How to Turn Free Webinars into Sales Revenue: A Marketer’s Guide to Webinar ROI
Wonder why your marketing webinars aren’t generating sales opportunities and revenue? Or maybe you’re confident your webinars drive value, but you’re struggling to prove ROI.
While there are a ton of resources explaining how to make webinars more interesting and engaging, I’ve noticed a gap in content that explains how to drive (or at least prove) sales from webinars.
As a marketer and webinar producer, I face these same challenges, so I put together this guide to help other B2B marketers get more out of their webinars.
This guide is based on a process I’ve used to produce 75 webinars at a mid-size B2B industrial services company. The services we provide have long sales cycles of 6-12 or more months. We use marketing webinars to educate prospects and nurture leads. Our webinars also help uncover potential opportunities for sales to follow up on.
In 2014, we hosted seven webinars that produced $0 in sales. By 2016 we were hosting more than 30 webinars a year and we had generated over a million dollars in sales.
Other key metrics:
- Avg. attendance increased 20% YOY since 2015
- Avg. approval rating has remained consistent at 95%
- Over 1,000 new contacts added to the database
Here’s how we did it and how you can too:
Step 1. Define Your Webinar Goals
What is the main purpose of your webinars? Value-add for clients? Lead-generation? Brand awareness? Thought leadership? Employee engagement? Cross-selling other services?
Your webinars may touch on several goals, but it’s important to identify the primary reason you’re doing them.
Establish SMART Goals.
If you’re not familiar with SMART goals, SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Come up with a list of actual metrics you will use to measure success that fit within the SMART framework.
These may include:
- New contacts
- Total leads
- Net Promoter Score
- Attendee approval rating
An example of a SMART goal for your webinar might be to increase webinar-sourced revenue by 15% in 2018.
Set unique goals for individual webinars too.
In addition to setting goals for your webinar program, set goals for individual webinars. These goals will differ depending on the webinar and where it falls in your marketing/sales funnel.
For example, if you are hosting a webinar with an industry influencer, your primary goal may be adding new contacts to your database for nurturing, rather than generating opportunities as a direct result of the webinar.
On the other hand, if your goal is to generate opportunities for a new product, make sure you have a clear and compelling offer before you commit to the webinar. Offering a free assessment isn’t enough. Explain what attendees will get out of that assessment and what the deliverables are.
Step 2: Build a Forward-Looking Schedule
The key is to plan ahead but stay agile. I recommend planning three to six months ahead and using placeholders for webinars 12 months out.
Figure out how many webinars you can produce to maintain high quality and results. You may be able to produce a webinar once a week, but your sales force and processes may not be able to keep up. If your attendance or opportunities start to slip, think about scaling back.
At one point, we realized we needed to reduce webinar frequency. Once we had more time to promote and follow-up with attendees, we saw a 23% increase in attendance and a 38% increase in qualified leads.
When planning, think about all the time and resources you need to effectively produce a webinar. This includes the time it takes to actually produce the webinar content, promote it, and follow-up with attendees, either with email nurturing or personal outreach from sales reps.
Step 3: Select Topics that Resonate and Align with Your Goals
New topic ideas will come from sales reps, subject matter experts, industry news, and other sources throughout the year. Your webinar topics should be relevant and valuable to your target audience AND align with your overall goals. If generating sales is your primary goal, then host middle of the funnel (MOFU) and bottom of the funnel (BOFU) webinars.
As a general rule, lean more towards education than sales. If your webinars provide value, prospects will want to come back for more. I follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to my webinar mix — 80% education, 20% sales.
To come up with topics that will resonate with your audience:
- Keep a running list of topic ideas and categorize them by persona
- Ask your audience for suggestions
- Use attendees’ questions from past webinars to spark new ideas
- Repeat/refresh successful webinars (e.g. we host the same webinar twice a year on a unique service offering as it yields sales opportunities every time)
Step 4: Recruit the Right Speaker
Your speaker can make or break the webinar. Public speaking is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. If you don’t have the time or resources to train someone, use only your best. Otherwise, you could risk hurting your brand.
