The Biggest Secret for a Webinar That Wins

Webinar key on the computer keyboard, three-dimensional rendering

So you’ve decided to do a webinar. First of all, congratulations. Nice choice. It’s a great way to get a message across to your audience.

When it comes to webinars, you can pick virtually any topic and pull off a great show with a powerful slide deck, a great presenter, and a decent platform.

Webinars are a very attractive alternative to live events. There’s no room to book or food to order. Your participants can catch the presentation online so there’s no travel involved.

Your audience can watch your presentation live from wherever they are without leaving their desk. You’re bringing the show to them.

If you plan well enough and record the experience, you’ll have a piece of collateral you can use over and over for lead generation. If your audience can’t make the live version, they can watch it on-demand from your website.

That’s why it’s important to remember the most important aspect of a webinar:

Make Sure Your Webinar Is Valuable and Relevant to Your Audience

The secret to having a well-attended webinar is made of two parts — a valuable, worthwhile presentation directed at the right audience. One without the other will produce lackluster results and an utter lack of both is a recipe for disaster.

To be clear, if the webinar is valuable and directed to the right people, they’ll probably attend.

Content marketing is all about delivering valuable content that is relevant to your audience on a consistent basis. Delivering a webinar is a form of content marketing, so providing a presentation that is valuable and relevant is critical.

Simple Strategies for Winning Webinars

Teach Your Audience Something New

One of the best examples of this comes from Mark LaCour, owner of modalpoint, a company that specializes in helping organizations sell their products to the oil and gas industry. LaCour is a heavy hitter in terms of thought leadership and an expert in his field.

But it’s the first thing he says at the beginning of each and every video that makes a ton of sense.

“Hey everybody, let’s learn something new about the oil and gas industry.”

This guy has it figured out. There’s a lot digital marketers can learn about holding a webinar from LaCour.

Regardless of the subject, LaCour makes sure to get the video off on the right foot.

First, he positions himself as the teacher so immediately you’re in the position of the student. Class is in session — you’ve got my attention. Second, we’re learning something so I’m not in a position to buy something — this guy is going to help me by teaching me something new. Coming from a position of helping and not selling makes for a pretty comfortable experience. And then I’m watching seven or eight videos before I know what happened.

The point is, a really good webinar teaches the audience something they didn’t know.

If your subject is blogging, considering doing a how-to webinar on all the ways to pull off a blog for free. If automobile repair is your thing, do a step-by-step webinar about changing the oil. Do a webinar on balancing a checkbook. You’d be surprised what people don’t know.

Share Valuable Experience with Your Colleagues

Apart from the networking aspect of LinkedIn, one of the most sought-after aspects of the social media platform is subject matter expertise. In other words, people in your industry want to learn how to do things (and do things better).

Even for the most specialized professions, no job is without its repetition. People amass dozen of tips and tricks in their work that would benefit people just like them in other positions. Share your knowledge!

Leverage Your Customer’s Story

One of the most powerful webinars can be a thorough case study presented by your customer. A company’s story sounds so much better when told by someone outside of the organization.

A customer who is willing to grab the microphone and talk about the great work you did is a powerful ally. Adding a customer as a presenter and placing their company’s logo on the invite is a great way of getting people to register for the webinar.

For some, just saying that the success of a content marketing venture is dependent on its relevance or value is strange. Telling a digital marketer they need to provide value in a webinar might leave them scratching their head.

Who would send a no-value webinar invite to a group of people that couldn’t care less? Where in the world does this happen?

It happens all the time — with alarming regularity — and for good and bad reasons.

There’s a Good Reason Bad Webinars Happen

To be clear, it’s easy to hold a bad webinar. It’s simple to put together a bland pitch for what will eventually be an equally boring webinar. Digital marketers do it every day in all industries. Junk mail folders are filled with invites to poorly planned webinars.

It’s tough to place blame for these webinars occurring because, more often than not, the culprit is complex content.

Conveying even the simplest ideas is sometimes a frustrating, perhaps maddening, in extreme cases throw-a-chair-across-the-room angry affair. Now imagine you’re cooking up an invite for something you have no background in.

Sometimes, and especially in small businesses, it’s just a lack of resources or expertise on the side of the marketer that leads to webinars with no teeth.

