*Hey there, George here. I manage a lot of the content at DGMG and Dave has me kick in a blog every now and again. This topic is well in my wheelhouse, so I thought I’d put out some thoughts on the matter.
So you’ve decided to start a webinar program. Congratulations!
Webinars are a great way to drive top of funnel leads that you can nurture into customers over time. I would know. I spent the better part of my 2 years at Drift running their entire webinar program, soup to nuts. And while there were MANY growing pains at the beginning, (I was like 3 months out of college, cut me some slack), eventually the channel grew into a well-oiled, steady lead machine.
But be warned — the webinar game is not for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of planning, energy, and a surprisingly large amount of detail for what ultimately is going to be just a 30-min to 1 hour presentation.
That’s why a proper process is necessary. If you can get your webinar program down to a science, with each step mapped out so clearly that you can literally do it in your sleep, (I used to have some weird stress dreams), then the leads will flow and your work life will be a breeze.
So I’ve put together for you, a high level view of the exact process I used for every webinar I ever ran at Drift. For the sake of your time, I’m breaking the blog down into pre and post webinar procedures, this blog obviously covering the former. The post-webinar process will be available on Friday, so check back in here then. I don’t expect you to copy every little thing I lay out below. But rather, use this blog as a guide to help you start running webinars or improve your existing webinar program. Let’s go.
Step 1: Planning
The webinar process starts ~three months before your webinar actually goes live.
The main challenge you’ll encounter when you’re running a fairly robust webinar program is that there are multiple webinars at different stages of development that you have to manage on a daily basis. You might be working on reminder emails for a webinar the next day, while simultaneously building out the landing page for a webinar that’s a month out. It can be overwhelming.
That’s why you need to have a clear plan for the entire quarter that is decided and approved at least two months before that quarter begins. This means mapping out a webinar calendar, securing partners (if necessary), agreeing on topics, lead share, division of labor, etc. These are all details that need to be managed well in advance so you can spend the time leading up to the webinar promoting and creating great content.
Quality over quantity
Your webinar process is unique to you. A ton of your webinar output is determined by your goals, how much emphasis is placed on webinars as a lead channel at your company, and team size. If you have a 3-person marketing team, you probably don’t want to run 6 webinars a month. Hell, if you have an 80-person marketing team, you don’t want to run 6 webinars a month.
But consider your unique situation when deciding how many webinars you’ll run/month. At Drift, I ran 4-5 programs every month because there was a heavy burden placed on the webinar channel as a lead driver. For most companies, especially ones just dipping their toes into the webinar waters, I would recommend running 1-2 campaigns a month. That way you can really focus in on those couple programs and build them up as big events that drive the same amount of traffic as 4 smaller webinars.
Matching Topics to Marketing Campaigns
This is really what determines the makeup of your webinar calendar. What marketing campaigns are you running in the next quarter?
For this first step, consult with your marketing leaders to get a sense of the high level marketing themes you want to cover. If your company is planning on pushing their ABM solution the next quarter, it makes sense that you base a lot of your webinars around ABM thought leadership. That way the webinars are working towards your company goals. If you host a webinar about the top 10 NBA teams of the 80’s, admittedly I would attend, but I’m not going to consider buying from you afterwards.
Ok great, you’ve mapped out your webinar topics for the quarter. You have 6 webinar programs you feel really good about for the quarter. Now you need to find partners. Webinar partners are other companies that you reach out to about co-presenting the webinar content. They provide a speaker to match your own, do half of the work on the presentation, and agree to help drive leads in exchange for a lead share.
If you want to run the webinars solo, all the power to you — skip the rest of this section.
But I highly recommend finding a partner for at least 1 webinar a month because they:
- Take away some of the burden of promotion
- Drive net new leads from outside your database
When choosing partners, obviously you don’t want to be splitting leads with a competitor. But there are plenty of companies in your general space (B2B tech for example) that target the same audience as you, but offer a completely different service. That way you’re both driving leads for your respective ICP’s but aren’t stepping on each other’s toes.
It helps to choose partners who are customers or closely associated with your business for the sole reason that you have contacts there and a rapport with their brand.
Once you have your ideal list of partners, put together a quick co-marketing proposal in a Google doc and send it over to your point of contact at the other company. This doc should include every high level detail they need before committing to co-host. This includes:
- Title of the webinar
- Abstract i.e. the 2-3 short paragraph description of the webinar content with 3 key learnings the viewers will gain from the webinar
- Lead share agreement (i.e. We each agree to drive at least 150 registrations)
- If partner reaches their lead goal, offer them the entire lead list
- If partner misses the goal, offer to match the number of leads they did drive with leads you drove.
- Promotional commitment – “we’ll each send 3 emails and 6 social posts promoting the webinar”
- Clear breakdown of responsibilities – “we make the landing page and host the live webinar, you build out half of the presentation”
Once the partners are committed and the topic/abstract have been agreed to, IMMEDIATELY send out calendar holds to all parties involved for a planning call (~month before the webinar), a dry run (~week before the webinar), and the live recording (~day of the webinar).
You don’t want any confusion or last minute scrambling. The partnership agreement and calendar holds ensure everyone knows their responsibilities and time commitments.
Step 2: Tech & Tracking
The calendar is mapped out for the quarter, partners have been confirmed, and you’re ready to get the webinars up and start driving leads. Awesome. Now you’re not going to love this part, but…you’re going to need a LOT of technology to make that happen.
Here’s essentially what you’re looking at:
Project Management Platform – To put your mind at ease
Like I said, webinars are a complicated beast. I’m going super high level here and I’m at 1400 words right now. It’s essential that you have some sort of organizational tool to make sure everyone on your internal team understands their responsibilities as it pertains to each webinar.
