Webinars deserve marketers’ respect

Paul Nolan

Companies tend to think of webinars simply as a top-of-funnel, lead generation tool. They focus on getting as many names as possible. Many marketers don’t even care what happens during the live webinar. Once they’ve acquired the leads, they simply send them to sales and claim victory.

That’s just outdated thinking, says Mark Bornstein, vice president of content marketing at ON24, a provider of webcasting and virtual event platforms.

“The modern webinar is all about engagement. They’re multimedia, interactive experiences, where the goal is to get your audience members to take as many actions as possible, which then provides you with actionable information about your prospects,” Bornstein states in an article written for B2B Marketing.

Too many companies underestimate the power of webinars. “In a time when we measure engagement by the click or mere seconds spent on a landing page or in an email, we have very few opportunities to have real human moments with our prospects. That used to be the role of sales, but the modern buyer doesn’t want to engage with a salesperson. So what replaces that experience? That’s where webinars come in.”

Most salespeople are used to getting weak leads from their marketing team, Bornstein says, adding quickly, “and I say that as a marketer.” With webinars, you can capture every action a prospect takes during a webinar (questions asked, poll responses, survey data, content downloaded, etc.) and enter it into a CRM system. This enables salespeople to continue a conversation as opposed to starting one.

Bornstein recommends making webinars as interactive as possible to dial up engagement. He also recommends experimenting with formats. Ditch the PowerPoint slides for some webinars and go with a panel discussion or Q&A with another industry expert.

Don’t require registrants to attend live. Recorded webinars should be archived and made available on demand. Some companies are even following a Netflix model of uploading a series of webinars available when it is convenient for the viewer. According to ON24’s recent Webinar Benchmarks Report, 35 percent of people who view webinars will watch on demand — not live. “If your webinars only exist as a moment in time, then you’re losing up to a third or more of your potential audience,” says Bornstein.