In industries where the most mundane aspects of the business can be incredibly complex, it’s not difficult see how compelling, razor-sharp ideas get filed down by someone’s lack of understanding until they become bland presentations.

Even if the people marketing the webinar have a strong grasp on the source material it’s easy to see how webinars come off as boring or simple. After all, it’s tough to be witty, dangerous, or cool with your marketing lingo when you’re trying write around a tough subjects like health care, residential construction, or banking.

There’s an easy fix for this situation and it comes from teamwork.

In 90% of these cases, there’s a two-person team tackling the webinar — the subject matter expert serving as the presenter and the marketing person working to get folks in the door.

To avoid a bad webinar, the marketing side of the team doesn’t need to be on the same level of intelligence as the presenter or even understand the content.

The role of the marketer in a webinar team is to be a strong advocate for what is best for the webinar. The markets needs to make sure the webinar presents real value to the attendees and the selected audience needs to be appropriate for the subject matter.

A good strategy for putting together a great invite on a complex subject is to have an expert explain it in such a way that a child would understand it. The clearer the message the better — and the more your audience will appreciate the simple message.

There’s a Bad Reason Bad Webinars Happen

The scourge of all webinars — perhaps all content marketing — is the straight-up sales pitch. The reasoning all comes back to the idea that, by definition, content marketing needs to be valuable and relevant to the audience.

A sales pitch is hardly ever valuable to anyone, unless there’s a compelling reason to buy. A sales pitch as a webinar title and content is a recipe for disaster.

Now, it’s worth backing up a bit and making one thing abundantly clear, which is that we’re all here in the pursuit of the sale. The lead generation, advertising, public relations, marketing — all of it is in an effort to sell something.

Selling a product or services — that’s the end game. It’s the bottom line.

And that’s fine, even digital marketing purists will agree to that.

Still, the Internet has changed the world in such a large way. It’s certainly shifted the scales in the favor of the consumer and changed how they form opinions on “brand.”

While the term gets tossed around an awful lot, brand, as it pertains marketing, deals mostly with the emotional and psychological relationship between a company and its consumers. If you feel strongly toward one product over another, it’s your brand. You have a tight emotional relationship with it. You trust the company.

However, someone’s trust in your organization in the digital age is no longer just about the post-sale things like a warranty or the promise of “will you be there for me tomorrow.” A customer’s trust is being formed so much sooner, or at least, far before the sale is finalized.

Ideas about your organization are being formed well before people become customers. In the past, a brand impression was built mainly from the experiences of owning the product or experience a service, whereas a person’s impressions about a brand now are being formed far before they even become customers — in downloads, white papers, YouTube videos, and of course, webinars.

It’s no longer just about the sketchy tire job you got from the dealership that left the bad taste in your mouth and caused you to never visit that auto shop again. It’s not only about the great service you received from the awesome server at the bar and grill down the street.

Today’s consumer is judging their relationship with companies on the time they spend with the prospect before they ever begin to think about buying. The real experts in this field create such a trust in their marketing that the prospect ends up coming on their own and asking to be sold to, which is a good situation to be in.

All that said, it makes no sense to waste a webinar on a sales pitch when the organization could do far more good building trust with the audience by providing value.

Instead of investing time selling your product, give your audience helpful tips on how the industry is moving toward the use of your product and how it can solve problems. Plant seeds in their mind as to how the product can be used to solve problems and watch them approach you with questions.

Ian Blyth writes at ianblyth.com, which is appropriate.

3 Free Resources You Can Use to Make Your Blog Look Awesome

For a bunch of reasons that don’t really matter, I’m currently recovering from a seven-year social media and blogging hiatus.

As far hiatuses go, I wouldn’t recommend one from the social scene. I watched a lot of things happen around me, missed out on some great conversations, and lost valuable time I could’ve spent meeting great people.

My skills went pretty soft too. That’s perhaps the worst part.

So when I decided to jump back into the mix, I did what most anybody would do if they were coming back to something after a long while.

I made a list of the resources I would. In this case, it was a list of stuff I would need to start telling my story on a blog. After some thought, I soon discovered one awesome thing from this exercise that I want to share with you.

Everything you need to tell your story on the web is free. 

And that’s what this post is all about. It’s about free stuff to put enhance your writing from stock photos, to tools and even the platform to host your blog.

