Hosting a webinar is a great way to gain visibility for your company, and position yourself as a thought leader around a particular topic. But in order to ensure that you conduct a successful webinar, you need to have the proper planning in place to get you from start to finish. Here is a list of the key phases you need to go through in order to design and execute a webinar that gets results:
Step 1 – Define your Goals
Start by determining your objective— what do you want to achieve with your webinar and what do you hope to get out of it? Is it to gain visibility with your target audience? Showcase a new product or service? Nurture leads? There must be a purpose to your webinar so once you pinpoint what that is, then you can start to define SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, Time specific) goals to go alongside your objective. Try to be realistic (especially if this is the first webinar you are organizing) when setting such goals to understand how you define success. Defining success can be done in several ways:
- The volume of net new (in-target) prospects that join,
- The ability to schedule one-on-one sales meetings as a follow-up after the webinar,
- The number of people that download on-demand content, or
- Engagement with new followers to your online social media pages.
Step 2 – Determine your 5W’s
Now that you have defined your goals (the Why), you need to outline the Who, What, Where, When, and How.
- Who is going to be the presenter? Who are you going to invite?
- What topic will be the focus of your webinar?
- Where are you going to host it (ie on what platform)?
- When is it going to take place?
When you’re thinking of a topic for your webinar it’s important to keep your target audience in mind; knowing what interests your buyer personas will help you create a topic that resonates with them so that they are encouraged to register. Webinars are supposed to be informative, so you need to think of ways that you can highlight your knowledge or experience around the topic so as to set yourself apart from your competitors.
Scheduling conflicts are the number one reason why people don’t attend webinars, so when you are setting the date and time, try to pick one that you think will be convenient for your audience. Keep in mind that this could mean planning more than one online event if you want to cover several geographical time zones. Providing webinar content on-demand by sharing a recording of the live event after it happens is a good way to pick-up on the last minute drop-outs you are bound to get. We estimate an average 50% drop-out rate between registrations and attendees, so this is a standard figure to keep in mind during the planning phase.
You may want to tap into internal resources to be the presenter of your webinar, but you can also invite a guest speaker to participate. The topic should dictate your choice so that you get the most qualified person to take on that role.
If you don’t already have a platform to host your webinar, there are plenty that you can test out. Most web-based webinar tools are easy-to-use, can be tested through a free-trial, and come with a tutorial; be sure to find one that fits within your budget and to thoroughly test it out before your go-live date.
Step 3 – Promote your Webinar
Webinar promotion is an essential part of the process to get the word out to your target audience that you are hosting an online event. By using a combination of tactics both on and offline, you can be present across channels to reach them. Some tactics to use include:
- Email Marketing: Create a series of emails and automate their delivery starting 6 to 8 weeks prior to the event. Such emails may include a first “save the date” message, followed by 2 “register now” emails sent at one-week intervals; then one “last chance to register” email a day or two before the event. Of course, you should also plan on sending out thank you emails to all of the participants, and a “sorry we missed” you email to the no-shows. For all registrants, you should provide them with a copy of the webinar recording or collateral materials a few days after the event has taken place. You can then use these prospects as part of your regular email marketing campaigns for nurturing purposes
- Outbound telemarketing: By following up on the prospects that opened the email but did not register, you can engage with your target audience and encourage people to register. If they are unable to attend, you can also use this as an opportunity to set up one-on-one meetings with those people at another time.
- Paid advertising: If the topic lends itself to ads, and your budget allows for it, you can design a pay-per-click campaign in the channel you believe is most susceptible to reaching your audience. For many B2B ISVs, this could be on LinkedIn, for example. The advantage here is that you will only pay for information on people who have expressed an interest and have clicked on your ad link.
Step 4 – Practice Makes Perfect
If you think that you can host a successful webinar and talk “off the cuff” you’re wrong. Talking for 30 minutes is not as easy as it sounds, and you may lose sight of your key messages if you don’t have written guidelines to follow. Preparing a webinar outline, writing a detailed “script,” and creating a PowerPoint presentation as a visual aid are musts. Then, you need to practice until you know your stuff inside and out. The challenge, of course, is sounding natural and not like you are reading a piece of paper; you also need to make sure to time your practice runs so that you fit within the time you have allotted.
Step 5 – Post-event Follow-up
Determining a post-event plan is essential to make sure that you can continue the dialogue with the prospects who attended. This could include the creation of an online discussion group, encouraging prospects to subscribe to one of your social media pages, scheduling a follow-up meeting. You may want to send the attendees a short survey to collect their impressions and summarize the lessons learned with your team. You should also take some time to compare the actual output with the goals you originally set to determine whether it was successful enough for you to repeat the process again. It could be an opportunity for you to repeat the webinar again, or create a new series of topics at regular intervals.