man watching a webinar on his laptop
PHOTO: Wes Hicks

In my prior role on the marketing team at DNN Software, we were preparing for a major release of our content management system (CMS). Our CEO, Navin Nagiah, put forth an audacious goal: host a product launch webinar with 1,000 live attendees. One thousand attendees was the capacity of the webinar platform we were using. So he wanted us to max out the platform. We all knew it was a “stretch goal,” but we embraced the challenge and set off to make it happen. Nagiah gave us the goal in October and the launch webinar was scheduled for December.

In a prior CMSWire piece, I wrote that webinars are my content marketing ace. The article mentioned a product launch webinar that had 700 live attendees. In this article, I’ll detail how we pulled it off.

Positioning and Webinar Title

We knew that to draw maximum interest, the positioning, especially the webinar title, would be critical. This would be our first major product release in over 18 months, so we had the benefit of latent demand: customers, along with members of the open source community, were eager to learn about the new features.

We settled on the following title: "Why IT and Marketing Will Love the New DNN." The title addressed two important considerations:

  1. It was inclusive for our two user types: IT (e.g. web administrators, web developers) and Marketing (e.g. marketing managers, content marketers).
  2. We made substantial changes to our CMS, so the “New DNN” reference helped build curiosity and suspense (i.e. “Let me see what the ‘New DNN’ is all about”).

All of our communications made it clear that the webinar would be a “show and tell.” We’d tell everyone about the new capabilities and we’d show it to them, as well, via live demonstrations. 

The final results came down to two simple tactics, both which used “assets” already at our disposal.

Related Article: Creating a Webinar That Engages (and More Importantly, Converts)

Maximizing the Yield of Our House Email List

Over several years, we grew our house email list to over 200,000 subscribers. If we could get 1 percent of our list to sign up for the webinar, we’d have 2,000 registrations. A 1 percent conversion can be harder than it seems, however.

We turned to an idea from our marketing ops manager, Ellen. We already had people’s name, company name, email address, etc. in our database. So there was no need to ask for that information again. Ellen scheduled emails to this house list, over the course of several weeks. Clicking on the link in the email took users to a special Marketo landing page that she had created. It had form fields pre-filled, via the values we had in our database.

Users had the option of overriding the pre-filled value, although very few chose to do so.

The single call-to-action was a button labeled “Sign up for the webinar.” Compared to filling out a form, this webinar sign-up was a cinch. We saw a high conversion rate from people who visited the form. This was our most successful registration source.

Related Article: Why Now Is the Time for Live Video

Maximizing the Yield of Website Traffic

Because DNN is the steward of an open source software project, we received a lot of organic website traffic. If you were a DNN user and visited dnnsoftware.com, there was a good chance the launch webinar would be of interest to you. So we placed webinar calls-to-action (CTA) on key pages. But then we thought, what about all the long-tail pages that receive visits? How do we promote the webinar to visitors of those pages?

One of our product managers found a free widget called “Hello Bar.” It’s a thin horizontal bar that sits across the top of each and every page of a website. It’s subtle enough that it doesn’t get in the way of the visitor experience, but noticeable enough that you can’t avoid seeing it.

With this in place, we literally “had you at hello” (pun intended). Whether you came to our site to download software, login to our customer portal, search our job listings or browse our product pages, you’d see this plug for the upcoming launch webinar.

This was our second most successful registration source.

Related Article: Let Voice of the Customer Shape Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy

Getting Ready for the Live Broadcast

With so many registrations for the webinar, we knew we had to put on a good show. We held two complete practice runs of the webinar: one the night before and one the morning of the webinar.

We had three presenters, each with their own set of slides. Two of the presenters provided live product demonstrations. The practice runs helped us get a feel for pace and rehearse the hand-offs from one presenter to the next. My role was as the dedicated back-end manager and moderator. I’d handle the controls of the webinar platform, check the question queue and ensure the recording was enabled.

We set up viewing rooms in our offices, so employees could gather and watch together. Some brought their laptops and live-tweeted about the webinar. Customers and members of our community tweeted, too, sharing their feedback on our new product release.

All in all, the webinar was a monumental success.

While we didn’t hit the stretch goal, I’m glad Navin established it. Without something lofty to aim for, we might have had a run-of-the-mill webinar. Instead, we knocked it out of the park.