Everyone wants more webinar attendees. Even if your webinars have a lot of traction already, your company’s growth relies on increased audience size and engagement. No doubt you will have considered (and perhaps tried) several tactics to grow your webinar audience – possibly unsuccessfully, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article. Don’t worry, we have you covered – read on.
It doesn’t matter whether you have a good contact database or an insufficient contact database, the principles to grow your webinar audience are the same.
Let’s state the painful reality upfront. There is no quick fix to magically growing your webinar audience overnight in a meaningful way. And without a webinar audience, there are in effect no webinars. All the work you have put into creating and presenting content is meaningless if nobody watches the webinar.
On the flipside of this, however, there is a great opportunity to gain market share, if you can gain mind share. Let’s take a look at how you can grow your webinar audience so that you can grow mind share.
Serve the audience
The first and overriding principle of growing an audience is to serve it. If you start with what YOU want and what YOUR company wants to talk about, you will not succeed in growing your webinar audience. But if you put the audience’s needs and wants at the core of what your webinars offer, you have the foundation for audience engagement and growth.
Understanding your audience’s goals, and therefore their challenges and expectations, is important in defining your webinar messaging and content. If you can provide a solution to a challenge, and communicate it clearly and empathetically to an audience, you are on the right path to growing your webinar audience.
This approach is so powerful that, in isolation alone, it would grow your webinar audience over time. However, there are other ways to accelerate the growth and make it more sustainable in growing a loyal audience.
Scaling your audience growth and loyalty
Getting more webinar participants faster, and keeping them coming back for more in the long-term is driven by two overall aspects:
- Your ability to attract an audience
- Your ability to build audience loyalty
First, let’s look at attracting an audience. If you can master this, you are halfway there. Below are 7 tactics to attract a webinar audience. We have successfully used these tactics for many years and can verify their effectiveness:
- Be relevant and opportunistic
- Seek collaborations
- Get industry-specific
- Run webinar series / cross-promote webinars
- Diversify into languages
- Put Sales and Account Managers to work
- Ask Execs to spread the word
This is not a pick list. Don’t just choose to do a few of these. You should aim to apply all 7 tactics in order to increase your success rate in growing your webinar audience. Some may be more difficult to achieve, so prioritise the ones you can start with today, but don’t neglect the more challenging ones.
1. Be relevant and opportunistic
In part, this tactic goes back to the earlier aspect of serving your audience with content that is relevant to them, rather than pushing messaging that you wish to convey. And you may be thinking that your product does solve a problem for customers, but audience relevance is created by acknowledging your customers challenges with your content. If you centre your content around what your product does (features/functionality), but you fail to connect it to the challenge itself, you will miss the mark and lose your audience.
The second aspect is about being opportunistic. Every marketplace is subject to changes and developments that affect your customers. Seeking out opportunities to align market developments to your offering (product or services) allows you to increase timely relevance and appeal of your content. If your content is “evergreen” (i.e. relevant all year round or even over longer periods of time) it becomes a core piece of content. However, the content that addresses current market developments and trends will outperform the evergreen content – at least in the short term. This is a great way to attract new and existing audiences to your webinars.
In 2023/2024 we only have to look at the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) to see how there has been an explosion of interest and content on this subject. As a result, content consumption on this topic has soared. You can apply the same to specific new developments and trends in your sector.
2. Seek Collaborations
If you only have access to a small pool of potential webinar participants or your contact database is small, you can expand your reach by collaborating with others to reach your audience.
For example, if you work with partners or industry opinion leaders you should propose a collaboration by which the webinars are promoted to their audiences as well. Agree a lead sharing arrangement allowing both parties access to the leads generated. To make the most of the opportunity, aim for collaborators who have a large following already or who are gaining increasing exposure in a current and popular area of your sector. This way you can continue to benefit as their influence grows.
This type of collaboration can significantly increase the reach and generation of new leads and audiences. If there is an imbalance of potential audiences, i.e. your reach is much smaller than the other contributor’s, you can consider ways of making up for it. For example, you can offer to take on more (or all) of the planning and coordination, as well as running the webinar(s) at a cost to you. This can cover the webinar platform cost or indeed the personnel hours required to project manage and produce the webinar(s).
3. Get industry-specific
Often content is generalised to increase appeal across a larger audience. While that may be the case, it also invariably becomes less relevant to the specific areas the audience operates in. As a result, you are serving your audience less.
Let’s say your product or service is provided to, say, 5 different industries. By not addressing any of the industry-specific benefits or applications, you are missing an opportunity to engage those specific target audiences directly. The result is that your content actually has less direct appeal overall. The same applies if you try to address the content to all industries simulteanously.
Instead, consider running five webinars instead of one, i.e. one for each industry. Your messaging can be tighter and more on point, creating more relatability and relevance. Your audience will gain more benefit and will be much more likely to return for more.
4. Run webinar series / cross-promote webinars
Many content subjects are wide enough to warrant breaking them down into multiple and more detailed content pieces. You don’t have to deliver the full content in one webinar. Doing that may even make it harder for the audience to fully understand and digest the content.
Instead consider building a small content journey as part of a webinar series (say 3 or 5 webinars). This way, you will serve your audience’s content needs more by making content easier to take onboard. It also offers you the opportunity to create more content, spanning a longer audience engagement period. This also results in more engagement touchpoints that can contribute to lead qualification.
You may wish to consider whether to apply the same webinar format to these webinars or alternatively use the opportunity to create some variation by using different webinar formats where relevant. Using a variety of webinar formats is a powerful tool to gain wider insight into buying signals.
