Educational webinars have emerged as a powerful marketing tool for many professional services and B2B firms. But not everyone is on the same page…
As someone who has organized, promoted, and produced over 100 webinars at Hinge, you can imagine that I hold some strong perspectives on webinars as a marketing strategy. When they are well-organized, promoted to the right audience and integrated into a larger marketing system, webinars are excellent opportunities for nurturing relationships with prospects, showcasing your firm’s experts and leaving a lasting impression on the products and services your company can provide.
However, the effectiveness of webinars largely depends on the approach taken by organizers. As easily as webinars can help bolster your firm’s credibility, they can also turn people away from your brand. I’ll give you an example.
Just last week, I registered for a webinar on a topic that interested me. Not even 24 hours had passed before a sales development representative emailed me to sell me their software. The webinar hadn’t even happened yet! It was clear to me that I was just another number in a large automated system.
This experience inspired me to write this article and share a better approach to producing educational webinars. So in this article, I’ll unpack everything I’ve learned over the years on how you can leverage educational webinars as a lead generator while still emphasizing the importance of nurturing relationships within your audience.
Five Benefits of Producing Educational Webinars
The webinar and virtual event industry is booming right now. With the global market value of this space projected to reach $4.44 billion by 2025, there’s no doubt that virtual events and webinars are here to stay. And for good reason!
Leading the webinar charge are the fastest growing professional services companies. Data from the latest edition of Hinge’s High Growth Study showed 41% of High Growth Firms use educational webinars as a part of their marketing strategy. Only 15% of No Growth Firms participate. The story doesn’t end there though as the data reports that High Growth Firms receive a net positive return on their investment in webinars.
So what are some reasons why educational webinars have become mainstay components of many high growth marketing programs? Let’s consider five reasons.
1. Showcasing Your Experts
The top evaluation criteria professional services buyers use to make a buying decision are industry knowledge and subject matter expertise. When conducted with the intent of educating your audience, webinars are one of the best platforms for your firm’s experts to shine. In a 45-60 minute presentation, your experts can go in-depth on a problem faced by your customers and provide them with valuable perspectives and solutions that reinforce your firm’s capabilities.
2. Interactive Environment
Educational webinars are more than just a platform for disseminating information. They serve as interactive environments where your firm’s top experts can connect directly with your audience. Webinars features like live chat and Q&A invite your prospects to interact with you in a way other marketing channels cannot. We highly encourage those who conduct webinars to prioritize taking questions from the audience as early into the webinar session as possible.
3. Customer Data and Feedback
Webinars are also a terrific medium to gain valuable insights into your audience, including who they are and what they care about most. Beyond the registration data you acquire, features like poll questions and post-webinar surveys position you to gain a deeper understanding of your audience. For example, in my post-webinar survey I always invite attendees to tell me what they wish we had covered but didn’t.
4. Highly Repurposable
Modern marketing systems continue to grow in complexity. Therefore it’s imperative that marketers prioritize creating content that is repurposable. Webinar recordings are great pieces of content that can be clipped for social media videos, turned into blog posts, etc… And after the webinar is over, the on-demand recording can be published on your website as a gated piece of content for others to find at a later date.
5. Offer Strategy
Don’t turn your educational webinars into sales pitches or product demonstrations. However, it’s okay to briefly share with your audience the solutions your firm provides and provide a next step for engagement. We’ll touch on this more below.
The benefits of producing high-quality education webinars are many. By addressing specific challenges during webinars, you not only provide value but also demonstrate that your firm offers tailored solutions. Attendees should leave understanding that your firm is highly qualified to solve a specific challenge they face.
The Primary Challenge of Conducting Webinars
If webinars are so impactful, why don’t more companies produce them? I wager it’s because of the challenge of generating registrations. No one is interested in planning an event for an empty room. And who can blame them?
While there are many techniques to drive registration to an upcoming webinar, the most reliable tool is your email marketing system. Here I’m speaking specifically about using an existing, mailable email list full of prospects who already want to hear from you (i.e, they have opted in). Purchased lists, while not totally ineffective, are far less likely to drive registrations with the caliber of prospect you’re seeking to connect with during a webinar. And because they contain contacts who have given permission to receive email from your firm, these lists also tend to run afoul of privacy laws.
