How to Run a Successful Webinar from Beginning to End

running successful webinars

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Posted: February 17, 2017 | Event Marketing

Webinar programs are important in any marketing mix for several reasons. They provide a convenient forum for your company to establish itself as a thought leader in your space and help develop your brand voice. But more than that, webinars can be significant (and inexpensive) revenue drivers for your business.

Because they can be fairly time-consuming, you need to be thoughtful as you plan and execute your webinarsHere are five steps for running a smooth webinar, from conception to measurement:

1. Plan Your Content

As you’re mapping out your webinar programs, start by looking at your marketing programs calendar—a calendar that documents all your marketing programs in one place. As you look at it, think about how you can fill in program gaps and needs over time, and how it aligns with your content strategy. Look at what programs have already been scheduled, and whether they’re sponsored webinars and virtual events or owned programs.

From there, you’ll get an idea of what audiences you’re already targeting with specific programs so you can make sure your webinar programs will not only be applicable to specific buyer personas, verticals, or stages of the buyer’s journey but also not be duplicative. Maybe you have a lot of practitioner content planned, but you’re lacking on the executive POV. Or perhaps you have a thought leadership programs in the works, but you want more actionable content interwoven as well.

Once you’ve filled in the gaps with your audience and content style, you can drill into specific topics. At this point, it’s always a good idea to look back at metrics from past webinars to see how well certain topics have resonated with your specific audiences.

2. Promote Across Channels

Once you have planned your content, it’s time to get started. Ideally, you need at least one month of preparation time for any webinar. This allows enough time for your speaker to develop the messaging, your creative team to develop the artwork, and for you to drive registrations.

Once you have the program details (speaker, title, abstract) and art solidified, it’s time to focus on promotions. Email and organic social are two of the most effective channels for webinar promotion. You’ll want to begin email promotions at least two weeks out from the webinar broadcast date, and I recommend sending three invites: one initially and then two follow-ups. Social media posts are a great way to drive last minute registrations in particular.

You might also want to utilize other channels like paid social and your company blog. If you have the budget, paid social is particularly useful in driving registrations for more targeted webinar programs meant for specific verticals or smaller segments. If your speaker has the bandwidth, teaser blogs are also a great way to generate hype and drive registrations.

3. Prepare and Go Live

Ultimately, even if you spend hours preparing great content and driving registrations, the success of your webinar comes down to the hour when the webinar is live. Because webinars are real-time events (even if they’re virtual), there are many things that could go wrong. Your speaker may end up presenting unexpected content, or you could run into technical issues that derail the webinar.

Here are a few tips for avoiding potential pitfalls:

  1. Prepare your speaker: This begins during the initial speaking ask. Make sure you clearly express the intended topic, audience, and time frame right off the bat, and put a hold on their calendar for the time of the webinar.
  2. Conduct a dry run: Dry runs are basically dress rehearsals for webinars. They allow you to review the content with your speaker as they are finalizing their deck so you won’t run into surprise content during the live broadcast when it’s too late. Dry runs also give your speaker a chance to familiarize herself with the webinar platform, so that she feels comfortable on the day of the webinar. It’s also a good idea to run through your speaker’s deck a few days before the webinar to make sure the content is on point and there aren’t any formatting issues (for example some platforms don’t play gifs).
  3. Minimize technical risk: It’s important to prepare for the worst case scenario when it comes to live webinars. If your speaker has a hardline internet connection available, ask them to connect to that during the webinar. It’s also a best practice to dial in from a landline phone and use a headset to minimize sound issues or the potential for a dropped call…landing you alone on the line without a speaker. Eek!

4. Follow Up

Even after your webinar concludes, you still have one of the most important tasks ahead of you: the follow-up. Following up with registrants is important to not only continue the conversation with those you engaged during the webinar and provide an additional touchpoint, but also to convert registrants into “successes,” or people who take the desired action of your campaign.

For webinar programs at Marketo, the members of the program are only deemed successes if they either attend the webinar or register for the webinar AND click a link in the follow-up email. Successes are incredibly important because your program only receives revenue attribution for members of the program who become successes.

5. Measure and Report

As a marketer, your ultimate success metrics for webinars are multi-touch pipeline (generated by those who were already in your database when they became webinar successes) and first-touch pipeline (generated by those who were acquired by your program).

Depending on the lifecycle stage of your webinar attendees, you may start to see pipeline almost immediately or it may take six months or longer to see results. Once you start to see numbers rolling in, you can determine how well certain types of webinars or topics are resonating with your audience and base your future programs off of these key indicators.

You’ll also need to report on the results to your sales team so they can leverage the webinar content in conversations with prospective or existing customers who attended the webinar. Since most webinars have hundreds of attendees, you’ll want to simplify the process for your sales team, calling attention to those who require more immediate follow-up.

To isolate these individuals, you can include a survey in your webinar that indicates interest levels. Based on those survey responses and the account scores of attendees, you can automate specific alerts that notify the sales team of attendees who have implied that they might be willing to continue the conversation with your company. If you’re practicing account-based marketing, you’ll also want to identify target accounts who attended the webinar, so that the team can prioritize these individuals first and foremost. Finally, provide a full report of all attendees to the sales team so that they can continue outreach to others once they have addressed the more immediate follow-ups.

Now that you’ve measured your results and enabled sales, you can move on to the next webinar on your calendar–but don’t put the previous webinar entirely to rest! Keep an eye on its performance over the next few months to see what kind of pipeline it’s generating, and use this information to inform your decisions about future webinars.

Are you currently running webinar programs? What other tips would you recommend? Share in the comments below!

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Mary Kate Francis is a Marketing Coordinator at Marketo. She is an avid musical theatre lover and has performed in 9 musicals in the last 5 years. Mary Kate earned a BA in English with a Certificate in Markets and Management at Duke University (Go Blue Devils!).

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Webinars can be significant and inexpensive revenue drivers. Check out these 5 steps to run a successful webinar:

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