Putting Your Tools to Use: How to Sell Out Your B2B Webinar

There’s a reason marketers love webinars so much: they work. In the B2B universe, educating your prospects and opening up a dialogue is crucial to driving new leads and moving the needle on existing prospects. Because webinars allow the host to control the message, marketers can establish market demand and, further, demonstrate their competitive differentiators in much greater detail than is possible with search and display advertising. Webcasting and virtualization software provider On24 reported in a 2012 study that the average webcast captures 433 registrants with a 42% registrant-to-attendee conversion rate. In addition, webinars are cost effective. Trade show exhibits also enable B2B dialogue, but at several times the cost and a fraction of the control.

That said, putting together a webinar requires a substantial amount of work, and one of the hardest parts is encouraging attendance. We’ve all sat through monotonous slide shows and uninspiring panel discussions, so it takes a lot to grab attention and get that RSVP. The promise of an educational and interesting session has to be strong.

Here are some additional tips to help you fill those virtual seats – even if you’re an unknown startup – and maximize the potential benefits of webinars for your business.

1. Email your house list. Yes, that’s an obvious one, but it’s an important one. As far as content goes, your email shouldn’t just list the title, date/time, speaker and access instructions (though, of course, those should be included). The email should contain benefit-laden copy that not only encourages attendance but also provides a clear understanding of the key takeaways and how they are directly applicable to attendants’ business goals. Make it seem like the can’t-miss event it is sure to be and provide a list of 3-5 useful takeaways.

2. Actually make it a can’t-miss event. One of the best ways to do this is to recruit an industry superstar to speak towards your topic. Most companies, especially startups, don’t have the budget or cachet to get headliners like Sir Richard Branson or Seth Godin, but that’s okay.  Mine your industry contacts and your client list for well-known brands/executives. As an added bonus to drive attendance, your speaker should also send invites to their house list and contacts too.

3. Get social. Social networking sites are tailor-made for event promotion. Use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to tease out speakers, discussion topics and other content to whet appetites for the main event. Be sure to encourage followers to share the information with their followers, friends and colleagues. Make this process easy with shareable links and open invitations.

4. Advertise. There’s a reason companies spend millions on advertising every year–it works. However, if your budget doesn’t allow millions (or even thousands), don’t worry, you can still make digital advertising work for you. Identify a shortlist of the publications your target audience reads the most and do a small display ad buy on their sites. No matter your budget, a little bit of advertising will go a long way toward beefing up your RSVP list. You need to nurture all attendees and display is the perfect venue to increase attendance.

5. Add more value. Nothing attracts an audience like incentives and exclusivity. Got a white paper or report that supports your webinar topic? Offer it exclusively to webinar attendees. Did your CEO just write a New York Times bestseller? Offer free copies to the first ten people to sign into the webinar.

So now that you have a hefty guest list, the next hurdle is actually getting them to attend. From our observations, usually only about 50-60 percent of registered attendees actually show up. Some cases such as sickness, travel and other conflicts are unavoidable, but very often, people just forget about it on the day it’s scheduled.  You can boost your numbers by simply sending reminder emails and social media postings to your registered list, and by including calls to action in advance, such as surveys, polls and Q&A suggestions.

The webinar is an ideal tool for generating new leads and nurturing existing ones. It takes time and resources to create compelling and useful content, so don’t let all the money and effort you’ve spent putting it together go to waste. Invest in the right promotional tools and techniques in advance to get a great guest list that are actually interested in attending. As a follow up, post your webinar on your website behind a registration wall to develop more leads or send the webinar link out to new prospects via email. Additionally, you can explore the possibility of converting the content of your webinar into an easy to read white paper. The name of the game in content development is re-use.

Stay focused on keeping the conversation going and watch the leads roll in.

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