Why should anyone trust you? That’s the first (and often toughest) question independent business people have to ask themselves. I believe webinar marketing can be a huge part of the answer.
Webinars are online workshops or lessons that have twin objectives: a learning outcome for attendees, and a marketing or sales outcome for your business. Webinar marketing is all about hosting online workshops to connect with attendees in order to promote your business. In essence, a webinar platform is a digital classroom—optimized to leverage great lessons into business growth.
Whatever you sell, your unique experience and expertise are the heart of your business. Those things are the key to your credibility and authority. There’s no better way to demonstrate your authority than by harnessing your own knowledge to give consumers real, tangible value. And what’s more valuable than a great lesson?
The true value of any marketing asset is what it can teach your audience. We write “How to” blog posts, like this one. We film tutorials on YouTube. We offer tips on social media. These are all lessons. But the most conversion-optimized lesson of all is a good webinar, because webinars are more interactive, intimate, and impactful.
That’s why, after years of trying to find my niche as an entrepreneur, I eventually ended up in the webinar business. I think they’re the most efficient way to earn real, conversion-driving trust, at scale. To paraphrase an old saying, if you sell someone a fish, you feed them (and yourself) for a day. But if you teach someone to fish, you feed them for a lifetime—and they’ll buy all their rods, bait, and tackle from you!
How webinars can earn more trust than other content
Webinars create more consumer trust than other marketing types or channels because of two main factors: applicability and intimacy.
Webinars are more than just “content.” Since they’re interactive, (often live) lessons, attendees are more likely to come away with something they’ll apply—much more likely than if they had skimmed a blog post or watched a simple video.
A webinar is proof that you can fix something.
A great blog post or video may demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about, but the effect of actually giving someone a “win” is far more powerful. Think of how much you trusted your favorite teachers growing up. Would you buy something from them, if they presented it as a solution to your problem?
Webinars demonstrate that you can provide solutions, not just expertise.
Video marketing is growing in importance precisely because it’s a more efficient way to show people how to…whatever. Webinars are the next step in that marketing evolution, because you’re actually there, in the case of live webinars (more on pre-recorded webinars in a bit).
There’s a huge difference between demonstrating expertise, and actually providing an outcome.
Consumers are likely to buy when they think to themselves, “That person knows what they’re talking about.” But consumers are even more likely to buy when they think, “I know what I’m doing now, thanks to them.”
When you give regular, valuable lessons that people can actually apply, it creates a deep level of trust. To build on that trust at business scale, you simply need to teach more people.
That’s where webinars are ideal. You can reach and teach hundreds or thousands at a time.
Give. Teach. And let consumers decide for themselves that you’re the one to buy from.
People follow, trust, and ultimately buy from people they feel like they know on a personal level.
If you read someone’s blog regularly, see them on Instagram every day, or watch hours of their video content, it starts to feel less like simple content consumption. It starts to feel like a relationship. Now multiply that feeling by the increase in personal interaction a webinar provides, and you’ll have some idea of how powerful webinars can be.
I feel like I know my favorite podcast hosts and writers—even though I’ve never met them. But to take part in a live workshop, to chat and have my questions answered, even to BS with them a little… that’s as close to “knowing” the person behind the business as I can get.
As homo sapiens, we love to convince ourselves that we make decisions logically, and choose things based on objective data. But over and over again, science has disproved this.
I’m not suggesting you should manipulate your audience by schmoozing them into a purchase. Getting to “know” you on a webinar breaks down walls, and lets them see what you really have to offer.
Then, they’ll make their own decision to trust you.
Lead generation with webinar marketing
The first way to boost your brand with webinars is to use them as lead magnets.
Create a valuable, short (30-60 minutes) lesson that addresses a particular aspect of your target audience’s pain points. Make it free (more on paid webinars later). Our users run lessons on everything from how to use a certain software, to meditation, to personal finance, for example.
That webinar is now your email capture.
As you promote the webinar via your website and the usual content marketing channels (blog, social media, YouTube, etc), it’s a scroll-stopper. It’s the promise of empowerment, because it’s a lesson.
You’re asking for an email address in exchange for a new ability. Sign me up!
The best part? As lead generation goes, it doesn’t even matter if your registrants attend the webinar. You have the email address—something that’s harder and harder to get a hold of these days.
Automation can be very, very useful at this lead-generating stage.
