Podcast: Why you should add webinars to your content mix

By Doug Bolton

Podcast: Why you should add webinars to your content mix

Webinars are nothing new in the world of online communication, but they're still unfamiliar territory for a lot of B2B companies. In this episode of The Onlinification Pod, I spoke to Bryan van Anrooij, head of marketing at WebinarGeek, to talk about why more companies should add webinars to their content mix.

Companies we work with often feel a bit unsure about starting with webinars. For a B2B business that is used to creating articles for the knowledge hub or publishing lead-generating ebooks, making the jump to broadcasting live in front of potentially hundreds of existing or future customers can be a scary prospect. Hosting a webinar means creating an attractive presentation that will convince participants to sign up, learning a new tool and getting comfortable in front of the camera, and designing a smart follow-up process that actually drives business. And since you're broadcasting live, it's not possible to edit out any mistakes. With all this in mind, it's not surprising that many companies don't prioritise webinars as a marketing tool.

During our discussion, Bryan covered these concerns and made a great argument for why every B2B company should consider getting started. WebinarGeek is a leading webinar platform that we've used in the past, and Bryan's organised and participated in a large number of webinars over the years. If you're interested in branching out and testing how webinars could work for you, listen to hear Bryan explain:

  • What new formats innovative companies are trying out in their webinars, beyond the traditional 'presenter and presentation' approach — like chat shows, quizzes and panel discussions
  • How your company can use pre-recorded video in hybrid or automated webinars to provide the full webinar experience without the stress of live broadcasting
  • How you can use polls, Q&As and live chat to enrich your CRM with data that helps your sales team convert leads
  • Why a well-designed followup process can turn webinars from just another type of content to the foundation of your online marketing communication

I think we had a great discussion in this episode, and hopefully it inspires you to start testing webinars for yourself. Before you get started, find out more about WebinarGeek here, or take a look at our webinar services to learn how Zooma can help you get your first webinars off the ground.

You can listen to this episode on the podcast platform of your choice using the links below, and there's a full transcription of our discussion further down. Enjoy!

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Doug Bolton: So, hello and welcome to The Onlinification Pod, Brian Van Anrooij from WebinarGeek. How are you doing?

Bryan van Anrooij: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I'm doing great, it's an honor to to be here as a guest. So thank you for inviting me.

DB: It's an honor to have you. It's not every day we get external guests, but now we've kind of exhausted everyone who works at Zooma, so we need to actually look further afield, too.

BvA: Yeah, it’s time to discover other, uh, other sources of guests. So I'm happy to join you for today.

DB: So today, obviously you're from WebinarGeek, so we're going to be talking about webinars, but maybe before we get into it, you can just explain a little bit about what your company does and what you do at WebinarGeek.

BvA: Yeah, So WebinarGeek is a webinar software platform with which you can host webinars super easily. We are well known and reviewed greatly for our customer support because it is actually human support. And of course there is a small bot asking some questions, but um, within three minutes you often get a response from a real human. Um, and we are very much focused on creating webinar software which makes us different from our competitors. We are really making features for webinar software, not features for video meeting tools or whatever, and we can release features for that every month so that the customers that we have stick with us and the free trials being made are very likely to convert. My own role is head of product led marketing, which is a combination of creating automations, a bit of growth hacking. So that is also where my background is from and a part of customer communications. I used to work as a customer success manager and before that as a web developer, and after that as a marketeer. So everything comes together, and I like this role very much, which is like bringing a team together and creating a better product that converts better. Um, and yeah, spreading the knowledge about webinar software in general, but also new webinar features that can work for our customers on a bigger scale. That is something that I like super much.

DB: Great. Well, yeah, I definitely think WebinarGeek is doing something right because Zooma is actually a customer of WebinarGeek. Even though we, we haven't had a, uh, not a live or hybrid webinar, at least in quite a few months. But that's the reason I invited you to join today is because, you know, we have used WebinarGeek and we found some features there that we found useful and were looking for that we didn't find in other places. We’ll get back to that later, but just to kind of start off with, um, I think a lot of people, first of all, a lot of people get lots of invites to webinars every day in their inbox. I know I do. Then there's also a lot of customers, companies we work with that are kind of interested, curious about webinars but haven't actually taken the step and, you know, stick more to their usual content formats like articles, blogs, social media, that kind of thing. Because obviously it's a little bit of work to do a webinar, especially if you've never done it before. So from your perspective, what do you think the benefits of a webinar are compared to, you know, giving the same type of information in an article or a book or a podcast or something?

