a psychological rationale behind this recommendation: having someone else introduce you adds credibility. If you’re presenting the bulk of the webinar, lock down a colleague or relevant influencer ahead of time to introduce you to the webinar audience.

You may even want to have your “host” moderate transitions and/or Q&A during the webinar. This has the added benefit of breaking up the monotony of listening to a single voice for the duration of the webinar.

If you’re hosting a guest on your webinar, do them the same courtesy. Ask for your guest’s preferred bio in advance so that you can practice personalizing it during your dry run.

Pro Tip: Most people don’t take the time to rehearse webinar introductions, but the extra effort pays off. Remember, this is your chance to showcase your or your guest’s expertise on the subject matter at hand and bolster your authority to your audience.

Segment webinar invitations by subject matter
As I mentioned, webinars serve dual brand awareness and lead generation purposes. As such, it’s important to be intentional with your webinar invitation lists. Tailor the email invitee list for each of your webinars based on subject matter.

Here at TrackMaven, for example, our webinars cover a variety of subjects, from social media marketing skills and audience growth to ROI and marketing analytics tracking. Each webinar invitation is targeted by industry (based on relevance for B2B versus B2C marketers) and job title (from social media managers to directors of marketing and CMOs).

Segmenting your invitee list has another benefit: it allows you to promote and recruit for multiple webinars simultaneously, without exhausting your lead database.

Schedule a webinar dry run
The dry run should be in the same environment in which you plan to do the live webinar, and use the same equipment you’ll use day-of.

Here’s a checklist for your webinar dry run:

  • Test your/your guest(s) audio and clarity
  • Test your/your guest(s) screen in presentation mode
  • Review the slide materials (Make sure font is large enough to be legible!)
  • Review how to mute, unmute, and pass presenter controls between guests
  • Review Q&A procedures, such as how to submit, flag, and prioritize questions

If you are running a Q&A at the end of your webinar, it’s also considered a best practice to arrange a few seed questions. These questions can be used to kick off the Q&A, while your guests formulate and submit questions of their own.

Promote your webinars
Email invitations are a highly effective way to promote your webinar — but not the only way. Promote your upcoming webinars on social media, making sure to include the relevant details (time, date, subject, and where to register).

If you’re featuring a guest or influencer on your webinar, you might want to create a media kit that makes it easy for him/her to help promote the webinar via their core marketing channels as well.

And don’t forget forums and LinkedIn Groups, both of which are great ways to inform niche audiences about your upcoming webinars.

Webinar Best Practices: Execution Stage

By the time the date of your webinar comes around, you should be so prepared that it’s all about execution. Invitations are sent, your topic is ready and rehearsed, and your tech stack is arranged and road-tested. Here are a few key steps and day-of checklists to help you host a webinar without a hitch.

Remember to set expectations
It’s helpful to take a few minutes at the top of your webinar to set expectations for your attendees. Expectations to address include:

  • What topic(s) will be covered?
  • How long will the webinar last?
  • Will there be a Q&A?
  • Will the slides be available afterwards?

Add this checklist into your script, or create a slide in your presentation for these housekeeping items so that you don’t forget to address them in your introduction.

Day-of Webinar Equipment Checklist:

  • Computer charger
  • Headset
  • Adapter for second screen (if you plan on using two screens to run your webinar)
  • Ethernet cable (to connect your computer directly to the Internet)

Day-Of Webinar Execution Checklist

  • Send a reminder email to attendees: At TrackMaven, we send a reminder the day before the webinar, and then again an hour before the start time to reduce attendee attrition.
  • Schedule a promotional countdown on social media: Remind your social media audience that the webinar is happening today, and provide the registration link again for last-minute signups. We post several day-of reminders on our social media accounts for each webinar: one “today’s the day” post; one a few hours out; and then another 15 minutes beforehand. We also live-tweet our webinars with the branded hashtag #TrackMavenLive, and encourage attendee participation through this hashtag.
  • Remember your housekeeping items: It’s easy to get swept up in the flow of the webinar and forget to hit your housekeeping marks. Thankfully, you’ve got your housekeeping checklist from the step above handy!
  • Triple-check your technology: No matter how diligent your preparation, the fatalistic mantra of webinar folks is this: accept that something will go wrong. Take a few minutes to check that your devices are fully charged and functional.
  • Complete set-up at least 30 minutes ahead of time: Your webinar setup should be complete — including soundcheck and a final run of the slides with all guests — at least a half an hour before the webinar is slated to begin. As mentioned above, there’s always a chance that something could go awry: a guest could have an emergency, the power could go out on your block , who knows. Give yourself the gift of buffer time to troubleshoot any issues that arise. Plus, people tend to join webinars early, and getting caught in setup mode smarts of unprofessionalism. If all goes smoothly, sit back and enjoy the extra time for a bathroom break and script review.
  • Get yourself something to drink: Talking for extended periods of time saps your voice. Make sure you have a glass of water, tea, or beverage of choice handy to sooth your throat during breaks. Just make sure the container you have it in is spill proof: if you’re like me (meaning you have mannerisms akin to the arm-flailing, inflatable balloon man at a used car lot) you’ll want to be free to gesticulate while you’re presenting without fear of a catastrophic spill.
  • Deactivate your notifications: Once you’re presenting, you don’t want Slack messages or calendar notifications popping up on your screen. Make sure you know how to deactivate all notifications on your computer. If you have a cell phone in the webinar room with you, make sure to silence it.
  • Have fun! Your audience might not be able to see you, but they will be able to sense your energy. Take a deep breath, and remember to enjoy yourself!

