How webinars fit into your B2B lead generation strategy
Webinars can support B2B lead generation.
Webinars can be a powerful tool to support lead generation, acting as your primary asset in a content marketing campaign, if properly promoted. They are an important component of your digital toolbox to engage and interact. However, they are not a replacement for live events, so choose carefully when you use them.
What is a webinar?
The word ‘webinar’ comes from ‘web’ and ‘seminar’, so a seminar delivered over the internet. The keyword is ‘seminar’, which is not the same thing as a presentation, sales pitch, or speech.
Seminars originally grew from academia, where they are typically small groups of academics and/or students discussing a focused topic. They are differentiated from lectures or conferences because seminars are meant to be interactive.
The same is true of webinars. That is why it is important to understand that if you deliver a 50-slide PowerPoint sales presentation, talking at your audience for 60 minutes in an attempt to sell them something, you are not delivering a webinar.
If, on the other hand, you present a set of educational slides with information and data, and you provide a voiceover and commentary, you stop regularly to take questions and run polls, then at the end invite the audience to hold a discussion that you facilitate, then you are delivering a webinar.
As interactivity is key, you need a professional delivery platform with all the right tools. Tools such as GoToWebinar, Microsoft Teams and Zoom – the paid, not free versions, if there is one – will provide the functionality you need.
One final note on delivery. Think of a webinar as a kind of chat show. The host, your moderator or facilitator, needs to be a professional, or at least be experienced. You are the guest, being asked to tell an interesting, educational, information-sharing story. Your panel, if you have one, and audience are the other guests and studio audience who actively participate in the process.
Be brutal about who you choose to be part of the webinar. If you have a technical colleague who has an amazing level of knowledge but the communication skills of a whelk, restrict them to presenting, or simply being on a panel, or being in the background answering questions (you can do this behind the scenes with professional webinar solutions).
Equally, if you have a natural presenter on your team who may not be the most technically literate, use them. Engagement is the key here.
Make sure you rehearse and test the tech, too. Like any live show, you can lose your audience in seconds, and it’s a huge challenge to get them back.
What webinars can do, and what they can’t do
We know what a webinar is now, but what can it do for us? And how can a webinar help us achieve our marketing objective more effectively than the many other digital marketing tools available?
Webinars are opportunities to share information, educate, demonstrate thought leadership, provide user instructions for a solution and, despite what we said above about hard sell, can be an effective consultative sales presentation tool. The latter category is not technically a seminar in the academic sense - it is still designed to educate, inform and interact, so sneaks in the back way.
What also differentiates webinars from seminars is reach. You can have 20 delegates joining your webinar from 20 different countries. You can also do that with a seminar, but it is an expensive and time-consuming exercise.
Of course, you can invite hundreds of people to a webinar, but then it is not really a webinar as it is difficult for hundreds of people to genuinely interact at a live event; without body language and other cues, it is virtually impossible on a webinar.
Digital events with hundreds of people are great, they might be panel shows or product launches, and they might get called webinars, but they are not.
When a webinar is effective
Examples of where a webinar is effective include:
1. For introducing a new, leading edge concept and positioning you as a thought leader and expert in your field. It is good for brand and top of sales funnel content.
2. For structured education, in the original sense of what seminars are, learning and development, and training. Examples of what this does are explaining a complex topic, a how to, teaching your audience to attain a qualification, or how to use and extract the maximum value from something they have already bought from you.
3. For stimulating debate and discussion, like you would at a physical roundtable or panel event. Roundtables are designed to generate discussion and interaction, which can be delivered by a well-moderated webinar.
4. As the core asset in a content marketing campaign for lead generation. If the webinar falls into categories one or two above, the same principles apply here as they would to offering a whitepaper. Your audience exchanges its contact details and permission to be marketed/sold to later down the line in exchange for high-quality content. Make sure the webinar ticks that high-quality content box, so you keep your audience engaged.
When a live event is more effective
Webinars are not an effective substitute for live events, even though they have grown in popularity since the pandemic restricted movement around the world, and many brands have chosen to become 100% digital in their offering.
You will not gain the same benefits from a webinar as you would at a seminar at a trade show, for example, as there is no opportunity for your delegates to strike up a conversation with the person next to you and continue it over coffee.
Your delegates cannot walk up to you, the presenters/panel, greet you and your colleagues, and have an informal discussion, then maybe exchange business cards. Relationships that lead to deals and sales start at these events.
However, anecdotal evidence suggests this is not true of webinars and digital events.
Webinars for lead generation need more marketing post-pandemic
Webinars were around for a long time before the pandemic, fulfilling all the functions we highlight above. But there were fewer of them, and the average quality was higher. So, what we started to see with the campaigns we were running as various global lockdowns progressed was webinar fatigue.
When so many B2B brands jumped on the webinar bandwagon because live events and meetings were not possible, there was more choice, and we were all being bombarded with webinar invitations. Many were not webinars but dressed up sales pitches. Or they were poorly-presented and moderated, with bad content.
As a result of these experiences, audiences became more discerning about what they signed up for, and the registered delegates turning up on the day dropped from a reasonable average of 30% attendance (those who participated in the event compared to those who registered) to around 10%.
We say average, because there are always wildcards. Depending on the nature of the event and its timing, we have seen our clients’ events be oversubscribed by 200%, requiring the hosting solution to be upgraded. But these are exceptions.
That means if you choose a webinar as your core marketing asset, you need to work much harder at promoting it, using all the usual content marketing tools available. Outbound social, blogging, outbound direct email and media relations, especially if you have big names participating, all have a role to play.
If you would like help with your content marketing for lead generation, using a webinar as your core assets, and creating and delivering your webinars, contact us. We are always happy to meet face-to-face or digitally to discuss how we can support you to overcome your marketing challenges and sell more.
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