As you can see in the image above, these platforms allow you to map out each step of an individual webinar and tag in key stakeholders with due dates on deliverables needed for that webinar. For example, I used to tag our graphics team every time I added a new webinar onto our master calendar in Asana, so they knew to build a graphic for the webinar by a certain date.
It takes a lot of the burden off your mind to know that certain things are being done without you have to remember every detail of every webinar at every moment.
Video Platform – So the webinar is recorded
Have to host the webinar somewhere right? This one is non-negotiable for obvious reasons. I recommend using a platform you’re familiar with like Zoom. You just need to add an upgrade to your plan to include webinar hosting.
Zoom is super simple to operate for webinars. A couple clicks and you have a webinar ready to go live on a date and time of your choosing that will be automatically recorded and saved to your Zoom account for future use. Plus everyone has Zoom, so there’s no issue getting people into the webinar.
If you’re brand new to webinars, I might recommend a more webinar-specific platform like GoToWebinar or ON24 as they can take a lot of the logistics off your plate. But if you know your way around a webinar, then Zoom is my pick.
Virtual Calendar – So your guests don’t forget
This isn’t 100% necessary, especially if you’re able to send out reminder links through another platform, but I found it helpful to have an AddEvent account. I could plug in a webinar with the date, title, description, Zoom link, etc. and send the link the site generates in my confirmation email to guests who sign up for a webinar. The link allows them to add the webinar to their calendars immediately so they don’t forget that it’s coming up.
Website – For all your landing page and registration needs
So assuming you’re the one hosting the webinar, you need to build out a landing page to capture registrations. Again, you could use a webinar platform for this, but in my opinion it’s more personalized if the page is hosted right on your site.
You can build out the page using whatever platform your company website is hosted on. In my case at Drift, that was WordPress. Each landing page followed the same basic template:
You’ll want to add either a registration form or chatbot (if that’s your style) to allow prospects to register and capture any data you deem necessary for your sales team. Choose the data fields that matter for your business.
Data tracking – So you know who did what
Ok, people are registering on your shiny new landing page. Now where is all that info going? You’ll want to work with your ops team, or the closest thing to it, to set up an integration between your registration form/chatbot and the platform you use to track data. As prospects register, they should be added into your data platform in real time with the activity noted.
This process varies widely for each company, so I can’t go into too much detail here. But make sure for each webinar, you have a specific campaign built out in Salesforce or whatever platform you use to track lead activity. In that campaign, you’ll want to include the title of the webinar, a brief description of the content, and any other information you think is helpful to your sales team.
Remember, the point of the webinar is to get leads for sales so enable them as much as you can. They need to know what the content of the webinar was, as it shapes their outreach.
Marketing Automation Platform – Gotta send some emails
Finally, use your email or marketing automation platform to send out the confirmation email once a prospect registers. I used three separate platforms in my time at Drift and found them all perfectly capable of automating basic tasks like confirmations.
Your standard confirmation email should look something like this and trigger automatically upon registration:
Super basic, not overly fancy or stylized. Just include the basic info (date, title, etc), provide the necessary links, and add a little pep. Easy.
Step 3: Promotion
Finally, my favorite part. All the boring stuff is out of the way. Your calendar is full, your landing page is live, you’ve set up your automations, now it’s time to get people to the webinar.
There’s a bunch of channels you can leverage for webinar promotion. The one I’ve found to be most successful is unequivocally email. The key to driving webinar registration via email is specific targeting. If you spray and pray on your webinar emails, you’re going to get a lot of unsubscribes and your IP will tank. But if you focus your emails on the right audience, you’ll find both the engagement and registration rates will be much higher.
For instance, if I’m hosting a webinar on ABM, I want to filter my targeting to only marketers, manager+ titles (decision makers), and add in anyone who attended my past webinars on ABM or similar topics. You get a steady stream of repeat webinar goers that way, and build your marketable audience.
Now for the really fun stuff — the emails themselves. There’s a few different tactics you can use when sending these emails. Here are the tactics, and examples of each, from my own webinar promotion days:
The Subject Line Story
So this type of email is all about setting up a narrative with the subject line. You see that line: “3,096 miles for a webinar sync,” and you’re immediately intrigued. Even if you have no interest in webinars, you might click to see what that means.
Then you get into the email and all of a sudden there’s this real story of a webinar host who lives across the country, but took the time to meet in person in our office while she was in town, to go over the webinar details. That makes you think, “wow, this is going to be a serious webinar…maybe I should check it out.” Set the stage in the subject line and keep them hooked through the body down to the CTA.
The Novelty Email
Don’t become overly reliant on these because it gets corny if you do it too often. But if inspiration strikes, a novelty email like this can be a really fun way to engage a prospect. It’s a deviation from the normal sales-y stuff that usually pollutes their inbox, and it’s a great social play. Marketers see an email like this and want to post it on social as an example of fun marketing outreach. Now you’re getting views and interest from people outside of your email list.
The Proof Play
Proof, proof, proof. Good in any marketing content, great in webinar invites. The subject line is intriguing and the data immediately establishes credibility. $425 million in sales? These guys must know what they’re doing. I want to hear what tips they have to offer.
Straightforward (But Fun)
Super simple, real, and fun email. That was an actual Slack convo I had with Cody. The email covers the basic content of the webinar, while downplaying the overt marketing element of the message. There’s a great human element at play here as well. These are real people, not just marketing robots. It’s a fun email that still provides value.
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Happy 4th! Shoutout America.