BvA: Yeah, I see what you mean because people are indeed thinking that you need to give a lot and you can like take a little, uh, there are a couple of things that, that I for sure want to mention. One is that with the webinar, people actually see a human, so you want to create a trust bond between the company and like one of your colleagues standing in front of that camera and the potential buyer or maybe even a customer. Um, and to do that you do need to talk to them, and an e-book works super fine for qualifying an MQL, but if you want to go a bit more to an SQL, then it is nice to have that personal touch there. And with a webinar you will have at least like 30 minutes of someone's time. You can analyze their behaviour, they respond to an interaction, they use the chat, all these kind of things is information that you can find in webinar software like WebinarGeek, of course, which you can use or which at least the sales team can use to understand that customer much better. Um, and that is also one of the benefits from, from webinar software, is that you can actually interact with them, you can interact with your potential customers on a bigger scale. So where in a video meeting, it is often of course 1 to 1. Here it is 1 to 4000.

And as long as you have enough moderators, you can handle the chat very well. And you still get all the information from all the sides. And another thing is that with a webinar, often people think like, okay, I need to host one webinar that is like more or less the replacement of an event. And after that event took place, it is done. But that's actually not the case because with WebinarGeek, we automatically record the webinar that you're hosting and with three clicks, literally three clicks, you can convert it to an on-demand webinar so that people can watch it whenever they want, or you convert it to an automated webinar so that you can broadcast it another time just using that recording, which makes it much more sustainable to host a webinar every week because you only have one recording. And for the rest it is just like making sure that there is a moderator on that time. So that is, I think, a couple of the benefits that it has, and also there’s an assumption that people have that it takes a lot of time to host a webinar. You need to indeed invest some time in the beginning, but after that it goes and it flows automatically, especially with on-demand webinars, you don't need to do anything. Now people subscribe, they watch your content and you get the information that they are giving to you.

DB: Definitely. And I think even though we've used webinars before, we've definitely only scratched the surface in terms of what you mentioned there, like using the polls and questionnaires and stuff you can do during a webinar to get data and input into the CRM and, you know, making the most of that webinar content that you get. We usually say a similar thing about our podcasts. Like you record a podcast and it takes a bit of time, you know, to you need this kind of recording equipment and stuff and you need to learn how to edit it. But once you have an episode of half an hour or something, you can repurpose that into, you know, articles or social media content or whatever. And it's kind of similar with webinars, you can reuse it more than once, it doesn't just have to be the one date.

BvA: And that is indeed even something that that I didn't even mention. But indeed, if you have that webinar and you download the video file or you listen to it and you can just pick out some quotes, then you have so much content for the content team that you have, or that you hire, it doesn't really have to make content anymore because you made it yourself. And with the chats coming in or indeed a small snippet from the from the webinar recording, you can fill up your social media calendar for the next coming week for sure. So like it helps a lot and you can grab another quote and spread the first one in the first week and the second one in the second week. And you can use that content for promoting the next webinar too, of course. Yeah. So it helps each other.

DB: Exactly. Um, so we spoke a little bit, you know, about the whether it's true or a misconception that it's, difficult or a lot of work to do a webinar, um, and wanted to talk about hybrid webinars, because that's actually the reason we at Zooma started using WebinarGeek because we, we had a few live webinars, and they went well. But you know, it's sometimes tricky when, you know, halfway through a presentation, the presenter starts coughing and is just having a coughing fit right until the end. Or, you know, you rehearse, but then in the heat of the moment, you go over time. And then there's all this time pressure at the end and you know, all the problems that can come up with broadcasting anything live. We thought, wouldn't it be good if we could just have like a pre-recorded presentation, do a live intro, switch to something that's pre-recorded so we can edit it, we know exactly how long it's going to take, and then once that's over, we can go live again and maybe take questions or something. And obviously that's a tool that WebinarGeek provides. How do you see that being used among your customers?

