Consider this promise: that instead of selling one to one (inefficiently), you can gather 100 people and sell to all of them simultaneously. You can do this repeatedly and predictably, every month or even week. Growing your business becomes as simple as filling the funnel and letting your processes take care of the rest.
It’s an audacious promise, with obvious appeal. But there’s one problem – it’s a promise made popular by (typically) B2C internet marketers. B2B is different, especially for life sciences and healthcare. An 18-month sales cycle is not unusual, and a standalone webinar won’t make much impact.
It’s tempting to believe in the big event that produces overnight results, but in a technical, high-budget industry, trying to condense the entire buyer’s journey into one event is likely to end in failure. The reality is that moving prospects through the buyer’s journey is an intentional process that we must commit to day after day, month after month, year after year.
That process is best guided by a well-planned webinar strategy that can attract new leads, nurture them through the buyer’s journey, and carry them to the point of sale.
Here are five key steps to developing a complete webinar strategy that turns your webinars into perpetual conversion tools.
1) Tailor Webinars to the Buyer’s Journey
Different people use different terminology, but broadly speaking, we recognize the buyer’s journey progressing in this fashion:
Awareness > Consideration > Decision > Evangelism
First the customer must become aware of a problem. Then they must seek out solutions. Then they must decide what to purchase. Then – if you take great care of them – they may become advocates and promoters for your company.
Likewise, you must convert strangers into visitors. Visitors into leads. Leads into buyers. And buyers into promoters.
You cannot rely on using a webinar to turn a stranger directly into a buyer, any more than one of your sales reps could sell a $250,000 instrument on a cold call.
Before you do anything else, the first question you must answer is: what is the purpose of this webinar?
In the awareness stage, you may produce an educational webinar on how to solve a problem your target customers typically have in the lab.
In the consideration stage, a product-focused webinar. For the decision stage – a case study and comparison. And to turn buyers into evangelists? Free, in-depth training and onboarding is always appreciated.
A webinar can be used effectively at any one of these stages in the customer journey, but only ever one at a time. Which one is right for you?
2) Create Compelling Content that Solves a Problem
Now you’ve decided on the purpose of your webinar, how are you going to create it?
Content is pivotal. Just throwing something out there won’t do. But what is it that makes content compelling?
You could define compelling content as that which helps the reader solve a problem, at exactly the moment they need that problem to be solved. What that looks like in practice will depend heavily on your audience, their problems, and where they are in the customer journey lifecycle.
One thing’s for sure: 15 minutes of content and 45 minutes of pitch is not it.
Genuinely help your audience. Provide value. Focus on what they need, not what you want. This is true in any industry, but it’s especially true in life science and healthcare. We serve the world’s most skeptical audiences; you do not want to make them feel like they’re being sold to.
3) Avoid Wasted Investment with Evergreen Content
Your webinars should be evergreen. The cost of creating a webinar is the same whether you’re latching onto a passing fad or addressing a topic of ongoing relevance, so why not create assets of permanent value?
Let’s say you’re mapping out your customer journey for a particular product line. Naturally, you’ll have to create a significant amount of new content for each product launch. But you should only have to create it once.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t create additional content in future. Next time you’re developing a webinar, ask yourself: will this still be relevant five years from now?
If you have a small team, perhaps you create a handful of highly on topic webinars across the customer journey – content that will serve you well for many years. And if you’re continually creating new webinars, making them evergreen ensures that ongoing creation delivers compounding, rather than linear, results.
Each new webinar drives additional conversions both now and every year from now.
4) Develop a Follow-up Strategy
So you’re ready to broadcast your compelling, evergreen webinar – and you’re 100% clear on its purpose where it fits in the customer journey.
Time to email your list, post some Twitter updates, ready your sales team for the follow-up calls and wait for the leads to roll in!
Not so fast.
What’s your follow-up strategy? What’s the logical next step for your target customer to take after viewing the webinar? Where does this fit into our overall inbound marketing efforts? And what about the people who registered but didn’t attend?
These are questions you must answer before you even announce your webinar. The correct answer, most of the time, won’t be “talk to a sales rep.”
