(For the past several weeks, my posts here have focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on marketing and on how marketing leaders should respond to the crisis. All fifty U.S. states have now begun the process of reopening their economies, and the job of marketing leaders is now to plan and execute marketing programs that will be effective during the recovery phase of the coronavirus saga. So, I'm returning to more "normal" B2B marketing topics beginning with this post. I'll deal with COVID-19 topics in future posts as developments warrant.)
Webinars have become an extremely popular marketing technique at many B2B companies. There is no reliable way to determine how many marketing webinars are conducted each year. ClickMeeting recently indicated that over 627,000 events were conducted on its webinar platform in 2019, but this appears to include all types of webinars, not just those used for marketing purposes.
While marketing webinars have been growing in popularity for the past several years, the COVID-19 pandemic is driving a dramatic increase in their use this year. ON24 recently reported that the number of webinars hosted on its webinar platform jumped by more than 330% in March. Virtually all in-person B2B conferences, trade shows, and other marketing events have been cancelled through the end of this year. So it's likely that 2020 will be a record-breaking year for webinars.
If you're new to webinars, or if you're looking for ways to improve your webinar marketing program, I recommend that you review four recently-published webinar "benchmark" reports:
- The 2020 ON24 Webinar Benchmark Report
- The Big Book of Webinar Stats by GoToWebinar. (Note: This report was published in 2019, but it is based on data from 2017.)
- The 2020 State of Webinars Report by ClickMeeting
- The 2019 BrightTALK Benchmarks report
These reports provide a wealth of information about webinar attributes and webinar marketing practices, including:
- The most popular days of the week and the best time (of day) for conducting live webinars
- How far in advance people tend to register for a live webinar
- The best days of the week to send promotional emails about an upcoming webinar
- The most common webinar lengths and the average viewing time for webinar attendees
- Registrant to attendee conversion ratios
- Use and popularity of on-demand viewing
Webinar Marketing Success is Getting Harder
While it's clear that webinars are a powerful marketing tool for many companies, it's also clear that webinar marketing success is becoming more elusive. A few years ago, simply offering webinars would enable a company to stand out from the crowd. But now, the "low hanging fruit" is mostly gone, and companies will need to devote more time, energy, and money to achieve above-average performance from their webinar marketing efforts.
Successful webinar marketing has become more challenging for three reasons:
- As more and more companies have started using webinars for marketing, the number of webinars available to potential buyers has increased exponentially, and so has the competition for buyer attention.
- As the benchmark reports show, we have developed a substantial body of knowledge about how to do webinar marketing effectively. But as more marketers adopt these "best practices," webinar marketing programs start to look alike, which makes differentiation more difficult.
- While some companies are still producing boring webinars, there's also a growing number of good webinars available in the marketplace, which allows potential buyers to be more choosy about the webinars they will attend.
Think TV for Better Webinars
To address these challenges, marketers need to apply a dose of "outside-the-box" thinking to webinars. For example, who says that a webinar has to be an audio presentation based on a slide deck. In a webinar earlier this year, Mark Bornstein, Vice President, Content Marketing at ON24, predicted that webinars will become more like TV shows.
They will make much more use of streaming video showing the moderator and speakers. Any graphics or slides will be shown along side the video of the speaker, or the webinar will switch from the speaker video to the appropriate graphic and then back to the speaker video - just like we see on TV news programs every day.
Webinars can be structured to mimic a newscast, or a Sunday morning interview show (e.g. "Meet the Press"), or an informal talk show. The objective is to have the webinar provide a TV-like viewing experience and make it pleasant and entertaining to watch, while also providing useful information and valuable insights.
Image courtesy of jules via Flickr CC.