Webinars have been around for a while now, and, therefore, they’re not considered the sexiest media by marketers any longer. It comes as a surprise, though, that, among the social media available, they are demonstrably the one that brings in the most number of conversions and sales. Pretty sexy, in my opinion, huh?
Webinars are a social medium, because, just like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, they boost the creation of a community and generate a lot of interaction between the participants. The sessions themselves have a limited length of time– 75 min is the usual – but, just like a live in-person event, they bring people together who can then sign up for your company’s website or Facebook fan page and become a member of a community just like any other.
Most webinars are done live, although, depending on the software or service you choose to use, the session can and should be recorded for later viewing, in case some of the participants cannot make it at a certain time of the day.
I remember the first time I ran a webinar – facilitating the presentation of famous authors of a publisher I used to work for – with the objective of educating the participants on the new methodology of the English language teaching material we were launching, and, as a consequence, selling the material to the school or teacher who might feel it fit their needs. Being the first time on my own, I was kind of nervous, but then I relaxed and started to have a good time myself. The speakers, at first, were a bit stiff themselves, but then they got in the mood (of course, we all had rehearsed and had been carefully trained many times before) and the session was as a huge success.
There are basically three phases to a webinar: the promotion, the session itself, and the follow-up. If all these phases are implemented properly and carefully, the event will go as smoothly as it should, otherwise the session will flop, and the conversion rates and sales results will be disappointing. After all, a webinar is like any other marketing tool for collecting leads and selling the product. Some webinars are so powerful that the conversion from prospect to lead to buyer occurs during the session itself, and the client either makes the purchase online after the webinar or requests the visit of a rep to complete the process. Let’s talk a little bit about each of the phases of a webinar:
The Promotion: creating the buzz
After deciding on the best webinar provider for your company and having had extensive training on it, organize your first event. This does not differ much from how you promote your live in-person conferences, except for, in your communication with the customers – be it online (email, banners, Facebook posts); print collateral/invites that your sales people will hand out to VIP clients; or even phone calls – make sure to reinforce the main advantage of the webinar: the customer will be attending a high-quality session and interacting with people from all over the world from the comfort of their own home or the desk chairs in their office. Many clients still resist the concept of webinars initially, as they will have never taken part in one. Even the reps, if not properly trained, can damage your effort by not explaining to the customer the value of attending a session under these ideal conditions. All the clients need is a computer with an Internet connection. Remember to send out invitations to the event a least 30 days before the session, and be prepared to send two or three reminders afterwards if you feel the registration is low. By the way, make the registration process very simple (ask only for their names and email addresses). You can add more details about them later.
The session and its different parts
When the great day arrives, make sure you, as the facilitator, and the speakers, who will probably be in different parts of the world, get together online at least 30 min before the session starts in order to run some technical tests of sound and image and make sure everything is in fine. There are always some customers who arrive early, either because they are excited, or because they themselves want to make sure they can get in easily. Greet these people warmly, explain them that the session will start in X min (remember they might be in very different time zones) and ask them questions such as how they found out about the session, where they are watching it from, are they alone or with other people, etc., to warm them up. The webinar provider usually has a forum section (or chat room) where the participants can chat with each other by entering their questions, answers and comments in writing. So expect a lot of interaction among them even before the session starts.
When the time is right, introduce the speakers, present the agenda of the webinar (it is a great help for the audience to know what is going to happen, so show a slide with bullet points telling them the plan). In the phase of the preparation for the webinar, ask the speakers if they would feel comfortable telling a story related to the content they will be presenting to open the session. We love stories and this is a great way to break the ice. Of course, the story ideally tells of a problem and its solution – which will be the product/service you are promoting. The speakers mustn’t make it too long, as some attendees will want them to jump straight into the content itself.
Then the speakers start the session per se. If the speakers decide to make it more interactive – which I strongly recommend – they should ask questions during the presentation and teach the audience how to react by using the different buttons available on the dashboard on their end of the interface of the webinar provider: they can say YES/NO, they can insert emoticons in the chat section applauding a point the speakers made, or laughing at one of their jokes. They can also make comments in the chat section. They love it.
When you finish the content part of the session, you or your speaker need to put on your sales hat, and smoothly, transition to a sales close. Ask if they liked what they heard so far, if they have any questions and whether they are ready to purchase it. This is called CLOSING in sales, and you need to do that, if you are using the webinar for business. Afterwards, set up a quick Q&A slot: 15 min max. They can ask questions about anything: the content of the session or the product/service itself. Some will buy on the spot, others will need more time to think about it. Fair enough. For those who need more time, you will establish the third phase of the webinar:
Both live in-person events and webinars need to pull the prospects along the sales funnel leading them to make a purchase. After the even, you will hopefully have many converts, but they need to actually take the action of buying your offer. This third phase is essential: your reps could schedule a demo at their office to continue the conversation; you could set up an email marketing campaign highlighting the benefits of the product and expanding on what was not said during the webinar; you can send them more info via an ebook or brochure. However, don’t lose track of the participants of the webinar. Make sure they join your community (website, blog, Facebook fan page, etc). Otherwise, you will be just wasting your time as a business person.
There is a lot of info about webinars on the web and many tips on how to conduct them. The more you read about these sessions, the more confident you will become to start producing them. They are very effective. Don’t miss on this opportunity to close deals.