Where in the lead-to-close cycle is a webinar most beneficial?

Where in the lead-to-close cycle is a webinar most beneficial? The question came in after a recent conference I spoke at.

Hi Roger, thanks for the informative session and offer to answer a follow up question. We’re a mid-sized company selling professional services, and we use webinars with mixed results. Where in the lead-to-close cycle is a webinar most beneficial? Rachel

Hey Rachel, thanks for writing.

First I’ll give you the short answer: everywhere.

Now, lest that seem like a biased opinion from an industry old timer, let me entreat you to read a bit further. And be sure you should grab one of the couple papers I’ve linked to down below.

Here’s an explanation to supplement the papers.

Remember that web conferencing is a medium, not a communication format

Generally true out there in webinar land is the assumption that a webinar is about 45 minutes of presentation plus Q&A at the end. Hogwash.

We don’t look at Microsoft Word and assume there’s only one way to write something, right? We have to know if we’re writing a white paper or a blog post or a video script. Word might be your tool for communicating in a written medium, but the style of communication is different based on purpose.

So how do we as human beings communicate throughout the lead-to-close cycle? We make presentations, we have conversations or meetings, we make product or service demonstrations, we host conferences where we put a thought leader on stage, and on and on.

Now just do that online. Web conferencing is one medium through which to do it, but if your webinars have only one approach to content or way of doing them, that might be why your results aren’t optimum.

Tailor your webinar style to the stage in the sales cycle

Plenty of folks have written about the buyer’s journey and tailoring content and messaging to optimize effectiveness, but let’s address it to the style of webinar you host.

In short, my research shows that people attending webinars to hear thought leaders are least likely to expect interaction, whereas later in the cycle they’re likely there for different reasons (and very much expect a dialogue). See both papers below.

Remember that there’s always disparity between target and actual audiences

Just because you host a webinar tailored to one stage of your funnel doesn’t mean that people don’t show up who are in different stages of their journey. But you’re speaking to those who are in that phase or stage.

One other tip: be sure to be clear about what the purpose of the webinar is both in promotions and even in the opening comments. People don’t mind sales demos…when they’re expecting them.

The bottom line: You also need to become a teacher

Now that you’re better equipped, you will find that over and over that you run into other people that think a webinar is a content and style format. That it has to be an hour long. That you’re going to do them like all the other webinars people have seen (not usually good examples).

If you introduce something different like the idea of doing a 20-minute webinar with extended Q&A or stopping in the middle for questions or changing up how you script the intro based on the style of webinar you’re doing (see “Why Webinar Attendees Leave Early” research below), you’ll sometimes meet resistance.

Tell ‘em what I tell ‘em: “A Word document can be used for a lot of different types of writing, right? We use web conferencing for a lot of different types of audio/visual communication.”

And remember this: some will listen, and some won’t. Give yourself a little grace, and good luck to you, Rachel!



2 thoughts on “Where in the lead-to-close cycle is a webinar most beneficial?

  1. Dylan Jones

    Just stumbled on your website Roger, it’s great to finally meet someone else who doesn’t just view webinars as a thinly veiled sales vehicle.

    The key takeaway I feel is this great comment:

    “…be sure to be clear about what the purpose of the webinar is…”

    So many vendors, particularly in the tech space, dangle the carrot of educational content and then hit the delegates with a product promo 15 minutes in. If you’re doing a product promo, pitch it as that, if it’s educational with a product demo, tell it like it is!

    I also think another big problem is that a lot of vendors see webinars as a one-time path to conversion. I’m constantly trying to relay the value of taking an audience on a journey and to do this you simply can’t screw people over first time around. A lot of our clients find that their deals come after prospects have watched at least 5 webinars spanning a broad range of educational and product related content.

    Thanks for sharing Roger, love the site.

    1. TheVP

      Thanks, Dylan.

      To be sure, web conferencing and webinars can be great sales tools, but bait-and-switch isn’t cool in any context.

      Stay in touch.


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