Remember when you used to go into your customers’ buildings?
And sit next to them and have face-to-face conversations?
And maybe congregate at trade shows and industry events?
Yeah… that’s so 2019 at this point.
I get it. Nothing’s better than being in the room with a customer. Or a prospect.
But that doesn’t mean all is lost, friend.
Frankly, everything that’s happened since early 2020 has created an opportunity to humanize ourselves in front of MORE people. Or in other words, to do it at scale.
I was recently interviewed on our Gorilla 76 podcast The Manufacturing Executive about a topic that’s been one of my favorites for years.
You know, that stale, crusty, boring lecture that faceless vanilla presenters break out once a quarter to bore your eyes to death with bullet point after bullet point of technical mumbo jumbo.
I know webinars aren’t a new medium.
We’ve all attended them. Some of you I’m sure have been part of running them too.
But almost every webinar I’ve attended in the industrial space completely misses the boat.
So in my conversation with our Cofounder Joe Sullivan, we focused on how to do webinars differently than the typical PowerPoint deck product pitch that you’re used to (and that your competitors are doing with little to moderate success).
Instead, we talked about how to deliver webinars in a way that will:
- Build thought leadership for your business
- Start conversations with the right prospects
- Humanize you and your brand
- Become a central part of your business development infrastructure in the process
I’m not a big listicle guy — “10 ways cut all corners and still win.” Or “15 things that will make your business implode”.
But as I went back through our conversation and considered how the heck to capture all the must-haves to make a webinar your audience ACTUALLY FINDS VALUABLE, there were too many great nuggets — both strategic and tactical — to do this one any other way.
So here’s my breakdown of the key takeaways from our conversation: 18 ways to do a better manufacturing webinar:
If you’d rather watch or listen than read…
Here’s the podcast episode (Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts).
And here’s the full interview on video:
1. Neutralize your product
Most companies default to the typical sales webinar. Here’s this thing we sell. Here’s all the great stuff it does. Here’s why you should buy it.
And then they wonder why seven people showed up and why five of them left early.
The first thing you need to accept is that most of your attendees will NOT be active buyers. Because they’re just not. But, they are in a constant state of curiosity. They are there to learn – just not about what you sell. Many of them WILL be active buyers at some point. And webinars are your opportunity to earn their trust, create value and demonstrate that you know your stuff.
When they’re ready, they’ll call you.
So instead of talking about the packaging machinery you sell, talk about total cost of ownership for packaging machinery.
Focus on the category, not your product.
2. Let your audience determine your topics
What questions does your sales team get all the time? What things are you constantly explaining to educate your prospects during their buying processes?
Those should be content triggers for you. And great webinar topics. Organize some of those related questions into subtopics around a broader theme. And there’s your webinar topic.
Or go directly to the source. We’re huge advocates for customer interviews. Talk to them directly and craft a webinar series around what you learn.
3. Turn on the dang webcam
If this were 2019, I’d be telling you about how helpful an external webcam is and how it would be a bonus to invest $120 and learn how to use it.
But this is 2021 and technology just advanced about 10 years in one year. You’ve got a webcam. Turn it on!
People want to work with people. They want to see your face — and frankly, your dog too.
You have zero chance to build any semblance of rapport with your audience hiding behind a webcam and having your headshot ever present while you talk.
Also, invest in a good microphone (here’s a solid option that won’t break the bank) because audio quality is arguably MORE important than video.
But honestly, they’re both equally important.
4. Tell them your dog’s name
Speaking of your dog, how many kids you have?
What you do on the weekends?
How fired up about your NCAA bracket are you after it got busted by Oral Roberts?
I’m not bitter, I swear.
“B2B means boring to boring.” This is people to people. Show your personality. One client we worked with brilliantly added an entire slide to their presentation dedicated to highlighting their family, hobbies and a little bit about their education and experience in the industry.
But what I and everyone else noticed is that Tim is an avid cyclist. Who would have thunk that!?
Get relational. Show a bit of your personal life. Watch your audience immediately identify with you.
5. Start the webinar early
What a great opportunity to break the ice if you just show up 10 minutes early and open up conversation.
I said this in the episode and I’ll paraphrase here: “This is the moment in time when you immediately showcase whether you’re interested in them or interested in yourself”.
Greet your attendees as they enter the room. Ask them where they’re from and what they and their companies do.
Then look to make a personal connection.
Have you been to the place where they live? Are you familiar with the product they sell?
Be a real person just as you would if you were standing in the lobby at a live event eating a donut next to them.
6. Tell a story, or two or three
I’ll be honest, when I first did webinars I thought it was all about technical specs and features and benefits.
It’s about stories. Everything is about stories. Our brain is so wired for stories that it can illuminate the most boring topic ever if you have a good speaker.
People relate to real-life stories that turn concepts into something tangible.
Look for opportunities to illustrate your point with examples from your experiences.
What does that mean for your webinar?
Cut the bullet points to a minimum. Use images and graphs and graphics instead. And talk through your slides. Don’t read them off.
That’s guaranteed to not get you repeat attendees.
7. Encourage questions DURING the webinar
Most webinars end with a Q&A. And by then, 50% of the audience is already in their next meeting.
So don’t wait until the end. Ask people all along the way to PLEASE drop your questions into the chat pane. Tell them you WANT their questions.
It’s also worth noting that people tend to drop off after 30, 45 or 60 mins. Another pro tip: call out people who are waiting for their questions to be answered:
“Roger, Rachel, Randy, I see your questions. I’m gonna get to them”.
I promise if Roger has to wait another five minutes to get his question answered because you acknowledged him, he’s going to wait for it.
Another tip: after you answer, or after your panelist answers, ask Roger if he has a followup to that, or if that answered his question.
For gosh sakes, show you care.
