Increase Your ROI by Hosting Great Webinars

White Paper

Many organisations are getting more return on investment from online events vs. in-person events today and plan on increasing their use of virtual events. But where do you start if you're new to the idea? We've put together the resources you need to host great webinars. Whether you're already using them or you're just researching the idea, webinars will help propel your organisation into a whole new world of lead generation, client relationship nurturing and ultimately more sales. Download this resource pack to learn: The true ROI of online events, How to plan and produce a live webinar, Tips on presenting online to keep your audience engaged and more.

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Why webinars for ROI?

With Webinars, SMBs can successfully:

  • Generate qualified prospect leads
  • Reach and influence hard-to-reach prospects or decision makers
  • Position their firm in the marketplace ahead of the competition, regardless of their size
  • Nurture or educate existing clients, and
  • Create more sales and revenue.

For this white paper, we surveyed small and medium-sized businesses and organizations in a variety of industries about their use of online events. To qualify, these SMBs had to have a maximum of 500 employees and be doing marketing or training Webinars or both.

This survey was conducted jointly by Osterman Research, Inc. and Quantum Leap Marketing, Inc. and was launched and completed in the final quarter of 2010. The survey population consisted of 141 participants, of whom about 66% are actively using Webinars. This represents a significant experience base for Webinars and online events in a study like this.

Survey participants came from a diversity of industries and three in four from North America, with an average organization size of 123 employees.

Key Findings

Key findings from this survey include:

  • Traditional marketing and event strategies like seminars, trade shows, and in-person training will continue to be a strong part of the event mix for smaller businesses in 2011.
  • Smaller organizations get much more bang for the buck with online events, especially marketing Webinars. While organizations put the nearly the same amount of effort into promoting and delivering quality content for both in-person and online events, in-person events simply cost much more. The average organization estimates cost per attendee is 3.4 times greater for an in-person marketing seminar compared to a marketing Webinar.
  • Regardless of the type of event, social media use for promotion and engagement is on the rise. Roughly six in seven organizations will use social media in conjunction with events in 2011. And, about one in three organizations will increase usage of social media significantly in 2011.

Let’s take a look at the key findings of the survey of SMBs to get a sense for what’s working in marketing events today, and how the event mix will change over 2011.

How SMBs Are Using Events

As shown in the figure below, the survey pool represented a wide variety of smaller industries and organization types. Services firms, including high-tech, low-tech, and financial services made up 44% of the respondent base. Manufacturing and education were 11% and 10% each of the pool, respectively. “Other” represented 24% of the firms surveyed.

Survey Insight: Smaller businesses and organizations of all types are taking advantage of the benefits offered by marketing Webinars. This is a clear indication that online events are now part of the mainstream event mix.

As shown in the figure below, use of in-person marketing events and trade shows will remain strong and is actually projected to be up in 2011. Online marketing events remain on the upswing, and will increase about 54% in 2011.

Survey Insight: Projected use of marketing events of all types will continue to be strong in 2011. Marketing events are attractive for small business marketing because they are measurable and are usually tied to lead generation. These are two desirable attributes marketing departments are looking for today.

Costs for Various Types of Events

The survey pool estimated that when total “person-power” was factored in, about the same amount of time goes into planning and participating in the different types of events. That is, an in-person marketing event takes roughly the same amount of time as a marketing Webinar in terms of planning and related activities. The obvious exception is trade shows, which require much more time than a marketing seminar or Webinar.

Survey Note: For all questions about trade shows, this participation could be in the form of a speaking engagement, exhibiting with a trade show booth, or both

Survey Insight: Today’s SMBs take the same care to prepare for and deliver online presentations as they do in-person ones. This means the quality of the content and the event experience is likely to be similar for audiences attending events, regardless of media. It also implies that the quality of the Webinar delivery mechanism – the speed of the interface, the ease of accessing the Webinar, the variety of content that can be presented, etc. – will be key determinants for Webinar success in the future.

As expected, the survey pool estimated that external expenses are much greater for inperson events than online ones. This is most notable when comparing marketing Webinars to in-person seminars or trade shows. A trade show costs almost 5 times what a marketing Webinar costs, while an in-person seminar costs roughly 2.5 times the cost of a marketing Webinar.

Survey Insight: Today’s smaller organizations save significant dollars with marketing Webinars versus other events. Thus, the pressure is on organizers of trade shows and in-person seminars to justify their additional cost.

The Effectiveness of Various Types of Events

The survey offered few surprises in terms of the average audience for each type of event. Trade shows offer a potentially large audience for organizations that can get a speaking engagement. (It is important to note, however, that only a portion of the trade show audience would stop by a booth and become a lead at the typical trade show). In-person events are likely to offer a high-touch environment to the smallest pool of attendees

Webinars offer roughly twice the reach versus in-person marketing events. Note that the general reach of online events is enhanced by the ability to easily record the events and the convenience of watching on-demand.

