Why your business ruined webinars for everyone


Image courtesy: Microsoft Office

How many invitations to a webinar do you receive on a daily basis? I probably receive about 10 via the various newsletters and marketing emails I receive each day. And I’ll admit that marketers have done an excellent job at getting me to read the messages, with catchy subjects and interesting event titles.

And how many have you attended in the past year?

Of those, they were all terrible, right?

It’s because companies and marketers don’t know how (or perhaps they forgot) to create great webinars. The formula is frighteningly simple too.

Webinars suck, and it’s your company’s fault. But that’s okay, you can change this with a few steps I’m about to outline below. Take note, because I can’t possibly stand sitting through another one of these crappy events or have my staff waste their time falling asleep while they could be generating ROI for my business.

Here are the two “do nots”. I’m starting with these, because you’re doing them now and you have stop as soon as possible.

1. Don’t ever talk about yourself or your company for more than 20 seconds.

It’s okay to say, “My name is Dan and I’m the CEO of XYZ company and I have a background in civil war dentistry”. You need to establish credibility. But do so in less than 20 seconds or else it becomes vain and you’ll lose your audience right out of the gate. And better yet, have someone else introduce you and keep it to 20 seconds. And don’t say crap like, “I built a XYZ company 10 years ago and sold it to Microsoft”. That just tells us you probably got lucky with your timing, now you have a wheel barrow of money, and you should probably be retired. The fact you sold a company and are rich doesn’t give you credibility within a specific industry or regarding a specific problem we’re facing.

2. Don’t ever talk about your product.

Unless your webcast is entitled, “A 30 minute demo of my product, XYZ”, then don’t ever talk about your product for more than 10 seconds. People don’t want your product, so get over it. They want to know how to solve a problem. So help them. If your product helps solve a problem, then talk about how the problem got solved and pepper in the fact that the customer used your product to solve that problem. But that’s it. No features, no pricing, no benefits, nothing. Stop being salesy. If you think the audience wants to learn about your product, you are completely wrong. The audience has a problem, and you solved it, and that’s what they want to hear about.

Okay, so now you know what not to do. Here are five things you can do that will help you attract more people to your events, increase your credibility, and most importantly, convert more attendees to customers.

1. Keep it short.

There’s no reason a webcast has to be 60 minutes. Keep it short. Some of the most powerful presentations are short because companies have found a concise and eloquent method for demonstrating the fact that they solved a problem. And if you cannot do the same, then you’re not communicating it well. A short presentation will not infer the problem is simple or easy to solve. It will merely demonstrate you have a 100% firm grasp on what the audience wants and how you can help. A 30 minute presentation is probably sufficient.

If you want to allow for Q&A, that’s okay, but I suggest NOT doing this. I know what your thinking… “This guy is crazy, you always have to allow for Q&A!” Well, do you know what happens if you allow for Q&A at the end of your event? Attendees start to leave slowly and the audience attention dwindles. So the last impression you are making is to leave people annoyed that they have to listen to another customer with a completely different business ask a question that you don’t care about. What a waste of time. And you’re ending on a fizzle not a sizzle. Don’t do Q&A. The customers with the real questions, they’ll still have them tomorrow. So make it clear at the end of the event that if someone has a question, here’s where to send it… In other words, give folks a very easy method for getting their questions answered offline. And that’s a great lead development strategy as well. Reel ’em in.

2. Tell a story

For the love all things good and decent, don’t read your slides. Keep bullets to 3-4 word phrases and only 3-4 per slide. Tell a story that starts with a problem and ends with a recognizable, repeatable, tangible solution.  Humans, since the dawn of time, have been story tellers. Create a clear story board that the audience can identify with and guide them through your case study. It flows better and the audience will stay engaged. Polls are an okay method for engaging your audience, but that’s scripted and can disrupt your flow. Just ask questions and let the audience use their imagination. Isn’t their imagination stronger than poll results?

3. Provide a takeaway

The audience is attending because they need help or inspiration with solving a problem. Leave them with something they can download other than your slide deck. Maybe this is a one pager of best practices, a list of additional resources, a video, an infographic, you get the idea.

4. Provide a clear call to action (CTA)

At the end of your webinar, you should have a clear CTA. And even better if it’s a homework assignment tied to your takeaway (#3). For example, maybe you have a checklist that helps people do an assessment of their problem. Give them the checklist… or give them direction on what the next steps are towards getting started solving their challenge.

