Why Webinars are Crucial to Lead Generation
A webinar, the name being truncated from “web-based seminar,” is a presentation over the Internet in real time using video conferencing software often with VoIP audio generally in the form of seminar, lecture or workshop. The distinguishing feature of a webinar is that it is interactive between the presenters and the other participants who can submit questions and comments during the ongoing session. This distinguishes a webinar from a webcast, which has one-way data transmission and no interactive quality, or simply a streaming video. Webinars allow groups in discreet locations to participate across geographic distance.
Lead generation is about acquiring contact information of prospects. In today’s sales environment with highly informed, well researched and empowered buyers, one of most effective ways to attract new prospects is through content marketing – delivering value to potential customers by providing information that is useful and entertaining, and therefore appeals to and engages them.
A webinar can be a valuable tactic for content marketing and lead generation. The Content Marketing Institute found in its recent study of technology marketers, B2B Content Marketing 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends – North America,
• 62 percent use webinars or webcasts;
• 86 percent cite lead generation as their top goal of content marketing; and
• 70 percent consider webinars and webcasts as the most effective content marketing tactics they use.
A webinar can focus on any topic just as with an in-person seminar, including company announcements or employee training. For lead generation, the content might focus on building brand awareness, showing industry leadership, best practices or customer education. The sponsoring company might bring in outside expertise to participate such as thought leaders, industry luminaries or subject matter experts; or even choose to partner with an organization in a compatible industry. The key is to provide value to the target audience – topics and content that relates to important current issues or industry trends, meet a need or help solve a problem.
Visual, Audio and Interactive Dynamic
Webinars are a dynamic way to reach out to potential prospects because of the visual, real time presentation and the ability of the presenters and the audience to interact, which allows an organization to show its personality, brand and expertise. The format can include a question and answer session, instant polls and feedback sessions. Participants can access the speakers, experts or company representatives and ask questions to address specific individual concerns and get immediate answers. Company presenters get to directly engage with potential customers. This real-time, interactive dynamic personalizes the experience for audience members.
Targeted Audience for Quality Leads
By virtue of the technology and format, webinars have significant reach, both from a geographic standpoint as well as to a potentially large target audience broader than an in-person seminar.
Participating in a webinar requires a more specific time and schedule commitment than an action like downloading a whitepaper. A prospect who registers perceives definite value in attending. This self-selection somewhat prequalifies the audience by their interest in the subject, topics and speakers; and by extension, the sponsor’s industry, products or services. Some recent polling has indicated that the quality of leads resulting from webinars is high, with respondents considering 30 percent of the leads as “excellent” and almost another 40 percent as “good.”
As in most lead generation campaigns, webinars are generally “gated,” meaning that in order to participate, a person needs to register and in doing so provide contact information. In many types of lead generation campaigns, this consists only of a person’s name and email address. Given the perceived value to those registering for a webinar, they may be willing to provide much more extensive details and company information, which can be quite helpful to marketers.
Beyond Lead Generation to Accelerate Sales
The webinar format provides the marketer opportunities beyond just collecting the contact information from the registrations with a number of ways to more actively accelerate sales. Because of the interactive nature, the sponsor can observe and track a participant’s behavior during the event such as engagement level, questions posed, or poll responses to determine active buying interest. The presenters might also provide download links on products or services, or issue invitations to follow-up product demonstrations.
Although webinars require significant effort to put together well, it is an exciting format that can be highly effective for lead generation. Its dynamic, interactive nature allows for a personalized experience for the participants while providing the sponsor valuable insights into their interests and concerns. The virtual nature allows reach to a broad, geographically disbursed target audience.