Running webinar series also allows you to cross-promote between the webinars in the series, therefore securing a good proportion of attendees from one webinar to the next.
5. Diversify into languages
English is often the dominant language for webinars in multi-national organisations. Local markets and languages are often underrepresented. By diversifying into different languages, webinars can gain a new and untapped audience serving the audience with easy-access and relevant content.
We regularly see a significantly higher conversion rate for webinar attendance, if the webinars have been delivered in-language. This speaks to the audience demand for, and appreciation of, local language content.
On a practical level, multi-lingual content is easy to achieve from an original piece of English-speaking content. The talk track and slideware already exist, reducing the requirement to create net-new content.
6. Put sales and account managers to work
When it comes to webinar promotion, sales and account managers have a unique audience connection. They have active conversations with prospects and customers who have expressed an interest in the subject matter.
By providing these colleagues with visibility to existing and upcoming webinars, as well as a simple way to share and invite audience members, you can capitalise and grow your webinar audience. The same sales and account managers are set to benefit from increased audience engagement as a result.
7. Ask Execs to spread the word
Your organization’s senior management has a vested interest in reaching new audiences. They also often have a wide network (eg on Linkedin) and tend to be influencers in their field. Getting them to share information about upcoming webinars to their network can significantly increase webinar consumption and audience engagement.
The key is to make it easy for them to share the information (e.g. pre-written copy, URL and promotional banner) and to focus on key webinars that align with their network’s area of interest. By reaching their peers, it also makes it more likely that the peers recommend the content to their staff, resulting in higher engagement rates.
How to build a loyal webinar audience
With the seven tactics outlined above, you can reach and engage a wider audience and build your webinar attendance. Consistency in applying these tactics is key to making them work. Consistency over time will pay dividends.
However, to create a stronger bond with your audience and foster loyalty, you need to do more. If you only follow the tactics above in isolation, your audience is more likely to dwindle over time and less likely to return. Here is what you can do to cement the relationship with your audience.
Be consistent. Consistency is everything. That doesn’t mean you can’t evolve how you run your webinars, but you should be consistent in how and when you run your webinars. Your audience will appreciate consistency over a laissez-faire and ad hoc approach. Imagine running 5 webinars in a month, and then one webinar in the following 5 months. Is that a good audience experience and will it build loyalty? It’s better to run a monthly webinar on the same day of the week and time of day.
Create quality content with good storytelling. Your content represents who you are as a brand and what you have to offer. Content that is poorly prepared and delivered does your company a disservice (read more about the Halo Effect here). A story well-told is an audience well-engaged. If the content is worth presenting, it’s worth presenting it well. An important part of that is how you look and sound on screen. Spend some time money on good audio and video. Your audience will expect it.
Get practical with your content. Theoretical content is always the easiest to prepare. Concepts and solutions can easily presented in a hypothetical setting. Take it one step further and get hands-on. If you’re in SaaS, show a demo. If you’re in Life Sciences, speak about real-life examples. Each sector has a way to bring content to life with practical examples.
Bring experts to the webinar. Especially external experts who your audience want to see will help create audience loyalty. If you were an audience member, would you rather listen to a salesperson or an external opinion leader and expert? This doesn’t just enable you to build loyalty, but audience growth as well.
Don’t cut corners on your webinar platform. Use an established webinar platform that makes it simple and delightful for your audience to attend. It is a differentiator and you don’t want to lose audiences because they’re frustrated with the technology you are using to deliver your webinars. The harder it is to join your webinar, the less likely your audience is to attend or return.
Capitalize on on-demand. Live webinars are great for audience engagement and interaction. But why stop there? When the webinar is finished, continue promoting the on-demand version. A proportion of your audience won’t be able to attend and yet others will prefer on-demand. The content already exists, why would you not utilise it to continue to gain an audience and communicate your message? Knowing that the webinar content is available on-demand will bring audiences back and increase loyalty to your content.
Get personal in your follow-up and invites. Especially if you are in the process of building your audience, a personalised follow-up and invite process can work wonders. Do it right, and your audience will feel recognised, appreciated, and engaged. There are too many impersonal marketing emails already. Choose to stand out instead. It goes a long way to creating lasting loyalty.
Ask for preferences and act on trends. Audience surveys can tell you a lot about what your audience wants to watch more of. Take inspiration from your audience’s preferences. And don’t stop there. By reacting to current trends with appropriate and relevant content, you can capture your audience’s imagination and keep them coming back for more.
Don’t forget to serve the audience first. Scale will follow.
You have read about how to grow your webinar audience and how to create loyalty. At the heart of both is your ability to serve your audience. If you serve yourself first, audience growth and loyalty will be much harder to achieve. It will take inexorably longer and take a considerably higher amount of effort.
Remember, your customers are your audience. And the customer comes first. Don’t ignore their needs, wants, and preferences for the sake of making your own life easier and more comfortable.
If your goal is to grow your webinar audience, follow the steps we have outlined in this article. Give it time and be consistent. Results and scale will follow. There is now short-cut, there is no easy fix.
You could buy leads, but its expensive and often they don’t convert further down the line. You could pay for webinars run by a publisher and while this has benefits in building opt-ins, the outcome is often similar to purchased leads. Your audience and loyalty don’t scale that way. Build your own audience with your own content, and you will be on the right path to webinar audience engagement and growth.
In years to follow, you will be glad you started the journey today, because you can look back on your success. It starts today.