This isn’t about how to form your blog post because other people a ton smarter than me have already done that. (Read: 5 Elements of a “Perfect” Blog Post) This isn’t even about inspiration because I’m willing to bet you’re already inspired.

Everything below is free and can be used today to get started telling your amazing story. Let’s go.

1. There’s Free Stock Photos to Make Your Blog Look Awesome

Let’s start with explaining why you need pictures to accompany your story.

Imagery is a vital part of blogging because it helps illustrate your tale and anyway, people relate to pictures. If you need more convincing, go read what the experts say about using images in your blog posts.

First off, there’s a bunch of sites with free stock photography on the web. You probably already knew that.

Here’s something you didn’t know: Some of them actually have awesome stuff.

The good folks over at BufferSocial complied a pretty decent list of over 50 sites to get you started. (53+ Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts)

As an aside, if you haven’t already, you need to check out the Buffer. It’s amazing.

Now, the list is pretty long and some of the sites aren’t the greatest thing ever. Some of the suggested sources are just plain difficult to navigate from a user experience perspective. Other sites have photos that are just plain bad.

But there’s some awesome stuff and here’s two right off the bat (plus one I like):

this-job-is-on-fire-1434906-4-m

From FreeImages.com

Free Images www.freeimages.com

I’ve personally used this site so many times for countless varied projects.

The site offers high-res, user-contributed photos that can be used for personal blogs or corporate campaigns. Polished isn’t exactly the word I’d use for this images – this is all about utility.

It just gets the job done consistently and that’s why I recommend it a lot.

If you’re a small business and you’re looking to start content marketing, the stunning amount of vertical-specific art on Freeimages.com makes it a must-have resource.

The account is free (that’s 100%, no future payment) so get after it.

IM Free

From IM Free

IM Free (www.imcreator.com/free)

I want you to take a good hard look at the image to the right.

That’s a beautiful picture from the site above.

It’s inspirational. They say “When it’s beautiful you don’t have to force it, it works on it’s own.” That’s what we have here.

This is the kind of work you build a site around. If you’re starting a gym geared toward kick-ass women, this is the picture you use.

IM Free is packed with this kind of quality photography and it’s free for you to use. This site has a personal feeling unlike any other I’ve seen out there. You can find inspiration for just about any project just by perusing the site.

Startup Stock Photos (startupstockphotos.com)

Startup Stock Photos

From Startup Stock

When I think of Startup Stock Photos, it reminds me of the good people on the Internet and how fortunate we are to have them.

The site’s creators obviously know how difficult it can be to work for a startup. Making this kind of high quality stock photography seems to be their way of giving back.

It’s all there in the site’s tag line:

“Take ’em, these things are free. Go. Make something.”

Startup Stock Photos is packed with professional, ultra-clean, modern, art.  And the best part is they are high-res, highly versatile, and above all, free.

Takeaway: There’s a bunch of free stock photography out there but a small percentage of it is awesome.  When you find something you like that inspires you — and it’s free — be polite and attribute the author.

When using this stuff, think about the time and effort the people put into what you are using for no charge. Take five seconds to give the author some credit. It’s the least you can do.

2. There’s Free Software to Make Your Blog Awesome

As you can probably guess,  one of my favorite things about the web is you don’t have to look far to find the free version of what others pay so much for.

Now, don’t get me wrong when I go into this because I firmly believe Adobe’s Creative Cloud is solidly amazing. Every part of it offers features to make your creative job easier.

Photoshop is here, it will be here tomorrow, and it’ll be here 100 years from now. It’s like A Christmas Story 24 hours a day on December 25. It will always be.

However, if you don’t have Photoshop, and tons of people probably don’t, here’s two options.

If You’re Confident in Your Internet Connection, Go With Pixlr

I was in a pretty tight spot for a few months. I was working on a big project but my Adobe license became an issue for me. And I needed to work on several different machines but always take my work with me. imgres

In other words, I needed to be awesome with a 16 gig USB and nothing else but my talent.  Enter Pixlr.

Pixlr is a browser-based image editor that just rocks.

From the layout to actual existence of layers, features and filters, color control and file formats, Pixlr is everything you’d need if you didn’t have the real thing, and you can access it anywhere without even signing up for an account.

A special bonus is you can save to the editor’s layed file format just like a PSD and return back to your work later.