5. Provide an offer (optional, but recommended)

You are probably doing a webinar to generate interest and leads for your business, products or service. So provide some sort of offer. Don’t make it too salesy like “if you sign up today, you get half off”. Business people don’t like to be pressured or rushed. But you can still make it time sensitive. “Sign up by the end of the month and we’ll provide 20 additional hours of support”. Or, “sign up for a product demo this week and you’ll receive a 20% credit, an iPad or a date with my cousin, Becky”. An offer is a great way to continue the conversation without being too salesy and to provide some additional value for the folks who attended.

Okay, so hopefully this is all pretty straightforward. Most of us have all these ingredients, we just need to reassemble them into a better package. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to a better webinar experience. And I and my staff, on behalf of all your future webinar attendees, thank you!

Content Marketing – Where to Begin?

One of the better articles I have come across in recent memory on the topic of content marketing was served up recently at SEOMoz.org by Toby Murdock.

Toby outlines how to establish a team, define roles, create standard operating procedures, execute, and measure – all essential elements of creating a powerhouse content marketing strategy (and team).

Check out the article here:



Demand Media Beats Wall Street’s Expectations, What’s Next

One of my least favorite category of ‘internet companies’ are those like About.com and Demand Media’s eHow.com. These sites create basically useless, non-authorative content that misleads consumers, provides little value and prevents higher quality content from appear in search engine results because that better content is not marketed as well.

Needless to say, it’s a billion dollar business.

And to prove it Demand Media bested Wall Street’s most recent quarterly earnings expectations. The question is, with all the changes Google and the other engines are making to the search algorithms, will that continue to affect DM’s future prospects, or will they remain highly reactive step-in-step?

Like I said, I despise this type of content. It sucks.

The problem is not that they are taking advantage of this market. The problem is the consumer. We need to educate non-technical people that when they are doing searches, sites that purvey low quality content should be ignored. Often this means avoiding the first few search results; or at least understanding which companies produce shitty content, like About.com and eHow.com.

Educate your friends and family and let high quality content prevail.


The Future Landing Page May Be A Micro Site

Landing Pages

Landing Pages - How to get the most conversions...

Landing pages are living canvases in the world of direct response marketing. We’re always testing, tweaking, refining and even full-scale redoing them to achieve the perfectly optimized and conversion experience.

[Need more tips – here’s my list of great landing page optimization resources]

Consumers crave information, and unless your conversion point is a coupon or freebie, you’re going to need to work at convincing the consumer to complete your form.

That’s why you might need a micro site.  A micro site simply let’s you string together a few extra pieces of content to tell a story or help the consumer understand your value proposition a little bit more before they convert.

I’m not going to dive into how to create a micro site today. Instead, I want to simply encourage you to think beyond the stereotypical landing page that only has a headline, image, paragraph of text and a form. Start thinking outside the page. What else can you do to convince the user to convert? Is it a social signal? Visual impression? Navigation to other content? Testimonials?

To help you understand that a landing page is not limited to a single URL, here’s a great article by Scott Brinker on “Landing Pages 3.0”.

Should you advertise on mobile devices?

If you are still asking yourself (or your business) this question, the good news is that it is not too late to start; the bad news is that you are a little late to the game.

Gavin O’Malley for MediaPost reports that in-app inventory is expected to surpass display inventory in the not-too-distant future.

It is easy to get started if you are already advertising through AdWords. You can begin creating campaigns that specifically target mobile devices such as tablets (which is a no-brainer) and smart phones. If you are going to target small-screen devices, I strongly encourage you to create separate campaigns and landing pages. If your existing landing pages and forms are already mobile-friendly, then you may be able to skip creating a new set. There’s an easy way to find out – just pull up your pages on a mobile device and participate in the user experience first hand. Here’s what you need:

  • Fast-loading page
    • few graphics
    • few plug-ins and calls to external files such as css, js, etc.
  • Easy to navigate
    • intuitive funnel
    • easy to ID links and CTAs
  • Easy to complete form
    • remember it is hard to type, so limit free text fields
    • limit hovering which is difficult without a mouse
  • Click-to-call phone number
  • Click-to-email email address
  • Limit scrolling from left-to-right
If your page complies with the short list above, you are headed in the the right direction. Google recently acquired AdMob, an advertising network for in-app ads. Between Google’s suite of products and AdMob, you’ll have plenty of inventory to pilot. You can opt-in and opt-out of various sites and apps, just like you can in the Google GDN (placements).
So don’t ask “should I?” and instead start doing!