When your marketing budget is microscopic, every product marketing tactic you run needs to be optimized, yet for some reason webinars are often executed on autopilot.  Don’t fall into the trap of running mediocre webinars.  Here are a few ideas to give your webinars a kick in the pants:

1/ Ask for questions ahead of time – You know who’s signed up to attend, you might as well ask them what they’d like to hear.

2/ Get a great speaker – Over and over again I see companies putting lousy speakers in their webinars because that person happens to be the in-house expert on the subject.  Delivery is really, really important.  Use the best presenter you’ve got and bring in some backup to help answer questions if you have to.

3/ Have a timely and provocative topic – The more you can tie your topic to things that are on people’s minds right now the better your attendance will be.  Don’t be afraid to pick challenging or provocative topics.

4/ Have a script, practice like crazy and do a test run – Unless your speaker is Anderson Cooper, don’t let him/her just get up there and wing it. (If your speaker is Anderson Cooper, please invite me to your webinar, I’d like to see that).

5/ Promote it through all of your channels – In addition to sending email to your lists, make sure you promote the webinar on your website, blog, Twitter, Facebook groups, newsletter, and any other customer-facing communications you’re running.

6/ Bribes work – Give-aways and contests work when it comes to getting folks to attend and I rarely run a webinar without one.  It can be something as simple as an e-book or early access to a whitepaper, even a card for a free coffee works.  I once got a great guest speaker for free by buying a set of his books to give to attendees (which I also got at a discount).  People like to get something in exchange for their time.

7/ Be more interesting than email – No matter what you are selling, when you’re doing a webinar you are competing with the entire iPhone app store.  Remember that just because people show up, doesn’t mean they are going to pay attention to you.  Be entertaining or be ignored.  Tell stories, be funny, use interesting visuals, do whatever it takes to keep people interested.  I know a presenter that always mentions names and companies from the registration list.  Nothing breaks you out of the multi-tasking fog like the sound of your own name.

8/ Keep it really short – I’m a fan of the 20 minute mini-webinar.  It’s easy for people to schedule into their day and attend and frankly, a lot of topics can be covered in 20 minutes if you get right to the meat of it quickly.  Most people are going to tune out after the first 10 minutes (another reason why I like the 20 minute format) so you might as well front-end load your presentation with the meaty stuff.

9/ Don’t be afraid to sell – Your topic should be interesting and you should teach people something but remember, you aren’t a University you’re there to SELL SOMETHING.

10/ Have a strong, measurable call to action – Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want the participants to do next – download a trial, sign up for something, register for an e-book or whitepaper, etc.  Contact us if you have any questions is NOT a call to action.

11/ Follow up right away – If someone took a half an hour out of their busy day to listen to you talk, there’s a reason for it.  Call them up and find out what that is.  They might not be a sales-ready lead yet, but even if they aren’t you should be trying to determine where in the marketing funnel they fit.

12/ Post a replay and invite the non-attendees – About half of the people that register for webinars don’t attend and the most common reason is that they had a last-minute conflict.  My experience is that you can get 20-30 percent of the no-shows to attend a replay if you invite them to one.

13/ Survey and improve – Survey the participants immediately after the webinar and ask them how you can do better.  Trust me, you can always improve.

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Photo credit: Leo Reynolds