Consultants are typically solid speakers. They are knowledgeable in the subject matter, personable, and don’t come across as salesy. Use salespeople only if they have significant value to add, and remind them this isn’t a pitch.
Not sure if someone would be a good webinar presenter? Here are some things to look out for:
Experience. Ask them if they’ve delivered a presentation in the last year (you’d be surprised how many haven’t).
Comfort level. Are they comfortable presenting in front of a large audience or do they have a fear of public speaking?
Interview them. The best thing you can do is interview the potential speaker about the topic being considered. Look out for confidence, energy, clarity and overall tone. Would this person sound good on a webinar? Could you listen to her for an hour?
Lesson learned: Don’t use a subject matter expert just to use a subject matter expert. A bad speaker can have a huge impact on your webinar’s success. We found a positive correlation between speaker rating and net promoter score, proving the impact speakers have on brand perception.
Step 5: Create a Production Plan
Get organized. If you’re managing several events at a time, they will start to blend together. Use a calendar to schedule activities and set deadlines and reminders. We use Hubspot’s Calendar feature for scheduling webinar activities in addition to all other content campaigns.
Step 6: Launch Your Promotional Campaign
Use your CMS or marketing automation to send email blasts, post to social media accounts, advertise on your website, use paid advertising and work with your partner or influencer on promotion.
Aim to have your webinar landing page ready four weeks prior to the event. Send the first email at least three weeks out to maximize registrations. Remember to optimize your landing page with keywords and relevant images.
I typically send three emails, starting three weeks before the webinar and the last one going the day before or the day of the webinar. According to GoToWebinar’s Big Book of Webinar Stats, 33% of webinar registrations happen the day of.
Get to know your audience.
Ask for questions from your registrants ahead of the webinar. You could do this in emails and/or include an optional field in the registration form. These can be added to lead descriptions later on for sales reps to use in their follow up.
Webinars drive higher quality leads than ebooks at HubSpot, so one of our goals is to maximize attendance and engagement. We accomplish this in a few ways. Often times on our registration page we give registrants the opportunity to build the agenda or ask questions they know will be answered on the webinar, increasing attendance rates and value of the actual content [example below].
An easier solution to this is embedding a Google form or adding a field on the registration form for ‘what question(s) do you have for the presenters that they can answer live?’ Another way to provide value to registrants is by innovating on registration itself. For a large campaign we ran with Facebook, our team drove registrations from Facebook ads directly to a Facebook bot using Motiona.ai. Our CPL was significantly lower on leads registering for the webinar on Messenger, and because the process was smooth, registrants were excited off the bat.
Step 7: Moderate Your Webinar with the End in Mind
Make sure to tell your attendees why they should stay until the end of the webinar. Will you be announcing a special offer? Are you hosting a live Q&A? Do you have some other super valuable content/advice planned at the end? Whatever it is, tease the end of your webinar so attendees are motivated to stay.
During your webinar, use poll questions to qualify attendees and find out what their biggest pain points are. You can then include this data in lead and task descriptions in your CRM. It also makes for great insights when updating your audience personas or when you’re looking for new content ideas.
Finally, make sure to end your webinar on a slide with your CTA. This might be in the form of a “Thank you” slide that includes your contact info and the link to your special offer. But be strategic with the language on this final slide.
Ken Molay, President of Webinar Success, explains:
Your final CTA slide should be succinct and offer only one choice of action. Don’t display a laundry list of possible next steps for the prospect to take – Visit our website, Subscribe to our newsletter, Call Bob, Email Jane, Download our whitepaper. Stress the additional value they can receive by taking that step. Too many webinars end with something that sounds like, “Do us a favor.” You should still position yourself as altruistic, with their action being yet another way for them to benefit.
Step 8: Follow Up with Attendees
Take both an inbound and account-based approach to webinar follow up. Send the recording and slides to attendees and no-shows within 24 hours of the webinar. Don’t forget to include the offer that was introduced during the webinar.
