I have had a public survey open for a couple of months asking for people’s impressions on webinar effectiveness. I collected 50 responses, which is not enough to be statistically representative of anything, but is interesting anecdotally. Let’s take a look at the results.
First of all, I should mention that I left the interpretation of “effective” up to each respondent. Different webinars have different goals, and companies set their own reasons for holding virtual events.
I also left open what people wanted to include in their definition of “webinar.” I assumed one-to-many or few-to-many presentations delivered live, possibly with a recording available for review. But I recognize that some people may have included collaborative team web conferences or recorded-only webcasts in considering their responses.
Almost half of the responses came from the US Eastern time zone. Interesting. The rest of North America made up the majority of the remainder, with a smattering of other countries contributing as well.
Responses reflected webinars targeted at many different industries, with good representation in education, technology, financial business, and services. They also included webinars used for training and education (included in 71% of responses), marketing and lead gen (included in 37% of responses), and customer communications (included in 29% of responses). Respondents could pick more than one use of webinars, and they also mentioned sales, employee communications, and industry communications in roughly equal numbers.
Adobe (Connect), Cisco (WebEx), and Citrix (GoToMeeting) were represented strongly, but responses came from users of many different technologies.
I was surprised that about half the respondents said they always or frequently formally measure the effectiveness and results of their webinars. That could possibly reflect a self-selecting population on the kind of people who answered the survey:
When asked what reasons could cause them to not formally measure the effectiveness of their webinars, the most common response was that it was too hard to establish measurable criteria, closely followed by not being able to link results solely to the webinar. It’s interesting that the third most common reason was that “Nobody has asked for it.”
Now we come to the crux of the matter… Do the benefits of your webinars outweigh your costs? This seems to me to be the only generic question that makes sense on a bottom line basis and should apply to any business decision. The results were overwhelmingly positive, but strangely, those who used real cost/benefit analysis were more likely to say “unknown” than those who answered based on “gut feel”:
It’s worth mentioning some of the comments associated with this question:
- Compared to face-to-face meetings, yes.
- Compared to the costs of travel for in-person training, etc… WAY Cheaper!
- The benefits outweigh the costs—but only over a long period of time. “Benefits” tend to be defined as “sales leads” and while we’ve found that webinars definitely produce these, they are typically longer tail leads which require additional nurturing over time.
- Webinars are provided as a a member service. They are highly rated, in high demand, and have very low incremental cost.
I’ll finish up with the general comments that people provided, not associated with a particular question:
- It saves tens of thousands every month, my customers accept this is the best form of formal communication, it’s easy for them to use, it’s cheap.
- We were just using this for student orientations and seminars. Now we have just started using this for Faculty Development and everyone loves it.
- Asking if Webinars are effective for generating sales/leads and image of a company is like asking if the Bravo series "Inside the Actors Studio" in NY helps Pace University increase their student numbers. Students attending this University enroll for many different reasons but I am sure this TV series, (where they interview famous actors and all the students are sitting in the audience) is a major reason why the Performing Arts Program is the fastest growing of all the University courses. The results perhaps were difficult to measure 12 years ago, but they are obvious now. I host and produce a Topical Webinar series for the education of real estate agents. Just this past Webinar we were able to measure 12 direct sales. This is the first time we have had an actual person tracking sales from the Webinar.
- It's often hard to measure the ROI or effectiveness of a single webinar. But, when integrated into a comprehensive marketing plan that includes email marketing, print marketing and other communications, webinars are a vital component to the overall success of any campaign. I consider them to be the "closer" that supports these other communication methods.
- We run 5 webinars per week on average. We actively seek feedback regarding our webinars. I can say that our webinars are effective and profitable. My gut feeling is in the proper hands, webinars are very effective and in the improper hands, well . . . they are probably not effective at all.
What can we glean from this survey? If you are on the fence about whether webinars make business sense for your company, this should give you a little more confidence based on the experiences of your peers. Web seminars seem to be worth the effort and the money across a wide variety of industries and locations. If you haven’t taken the plunge, maybe now is a good time to try out the concept.
For those who like their data raw, here is the spreadsheet with all collected responses and summary charts. Thank you to everyone who contributed!