Pixlr is your answer for free art creation if you have an internet connection that is steady. Plus it won’t cost you a dime.

If Your Internet Connection is a Question, Go with GIMP

Wait, hold on. Do this first: Download GIMP anyway, just to have it around.

Seriously, if you’re ever in a tight spot and say to yourself, “Wow, I have no Internet, it’s the Zombie Apocalypse, and I need to color correct this picture of a pancake on my cat’s head,” you’ll be glad you have GIMP.search

Here’s the deal. You can download GIMP for absolutely nothing and have a surprisingly powerful photo editing suite that rivals photoshop. (There, I said it.)

GIMP has been around since 1996 so it’s been through the motions. It’s baked out.

Aside from it’s long list of features, GIMP has an intuitive, easy to grasp interface, which helps if you need to hit the ground running. Plus it’s totally free.

And what are you going to use for a word processor? You could wait until the next day and pound out a couple hundred words on your company computer in Word but who wants to wait? I have two options, both of which I use often.

If You Can Jump Online, Use Google Docs

Everyone has a Google account these days but Google Docs is still somewhat unknown as far as the search engine behemoth’s other branded material goes.

In short, Google Docs takes everything useful about Microsoft Office and makes it free.

Google Docs has three features:

  • Slides: a fairly decent presentation editor for slide decks
  • Sheets: a spreadsheet tool
  • Docs: an online word processor

Docs is everything you are used to with Microsoft Word except it’s free and it’s online. Everything you need to fire up a blog posting and make sure it’s spelled correctly is in Docs.

It’s a beautiful thing.

If Your Internet Connection is Shaky, You Need OpenOffice orb

Again, I’m going to make a suggestion. Just download OpenOffice, even if just to have it around.

Every time I get a new machine, I download it as a safety net because it’s free and incredibly powerful.

OpenOffice has all the elements of Google Docs with the addition of a 3D Illustration editor, database administration tool, and mathematical equation editor. It really has that last part, I’m not kidding.

OpenOffice’s word processor, Writer, is a sleek, modern writing tool that — believe me when I say this — gets more powerful as you use it. It’s a smart tool that makes writing easier.

If you’re looking for a program to write without distraction you need to check out OpenOffice. It’s amazingly free.

3. There’s Plenty of Free Places to Host Your Blog

As far as actually getting your content out there, you have two pretty solid options — Blogger and WordPress.

The Google-owned Blogger has been around since 1999.

It’s quite simply the easiest site to use if you’re going to start up a blog and see if you can stick with it. It’s fairly customizable — you can change some HTML / CSS — and its easy to add video and images.

Given, there’s only so much you can do as far as customization goes but that’s the tradeoff for a free product.

WordPress is another big-name option that lets you blog for free. It’s great too and has just as many features as Blogger.  There’s some customization and features. Like Blogger, WordPress is super simple to use and pretty much gets out of your way.

To be clear, the only real reason I’ve heard anyone prefer the free versions of WordPress over Blogger is the former just looks cleaner.

Blogger’s user interface is in sore need of a overhaul. WordPress looks bright and simple. Both are, but WordPress just is.

And then there’s Medium.

I love this site because it’s not about flash or even features – it’s about writing.

Medium features both distraction-free writing and presentation.  It’s remarkably modern, clean, and above all – free.

If Medium was a design element, it would be the white space used to enhance art.

Mashable writer Grace Smith did an awesome job pulling together 16 Blogging Platforms for Distraction Free Writing. Read up on that for more.

But, if you have a few bucks, host your own.

Now, I admit it, I feel way more comfortable with a platform that I can manipulate, right down to the bits.

So, I pay for hosting. By the way, if you’re looks for hosting with awesome customer service, go check out InMotion Hosting  (inmotionhosting.com).

Anyway, I pay for hosting because I like to know that I can customize my site and when I’m done, good or bad, it’s my design. Plus its my content.

That’s the whole reason I use WordPress on a hosted site. It’s free to download and install and considerably easy to use and customize. Also I don’t have to pay to add certain themes, styles, and I don’t have copyright issues to deal with. It’s my content.

Links

4 Content Marketing Tips for Awesome Live Events

There’s no doubt about it – live events are tough to pull off. Months of preparation going into an event that lasts just a few days — maybe even only a few hours. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome with pulling off a successful event is actually getting people in the door.generalAudience

These days, there’s so much working against you.