Use an after-webinar survey to measure approval rating and get feedback. Ask attendees questions like:
- Would you recommend this webinar to a friend or colleague?
- Did you find value in attending this webinar?
You can also use a survey to get quotes! Ask respondents if you can use their comments in promotional materials. Keep a spreadsheet of positive and negative feedback. Then use data collected in lead descriptions for sales reps to reference in their outreach.
Step 9: Follow Up with Sales Reps
Work with sales operations to identify high-quality leads based on criteria like geography, company size, and job title. Then make sure leads are entered into your CRM and assigned to sales reps. And don’t forget about cross-selling opportunities; every attendee should be contacted!
Communicate with your sales team BEFORE the webinar. Let them know the date, time, and topic. Ask them to block out 30-60 minutes on their calendar that same afternoon, after the webinar ends. Promise to send them hot leads that deserve an immediate sales contact. Then postpone your lead scoring and registration question analysis… Your first task is to triage the chat log or question log for sales-related questions like, “How much does it cost?” “Is it available now?” “Does it work on a Mac?” These give a salesperson a justification for reaching out and answering questions while they are fresh in the prospect’s mind. The call is seen as being responsive rather than intrusive.
-Ken Molay, President at Webinar Success
Step 10: Report on the Metrics and Track Results
Keep a Webinar Scorecard that incorporates all metrics that tie back to your goals. Take a look at the example below:
- Include data from webinar analytics. We use GoToWebinar, which provides stats on attentiveness, average time in session, poll responses and more
- Send list and summary to key stakeholders on a monthly basis
- Share presentation and follow-up offer with sales
Step 11: Keep Improving!
There will be a lag in opportunity creation, especially for products and services with long sales cycles.
Keep following up with sales even weeks after an event to make sure every task is completed and lead acknowledged.
While the webinar producer is not usually involved in sales follow up, I’ve found that closer coordination with sales operations (we have an Inbound Leads & Opportunities Coordinator that I work next to) has led to better results as they are the ones speaking with reps on a regular basis.
Have sales operations create a report in Salesforce with webinar-sourced leads and opportunities for each sales rep that displays on their dashboard and send an automated email weekly with incomplete tasks. Also, make sure sales ops mentions webinar-sourced leads and opportunities in reoccurring meetings. Webinars are not at the top of their list…it’s up to you to get them there!
- Use feedback and data to make decisions about future webinars
- Collect and store both qualitative and quantitative data
Step 12: Develop an On-Demand Strategy that Delivers Long-Term Value
Now that you’ve created valuable content, it’s time to make long-term use of it. Optimize your webinar archive so it will continue to generate and nurture leads. We organized our webinars in chronological order using thumbnail images for easy browsing. And we gate every webinar to capture leads.
Promote your on-demand webinars.
Here’s how we continually promote our on-demand webinars:
- Include one on-demand webinar in our monthly “upcoming webinars” email blast
- Create a process for collecting and assigning leads
- Track the opportunities and revenue associated with on-demand webinars
Webinars have proven to be one of the most impactful demand generation tools that B2B marketers have in their arsenal. We’ve demonstrated that well-targeted, compelling content has a significant impact on all stages of the buyer’s journey.
-Warren Sukernek, Director of Marketing, Stackry
I hope after reading this guide you feel well armed with strategies for executing more impactful and results-driven webinars. There’s little doubt that webinars are beneficial to marketing programs because of the education and brand awareness they provide. What tends to be less clear is the connection between webinars and sales.
I’ve connected some of the dots here – the rest is up to you!
About the Author
James Ciccone has been producing events for over six years in IT, legal and industrial services industries. Working closely with subject matter experts, he creates valuable learning experiences that drive revenue. James has a passion for education and content marketing. He enjoys traveling, playing/teaching tennis and attempting art.
Feel free to connect with James on LinkedIn to discuss webinar strategy and event marketing.