So what do you do if your company does not have access to a mailable list of the right audience?
We recommend that you seek out marketing partnerships with companies who do have direct reach through their email marketing system. Webinars are great platforms for collaboration and partnership. Many firms actively seek external experts and professionals to join them as panelists on their webinars. If you and your marketing partner target the same audience, this can be a great way to build visibility and start building a list.
Webinars and the Marketing Funnel
One thing every marketing leader needs to understand is the primary role webinars can play in your full marketing system. Can they be good for building visibility? Yes. Can they function as a strong lead generator? Also, yes. However, the primary purpose of webinars is to establish trust and build credibility with your audience. Let’s unpack this with more detail.
There are many models for visualizing a buyer’s journey. The most fundamental way to visualize it is to think of it as a three-part funnel: At the top, you attract new prospects through visibility-building initiatives; in the middle, you nurture relationships with those who are already familiar with your brand; at the bottom, you sales with those who have identified themselves as interested in buying your services.
One common mistake with educational webinars is to force them to play a role that they aren’t naturally built to perform. This usually occurs when firms think of their webinars as opportunities to deliver a sales pitch to a captive audience. I’ve experienced this myself at least a dozen times, and it almost always feels like a bait and switch.
An interesting topic catches my attention in my email inbox, I register, I put it on my calendar and join the webinar—only to encounter very limited helpful information and a tight sales pitch. More egregious scenarios would be like the one I outlined in the introduction where apparently my registration data was passed to the company’s SDR before the webinar. This is a limited approach because it only targets clients who are ready to make a buying decision. Everyone else will be turned off—and many will drop out early.
We prefer a model that appeals to prospects at all stages of the funnel. This is why we put our emphasis on the middle of the funnel where webinars function as an opportunity to experience our expertise in action and receive valuable insights. We want all registrants and attendees to feel like their time was respected, that they learned something useful, and that engaging with our brand was worth their time.
Generating Leads During Webinars
Even when your primary goal is to establish trust and nurture relationships, there are still opportunities to generate leads in a way that is natural and non-salesy. When you do it right, you can generate leads both during and after the webinar.
During a webinar there are a few key ways you can position your firm and your experts to build relationships and generate leads. Let’s discuss some specifics:
Professional Opening and Speaker Introductions
Getting your webinar and its on-demand recording started with a positive momentum is essential to a good webinar. I’ve attended far too many webinars where the organizer/host either dragged out the introduction section for too long or simply brushed past the opening moments with zero context. In both cases, this is a missed opportunity. Organize your introduction, announcements, and panelist introductions in a way that is concise, easy-to-follow, and gets attendees excited.
Here are some pro tips on starting webinars:
- Start the event on time. Do not “wait for more people” to join before you go through the announcements. Some attendees will always be late. Respect the time and act as if you are presenting to a full room from the very beginning.
- Script out your introduction including panelist introductions. This should be customized to a degree for every webinar. While I repurpose some portions of my webinar introductions, I always modify them to explain the theme of the webinar.
- Encourage Q&A from the very beginning, multiple times. We like to say that we’ll take questions during the webinar, at the end of the session, or by email after the webinar. You want people to submit questions as early as possible.
Invite LinkedIn Connections
Generating leads doesn’t happen all at once. Try inviting your audience to connect with your firm’s experts directly on LinkedIn. You’ll open more doors and build relationships that extend beyond the webinar session. When you introduce your webinar speakers, provide their LinkedIn and other relevant social media accounts on the screen so that attendees can take a next step and reach out to them. We always share a slide with the expert panelists’ contact information at the beginning and end of every webinar.
When it comes to lead generation, short polls might be the most significant feature you can use during a webinar section. There are two benefits to asking poll questions.
- The attendee responses can help guide the conversation of the webinar. Attendees are always joining a webinar from their unique situation. By conducting polls, you can understand where your audience is and tailor the conversation in ways that meet the audience’s expectations.