Survey Insight: The estimated reach of online events is roughly twice that of in-person ones, while a good trade show still remains a viable option to get in front of a large number of prospects.

The bottom line: what is the cost per lead?

As expected, when both time (at a fully-loaded cost of $38.46 an hour) and out-ofpocket costs are considered, the survey pool estimated that it costs the most to get prospects to an in-person marketing event, while it is least expensive to get in front of a trade show attendee. Note that the time given by the prospects at trade shows should be taken into consideration.

The survey estimates that it is almost 3.4 times more costly to get attendee to an inperson marketing event compared to a marketing Webinar.

Survey Insight: Clearly, for those smaller organizations that are costconscious or resource constrained, they must seriously evaluate any additional benefit provided by in-person events over online ones.

Social media will be used heavily

Social media offers a tremendous opportunity for organizations holding events for both marketing and engagement purposes. Smaller organizations seemed to have recognized this, since about six in seven plan to use social media in conjunction with their 2011 event programs.

While 26% see no change in the usage of the medium, almost six in 10 will increase their use of social media, with about one in 10 projected to increase use of social media in excess of 75%.

Survey Insight: Small businesses see value in using social media for promotion and/or engagement of events of all types. Those skeptical of its benefits should take a second look at this medium.

Best Practices for 2011

Best practices for smb marketing webinars in 2011 and Beyond

Whether one is new to marketing Webinars in 2011 or an experienced producer just looking to “sharpen the saw,” any organization will be able to learn from what is working in small business Webinars.

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It is important to keep in mind why it is so critical for SMBs to be smart about their marketing resources and Webinars:

They are likely to be competing with some larger players that have significantly greater budgets.

Smaller organizations tend to dedicate a higher percentage of revenues to marketing. In many smaller organizations this percentage can be 10% or more, while larger organizations could dedicate only around 5% to marketing. That means smaller organizations must get a solid and measurable return-on-investment from their dollars and find savings wherever possible.

So, what is working in SMB marketing Webinars today?

One is a lonely number when it comes to small business Marketing webinars

For small business Webinars, the worst number is one. The Webinar producer needs to think in terms of two, three, or more when it comes to Webinars. This applies to speakers, sponsors, marketing channels and touches, and number of events in a series.

For example, having two speakers, perhaps one from outside the organization will add content and perspective, and it will promote interactivity. In addition, outside speakers may have lists that an organization can use to promote its Webinars.

With regard to Webinar marketing and follow-up plans, Webinar decision makers will want to send multiple invitation mailings, use multiple lists or media for promotion, execute multiple reminder notices to registrants, and use a multi-step follow-up sequence to convert ‘registrants to revenue.’

Successful events should be repeated, or at a minimum recorded and promoted. Also consider leveraging a great single Webinar into a Webinar series.

Compelling topics are what prospects care about most

When it comes to marketing Webinars, the most important factor in getting prospects to the event is the topic itself. This is good news for smaller organizations, as less wellknown players that can compete with the largest ones as long as they have the right topics to present. Ideally, the subject is something both compelling in the prospective attendee’s mind and it has a natural connection with the Webinar sponsor’s product or service.

Prospective attendees will generally ask, “What will I learn by attending this event?” A Webinar subject should ideally add a lot of value to their business or personal lives. So make the shift from “What does my small organization want to talk about?” to “What does my audience want to hear?” And, articulate the subject in a way that gets their attention by writing good ‘Headlines’. This is a great step to achieve an organization’s objectives on a small budget and compete with the leaders in its market.

Email invitations as a primary way of recruiting your Audience

The key feature of Webinar marketing will be the email invitation. When we have surveyed both Webinar producers and prospective attendees, we have found this is the primary way people both promote and respond to Webinar invitations and ads. Webinar sponsors will generally start with their own in-house email list and go beyond through speakers, partners, co-sponsors, etc. For example, perhaps an organization can partner with a reseller or wholesaler for a Webinar, and bring in an outside speaker who has the sponsor’s prospects on his or her list as well. This will provide two additional email lists to hit outside of the sponsor’s own and increase the likelihood of a larger, more successful event without breaking the bank with outside promotions.

Invitation copy and subject lines do matter

When it comes to email invitations, the actual text used does make a big difference. It is not uncommon for one email subject or headline to get 50% more opens than another. And, obviously if by changing a few words a Webinar sponsor can get 50% more attendance at its events, that will result in a significantly greater return on investment.

