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Finding the ROI in webinars - learnings from Banzai VP of Marketing, Ashley Levesque

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher May 4, 2023
Want to get the best out of a webinar? Here are some top tips...


Ashley Levesque, VP of Marketing at Banzai, knows the challenges marketers face in developing a good webinar strategy. One of the things she hears most often is that marketers can't get people to register for their webinar, or how do you get them to show up once they do register?

She always goes back to the basics:

  • What is the goal of your webinar?
  • Who are you targeting?
  • What is your topic?
  • And how do you know those three things are aligned?

The answer to these questions comes back to data - first- and third-party data. Brands have so much data they can analyze to inform webinar planning, including in their CRM, marketing automation systems, support systems, and Sales. Identifying the right topics using objection handling, seeing where people get stuck in the sales process, and other sales readiness topics are good examples of where to start looking.

Levesque argues that a lot of marketers are creating content around this anyway:

They're creating sales enablement content. They're creating blog content based on keyword research, and what are people interested in? What kind of queries are people typing in? But for some reason, when we think about this specific channel of webinars, a lot of that kind of gets forgotten about, and I'm not sure if it's the anxiety around being in front of a camera and needing to feel more presentational. But some of that marketing one-on-one stuff kind of goes away where marketers find themselves creating topics that aren't fully vetted by their audience. They're not being asked for this; they're just creating it because they think that's what their audience wants or worse. It's what the company wants. And then they can't hold the attention of their audience.

This was one of several insights Levesque shared when we discussed developing a successful webinar strategy and the results of Banzai's recent webinar study.

Building community with webinars

Levesque holds an Ask Me Anything (AMA) webinar every couple of months for the Demio community. When people register for the webinar, they are asked what questions they want answered about running webinars. Common questions include how to turn registrants into customers, how to keep registrants engaged, and what topics to cover?

Asking for questions beforehand is only one way Levesque knows what to talk about. She also uses webinar engagement features, particularly polls, to help drive webinar content in real-time:

Sometimes I will have a number of different examples to address a certain point. So I will say, for example, is it most relevant for you, audience, to hear this example about this enterprise company in the software space that did X, or is it more relevant for you to hear about the solopreneur in the fitness space that did X? That helps them, one, choose what kind of content is going to be most relevant and relatable to them and helps me to get a little bit more market research and data on the audience that I have in a session so that I can again throughout the session, keep tailoring my content to who these people really are and what they're choosing sort of along the pathway.

While some may find the idea of changing content in a webinar on the fly uncomfortable, Levesque argues that in fact it's a great way to increase engagement and make the brand stickier and more memorable. It just takes practice to get it right.

Another way to build a community using webinars is to open the chat to everyone and encourage people to answer each other's questions. Levesque advises reminding attendees that they are there for each other as much as to consume content, especially considering attendees have often been in other attendees' shoes and have experiences they can share.

There's also an element of vulnerability to these types of webinars because registered people must be willing to share things they might not otherwise want. But Levesque has found that if people have questions they want answered, they are willing to come to the webinar to get those answers:

Remind the audience and the company behind the audience that it's not about us. The community is about them. As much as we can facilitate relationships amongst them, the better off we'll be. We don't need to pretend like we have all the answers. We're there to open up the scope and provide the resources that help them get what they need, which is the ultimate goal of any marketer or should be.

Webinars for all parts of the funnel

Webinars work for all stages of the funnel, from top to bottom. But if you're starting with product demo webinars, you need to rethink your strategy. Too often, brands promote thought leadership webinars that end up being product webinars too. Levesque points out that you don't start with demos for other marketing campaigns.

You can have webinars for more than top-of-the-funnel thought leadership and brand awareness. From a product standpoint, Levesque suggested that AMA webinars are great for prospects in trials or going through the selection process. These webinars talk about things like workflows, features, and customer stories. Sometimes they are open, meaning people can drop in anytime during a set time frame and ask questions.

Webinars are also good for onboarding and training post-purchase, and these can be either automated or live. The key in all cases is to provide value, says Levesque:

So doing this in a way that's engaging and results-driven and shows them the value, is a slam dunk. You can get what you need if you execute it in a way that is focused on them. So I love to do a lot of engagement things in my webinars. I do tons of polls. I do a lot of handouts like giveaways. Just stuff for free. Here's some value, here's some value, here's some value. Here's a question. Here's some value, here's some value, here's some value. Here's a question. It helps them feel like what they're providing me is of worth of what they're getting. This is a similar relationship that we ask all the time as marketers, which is can I have your email address in exchange for something valuable? But it's not always that valuable after you get through the gate and find it.

Finding the ROI of your webinars

The webinar report came from studying the usage of Banzai's webinar solution, Demio. In 2022, Demio hosted over 650,000 webinars for brands across various industries. The company wanted to understand how brands evaluate webinar ROI. Levesque explains:

One of the main goals of this report, in general, was to teach marketers to consider webinar ROI that extends way beyond just who registered and who attended it. If those are the only metrics and data that marketers are getting from their webinars, it's no wonder that they can't find ROI from their webinars. Because that information doesn't tell you anything.

All it tells you is who registered and who attended. It doesn't tell you anything else about where they are in their buying cycle or if they cared about your topic, or if they liked your session. That's why I think some of these other pieces, like engagement data, focus data, really help us hone in on a whole other layer of benchmark data for marketers to help them say, 'Ok, now I can actually do something with webinar data'.

Some of the findings of this other data Levesque is talking about include:

  • 38% average attendance rate for live events and 72% attendance rate for on-demand webinars.
  • 75% focus rate for attendees, with 64% responding to polls
  • 407,000 CTA clicks for both live and automated webinars (Levesque said Demio offers a featured action CTA that can pop up during the webinar session)
  • 387,000 downloads of handouts ranging from workshop sheets, coupons, case studies, toolkits, or checklists. Levesque believes that handouts extend the value of the event.

Although there is no best time for a webinar, the report also found the most popular time for a webinar is noon Eastern. However, holding your webinar outside this popular time window was suggested to rise above all the other webinars vying for attention during this time.

Levesque argues that the best strategy is a good mix of live and on-demand webinars. Sometimes the highest value for attendees and registrants is enabling access to the content as soon as they are interested. On-demand also resolves issues with time zones.

Another important thing related to ROI is what you do with attendees after the webinar. Like other marketing activities, you need to score webinar leads to know who is ready for the next step. This step is critical to passing qualified, interested attendees on to Sales instead of sending everyone.

My take

I've been to my share of webinars and helped companies develop webinar strategies like this. So I understand the challenges of creating the right topics and getting people to register and attend. Too often, the company is so set on getting leads for Sales that they force marketing to do things the wrong way. Start with demos, hide them behind a thought leadership spin, or send all leads to Sales for outreach (usually a bad idea). That's not to say you can't mix a demo with higher strategy or conceptual ideas; you just need to be upfront so people know what to expect.

But I love the AMA idea and how Levesque executes it for her company. Levesque has the ability to use a webinar platform built for marketers (Demio). She explained that Demio provides all the data around what people did in a webinar. Other webinar platforms provide much of this engagement data because it's critical to helping marketers know what to do next. The hard part is getting marketing to use it and use it right.

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