A Case Study

One-Off Webinars for Lead Generation are a Waste

A bold statement perhaps, but allow me to present my own case study and I bet you’ll end up agreeing with me.

Many a marketer, including myself just a few years ago, will spend a great amount of effort and budget on promoting and producing webinars about their product which are held sporadically throughout the year. More often than not these webinars are not part of an integrated strategic plan and are mainly a one-and-done standalone event meant to generate leads once.  Registrations are collected, the event is produced and the contact information sent to the sales team. End of story.

This is a sad story and the results are typically mediocre at best.  Poor results lead to a frustrated and untrusting sales team, as well as personal frustration.  Let me tell you a story with a happier ending that I hope will inspire you to approach lead generation webinars strategically and with renewed enthusiasm.

Once upon a time…

I was staring at a spreadsheet of lackluster numbers related to my latest round of webinars – low email open rates (17%), lower click thru rates (5%), poor webinar registration and even worse lead conversion rates (< 1%). What is a marketer to do with such dismal results? Start over! And so I did. I still believed webinars were the right venue for our product’s marketing message and belonged in the marketing mix, but something had to change.

Our current approach at the time was to hold webinars about how great our product was a few times a quarter.  For each webinar we put together a promotion plan consisting of mainly list rentals.  This meant we were hitting a cold audience with whom we had no rapport with a hard sell. It struck me that this was like rudely knocking on someone’s door at dinner time to sell them Christmas wrapping paper in July.

We needed to build rapport with our target audience and provide some value first before we asked them to buy something from us. And it needed to be relevant and timely. So I scratched the old program and rebuilt one based on an integrated drip-style strategy by breaking out the program into several levels and solution tracks. This is how our program looks today:



Level one: Solution Webinars

What: Best practices related to the solution our product category offers (in our case eLearning and online marketing events).  This level of webinars provided best practices that would help our target audience do a better job at their job (developing and delivering online training and events).  We typically have a 3rd party speaker such as an industry expert, analyst or author present on our behalf.

Why: This level did two things for us; 1) provided value to our target audience, thus building rapport; and 2) ensured we had the attention of the right audience (for example, if they signed up for a webinar about eLearning, we knew they either already had a solution for eLearning (making it a competitive replace sale) or were looking to implement an eLearning solution (potential first time shoppers)).

Promotion: We pour our entire promotion budget into this level – making this the level where we generate all our raw inquiries. Sometimes we still rent opt-in lists, but mainly we moved to a model where we partner with 3rd party organization that already has a relationship with our target audience and will promote these webinars on our behalf.

Are these leads? We think not. We call these inquiries (which we consider simply quality contacts) and we no longer send these to our sales reps.

Level two: Product Webinars

What: These webinars are demos of our product’s features and benefits relevant to the solution we are highlighting.   They are held monthly (after the ‘supporting’  solution webinar) and all the registrants from the Solution Webinar are invited to attend the next available relevant Product Webinar.

Why: Once we have built rapport with the target audience by ‘introducing’ ourselves via the Solution Webinar, we have found that the reception to come learn about our product is much higher. Our email open rates went up to 30% and click thru rates increased to 11%.  These are about double the rates from our one-off webinar approach.

Promotion: We spend little money on promotion here, relying almost solely on the registration lists developed at the Solution Webinar level.

Are these leads? Yes! Our conversion rate spiked to 20%, up from less than 1% using this approach.

Level three: Competitive Comparison Webinars

What: A feature and benefit comparison of our product to the other top competitors in our category.  After a year or so of running level 1 and 2 webinars, we added this level 3 to our funnel.

Why: We began to see a need to share a competitive comparison with attendees from the Product Webinars who were obviously shopping. We developed this level of webinar to fill this gap and facilitate the discussion – wanting to be sure we were part of any conversation around comparisons. We had to tread carefully and involve our brand and legal team – so keep that in mind if you decide to implement something similar.

Promotion: Again, we typically spend little money on promotion here, relying almost solely on the registration lists developed at the Product Webinar level and the Solution Webinar level. We include the Solution Webinar level, because, again we’ve already been introduced and not every buyer is at the same place in the buying cycle.  This level is a nice ongoing program for us even outside our webinar program funnel as it gives the sales reps a place to send prospects for information and gives us a content offer if we are running a competitive replacement campaign elsewhere.

Are these leads? Definitely. The conversion rate on these is, as you might expect, quite high. The conversation to closed sale is in the 30% range at this level.

The Final Bucket:

As a last touch in our conversation with the inquires that enter the top of our funnel, we send an invitation to sign up for our trial. These trials are supported by a live daily training program.

What: We provide a trial for 30 days and support that with some tips and tricks via email to the trial users during these 30 days.  The live daily training program includes a series of five webinars that build on each other and guide users through the getting started basics to more advanced features.

Why: We find the trial is very important for our product category and is the industry standard. The live daily training program holds the trial users’ hands, so to speak, to ensure that their experience is a good one and they experience all the product has to offer.  If a trial does not get used, it does not have any impact.

Promotion:  The last touch inquiries receive after entering our funnel is an invite to sign up for a trial.  The trial program with the daily training series did exist before we developed our multi-level webinar program - we just incorporated it into our program.

Are these leads? Yes. We see a 30% conversion rate from trial to sale here.

Breakout Sessions:

In the funnel graphic you’ll see a small note regarding breakout demo session at the Solution Webinar level.

What: This is a brief 10-15 minute demo of our product that we offer at the close of a Solution webinar in case there are folks that decide they’d like to see a demo that day.

Why: Not every buyer is in the same place in their buying cycle so we added this element to catch those buyers that are further along in their shopping and ready for a product demo.

Promotion:  We mention it at the start of the Solution Webinar and then again at the close of the webinar. We provide a link to a different webinar room they can go to for participating in the demo that starts immediately upon the close of the main event. We see between 3-6% of Solution Webinar attendees join the breakout demo session.

Are these leads? Yes. If a sales rep or reseller partner gives the demo, they provide their contact info for the breakout attendees to call/email and also ask attendees to provide their contact info if they’d like to be contacted.


I hope you’ll consider some of these ideas to build your own strategic webinar programs that produce fantastic results and make you the hero for your sales team!