If last year was all about companies learning to quickly adapt to the ‘digital first’ momentum and pivot to virtual events, this new year, will make a lot of organizations not only continue to rely heavily on webinars, but also to re-think their strategy to add virtual elements as an integral part of their marketing strategy. ‘Virtual by design’ is here to stay even when and if in-person events return in the future. Here are 9 things to keep top of mind.
The right platform: Choosing the right platform is key. Some platforms on the market are not suitable for all-branded, multi-media, multi-touch experiences. Your video conferencing software that you may already be using for meetings, may work in the short term, but will not make your virtual events stand out from the competitors. If this past year has seen a rapid shift to webinars, often in reactive and tactical way, this next year will make companies pivot to more sophisticated webinar platforms to allow their webinar programmes to evolve and expand. Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are webinar consultancies which could guide you in the process of selecting the right platform and manage the events for you if your in-house resources are scares. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Embrace video – a year ago, an audio over a PowerPoint presentation type of webinar, was referred to as a ‘’traditional’’ webinar. Few months into the digital first global shift, and video webinars have taken over. Using video is no-longer a nice-to-have, it’s now the expectation. If you haven’t made the switch, you need to seriously consider doing it soon. This will very much depend on the video culture maturity of your organisation as you are typically relying on cross functional mix of internal speakers, who may not be comfortable with using video. Tip: To make this work, make it easier for the presenters. Try pre-recording some elements, allow time for enough dry-runs and incentivise your speakers. Test, test, test.
Live Vs. pre-recorded? Think hybrid – Balance between fully live and fully pre-recorded events. However robust, webinar platforms depend on local bandwidth and remote speakers’ technology. This is even more true during a global pandemic when everyone works from home and travelling to the office for the big day is not an option. To mitigate risks of the live broadcast but still feel authentic, it is important to strike a balance between recorded and fully live content. Tip: Grade you speakers by cost and value. Which session you can’t afford to have go wrong at all cost? Record it. Most of your audience if asked, will prefer an uninterrupted presentation by the speaker, they have signed up to see, even if the presentation may not be live. These days, platforms allow for questions to be submitted via the chat during the sessions and so the experience of your audience will not suffer if some or all your webinar content is pre-recorded. Exactly the opposite, the result will be polished content which will leave a lasting impression and it will become a high value lead generator after the day of the broadcast.
Expand your reach – Do you still email the same old audience each time? Although email is typically one of the top registration drivers, don’t underestimate the power of your organic web traffic, communities, content syndication, social media and sales enablement. Tip: Add a new webinar KPI – number of new contacts in your database attributed to webinars.
Lead scoring – build-in your events into your lead scoring model. Good webinar platform measure participant engagement and ‘’score’’ it to help you identify hot leads. Take advantage of these metrics and add it to your lead score as not all attendees are equal. Tip: What to look out for – hand raisers; contacts who fit your demographic and firmographic profiling who ask multiple questions and download your resources during the webinar; returning webinar viewers. Keep an eye on your target list of accounts. Use polling and exit survey to identify prospects who may have a project in the next few months which could be a conversation starter for your sales team.
Automation – plan ahead to have those email workflows set up and scheduled in advance to free up time for last enhancements and promotion optimisation. Take full advantage of your martech to automate as much as possible. Tip: Think Send Time Optimisation, dynamic content triggers based on behaviour and engagement indicators, templated transactional emails.
Resourcefulness – gone are the days when a video broadcast with multiple speakers took a video production crew and an IT department lined up to support. These days, video webinars happen straight from home offices web cams. Use your existing technologies and in-house skills to pre-record sessions, make edits and add other creative elements of your events. Tip: Empower your team to learn new skills, use their hobbies or just purely try and test to keep the cost down, to allow you to focus on better content, provide value and free-up more budget for paid promotion.
The value of on-demand – one of the biggest advantages of virtual events is that unlike with in-person events, the content is available in most cases straight away for on-demand viewing, without the need of a very expensive and lengthy post event editing. Continue to promote your webinar after the broadcast, add translated subtitles, slice and dice the content into chapters, give the audience the opportunity to revisit your webinar on-demand and skip through the content to find the sections most relevant to them. Tip: Make the webinar on-demand easily discoverable organically, via the website, at a dedicated one-stop events’ section. It is often the case, that once the webinar has passed, the promotional assets are being replaced by the next upcoming event, and the priority quickly shifts into that next big thing. In-fact the past webinars are equally valuable for your demand generation activities and will continue to keep on giving if built right.
Accessibility – This virtual events’ momentum has made us aware of how much more accessible they are to viewers who normally would have been limited by the proximity of the event’s venue, the cost of travel, language, hearing and other impairments. This new feeling of inclusivity will be expected in the future when in-person events come back and I strongly believe that going forward all events will need to be virtual-first by design. Tip: Add instant translations, subtitles, include sign-language interpreter.
I have been an advocate for webinars for the last 8 years, having been involved in planning and managing multi-layered and multi-lingual webinar programmes (as part of the overall demand generation mix), and I am so pleased to see the recent webinar explosion take-off. Ultimately, it is now more important than ever to get it right and to ensure that your webinar programme stands out from the crowd.
About the author. Ilina Petkova has over 15 years’ experience working for several large organisations in the technology sector both in the UK and Spain. With extensive experience in marketing automation and campaign management, Ilina is currently building the customer engagement and acquisition vision at a major market player in the travel industry. She is passionate about demand generation and is one of the original #Webinerds.
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/ilina-petkova
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