Webinars have been around for a long time, especially in the corporate world. Even in blogging and online business circles, savvy marketers have been using live video or webinar software for many years. But from my perspective, it seems that in the past twelve months they’ve gained mainstream acceptance as a teaching and selling tool. I think it’s a good thing.
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
If your business is about teaching people something, it’s always a struggle to find a medium or platform that connects with your audience even over long distances. Unlike blog posts, emails, and even audio, there’s something about seeing someone's face that builds a connection. That’s why webinars are so effective — there’s an extra connection that doesn’t exist using other teaching methods.
If you’ve never heard of this strange “webinar” word, don’t worry, it’s simple: a webinar is live video training over the internet. That’s it!
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As Abby and I planned for the launch of our BookBoss course, we wanted to host a series of live training events (webinars) in conjunction with our course launch. It was just another tool in our launch plan toolbelt. As I started researching webinars at the beginning of this year, I came across two primary sources of learning so I want to make sure I give them credit.
The first is Mariah Coz. Abby teamed up with Mariah for a webinar with great results. If you want to learn about how to effectively use webinars as part of your marketing plan, you need to read her work and sign up for one of her webinars.
During my research phase, I also read and listened to everything webinar related I could find from Amy Porterfield. I want back through her blog posts and old podcasts episodes and tried to get as much info as I could. Hosting your first webinar is a daunting thing, but the information from Amy filled in a lot of gaps in my mind.
We used what we learned from those two ladies, added our own twists, and used webinars to generate over 400 course sales during our recent launch. It was our most successful launch to date, and I attribute a lot of the success to our use of webinars.We used webinars to generate over 400 course sales during our recent launch. This is a game changing strategy.Click To Tweet
What’s not to like about webinars? Take a look at some of these benefits…
- Webinars are the ultimate lead magnet. You can be a list building machine by using webinars, particularly joint venture (JV) webinars.
- Webinars help promote your brand.
- Webinars demonstrate your teaching style.
- Webinars help you connect with your audience on a personal level. (They feel like they know you)
- Hosting webinars for other people's audiences is a great way to connect with influencers in your niche and build a massive email list.
Sounds great, right? They are, but webinars aren’t without their challenges…
From a technical standpoint, webinars can be a nightmare. Fill a room with ten bloggers who use webinars regularly as a part of their business, and you’ll hear ten stories about webinar disasters. We had one of those disasters on our third webinar!
Live video as a technology just doesn’t seem to be on the level we would like it to be. More so than any other marketing channels, things always seem to go wrong with webinars.
Even if the technology works flawlessly, there is still so much to think about when hosting a webinar. There’s webinar registration, on-boarding, the webinar itself, follow-up emails, webinar replay, shopping cart integration, etc… But if you can make it through your first webinar, things get easier. Like most things, if done enough, webinars can become routine.
The struggle most people have when deciding to use webinars as part of their marketing strategy is not whether or not they are effective. They are amazingly effective and everyone knows this! The challenge is fitting all the pieces of imperfect technology together to pull off your first webinar.
In this post, I want to walk you through our entire webinar process. Hopefully, it will save you some research time and frustration. Please keep in mind that Abby and I have hosted maybe a grand total of a dozen webinars up to this point — that’s it! We are by no means experts.
Choosing a webinar platform
I don’t think the perfect webinar solution has yet to hit the market. We ultimately decided on Crowdcast which I’ll talk about in a minute but here some options to consider in your research:
For reasons of price, technology, or fit, I never seriously considered any of those options. Here are the options I did consider…
Google Hangouts On Air
This seems to be the most common webinar solution. The best thing about going this route is that it’s free!
The idea with Google Hangouts is that you embed the live video code on a web page. That could be a page on your WordPress blog or maybe even a dedicated landing page. Along with the video embed code, you can embed the code for live chat software like Chatango.
When pulled off correctly, the Google Hangouts On Air webinar solution is a great experience for both the presenter and audience. The video seems to be very reliable, and there are a lot of helpful tools with Google Hangouts.
We seriously considered the embedded Google Hangouts On Air option. I was planning on creating a dedicated webinar page on our site using Instapage, and embedding both the video and chat code.
For simplicity reasons and less possible failure points, I decided to use a different webinar platform...