- By asking the right poll questions you can collect additional data, which can help you qualify whether or not a webinar attendee might be a good lead. Sending a list of registration data to your business development team is like playing darts with a blindfold on. Polls can help separate the wheat from the chaff—so that you don’t waste time reaching out to unqualified prospects.For example, recently I asked what kind of research our audience planned to do in the near future to support their marketing planning efforts. The top response was competitive analysis research. This was an unexpected result. And it was helpful because our speakers were able to devote more time to the topic of competitive analysis. Moreover, it was helpful for us to see which of our attendees were thinking about competitive analysis. For those who were considering taking the next step with us, it was helpful to understand that competitive analysis was a priority for them.
Final Call to Action
Toward the end of the webinar, provide a clear and compelling call to action (CTA). Depending on your company’s services, this could be an offer for a consultation, a product demo, or even a simple request to connect for further discussion. We have found the most success when using another poll question to gauge interest in these offers.
While we recommend you save this final ask for the end of the webinar, you may also use the chat feature in the webinar to invite people to speak with your team directly after the webinar. A post-webinar survey is another great place to allow people to express interest in speaking further with your company.
Managing Leads and Prospects After the Webinar
Once your webinar has concluded, your team should follow up with your attendees in ways that make sense.
You’ll almost certainly want to send the webinar recording to everyone who registered for the webinar (even—especially!—those who didn’t attend). Most webinar systems can automate this process, but we recommend that you use your own email marketing system instead. That way, you can customize your message. In this follow up email, you can also include other helpful resources or offers. We recommend these emails come from one of the expert panelists.
Beyond the follow up email, there are a number of other activities you can do to maximize your investment in the webinar:
Analyze Webinar Performance
Start by analyzing your webinar’s performance data. Identify the attendees who engaged the most, those who responded to the poll questions, and read through any relevant post-webinar survey responses. Is there any feedback you need to provide to your expert panelists? Are there things mentioned you should change for future webinars? Regardless of what webinar features you’ve implemented, you always want to make sure that you analyze webinar performance data and track metrics that matter the most. In this way, you can improve performance over time.
Differentiate Leads and Prospects
Not all webinar attendees are created equal. Work with relevant team members to comb through the list of attendees and categorize them into two lists: leads and prospects. Leads are those who have expressed a clear interest in your services, either through poll responses or direct inquiries. Prospects are individuals who fit your ideal client profile but may require more nurturing.
Leads can go to your sales and business development resources for next steps and direct outreach. In many cases, these individuals may be expecting outreach from your team.
Names of prospects can go to the expert panelists for continued engagement. Perhaps they can send a short email or LinkedIn request thanking them for their engagement in the session. However your reach out, remember that the goal is to build a relationship, not close a sale.
Roles and Responsibilities
You may have a variety of different tasks after the webinar is over. Designate one person as the captain and assign specific roles to your team members. Leads can be passed to your sales development representatives (SDRs) or sales team for immediate follow-up. Prospects, on the other hand, require a more personalized approach and it is up to the organizer to understand the nature of the opportunity and determine the best course of action. One thing to note is that those who presented during the webinar as expert panelists should play an active role in connecting with prospects.
The Main Point
Webinars are a potent tool for lead generation but they should prioritize establishing trust and nurturing relationships with your audience. It’s crucial to resist the urge to turn your webinars into a production centered around your products and services. This approach will appeal to a very narrow audience and potentially turn away many of your attendees who only want to learn.
Instead, use webinars to connect with your audience, provide them with relevant insights, and bolster the visibility and reputation of your firm’s Visible Experts. Webinars should be a win-win for you and your audience. You showcase your expertise and engage directly with your attendees, and they learn in a low-pressure environment.
Want to see how we do it here at Hinge? Access any of our upcoming or on-demand webinar recordings here on our website. If you have any questions about our approach or need further guidance to make webinars a cornerstone of your professional services marketing strategy, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to hear from you!
How Hinge Can Help
Content marketing is at the heart of Hinge’s flagship Visible Firm℠ program. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.
- Explore the Hinge Research Institute to learn more about the different ways you can use research as content to drive a more effective and efficient content marketing strategy.
- Download Hinge’s Content Marketing Guide for Professional Services Firms for tips on creating content that builds credibility and demonstrates expertise.
- Get a copy of our Online Marketing for Professional Services book to learn techniques that will generate more leads and increase awareness of your firm.