I was speaking to a representative from Intercall the other day and we agreed that we have both seen a significant downwards trend lately in webinar attendance as a percentage of registrations. This is a problem to keep marketing people up at night.
I think this is part of an inevitable progression in almost any marketing channel. Email blasts used to be a good way to raise attention. Then the volume got so high that people started ignoring emails. Web banners were effective for a while. Now most Web users have trained themselves to block out the surrounding advertising so they can focus on the content they want. Roadside billboards capture the attention of only a small percentage of drivers that go by them. And in a similar fashion, the novelty of webinars is no longer enough to guarantee that your audience will take in your message.
What does this mean for companies wishing to use webinars as a marketing medium? It means a lot more concerted effort. First of all, to see a given number of sales lead results, you’re going to have to plan on contacting a much larger initial population than you could in the past. Hard numbers vary based on the industry, seminar content, targeted lists, and the like, but you can plan on somewhere in the vicinity of 1-10% of a mass marketing shot registering for your webinar and maybe 30-40% of those registrants showing up on the day of the event. May I reiterate that results vary widely based on specifics, and your mileage will certainly vary?
Because many people will never even register for your event, your initial contact message had better include some main point about your company, service, or product along with a way for people to find out more information aside from the webinar. You need to make registration as easy and painless as possible (and I think I’ll save that topic for another blog entry). Then you need to plan a series of confirmations and reminders.
I would try to send an initial confirmation upon registration that includes a statement indicating how many additional reminders your registrant will receive and when they can expect them. If your technology allows it, adding a link to put the webinar time into the attendee’s Outlook calendar is extremely effective in helping them avoid conflicting appointments simply through oversight.
If you are taking registrations for an event a month or more in the future, send a reminder one week before the event. Send another one a day before the event. And send a final one two hours before the event. Because you are bombarding the user’s inbox with all these messages, you must keep them brief. Each reminder should state the title of the event, the day/time, one key benefit the attendee will get from attending, and a statement of additional reminders yet to come. Knowing what to expect is critical in making your audience feel like you are responsibly following through on a clearly defined plan, rather than just randomly snowing them with junk mail.
For companies with the people, time, and/or money (because you can hire outside firms for this), calling registrants the day before the event can help boost your chances that they will show up. But it is no guarantee. You need to calculate whether the incremental benefit for you is likely to outweigh the additional cost.
I don’t think we are ever again likely to see the 60% attendance rates I enjoyed when we started doing webinars. All we can do is work with our audiences, refine techniques, and most importantly, gear the content of the webinars to attendees concerns and benefits, rather than to the needs of our marketing groups.
As always, Webinar Success is available to help with planning your webinar marketing efforts, crafting copy for your invitations and reminders, and working with vendors.