Why Your Webinar Attendance Is Low

The anticipation leading up to a webinar can be stressful. Logistically, there’s a lot of moving parts, from your pre-promotion to setting up the technology platform, and collaboration needed with internal and/or external thought leaders.

There’s a big spotlight on marketing to pull off a seamless event. If something goes awry, there’s very visible egg on our faces.

But in my experience, attendance can be the biggest knot. It sits in your stomach as travel into work that day. The first inquiry by leadership post-webinar will be requesting the total audience.

It’s middle school math to calculate ROI at that point. And if attendance is low, questions surface about “best use of resources,” especially if the speaker was a senior leader or had a high fee.

Yet, the value to the brand in retaining a single customer’s attention for the length of a webinar is meaningful, let alone a group, regardless of size. Compare it to your average time-on-site and the number of resources devoted to that beast.

I understand we aren’t comparing apples to apples, but my point is low webinar attendance gets a bad rap. Let’s call a spade, a spade –attendance is a shallow metric used in the determination of the effectiveness of marketing –can you pull a crowd or not?

Let me share some learnings to help lift those numbers:

Creating Habits:

A primary pitfall of webinars is in its use. It is far too common that we do one-offs, tied to a campaign or single piece of content.

We build it, and we expect people to come. But it’s hard to change individuals’ habits or invest any great length of time. The “sign-up” in itself requires it, let alone actually attending. Consider taking a cue from broadcasting –appointment listening/watching.

Using this vehicle as a reoccurring event (vs. standalone) sways constancy with an audience. Your customer can start anticipating the event, having a greater influence on their time and attention.

This also opens the possibility of it turning into a habit, gaining a user base and the probability of that increasing over time (if you are delivering good content). This is a gradual build but proven effective.

Optimal Topics and Speakers:

Using overly broad topics, especially if it’s tied to an isolated webinar, is just asking to for low attendance and potentially losing brand sentiment. The focus needs to be timely and relevant. What’s the hook for the devotion of time and does it address an immediate need?

If the topic isn’t hot, then the speaker needs to be the draw –an industry expert, whether that be internally or externally. Providing direct access to a VIP expert can be appealing, particularly if tied to a Q/A. (Note: an unbiased perspective is key in determining if the speaker has validity in the category.)

An additional risk in broad topics is having a response that the event could have been delivered in a more appropriate experience –a format accessible when needed. If this is an impression, there’s a low probability that a user(s) will attend future webinars. Plus, the overall hit to brand sentiment.

Partnering with Media:

You increase the potential of attendance by partnering with a media outlet and simplifies logistics. They can provide:

Authority: A news source has clout to leverage
Reach: Their database more is likely larger than your CRM
Credit: Industry media may have an expedited process for CE credit approval (if applicable)
Technology: Use of their webinar platform reduces marketing operation needs

If you are having low attendance and are doing an individual or small series of webinars, I’d recommend tapping into a media source. The benefits outweigh the cost.

Planning Post Communications:

When focused on live attendance, the full value of this content is undervalued. We live in an on-demand world.

The post communication strategy is equally as important as the invitation plan. It goes without saying, the replay of the webinar needs to be publicly posted.

To those who did sign-up but didn’t attend. The initial sign-up signifies interest, yet there are countless factors and priorities that could pull a user from attending live. Personalize a communication for this audience and send them the replay.

Also, consider retargeting customers who didn’t open an initiation or opened but didn’t sign-up. There are limitless considerations in either situation and the assumption that they just weren’t interested, is a fallacy. Hit them again with emails containing the replay. (Note: refrain from sending a single email to all groups.)

With the live and on-demand numbers, you have a more sound picture in determining ROI.

The low attendance of a webinar should not be the judge and jury on the effectiveness of a marketing. To retain seconds of attention can be a tall glass, let alone extended periods of time.

A webinar is a tool to accelerate brand health and provides an opportunity for lead generation or nurturing. Using these strategies can have a greater influence on your audience to lift engagements, live or on-demand.

Yet, what is infrequently mentioned and can be difficult to measure is the grade of engagements. Can an hour with 25 customers provide equal return than a minute with thousands? It’s testing and learning to find the balance in quality vs. quantity to have an optimal channel and tactical mix of marketing.

If you have any learnings you wish to share, leave them in the comments.

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Originally published at www.seangmccormick.com on February 19, 2017.