How to build a webinar program for lead generation

Profiles on building Mar 13, 2020

By Ginny Tonkin, Technology Partnerships Manager @ Instapage

Instapage is a conversion automation platform that enables companies to easily build customized landing pages. Using tools like built-in analytics (heat maps and A/B test frameworks) and drag-and-drop landing page designs, companies can easily optimize their landing page conversion.

I joined the Product Marketing team at Instapage in April 2018 and built our webinar program for a year before moving on. At the time, our webinar program was limited to a weekly presentation for recently onboarded customers and occasional webinars for product launches. It was a great program, but we wanted to scale the operations to capture more leads and attract new prospects.

Our team believed that webinars could also become a powerful inbound conversion channel. I had some previous experience with radio and video, in addition to performance marketing. Over the next few months, I rebuilt our webinar program to focus on driving high-quality inbound traffic and database leads.

In the first year, we grew the average number of registrants by almost 300%, from around 200 registrants to where we were regularly getting over 800 registrants--and several booked over 1,000 registrants per session. We partnered with great brands like Google, Marketo, and HubSpot. While I’ve moved on from Instapage, building this webinar process taught me a lot. Here’s how we did it.

Step 1: Deciding on a format

When you run a webinar, you’re asking for a group of very busy people to give up their time. So you’d better have a format that makes it worth their while.

Our goal was to publish a new webinar every 2 to 3 weeks. So not only did we need interesting content, we needed a lot of it. In order to make our process more repeatable, we decided that each webinar would follow a similar 3-part format:

  1. A partner company gets a platform to discuss their thought leadership
  2. We discuss how that relates to Instapage and include our own thought leadership
  3. We wrap with a Q&A

Each webinar would run 45 minutes — long enough to go in depth on a topic, but short enough so it’d be easy to fit into viewers’ schedules.

This standardized format also allowed us to templatize our visual presentation. We would have 2-3 top topics that we could speak to, which worked well with our partners’ topics, as well. This cut down on having to reinvent the wheel every webinar.

One of our biggest strategic decisions was to start involving partner companies in a big way. Instapage works closely with advertisers like Google, Facebook, and Quora— when you click a Google ad, the landing page you see might be generated with Instapage. Incorporating a partner on a webinar introduces operational complexity: we’d need to align on topic, ensure agreement on talking points and presentations, and coordinate on production schedules.

However, it is more than worth your time for the following reasons:

  • Legitimacy — We knew that having good partners would elevate our brand. Those seeing our logo right next to Google would confer some of that brand recognition to our brand.
  • Reach — Each company has its own ad budget and its own customer lists. When running a joint webinar, partners typically share the list of leads generated.
  • Savings — Sharing your production costs means each partner gets twice the bang for their buck.
  • Business development — Running a webinar with another company gave us a way to create or deepen relationships.

After the first couple of webinars, we were able to turn our webinar production into a clear cut process. The variability from different partners made each webinar new and fresh. The templated, turnkey structure made the content easy to edit and evergreen. We recorded each webinar, and the recordings were used as sales collateral and on other Instapage properties.

Step 2: Choosing a tech stack

Let’s talk tech stack. We had our format, but we needed the right tech platforms to deliver it.

What happens before and after a webinar is just as important as the webinar itself. Before, you need to run marketing to make sure people know about it and attend. And since your ultimate goal is to convert customers, you need to follow up with customers after and continue them down the sales path.

Our customer management stack was built on Salesforce; this tied together the many tools we used both before and after each webinar.

To promote a webinar, we ran marketing on many different channels with a variety of tools:

  • Email marketing - Marketo
  • Paid display ads - Facebook, LinkedIn, and sometimes Twitter
  • Social media announcements - Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram

Of course, we captured leads via Instapage. :) For each webinar, we deployed beautifully-designed landing pages that talked about the topic and partner, and made it easy for people to sign-up. Leads we captured were enriched with Clearbit and MadKudu.

For the webinar itself, we turned to purpose-built SaaS software. There are a lot of great platforms out there. We started out using Livestorm; however, as we scaled, we ended up switching to ON24. The key features we liked about ON24 included reliability and the ability to automate things like pre-recorded webinars, and our weekly demo. Semi-live or semi-automated functionality can be really helpful, especially if you have repeatable content, such as a regular demo. ON24 definitely is enterprise software, so there are lots of features, but the setup process is lengthy and involved. It took some time to learn the ins and outs.