I first learned about Crowdcast after watching a webinar from another blogger. The experience was great. The video was clear, the audio was clear, and the built in chat worked beautifully.
During my Crowdcast trial Abby and I did a few tests. Everything worked great. There is just so much less guesswork with Crowdcast.
After hearing a few horror stories from others having issues with Google Hangouts crashing their site and other technical issues, we decided to pay the not inexpensive monthly fee for Crowdcast.
Overall, we’re happy with our choice. It integrates with Zapier, so sending information back and forth between Crowdcast and my email marketing service is easy.
We did have one major issue with Crowdcast. On a day we had a webinar planned, Crowdcast let their site security certificate expire. Everyone trying to access the site that day were met with a security warning in their browser. Not good. Crowdcast worked hard to fix the issue, but our attendance rates that day were exceptionally low. Other than that day, we’ve had no technical issues with Crowdcast.
We may eventually start using Google Hangouts On Air, but I’m glad we started with Crowdcast. As webinar newbies, it made the whole experience much less daunting. If you are planning your first webinar, give Crowdcast a try. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you may want to consider Google Hangouts On Air.
Other webinar tools and services
Besides the technical aspect of hosting live video training, the other technical challenge with webinars is managing all the required emails.
We have a series of registration emails, registrant on-boarding emails, and follow-up emails. I can’t imagine managing all that with something like MailChimp or Aweber. For most people, a service like ConvertKit with email sequences and basic automation will be necessary.
Our primary email list is with ConvertKit, but we do have a smaller blogging/business segment of our list in Autopilot. I use Autopilot to manage our webinar emails as you’ll see in the examples below. I love Autopilot, but it’s too much and too complicated for most bloggers. Almost everything webinar related I did with Autopilot can be duplicated in ConvertKit.
If you’re serious about webinars you’re going to need something more than MailChimp, Aweber, or MadMimi. I like ConvertKit and Autopilot, but there are lots of good choices.
Related: The Best Email Marketing Services
I can’t live without Zapier. Most online business tools have multiple competitors all offering similar services. Zapier, however, has no equal. Before I sign up for any online service, one of the first things I do is check to make sure it integrates with Zapier.
Zapier worked flawlessly to connect Crowdcast with Autopilot. Why is this important? Well, if you’re sending emails to your list promoting webinar signups, it’s just common sense not to send emails to those who have already signed up. Any time we had a new webinar signup on Crowdcast, Zapier automatically send the name and email address to a specific list in Autopilot. Zapier works with ConvertKit as well.
Webinar landing pages
With Crowdcast, the webinar landing page is built into the service. When you create a new webinar with Crowdcast you’re given a link. You then send people to the unique link, and they register for the webinar. The nice thing is that this same link is used for driving registrations, watching the live event, and replay viewing.
There are two downsides of the Crowdcast webinar landing pages. The first is that customization is limited. You can upload a graphic and type out a description, but that’s about it. If you want to change colors and format you are stuck. For us, this wasn’t a big deal.
The biggest downside to Crowdcast webinar landing pages is that there is no great sharing function. Ideally, after someone registers for the event they should be re-directed to a page and asked to share the webinar on social media. LeadPages webinar templates do this well. Not so much with Crowdcast.
If you’re not using Crowdcast, you’ll need some other landing page service. We are Instapage customers and they have some webinar templates available. LeadPages also has great looking webinar landing pages.
Our Webinar Process
We use Google Docs to plan all of our webinars. Abby and I are long time Google Docs users, but when Abby did a joint webinar with Mariah Coz, we loved the way her team planned and organized the webinar with a Google Doc.
For each webinar we create a dedicated Google Doc where Abby and I can both work and plan simultaneously. If we are doing a joint venture webinar with someone else, we send them an invite to the Google Doc so they can join in the fun. This saves a lot of back and forth email time.
Here is some of the information we include in our webinar planning documents:
- Date and time of webinar (including various time zones)
- Webinar title brainstorming
- Webinar URL
- Bullet points for the webinar registration page
- Details about the offer or deal (if any)
- Planning related to webinar slides
- Planning related to social media images and sidebar images
- Checkout link for product offer
- List of questions to ask the audience
- Emails for registration, webinar onboarding, and follow up
- Live webinar communication
Number ten is an important one. Abby and I spend a lot of time writing out all of the webinar emails long before the event. Weeks in advance, actually. Sometimes I write the first draft and Abby reviews and edits. Sometimes Abby writes the first draft and I review and edit. The point is that we don’t write these emails spur of the moment in ConvertKit or Autopilot. The webinar emails are important, so we give them the time and attention they deserve, all within our webinar planning Google Doc.