Webinar Best Practices: Post-Webinar Stage

Once the webinar is over, your work is only halfway done. Your post-webinar responsiveness can make or break the impact of your webinar. Here are three critical steps to complete after the webinar itself is done.

Conduct a post-webinar survey
At TrackMaven, we deliver a popup survey to attendees as soon as the webinar ends. This survey asks attendees to answer two simple questions on a scale from one to five:

  1. Did you find the webinar content helpful?
  2. How interested are you in TrackMaven?

These survey results serve two purposes:

  1. Make it easy to evaluate the content of the webinar.
  2. Allow us to fast-track attendees with a high interest level directly to our sales team.

Put differently, this post-webinar survey helps us to improve our webinar content going forward, and increase our lead generation efficiency.

Webinar attendees are most willing to provide accurate feedback immediately after the webinar has ended. Take advantage of this window for attendee responsiveness and put your webinar platform’s survey options to use.

Send a follow-up email
If you made any promises during your webinar, such as sharing a copy or recording of the presentation, make sure to follow-through. Follow-up content is most relevant within the 24-hour period after the webinar.

Be especially strategic about the follow-up content you share to no-shows. If you have a similar webinar upcoming, include a link or another relevant call-to-action in a “Sorry we missed you!” email to no-shows.

Measure the success of your webinar
While post-webinar survey results serve a leading indicator of  success, the real proof comes in the number of leads and opportunities generated. However, if you’re running multiple webinars each quarter, it gets trick to track the success of individual webinars over time.

Here are the metrics we recommend tracking to evaluate the impact of your webinar program:

  • Emails Sent: How many people did you invite to each webinar? This invitee number represents the total potential audience for each webinar.
  • Number of Registrants: How many people actually signed up for the webinar?
  • Number of Attendees: How many people actually showed up for the webinar?
  • Acquired Leads: How many net-new names did this webinar acquire? This metric speaks to the top-of-funnel value of each webinar.
  • Sales Accepted Leads (SALs) at Week 1: One week after the webinar, how many qualified leads did the webinar drive? Measuring SALs after one week should provide your sales team more than enough time to properly qualify the registration list from your webinar.
  • Opportunities (Opps) at 1 Month, 2 Months, 3 Months, etc., and Total Opps: Depending on your sales cycle, it can take several months for your webinar audience to turn into sales-accepted leads and opportunities. Tracking this trend over time will allow you to plan your webinar cadence so that you can predictably scale your webinar program to drive business outcomes month over month.

The relationships between these metrics are incredibly telling. For example, if you sent a ton of email invitations for a webinar, but few people registered, your subject line or subject matter needs improvement.

If a webinar acquires a high number of new leads, but few opportunities, that’s indicative of subject matter that is successful top-of-funnel content. By contrast, a webinar with a high opps-to-attendee ratio is a highly successful bottom-of-funnel asset.

Additionally, opps-to-attendees and opps-to-registrants ratios help you understand:

  • Of the people who attended, how many opportunities did the webinar drive?
  • Of the people who registered, how many opportunities did the webinar drive?

These metrics helps you assess your audience targeting and webinar content.

These metrics allow you to track the performance of your webinar program over time and identify the winners (and losers) in your company’s webinar cadence. Over time, you can recycle successful webinars and re-target them to broader audiences. This repurposing approach allows you to drive more lead potential from the same subject matter. Or, you can record and publish top-performing presentations as “on-demand webinars” to get even more from each presentation.

To learn more about building a webinar program, pair this piece with our Ultimate List of Marketing Webinars, where you’ll find the pinnacle of meta-marketing: webinars about creating webinars!