By creating a powerful automated webinar registrants can “attend” when it’s convenient for them, you can vastly increase email captures.
An important note, though: Call them what you will—pre-recorded, evergreen, whatever—but understand that these are webinars created for automation. They are not replays of old live webinars, or “simulated” live webinars (in other words, fake live webinars).
In other words, be honest. Remember that you’re trying to build trust.
As for selling on automated webinars…it depends.
Some people include sales offers (which on webinar platforms is a specific tool that makes the purchase seamless and easy). That’s fine, but sales conversions are always lower on automated webinars than live, because of the lack of real-time interaction.
For that reason, I think the best use of automated webinars is to bring people to your next live webinar, and sell from there.
Think of automation as closer to the top of the funnel, and you’ll get the most out of it.
Webinar leads = more qualified leads
The email contacts you get from webinars are often warmer and more qualified than those from other sources, because webinar registrants want to learn something from you.
Registrants—regardless of actual attendance—are more likely to engage with your emails. A good webinar platform includes tools to segment your contacts into:
- Registrants: People who signed up for your webinar but didn’t attend
- Attendees: People who actually showed up
- Attendees who stayed for all or most of the webinar
- Attendees who clicked on your offer or CTA
Applying this information to your email marketing post-webinar supercharges your ability to get the right message to the right people—and move them down the funnel.
Broadly, you can take the following steps:
- Encourage non-attendee registrants to watch the replay. A significant portion of them, statistically, will do so, and click your offer.
- Encourage attendees to take advantage of the webinar’s special offer, which can remain available to them for a designated period.
- Invite attendees who consumed the whole webinar to another webinar
- Send modified offers to attendees who clicked, but didn’t become customers.
When you segment webinar attendees, you identify the people who learned something from you, trust you, and are open to whatever you have to say next.
That’s why you don’t have to be pushy and salesy on webinars; you can follow up with email campaigns, confident they’ll actually open and take action.
When you acquire an email contact via webinar, just focus on giving the value—the relationship will grow, and the conversions will follow.
One of our biggest discoveries from analyzing WebinarNinja’s data was this: some of our most active, longest-term customers with the highest CLTV (Customer LifeTime Value) only became customers after attending 5, 6, or more webinars with us.
The slow build was worth it. The value-giving paid off.
Trust and sales
The details of how to sell during a webinar are a whole ’nother blog post, but in short, the key to doing so is to leverage the trust.
That’s why we always recommend that any webinar where you sell your product should fall into one of two categories:
1. A valuable lesson that includes a sales offer:
Be candid about the offer up front, and completely separate it from the lesson.
We always start our webinars with a little “table of contents,” in which we make it clear that yes, towards the end of this webinar, we will try to sell you something. But you don’t have to worry about that until after we’ve provided the valuable lesson you came for.
Never, ever ambush people with a sales pitch when they’ve come for something else. Doing so immediately squanders the trust that creates customers.
2. A dedicated sales webinar:
For leads that are warm enough, there’s nothing wrong with hosting a webinar that’s totally devoted to your product or service—again, as long as you’re up front about it.
We regularly host live walk-throughs of our platform, with Q&A, and make no secret of the fact that the whole thing is a “lesson” on our product.
For these webinars, the title is always some version of “How WebinarNinja Works” or “Is WebinarNinja Right For You?” The people who sign up for it genuinely want a look at the product—often because we’ve earned that closer look by teaching them other things along the way.
What do these two kinds of webinars have in common? Honesty. You’re stating from the outset what to expect, including a sales offer.
With your cards on the table this way, you can proceed to make the case for the value of your product without making anyone feel duped.
The webinar-based funnel: a suggested webinar marketing strategy
First, there’s not a single “right” way to use webinars as part of your marketing strategy (there are lots of wrong ways, but that’s another post).
Different users adapt webinars to their strengths, preferences, and audiences. But consider the following to be a solid outline for getting started. Then, modify it as you like.
Step 1: Live open Q&A webinar
This is the easiest way to host your first webinar.
Don’t worry about putting together a presentation or agonizing over the topic. Just host a live “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) webinar and promote it through your usual content marketing channels.
This is your audience’s chance to chat with an expert in [whatever you’re an expert in], asking whatever they want. Very enticing!
It’s a great introduction to your audience, a great way to get your first webinar under your belt, and a great way to gather data on what your next webinars should focus on.