This will keep people engaged and keep them around longer.
8. Get to the Q&A as fast as you can!
The Q&A is where the magic happens. Here’s a short clip from my interview that hits on the topic:
You should plan to have a dedicated moderator for your webinars (in addition to the presenter) who can keep an eye on the questions coming in.
While you’ll answer as many as you can along the way (in particular those that are contextual), you’ll also want a thorough (30 minutes+) Q&A session at the end.
I love Q&A so much because this is when your subject matter experts will truly shine. By answering questions outside the deck, they’ll demonstrate the depth of their expertise.
The Q&A is also direct evidence of whether your webinar was good or not. Webinars that get no questions sparked no curiosity.
If that happens, time to go back to the drawing board on your topics.
And really, Q&A sessions act as your first sales call. You’re demonstrating that you’ve seen these problems before and that you’ve helped others like them solve those problems. What better way to begin the relationship?
9. Follow up with value — not a sales pitch
No one wants to get a sales pitch after the webinar.
Do that and you’ll cut your attendee list in half for webinar number two.
But here’s what you can (and should) do.
Follow up with something of value:
“Hey Bill, you asked about ___ during the Q&A. Here’s a white paper we wrote a while back on that exact topic that goes into more depth. Let me know if it would be helpful to jump on a call and talk about your application. I’ll make sure to loop in our Senior Engineer, Mike, who wrote that piece”.
10. Personally thank your attendees
I’m not talking about a mass email. I’m talking about reaching out individually to at least SOME of your key attendees.
An email works. A handwritten note’s even better.
Or connect on LinkedIn and message them there.
Tell them you’re thrilled they attended. Ask if they have any follow-up questions or future topics they’d like to see you cover.
And frankly, ask them if they thought the topic was good or not. You should crave that kind of feedback from your audience. It will make your content better and it will make them more likely to attend again next time.
11. Don’t gate the recording
If you put your webinar recording behind a form on your website, a handful of people will probably watch it over the next few months before it fades into obscurity.
If you publish it on YouTube and stream it right into your website, tens or hundreds of people may watch it.
Are you making your content to be consumed by your prospects? Or to generate a few measly contacts? I’d choose the former.
12. Let the content waterfall flow
Every 30 or 60-minute webinar you record can be broken down into MULTIPLE videos or audio clips to deploy.
Look for highlights after your webinar — where your SME spit out something that was pure gold.
Then do what Batesville Products did here:
Or what J-Pac Medical did here:
Or what we do with highlights from our own webinar series, Industrial Marketing Live, like this here:
This micro content can be deployed through your personal or company social media accounts, in blog posts like this, in emails to prospects, etc.
13. Create written content from your webinars
The best way to repurpose a webinar into a blog is to plan AHEAD of time for the written content you want to create out of your webinar.
Your event could be called “The Beginner’s Guide to Fume Extraction.” And there could be three subtopics:
- What is welding fume?
- What fume extraction mitigation measures exist?
- Source capture fume extraction options explained
After the webinar, use Rev.com to transcribe the recording at $1.25/minute, throw the transcript to a copywriter and have them turn each segment into a separate blog post.
14. Join forces with an industry superpower
One of our clients is planning to do a joint webinar with Rockwell Automation. Another with Fanuc.
Easier said than done? You’d be surprised. All it takes is one sales professional from their organization to say yes. And many of you have those relationships already!
Think about the value of a joint webinar:
- Their brand names lend significant credibility to yours
- Their email list is 100X bigger than yours
- You’ll cross pollinate on audiences
So offer to do all the hard work. Set up the webinar. Create the promotional emails. Just ask them to show up. That’s value for everyone involved.
15. Try different formats
Your webinar doesn’t have to be run out of a PowerPoint deck.
Try a live side-by-side video of you interviewing one of your subject matter experts.
Trying a panel discussion with four people from your company sitting around a table and you moderating.
Or a panel where experts from inside and outside your company are live on Zoom from different parts of the country (or the world).
Think outside the deck.
16. Promote. Promote. Then promote a third time.
You should send two or three emails to promote your event.
The first should happen a week ahead of time.
The second should happen the day before.
And an optional (but recommended) third should happen 15 minutes before to catch people who happen to be available.
I promise this extra work is worth your time.
17. Throw some paid media budget at it
While your email list is the no brainer starting place for promoting your event, we recommend throwing a little paid media budget behind it.
Tell LinkedIn or Facebook to show your event promo to people with specific job titles from specific companies with specific interests.
See what it produces for you. What was the cost per lead? Adjust accordingly the next time around.
18. Make it episodic
If you treat your webinar as one and done, you’re gonna lose. Consistency will be key.
I used to have a goal of doing two webinars in a year. They felt like a Herculean effort.
Now, I execute my own webinar series every three weeks. I also rolled out a webinar sprint formula for our clients at Gorilla 76 to get new webinars live every five weeks.
And if you brand it, it could become something that catches fire in your industry.
We went as far as to brand our own episodic webinar series as Industrial Marketing Live. And our list of recurring attendees is snowballing.
You may think making 12-16 webinars per year is hard, but really it’s not once you’re well practiced at it. It’s much easier to talk than type, right?
Ready to level up your content program?
Maybe you’re looking at your company’s right now and thinking: we need a reset.
You’re not alone. Lots of companies could use one. And we can certainly help — not just with getting something like a webinar program off the ground, but actually creating demand around your company and getting in front your target audience in a way you haven’t before.
Want to see what we’re all about?
Consider a Road Map with the Gorilla team. We start with a front-end content strategy and build the demand gen engine on the back of it, building your company’s brand and getting that marketing-sourced revenue engine purring.
And if you want, contact me anytime on LinkedIn. Happy to talk and dish on marketing and your business. It’s what I love to do!
Keep trucking, my friend.