Ryan VanSickle is the Director of Advisor Development at LeadingResponse. He joined the company in 2009.
Since the coronavirus pandemic swept the country in mid-March, most days have felt a lot like an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Toilet paper, once a humble necessity, has flown off shelves like Tickle Me Elmo dolls in 1996. Parents are working from home. So are their children, who are attending virtual classes. International flights are nearly non-existent, and domestic flights not much better. Businesses are shut down or opened at limited capacity, and a mask is required to enter most of them. In-person interaction has never been more dreaded or difficult.
This has prompted many to adopt video conferencing tools. They’re using them to connect with their friends, family, and – here’s an opportunity this life-long optimist sees in our current situation – professional service providers. American baby boomers, who once preferred face-to-face encounters, have now been trained to meet virtually. This is HUGE.
It’s also where webinar marketing comes in.
Webinar Marketing Is Trending Upward
Back when business closings began, many businesses depending on live social events to acquire new clients made the natural pivot to virtual meetings. They delivered the same great message, just in a new way. The thought at the time was that everyone was cooped up in their homes without much to do, but watch Netflix and (hopefully) attend webinars.
Results were strong right out of the gate. But over time, it’s become evident the success of webinars does not depend on a pandemic or national lockdown. As people return to work or venture out of their homes, responses to webinar marketing and attendance rates have actually increased each month since April!
While in-person social events continue to be a powerful tool to engage prospective clients, it’s clear that COVID-19 has created a noticeable shift in consumer behavior that can’t be ignored. People age 50 and up are growing more comfortable engaging virtually. As this trend continues to boom, webinar marketing will, too.
Exploring The Great Unknown
Over the last 11 years, I have organized and marketed tens of thousands of marketing campaigns for professional service providers. Traditionally, these businesses rely on hyper-local targeting to generate new clients close to their offices. If business typically requires a handshake to seal a deal, prospects presumably need to reside within a reasonable driving distance. It makes perfect sense.
But is it possible today’s marketplace is taking us in another direction?
Webinar marketing lets businesses cast a wider net and expand their target market. If most campaigns are conducted within a 10 to 20-mile radius of a business location, any outlying area is essentially uncharted territory.
Savvy webinar hosts have recognized this and are transforming their businesses. Some are expanding statewide, while others are targeting five to 10 states. A few have even gone nationwide and acquired new clients from states they’ve never even visited!
If most meetings are held virtually and prospects are comfortable moving forward in this format, why not?
It’s a paradigm shift, yes. The webinar marketing concept can be uncomfortable at first, certainly. But as the marketplace evolves, it’s important that today’s business owners take advantage of the unique advantages provided by online events. The size of a prospect universe is fundamental to sustained success, and yours just got a lot bigger.
If you’re ready, that is.
For most professionals, marketing is a big investment in both money and time. From what I’ve gathered in conversations with my clients, they perceive webinars as the online equivalent of live events, with one or more hosts giving a presentation about a product or service.
Unlike live events, however, webinars can be recorded and repurposed to create an ongoing source of new leads. You can set up an on-demand library of virtual presentations on different topics. And you can re-market your recording as an evergreen webinar to attendees, to whom the sessions appear live.
Create an awesome presentation that converts well. That’s it. You can use an on-demand webinar as a lead generation tool, or to set direct appointments. Continuously drive traffic to your presentation using multiple marketing channels, and you’ll make money while focusing on other areas of the business. (Yet another great reason webinars have serious staying power.)
Give the People Options
After a short hiatus due to the pandemic, social event marketing is going strong once again. And in-person events are indeed back in action. As of today, LeadingResponse clients are hosting live dinners and educational workshops in dozens of states.
That said, room sizes are smaller in many areas. Venues are observing CDC guidelines regarding sanitary and social distancing protocols. Even if logistics are a bit different for the time being, live events are filling up and converting as they always have.
However, I think it’s fair to say there’s large group of consumers who just aren’t ready yet to attend an event with a group of people. So, it seems like a no-brainer to add a webinar option to accommodate those who would rather stay home, at least for the foreseeable future. LeadingResponse offers this to businesses at no cost for all campaigns, as well as a sweet platform to host web-based events.
In my opinion, hybrid live and virtual campaigns are the only way to go moving forward.
Final Thoughts on Webinar Marketing
Just a few months ago, I would have said investing in virtual events and webinar marketing to acquire new clients was ill-advised. I saw far too much risk and not enough reward.
Since then, I have participated in over 150 profitable webinar events hosted by financial advisors, medical professionals, and senior living executives, among others. The success of virtual events has been, to me, a pleasant surprise.
LeadingResponse has helped hosts nationwide register 15,000 households and present to over 5,000 webinar attendees. The webinars have generated nearly 1,900 in-office, virtual, and phone appointments, which I’ll admit I did NOT see coming.
I guess we really are in The Twilight Zone – and I’m alright with it.