A man presenting on camera
A man presenting at a live webinar PHOTO: Pixabay

As we move into 2018, you might think that webinars have lost their charm thanks to emerging platforms like Amazon Alexa and customer-facing chatbots. But according to the Content Marketing Institute, 58 percent of marketers use webinars for promotion, and 32 percent of them think webinar marketing will be critical to their success in the future. To learn how to get your own webinar conversion rates soaring, CMSWire reached out to two companies who know their way around webinar marketing.

The Benefits of Webinar Marketing

CMSWire spoke with Alexandra Barcelona, CMO of Miami, Florida based dotCMS, which puts its trust in weekly webinars to generate and qualify leads as well as build brand awareness. “One of the biggest benefits to our weekly product webinars are that they give users who might not have a technical background or might not have the time to download and try dotCMS on their own, a good sense of dotCMS features and capabilities as well as access to a dotCMS expert (via a Q&A at the end of every webinar)," she says. According to her these webinars are great for business users who might be looking to qualify their product but aren’t quite ready for a full demo with their team.

Joe Hyland, CMO of San Francisco, California based ON24, expanded further on the benefits of webinar marketing explaining that the data is the best part about running webinars.   “I don’t think there is any modern marketer who doesn’t want to measure every single aspect of their website, email drops, whitepapers, advertising campaigns and social media posts. But most of those tactics give marketers very shallow insight into their prospects’ behavior, pain points and intent. A webinar, on the other hand, generates an average of 40 data points per attendee — and they aren’t just clicks and views,” Hyland says.

“If you have the right webinar analytics in place, a webinar can tell you why your prospect is engaging and help find those who are ready to speak with sales. Imagine being able to tell your salesperson that the lead you’re passing on needs help with a specific issue and has already said they are interested in talking? Those are powerful insights that convert prospects to customers and make your sales team happy and successful,” he said.

Live Webinars Do It Best

The unique edge that live video brings to content marketing campaigns is something we have touched on previously here at CMSWire. However, the power of have live video needs to be reiterated in the context of a webinar — which is exactly what Hyland did when we reached out to him for tips on how to run a webinar that converts. “Just like any other B2B marketing program, the most impactful webinar marketing strategy is all about engaging your prospects and customers,” Hyland continued. That happens in two unique ways with a webinar says Hyland,"First, by giving your audience an epic live or on-demand experience, and second, by having analytics to interpret the behavior of your viewers into data points that personalize future interactions."

So, what makes a webinar engaging? According to Hyland, you need to throw out any preconceived notions of old-school, passive webinars that felt like sitting in a stuffy lecture hall. “The best webinar presenters have a conversation with their audience, providing regular opportunities for their viewers to interact through polls, Q&A or social media. And, they make webinars more human by presenting live and on camera,” he explained, emphasizing the power of being live rather than pre-recorded. They've seen webinars with several presenters on camera, sharing different perspectives. Whatever your format is cautions Hyland, "if audience engagement isn’t at the center of your webinar strategy, it’s really not worth doing at all."

Give Value, Not Sales Pitches

Alexandra Barcelona added another thought on the topic of webinar engagement. For her, it’s all about the value each attendee can walk away with. Ensure you're webinars provide more than just information about your product or service. The best webinars help people add real-world know how and skills to their proverbial toolbox. “One thing we always try to do in all of our webinars is let people know exactly what they can expect to learn about and make sure we're giving them tangible takeaways they can start implementing immediately, even if they aren’t a customer. There’s nothing more frustrating than sitting through a webinar where you expect to learn about a specific topic only to have it turn into a sales pitch,” says Barcelona.

2018 may just be time for CMOs to distill their marketing strategies, trim the fat off their marketing technology stack, and get back to basics with a good old-fashioned webinar.