There’s the ever present (and growing) list of competing voices for your audience.

There’s so many choices and some of them are online. Why leave your desk and put up money for conference registration and hotel fee if you can learn it in a webinar during lunch?

Then there’s the tightening on travel that have become popular at the corporate level. And travel budgets are getting slashed. And your competitors.

Let’s say you get passed strict restrictions and dwindling resources. Then you have to prove your event is even worth the valuable time someone will be missing at work.

In short, there’s a lot you need to do to convince people to click the “Register” button.

Here’s four ways to use the content you already have to pack the seats and make your event a success.

1. Create a Content Marketing Schedule

generalScheduleNow, you’re a confident, awesome, marketing guru so you’ve got the essentials covered.

You’ve secured the location. The date is set. The agenda worked out.

Now you need to start getting people signed up. You know content marketing is the way to go. The best way to pull it off, though, is to create a content marketing plan that will hit all your target audiences.

Start with the Basics

Start by creating a skeleton outline of key campaigns to your audience. Get the obvious ones out of the way first:

  • The Save the Date
  • Registration is Open
  • Main Event highlight
  • Registration Close Date Nears

Don’t forget to build in reminders to send detailed event instructions, directions, etc., to attendees — especially as the event date nears.

A good milestone to use when building each individual campaign is the is the “send” date, or the day you’ll pull the trigger on your social media push or email marketing campaign.

Make sure to give yourself a few buffer days around the send date. You’ll need a bunch of time on the front end to make sure your creative is baked out.  Also, make sure you save time after the send to followup and track response. Track your progress and duplicate your wins.

It may sound really obvious but it’s worth mentioning: whether you’re working on paper or on a spreadsheet,  it’s helpful to start with the last campaign first  and work your way back.

This way you’ll avoid pushing the entire calendar back when you get ideas.

Highlight What Sets You Apart



generalBulbAs you build your content marketing plan, the best thing you can do is identify what makes event unique and convey that to your (appropriate) audience.

Find the standout sessions or big issues in your event and build campaigns around them.

Anybody can send out a boring email with the event date, time, and a registration link – people do it everyday.

If you take a good hard look at your event and find the things that make it special, you can craft messages around the strongest  portions of your event that potential attendees with find interesting. Whether you’re doing a full-week conference or one-night speaker event, challenge yourself to find a couple of unique aspects of the event and highlight them in separate campaigns.

In short, take the time to give your audience a compelling reason to attend your event. It’s worth it.

Paying attention to the elements of the event that make you different is what is going to get people to commit.

Never assume your audience knows everything about the event just because you sent our an invite. Don’t assume your prospective attendees scoured the agenda.

Build in as many campaigns as possible to tell your audience what you want them to know.

2. Use All Channels — Appropriately

Now, I’m obviously a huge fan of email marketing. I’ve been using it for a better part of my professional career. It’s my got-to for getting things done for a simple reason: it works.

So here’s some great news.

If you have a decent opt-in house list, loyal Twitter or Facebook following, or a bunch of quality connections on Linkedin, you’re off to a great start.

genMegaPhoneThat’s going to be your number one source of attendees.

This is critical because events – especially new events – thrive on existing contacts. In fact, most of your attendees – I’m betting 75% or more — are going to be people you know.

The point here is use every channel possible. Announce your event on every platform you have a voice. Don’t get caught up in the game of ignoring this platform or that platform.

But Do It Appropriately

Just for fun, let’s say you’re running a blogging conference. It’s going to have four tracks on all types of blogging including Tech, Sports, Music, and…. Stamp Collecting.

(I know, just hang with me)

Let’s say you find an awesome session featuring a red-hot Stamp Collecting blogger and you’re going to build a campaign around it.

So you blast your email audience with news of the Stamp session. That’s your entire email list, by the way. Then you post it to Twitter and alert your Facebook following. Your Linkedin folks get a message. Everybody.

Suddenly, your loyal Sports blogger following is getting bombarded with Stamp Collecting emails. Huh? What’s this about?

At the very least, they’re going to be confused. “Why would I care about stamp blogging?” More than likely, they’ll think something went wrong with the marketing folks.