We also use this planning doc for live webinar communication. I keep the document up on one of our laptops during the live event, and our assistant can communicate with us by typing into the document. If there’s a question or issue from the audience, she’ll type it directly into the Google Doc, and we know to glance over at the document periodically during the live event.
During the planning phase, Abby is busy making the slide deck for the webinar. We switch back and forth between showing our faces on the video and sharing our screen with the webinar slide deck. I think it breaks things up and makes the presentation more interesting. Abby makes the slides in Powerpoint, but the free Google Presentations works just as well.
The mistake I see most often with webinar slides is trying to pack too much information onto each slide, with the presenter just reading the information. Each slide should have minimal text just to pique interest. The presenter can then expand upon what’s written on the slide instead of just reading. This will make the presentation more interesting and effective for your audience.
If the webinar is related to a course or launch, make sure the branding, typography, and colors all match.
Driving webinar registrations
For us, driving webinar registrations and signups happens almost exclusively through email. Sure, we have social media images and blog sidebar images that link to our webinar landing page, but those methods only account for a small percentage of our signups.
Once the webinar registration emails are finalized in our Google Doc, it’s time to create a journey in Autopilot. Just to keep things organized, I named this particular journey “Apr 12, 2016 Webinar Registration”. Here’s what it looks like in Autopilot… spend a little time analyzing what is happening here.
You can see that we sent three registration emails in the example above. The first one is sent roughly five days before the event. I wouldn’t schedule the first one more than seven days out. That's just too far in advance for people to plan.
The second registration email is sent the day before the event, and we send a final registration email an hour or half-hour before the event.
You’ll notice on this automation journey that people who have already signed up and are on our “Apr 12, 2016 Webinar” list are excluded from receiving further registration emails. That makes for a good customer experience and prevents people form being bombarded with non-applicable emails.
This whole process can be duplicated in ConvertKit with sequences and automations. It won’t have this pretty visual journey, but it will certainly get the job done!
On-boarding webinar registrants
Getting traffic to your webinar signup page isn’t the end of the story! We’ve noticed that attendance rates for our webinars are typically half of the number of signups or less. A key to this webinar thing is properly on-boarding webinar registrants with a series of emails.
Here's one of our typical webinar on-boarding journeys…
After someone registers for a webinar on the Crowdcast landing page, their name and email address is automatically added to specific webinar list in Autopilot via Zapier. An email confirming their registration is immediately sent. The email contains the time of the webinar, a link to the live event, and an attached worksheet if applicable.
I also send reminder emails one day before the event, one hour before the event, and then five minutes before the event. With these reminder emails, it’s always a balance; not enough email reminders and people forget, too many reminders and people may become annoyed. For us, one confirmation email and three reminder emails seems to be a good balance.
In the image of our webinar on-boarding journey above, you may have noticed something a bit different on the top line. I use the webinar confirmation email as an opportunity to enroll signups in one of our free email courses.
In the example above, after Autopilot sends out the confirmation email, the system waits for that person to open the email. Once that happens, Autopilot checks the subscriber against of list of people who’ve taken our Build Your Launch List free email course. If they haven’t enrolled in the free course, Autopilot sends the subscriber en email explaining the free course and asking them to enroll.
What’s been really effective about this strategy is that the free email course email is sent immediately (if not already enrolled) after the webinar confirmation is opened. So the particular subscriber is already in their inbox going through email when they get a second email from us. For this particular webinar and this particular email, we had open rates for 83% for the second email. That’s unheard of! The reason this works is because of the timing.
Delivering the webinar
This is the fun (nerve wracking!) part of the process — delivering the live webinar. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up over the past dozen or so webinars…
- Practice. Before a webinar, Abby and print out the slide deck and then walk through the whole presentation together, jotting down notes that will be helpful to us. We don’t treat it like memorizing a script, but it’s important to be familiar with the flow of the presentation. Don’t go into a webinar cold unless you’ve delivered the same presentation before!
