September 04, 2014

Lead Generation Webinars - Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices (Part 1)


(Editor's note -- Brian took some time to lay out some best practices for aspiring webinar hosts looking to generate leads. In the first of this two-part series, we'll take a look at the pre-broadcast tips. Check out Part 2, where we're tackling the during and post-broadcast section.)

We love webinars, and you should too.

Your humble author, and a face you may have seen in your inbox a few times.

For those of you who are already Contactually users, there's a VERY high chance that you've seen my smiling, shining face at the bottom of a webinar invitation email. And for good reason! For the past year or so, our almost-weekly webinars have been an incredibly successful marketing initiative over here at Contactually HQ. They've been vital for educating our users (as well as our own team members) on important topics like relationship management and referral generation, which in turn has increased our thought leadership and positioned our company as frontrunners in the field.

Equally importantly, by partnering with like-minded companies or individuals and collaborating on these endeavors we've generated an impressive number of new users and customers from our lead generation webinars. Because they're well educated on the topics that we present, they tend to be high quality leads that convert into customers with high staying power.

As one might expect, I've learned a lot, both positive and negative, from the trials and tribulations that come with running our webinar series. In the spirit of continuing education and helping our friends succeed, I compiled a few tips and best practices to consider when running your own webinars, to ensure that they go off without a hitch, and that you end up with the best results possible.

How to Use Webinars for Lead Generation (Part 1)

1. Define your objective

Before you get started with your webinar, the first thing you'll need to do is define your objective for running the webinar in the first place. Are you looking to generate brand awareness outside of your existing marketing and customer lists? Establish yourself and your brand as a thought leader in a particular topic with the end goal of moving prospects forward in the sales cycle? Or keep your customers up to date about product changes and improvements?

See Brian's tips in action.

Hosting a webinar -- and doing it well -- is a lot harder than it sounds. Fortunately, Brian gets lots of practice hosting and co-hosting a wide variety of Contactually-related webinars about all sorts of interesting topics. See the fruits of his labor for yourself at our Training site, where we host archived copies of our most popular sessions.

These different types of webinars (and ones beyond what I've explicitly referenced) reflect different stages of your sales cycle, and thus must be approached differently. For example, the last type of webinar I mentioned about product changes and improvements would be one that is only marketed internally. Conversely, it would be most effective to find paid channels or partners to help you promote webinars targeting brand awareness, as these avenues should result in higher reach and registration.

Once you've defined your objective, you can dig a little bit deeper and start assigning metrics-based goals as well. Things to consider include number of registrants or attendees, conversion rate from registrant to attendee, engagement rates during the webinar, number of post-webinar sign-ups, and much more.

2. Pick your partners wisely

If one of your objectives involves lead generation and/or driving new sign-ups for your company's product, a very effective strategy involves partnering with like-minded people or companies. Doing this offers a fresh perspective to your existing audience, and in the case of a lead-gen webinar, allows you to grow your own following, as you'll ideally be co-marketing the webinar to your respective lists.

Here's a good one. Sign me up!

While the appeal of lead generation is surely enticing, you need to make sure that you think your partnerships through and pick them wisely. First and foremost, you should have similar goals for the purpose of your co-marketed webinar to ensure that you're both approaching it from the same angle, all the way from topic to content to promotion. Second, your target audiences should be similar, but not so similar that you might steal customers away from one another (I hopped on a call last week where another marketer and I realized that our platforms are too similar to go in on a co-marketed venture together).

Last, be sure your partner is of the same high caliber that you are, so that you're truly adding value beyond what you could do by yourself. If you're second guessing yourself, take a look at some of your partner's previous webinars, presentations, blog posts and the like in order to get a feel of what to expect.

3. Agree upon a promotion plan

I can't stress this enough: make sure that you and your partner mutually agree upon a promotion plan. It's incredibly aggravating when you're promoting something to the majority of your database with a dedicated invitation AND supplementing those efforts via your blog and social media channels, only to find out that your partner isn't holding up to their end of the bargain. As a result, your registration numbers and lead generation efforts suffer, and the experience and partnership becomes severely tainted. As such, it's important to explicitly discuss the dates on which and methods that you'll use to promote your webinar.

At Contactually, we've found that dedicated email blasts, meaning emails containing only content related to the webinar, get the highest ROI in terms of registration efforts. Of course, we'd also recommend including the registration URL in newsletters, blog posts, and in your social media updates to supplement your email efforts.

Generally, we'll start with an email invitation a week and 24 hours before the event, and will supplement those efforts in our blog and over social media. I've also started adding our webinars to our team calendar so that our strategy specialists and customer success managers can plan their support activities accordingly.

Pro tip: It's also important to respect your email marketing list to avoid problems with over-emailing and spam perception. This is why we send no more than one webinar invitation per week, specify how often our subscribers should expect to hear from us in their email subscription preferences, and above all, make sure that we're always offering high quality content.

4. Rehearse

Awkward webinars are, thankfully, avoidable with some practice time.

This may seem obvious, but I feel it's good to reiterate the importance of rehearsing. This applies to your email marketing efforts, webinar content, the webinar platform you're using, and anything else you can think of that might require a degree of finesse. Both you and your partner should run through your presentation independently, and then hop on a test run so that you can ensure that both of you are comfortable with the webinar technology at hand.

Make sure to proofread all of your promotion copy, practice sharing your screen, recording your presentation, switching presenter roles, launching polls, and anything else that has the potential to be problematic or disruptive throughout the presentation. Remember, one of your consistent goals should be to maintain an air of professionalism; any flubs or technical glitches detract from your webinar's overall experience.

Here's Part 2, where we're looking at how to improve your live performance, and take advantage of your post-webinar momentum. If you want all of our practices, click to go to the form below!