Let’s say that you run an educational webinar helping scientists address a common problem they have in the lab. After the webinar, it may be fair to assume that the attendees appreciate the help offered, have gained a level of trust in your brand, and see a new perspective on what ails them.
They probably want to hear more from you, but aren’t necessarily ready to talk about your products.
One method of follow-up is using an autoresponder sequence to provide additional helpful content and resources related to the topic of the webinar. Later in the sequence, you can offer a product-related download (white paper, case study, etc.).
A lead who opts in for the product-related offering indicates they’ve taken a step forward in the customer journey – moving from awareness to consideration. You may consider moving them to a different email automation workflow (which may include promoting a different webinar which is more product-focused). At this time, you may also want to pass the lead to sales while continuing to market to them.
Tip: To capture additional leads, consider sending an automated email to all attendees one day after the webinar inviting them to schedule a call or meeting with one of your sales reps. This provides an opt-in opportunity for those who are ready to move forward now, but you can continue to nurture the rest of the leads through marketing automation without wasting reps’ time.
5) Generate Real Value with On Demand
The party doesn’t end with the broadcast. Although a live attendee is more valuable than an on-demand viewer, you can only have so many live attendees. A recording, on the other hand, can continue to attract leads forever.
By now you’ll have worked out your follow-up strategy – and this can remain largely the same for on-demand viewers. The next question is: what comes before the webinar?
Perhaps you’ll attract search engine traffic directly to the webinar download page. In that case, you’ll want to host the webinar transcript on-page to improve your search engine rankings (Google loves text).
How else can you drive traffic – the right traffic – to your recording?
Consider using related articles as “SEO magnets.” What are the problems you’re helping the viewer solve? Write articles about those, optimize them for your target keywords, and provide a clear call to action at the end of the article to download the webinar recording. Make sure you gate the recording behind a (short) form so you can capture the searcher as a lead and market to them via email.
Expand your reach further with social media, guest posts, podcast appearances, paid search, and other efforts to draw new visitors to your articles and webinar recording. Always bear in mind the golden rule: what is the problem this webinar solves, and for whom?
Then execute a plan to grab their attention at just the right moment.
Putting It All Together
You can turn your webinars into perpetual conversion tools – and you should. Anything less is a monumental waste of resources.
Your specific marketing funnel will be unique, but the principles are the same:
- Each webinar must have a why
- Each webinar can only serve one purpose within the customer journey
- Your webinar content must be compelling (as defined by your customers, not by you or your boss)
- Each webinar must be evergreen
- Each webinar must fit within a logically structured conversion process
- Don’t neglect the on demand!
Bonus: Self-Hosted or Third Party?
In an ideal world, you’ll have all your inbound marketing infrastructure – including webinars – set up on your own site and using your own systems.
Yet inbound marketing relies on scale to be effective, and that scale usually takes years of consistent, disciplined effort to achieve. So many marketers turn to third-party platforms like Nature or Bitesize Bio – who have already achieved scale – in order to host their webinars.
Marketers who have built significant platforms of their own often recognize that the most cost-effective growth and expansion opportunities come from adding outside platforms to their mix.
One thing to bear in mind is that you have only three resources: time, energy, and money. If you lack money, you have to expend time and energy. If you lack time and energy, it’s often wise to spend money.
And most importantly: if you’re going to spend money, make sure the seller is expending their time and energy!
Before you purchase a third-party webinar, consider these questions:
- Is this webinar a one-time event or a fully developed conversion process?
- How will I know if this webinar is a successful investment?
- What will we gain by outsourcing this webinar rather than doing it ourselves?
- Will it integrate with our inbound marketing process? – if you have one
- Will the hoster also take care of the inbound marketing process? – if you don’t have one
- What role will this webinar play in the buyer’s journey? – remember, you can’t shortcut the process
Harrison Wright is a sales manager with BitesizeBio S2S Marketing, a platform that helps bioscientists at the bench solve real-life problems with free articles and webinars on the latest practical applications about the techniques they use every day.