- Keep the intro short. We like to chat for a minute or two, give a two or three minute introduction to who who we are, what the webinar is about, and then we just get started! I think people get antsy waiting around for the meat of the material.
- Use a slide deck. Attractive slides and good visuals help hold the attention of your audience. It’s better to have more slides and move through them quickly than less slides packed with info that takes awhile to get through.
- Don’t read from your slide deck. Slides should spark curiosity and highlight a single point. It’s not a good audience experience to have a presenter read straight through their slides.
- Interact with the audience. It’s helpful to mix audience questions into your presentation. People enjoy sharing their experiences and also reading the experiences of others in the chat. In a typical webinar, Abby may ask the audience 3-5 questions where they can share their response in the chat.
- Provide a worksheet. The more you can encourage audience participation, the better. For a few of our webinars, Abby has created a fill in the blank worksheet that corresponded to the training material. We sent out the worksheet with the registration email. We were amazed at how many people print the worksheet and follow along by filling in the blanks. I’ve also seen other bloggers encourage participants to share their notes or worksheets on social media.
- Keep your eye on the clock. With webinars, the tendency is to make them way too long. If you didn’t plan your time well, you may need to speed things up near the end of the training. If Abby and I are presenting an offer to the audience, we always try to start that process at the 45 minute mark.
- Save some time for a question and answer session. In Crowdcast, there’s a section of the live webinar page where students can submit questions and then upvote relevant questions. Make sure to save time after you make your pitch/offer to answer the audience members' questions. They’ll appreciate it, and it’s fun to interact with your audience this way.
- Make your offer clear. Sometimes the offers presented on webinars are confusing to understand — five things are bundled together and it’s time sensitive and the audience just isn’t sure what they are getting. It’s always better to go simple and clear rather than complicated.
- Repeat your offer. We like to present our offer at the 45 minute mark, spend some time answering questions, and then repeat our offer again. Maybe someone was out of the room the first time and they need to hear the offer the again.
- Don’t use fake urgency. I don’t like it when I’m on a webinar and the presenter is asking me to make a decision in 10 minutes or the offer disappears. What if I want to think about it? What if I want to ask my spouse about it? I hate that fake urgency! Because I don’t like it when people do that to me, I don’t want to do that other people. It’s ok to have an exclusive deal for webinar attendees, but I think the right thing to do is to keep the offer open even during the replay period. Will you lose sales because of this? Yes, but it’s still worth it.
- Be relatable. Share stories, smile, laugh, have a good time, and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you mess up use it as an opportunity to make fun of yourself. It’ll help your audience relate to you better. No one wants to listen to a robot with no personality.
Again, Abby and I are not webinar experts, but we have learned a thing or two over the last few months. I hope those tips for effectively delivering a live webinar are helpful.
After a webinar is complete, we send a series of follow-up emails. Many times, a person may not have been available during the live event but would still like to watch the training. Follow-up emails can encourage them to watch the replay.
Take a look at one of our webinar follow-up automation sequences below…
We typically make our webinar replays available for 48 hours after the event has concluded. During that time we send an email a few hours after the webinar, 24 hours after the webinar, and four hours before we take down the replay.
When offering a product during a webinar, we’ve found that we get as many sales during the replay period as we do during the live webinar… sometimes more. Don't miss an opportunity with replays!
You’ll notice in the example above we send the first webinar follow-up email to everyone who registered. We just like people to know that the replay is available. For the second and third email in the days that follow, we make sure not to send the emails to those who have already purchased the product or signed up for the offer. You can see those exclusions in the journey above.
Webinars as a part of our business moving forward
There you have it! That’s our entire webinar process! Hopefully this post encourages you to give webinars a chance and makes them seem a bit less daunting. They’re fun, effective, and can make a difference in your business.
During the past few months Abby and I delivered a lot of solo webinars around the launch of our new course, BookBoss. Product launches and webinars just go together so well. We for sure will use them extensively for future launches.
We’re also pursuing a number of different JV (joint venture) webinar opportunities, some promoting one of our courses or eBooks and others promoting another blogger's product. JV webinars deserve their own post, but we’re excited about the list building opportunities that JV webinars offer and will definitely be incorporating them into our strategy more and more as time goes on.
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This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.