The point is, if you don’t segment you audience and target appropriately, you’re pretty much saying that you don’t care about the relationship you’ve worked so hard to cultivate.

In other words, to gain the trust of the audience you’re trying to convince to attend your event, give them something they want (and nothing they don’t.)

With email marketing, this is especially vital. Modern CRMs and email marketing providers give you the ability to tag your contact with metadata.

Use this. Segment your audience and segment again. It’s not creepy – you’ll be doing them a favor by not sending them something they don’t need.

Try this exercise before you ever send a campaign: Think about the message and why it should resonate with the list you’re sending it to.

And never, ever, buy an email list. If you still need convincing, read this.

3. Convey the Value of Your Event in Your Content Marketing Plan

My first paying gig out of college was writing for a twice-weekly community newspaper in Southern Maryland.

I learned some really important stuff there. Many of the lessons still echo into the present.

I remember early in the game I was typing up a 500-word quick hit on a speaker that breezed through the area. I don’t remember the guy’s name or the content of his speech.

I do remember quickly banging out the space-filler and it ended up being a little more than boiler-plate meaninglessness. Something to the effect of “Minor Celebrity X Spoke Last Thursday at the Knights of Columbus”.heroChairs

My editor knew what I knew – it was just space filler and I treated it as such.

Still, I didn’t get a pass. I got the copy back in an attachment with the following short but brilliant sentence.

“Nobody cares that someone spoke. The interesting thing is what they said and what it meant.”

If you’re working to convince others to attend a live event you can learn a lot from that sentence.

These days, more than ever perhaps, people are awful busy. Life moves at a rapid pace and everyone is competing for your audience’s attention. It’s your job to earn that attention.

If you are going to convince people to spend an hour, afternoon, or even a couple of days at your event, you need to make it clearly worthwhile.

Here’s some key questions you can ask to unlock the value in your event:

  • If I was a prospective attendee, what would it take to convince me to attend this event?”
  • What will my attendees learn from this event?
  • What are we teaching at this event that will make attendees better at their jobs?
  • What are we offering at this event that attendees won’t get anywhere else?


Never pull the trigger on a campaign unless it has some value. Remember, you’re nudging the user toward that Call to Action.

Takeaway: Convey the value in your event clearly and people will register

4. Creating Landing Pages for Each Campaign

Now, I’m going to guarantee you’ve seen this scenario before. I know I have, I saw it twice in the last month.

You get an email with some pretty compelling copy and nice design. You’re interested. You click the link to learn more.

Then you’re dumped onto the event’s main page. Huh? Wait a minute…

It almost feels like something went wrong or the sender pushed out the email with a wrong link. And that’s nearly correct.

generalChainHere’s the deal:  When you put that link out there, be it an email newsletter or on Twitter, you’re in a way creating a contract with the user.

A link is another way of saying, “If you click this, you and I are going to continue the conversation.” Don’t drop the conversation.

The next step continues — more importantly, builds — the experience. You need a page built specifically for the campaign. A thoroughly planned next step. You need a well-formed landing page.

Landing pages are the critical proving grounds for your copy. It’s the logical continuation from your email marketing message or social media post.

There are people out there a ton smarter than me doing an amazing job with landing pages. Oli Gardner is one of them – he wrote The Smart Marketer’s Landing Page Conversion Course. Read it, embrace it, love it.

Right there on the first page in block letters is the largest mistake event marketers make; shoving a marketing campaign out the door without a dedicated landing page.

And you know how experts agree that you need to cut down the copy in your email to create a compelling message?  This is where dedicated landing pages work to the advantage of event marketers.

Let’s say you have a good bit of compelling content in targeted marketing campaign you’re pulling off. Maybe three or four long paragraphs on a keynote speaker.

Maybe you also have a video montage of the speaker at the last event. You’ve also got a bunch of pictures in a slideshow. Just a bunch of great content.

The last thing you want to do is bog down your email message with all that copy.

Create a succinct mailer – don’t try to tell the entire story right off the bat. Then fill a dedicated landing page with copy and use the video to drive conversions (it’s proven to work). Just don’t forget a strong Call to Action.

One last thing. Make sure your design hangs together. Your email should look like your landing page and the landing page should mirror your site design.

But don’t forget:

Never, ever pull the trigger on a marketing campaign for your event without creating a dedicated landing page.

Get in touch with me.