When B2B marketers are planning their demand generation programs, they usually (or at least should) keep a few factors in mind to determine how useful the programs will actually be in driving leads and engaging the sales pipeline:
- How much time and effort and money goes into programming and executing the program?
- Does this program allow me to collect prospect or customer data so I can follow-up?
- Will this program benefit my prospects and customers and lead them down a path to purchase?
- Can I control the content in the program, or is it dictated for me?
- Can I measure the success of the program down the road to determine the ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment)?
These questions should always be asked, regardless of the program you are implementing. While it depends greatly on what your goals and objectives of the program are (do I want to capture new leads, move them through the sales funnel, or close them), you should be able to check at least 2-3 if not more of the above qualifiers to ensure you aren’t wasting valuable time and money.
Webinars are one of the few programs I’m aware of that easily tick all of the above boxes. Before I go any further, let me define in my own words what a webinar actually is. A webinar is an online meeting where a presenter goes through slides or a video as he or she would in real life, but it's in a virtual space that's recorded and attendees join and watch from their private screens rather than attending in real life. Because it's virtual, data is easily collected and the entire sessions, including Q&A, can be recorded and used at a later time.
Webinars are an inexpensive or even free (you may have to pay for a speaker), relatively easy way to engage, nurture, convert, and move prospects and customers alike through a path to purchase. Likewise, you can highlight content that is thought leadership focused (how-to) or product focused (solution), you can feature 3rd parties or executives from within your own company. And, you are able to collect as much or as little data on your attendees as you wish, making your follow-up process seamless and very personalized with examples such as:
- Did they attend the webinar or just register?
- What do you want them to attend next (aka what is your Call to Action)?
- Are they a lead, a current opportunity in your sales pipeline, or a customer?
- What products are they already using, and what is a potential upsell/cross-sell?
- What is their title/persona, and are they a decision maker or influencer in the buying process?
According to a recent article by Demand Gen Report, timely follow-up from webinars (and from any demand gen program for that matter), leads to higher conversion rates. No surprise there! The report goes so far as to say that attendees of a webinar are… “900% more likely to buy from a company if the follow up occurs within 5 minutes after the event concluded. Yet, only .6% of companies that have prospects fill out forms follow up within 5 minutes”. I would say that might be too close – 5 minutes seems, well, a little Big Brotherish. However, a day is a more reasonable timeframe and still lends itself to a much higher conversion.
Lastly, after a webinar has occurred, it’s important to “Nurture, Score, and Notify Sales”. What does that mean?
- Nurture: If a lead isn’t ready to buy or doesn’t have decision-making capabilities, how do you keep them engaged over a long period of time, perhaps until they are ready to buy in 6 months to a year? There is automation software available that makes this nurturing process easy and trackable.
- Score: Have a scoring system in place that allows software (usually a nurturing software will also serve a scoring purpose) to identify your hottest leads versus your weakest leads. This is usually based on which email address they provided (work versus Hotmail), title of the attendee, size of the company, and many other factors you can set based on your qualification criteria.
- Notify Sales: Often times, Sales teams will complain that they don’t know which Marketing events are happening, and how they should follow-up with existing opportunities in the sales pipeline and/or existing customers. Equipping Sales teams with proper messaging, event overview, and specific talk tracks and CTAs is of utmost importance. For customers especially, they are watching how your company follows-up with them, and it’s important that it’s done in a timely and relevant manner.
All in all, webinars are an effective tool for engaging attendees of all sorts. The keys to success are identifying the right speaker and topic, ensuring that the registration is well communicated, collecting customer data, and following up in a timely and relevant matter with all attendees.