Consider first the topic and email subject lines. Using the types of phrases and words found in best selling books is a good mindset to get into when creating these important Webinar marketing elements. For example, think How to Win Friends and Influence People or the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Next, remember that people buy emotionally and justify with facts later. So tap into the emotions of prospects to build their interest and then sell them on the benefits of attending a specific event. Consider the following formula, get their Attention with a compelling subject/headline, build their Interest and Desire through features and benefits of the Webinar, and then call them to Action urgently by encouraging them to Register Now.

A little extra marketing thought and skill put into the invitation copy can significantly increase attendance and results.

Get the tactics right for higher ROI

Yes, the actual words in invitations do matter. Likewise, getting the tactics right in events and event marketing plans can help a Webinar sponsor get more bang for its buck from marketing Webinars.

For example, consider recording every event and inviting both those who registered and did not attend to watch the recording. An organization can also promote these recordings for a year or more on its Web site, in newsletters, and through other marketing avenues. Smaller businesses have doubled the number of viewers of their marketing Webinars from this simple technique.

Also, remember that a common trap that many smaller companies fall into is they don’t stick to the Webinar marketing schedule so results are compromised. Be sure to time the ads for the event and email drops for maximum views from the audience. Also, automate the reminder sequence for registrants to hit them, perhaps 48 and three hours prior to the event to achieve attendance rates above 50%.

A little preparation and project management can make all the difference when it comes to Webinar success.


Finally, here are some key recommendations for smaller organizations to get more from their event marketing budgets.

The survey suggests more smaller businesses will be doing marketing Webinars for the first time in 2011. Others will simply be doing more online events. This fact also means there will be an increased competition for the attention of marketing prospects. Therefore, the key for any smaller organization is to recognize how best to exploit this opportunity to get more return on their event resources, and use the above Webinar best practices that all types of small businesses have found valuable. Here are some key recommendations for SMBs to get a greater ROI from marketing events.

Benchmark and validate true event costs (including time) And results to start improving roi

It is a given that smaller businesses and organizations have fewer resources and budget for marketing events than larger ones. And, many times their event or marketing budget is higher as a percentage of sales than it is for larger companies. Thus, it is critical to get the most from the limited resources available.

This survey, as well as others we have conducted on actual costs and results from various types of in-person and online events, reveals the need to quantify the true costs (and also results) achieved from each event. An accurate benchmark of an organization’s spend and return will be the first step to help them get more from their event resources and improve the mix for higher return-on-investment.

It is but a first step to understand the out-of-pocket expenses and number of leads or attendees at a given event. More advanced smaller businesses are tracking the number of days invested in the total event lifecycle and an average fully loaded cost of the employee days. Some companies are also creating tracking mechanisms to connect marketing events with sales or deals.

While general return-on-investment data is valuable, what can be more insightful is the ability to benchmark how each of the events performs against each other. Then, this data can be used to help improve the overall event mix, and help decision makers to seek ways to increase the return from individual events.

Consider moving more events online to get more from the Budget and other resources

While smaller organizations report that they will receive a greater return-on-investment from online events, in 2011 they still project to participate in more trade shows and inperson marketing events than marketing Webinars.

A simple recommendation that most organizations can follow is to consider replacing a few of the weakest performing, or highest cost, in-person events or trade shows with many online events for much higher results from the event mix and fixed budget. For example, if an organization can replace one seminar of either type with four Webinars and get four to 10 times the results from that same investment, it is likely to quickly increase the overall ROI of its overall marketing event program.

Take advantage of the potential power of different kinds Of events and webinars for different objectives

One of the benefits of online events is the ability to select the exact type of event needed to meet specific challenges. For example, marketing Webinars can be used early in the marketing process to get prospects into a database. Or, they can be used later to get prospects to be clients or move them into the sales pipeline. Customers can be educated, up-sold, and resold. Training Webinars can be performed in conjunction with marketing events to generate revenue, improve custom satisfaction, or decrease returns and buyers’ remorse.

Small organizations would have difficultly tapping into all of this broad range of possibilities if they were limited to in-person events alone. Thus, online events open up new opportunities to create the exact business benefit a small organization needs that may have previously been available only for organizations with larger budgets.

Consider video for demonstration, intimacy with online Events

Anyone who has grown-up in the past 50 years knows the power of television and now online video. We are generally a visual society, and so online events with video components, whether they are video recordings or speaker cams, can recreate the feel of an intimate, in-person gathering. In addition, event producers can draw on video’s power to show, demonstrate, and educate in a marketing event.

Use social media for promotion and engagement with Events

Social media offers new ways of reaching prospective attendees and engaging an audience before, during and after events. Obviously, if an organization has existing social media channels that can reach a potential audience, it can leverage this to drive registrations. And, even a simple Twitter conversation using well-publicized hashtags can encourage interaction during an event, or promote feedback and questions from the audience.

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