Email follow up: Invitations to your next automated and live webinar workshops.
Step 2: Lead-generating automated webinar
As described above, create a helpful lesson on some aspect of your target audience’s pain points, and package it into an automated webinar.
The beauty of automated webinars is that you can make them perfect, since you’re able to edit. So put the effort in: create some cool multimedia. Include a little content bonus (a downloadable infographic, for example), shoot multiple takes until you get the right ones, and otherwise take the time to get it right—because you’re going to reach the widest possible audience.
Make the webinar “On Demand,” ie. let registrants watch it whenever they want.
This will ensure maximum registration and attendance, because it’s completely at the audience’s convenience. Include polls and questions in order to gather data about how you can best help registrants. Use that data to inform topics for future webinars.
Include a Call to Action in this webinar to register for your next live webinar.
Email follow up: Reiterate the invitation to your upcoming live event, for those who didn’t sign up.
Step 3: Live educational webinar workshops
Host regular live webinars, where you teach yet another valuable lesson, only more in-depth and (crucially) with live audience interaction. Decide the topic based on everything you’ve learned about your audience from the automated and Q&A webinars. Include time for Q&A here as well.
Include a sales offer (remember to announce that in the beginning). Say hello to your new customers.
Email follow up: Reiterate your sales offer for non-buyers.
Step 4: Client-only live webinar
Host regular live “onboarding” webinars where you teach your new customers how to get the most out of your product or service. This is key to stabilizing your business, spreading the word of mouth that drives growth, and creating long-term revenue that’s reliable for years to come.
This part is overlooked way too often. In fact, we’ll dig further into this later in the post.
Optional: Paid webinars
If your lesson itself is the product, there’s always the option of paid webinars.
Most often, these lessons are much more in-depth and longer than your average 60 to 90 minute webinar. So we recommend breaking it up into a series. In essence, a series webinar is much like a course, comprehensive and detailed enough to be worth paying for.
So many small businesses commit all their time, money, and resources to getting new customers, only to forget about them after the sale.
One of the most important ways webinars can boost your authority and credibility is by creating customer advocates for your business. Regular access to you, your expertise, and a somewhat behind-the-scenes look at the company should be part of the value of every purchase.
This works wonders in reducing churn, or the rate at which you lose existing customers.
Keeping the churn low is just as important as keeping acquisition high, and yet so few business owners put the same effort into it. Webinars are a relatively easy solution to this.
You spent however long teaching, helping, and making the promise that your product or service was the best solution. If you don’t follow up and follow through, you risk losing everything you worked for.
Post-purchase webinars have 3 major effects:
1. Customers become committed to holding up their end
…and putting the necessary effort into using your product.
Nothing is worse than when customers don’t make their own effort, then blame the product for their lack of results. We’ve all experienced that.
But if you show up for your customers, they’re more likely to show up for themselves. Anyone can buy something. But taking ownership of what they do with it may require a nudge.
2. They create social proof
Word of mouth spreads about your personal trustworthiness, in addition to the value of your product.
Customers become evangelists, which are far more powerful and effective sales people than anyone you can hire, especially given today’s largely social-proof-based market.
3. You learn how to improve the product
If you’re not soliciting regular feedback from customers, you’re iterating blind. If your product/service is the same now as it was 5 years ago, or the same 5 years from now as it is currently, you’re not evolving. Which means you’re dying.
But the more customers you have offering input, the better guided your next iteration will be, and the closer to perfect your product or service will become over time.
Not only that, but when customers feel like they played a part in improving a product, they’re intensely invested in its success.
Those who don’t listen to their customers will lose them.
What better way to have those conversations than a live webinar that’s just for customers? It feels exclusive, it’s relaxed, and it takes you to the next level of honesty, intimacy, and trust. It seeds the growth of your future audience by serving your current one.
Webinar marketing for the win
Webinars are a wonderful tool with endless possibilities. To this day, I’m blown away by the creative ways our users apply webinars to their businesses, ways I never even thought of myself.
But no matter how people utilize these intimate, far-reaching lessons, one thing is always the same: webinars build trust, and trust drives growth.
About the author
Omar Zenhom is co-founder and CEO of WebinarNinja, host of The $100 MBA Show podcast, and Wharton School of Business dropout. With a lesson-based model of marketing and sales, Omar helps other entrepreneurs and small business founders teach and learn their way to independent success.