(Another platform we looked at, Demio, deserves an honorable mention. Demio is a great browser-based platform that’s easy for both the presenters and attendees to use. The learning curve is much lower than ON24 and is better-suited for smaller teams with less complex needs.)

Step 3: Running productions

Each webinar production began with outreach to a partner. I would give yourself at least two months ahead of your live webinar date, so you can A) ensure buy-in, and B) create and coordinate content. When getting down to brass tacks, you should give yourself six weeks to start coordinating content (including landing page, abstract, and topic) with your partner ahead of time.

Once a partner expressed interest, there were four main terms to discuss: lead sharing, the promotion plan, the content, and production.

Lead sharing, and acquiring interest, target leads is probably one of the main reasons a SaaS company builds a webinar program. It’s important to hammer out the details with your partner ahead of time if and how leads will be shared.

Since lead generation was important to us, we wanted to align on promotional plans — we would want to ensure both partners were playing an equal part to help drive registration. The most common way is through sending a promotional nurture to your database, often through a 3-touch email series.

Content was usually decided in a brainstorming session with both teams or partner leads. Typically, each company has a readymade type of thought leadership material they want to promote, and so you find a way that you can create a joint story, and you go from there. A good way to help navigate this conversation is by asking, “Which ICPs do we want to target?” An ICP is an Ideal Customer Profile. Often times you target your ICPs via different email segmentations.  These lists can be segmented based on interest, industry, stage in pipeline, previous touch points, and other signals. We decided on topic and partners based on which of our ICPs would be interested.

Finally, we would produce the webinar. Typically, it’s a good idea to have a technical rehearsal a week to a few days before your webinar to make sure guests are comfortable with the platform and that you’re both aligned on content. Presentations vary from guest to guest — sometimes folks are more comfortable giving a conversational, off the cuff talk, while others prefer an established talk track. Discuss beforehand what your guest prefers, so you know how to prepare. Often times, when you know your material well, you’ll be able to speak off the cuff.

After the webinar, we sent each attendee an email using Marketo to say “Thanks for coming,” and asked them to fill out a quick survey. We incentivized people by giving out a $20 prize to one lucky respondent. Some would argue that incentivizing feedback creates bias, but for us, it simply resulted in higher response rates and significantly more written feedback. This feedback truly helped me iterate and update our strategy.

Final thoughts

A consistent cadence of webinars helped to keep us top of mind and increased both registrations and attendance. On average including partner contributions we expected around 5,000 registrations and about 1,000 attendees. We also consistently hit a 20-30% attendance rate, which is a great average for webinars.

Along the way, we learned some important lessons:

It’s all about the campaign. While it matters to produce a high quality webinar, we judged our success by how many sign-ups, attendees, and leads we generated. At the end of the day, that’s where the ROI is. Spend a lot of energy and focus on the promotion and the registrations.

Deliver stellar presentations. A good webinar is great evergreen content. Whenever a sales rep encounters a prospect who’s facing a problem that you’ve addressed in a webinar, they can send them a recording. If you plan to do multiple webinars, make sure to present as if every time is the first time. Emote and add emotion in the way you talk about your topic. Don’t be afraid to show excitement about the subject material, even if it’s dry. Expressing your conviction that the subject is interesting and valuable will say a lot about your company.

Timelines and tools

Our timeline

  • Creating Content: Three weeks to create the content and rehearse it before the webinar. As mentioned above, we prebuilt some of the sections and used them as templates for each new webinar.
  • Finding partners: In some cases it took us months of relationship building to find partners. Always be looking for and talking to new partners who might want to work with you; it will be an ongoing process. Once we pitched them and discussed expectations, we began collaborating with partners about two months before the webinar. The sign-off between partners is frequently a “handshake” email and calendar invite rather than a signed contract.
  • Promoting a webinar: We sent first promotional emails three weeks before the webinar with a 3-part promotional email nurture. Post registration, it’s a good idea to send reminders, perhaps the day before and an hour before the webinar.

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