BvA: Yeah, well we are we of course host webinars as well and we like the live moment very much because even if something small goes wrong, that shows that it is actually human, people really like humans standing there and not like pre-programmed robots who are just like saying exactly what they have to say in a perfect, like, designed recording. Um, and so that also makes it a bit more funny. And there is a certain magic to live that you cannot have when you are pre-recording a video. At the same time, if you choose indeed for a hybrid version where partially you do things live and things recorded, you have the best of both worlds, especially if you have the presentation pre-recorded. Never lie, of course, about the fact that it is pre-recorded. You can choose to not mention it, but don't say in a recording, “Hey, we are live,” and people all of a sudden say like, “Hey, but it is daylight. But for me it is night. How is it possible?” Or you're sitting there in your t-shirt, but it is minus 20 outside. So why are you sitting in your t-shirt? Uh, not mentioning it is, of course OK too, but just always tell the truth. Also, if people are asking, never lie about that, because then it sounds a bit like, yeah, strange, but why would you lie? I mean, everyone is used to recorded content, so that is not a problem at all.

One of the other benefits is of course that you can take people somewhere else. We have this customer, it was in the times of the pandemic, who wanted to do, um, I think it was more or less a tour through a national park, and they started in a studio just live explaining how things work and a little bit about the biology and stuff. And then the recording was just in that national park where there was no internet connection, where they did not have the equipment to actually host the webinar, but they really used that like format as in like, hey, we're first explaining you something and then we are taking you on our like little tour and we are coming back later to the studio to end the session. That was super creative, especially in the time of the pandemic that people still had the possibility to enjoy that tour or like, like the, like the show with more or less the same content. But yeah, just partially live and partially recorded.

DB: Yeah, exactly. It worked very well for us. Um, and one thing you covered there for a minute, which was the first thing certainly that I thought when we found WebinarGeek and realized we could do a kind of hybrid, mixed webinar with live and pre-recorded content, was that, you know, people would feel cheated, you know, like we said right at the beginning that the presentation is pre-recorded, but we kind of thought, we'll try it out, but people generally expect webinars to be live, we thought. And then, you know, we were ready for this negative feedback in the end, like, why have you booked me and invited me at this specific time to watch a pre-recorded webinar? But I don’t know whether we got lucky or something, but we've done maybe 4 or 5 webinars like that and have never got any negative comments, not related to pre-recorded presentations at least. And same for customers, we've helped them do their first webinars and generally they've tried pre-recorded just to get going and they've never got any negative comments about that.

BvA: So in general, we see that viewer ratio after or during the pandemic, or after the first year, so in 2021, the viewer ratio, comparing the amount of subscribers with actually people who are showing up for the live show, uh, dropped a lot because people got used to the fact that the next day there is a recording and then it doesn't matter anyway if it is live or not, because half of your people are for sure going to watch that recording and it doesn't matter for them if it is a recording or not, because they want to watch the recording, they are not expecting all of a sudden another live webinar. So I think also if you if you look at that where pre-corona the viewer ratio was around 70%, even sometimes higher depending of course a little bit also on what you are promising to do live, if you are hosting a webinar and you are giving away something super valuable and you are also mentioning we only are giving that away live, yeah, then you can of course expect a higher viewer ratio. But in general we saw it going from around 70% to 50%, just because, and I mean also the question is this a webinar recorded? We used to have that in 2020 the whole time and now people are just like, assuming, of course we'll get a recording. So that's also changed a bit. Of course, people are okay with not everything being super live because they are watching it on demand.

DB: Yeah, exactly. And I guess it's really the content that's the important thing, you know. That's what people come for, not necessarily the live aspect, even though, like you said, going live has a kind of unique magic to it, you know, compared to other formats.

BvA: And that magic touch is especially also from the hosting team, you know, that's like when it is done, you give each other a high five. We're done. It is like, it was a success. And you can of course like give each other immediate feedback about how things were going. You get used to that as well. So especially the first time, it is of course a bit scary, but if you're doing it for the third time, then you're like, oh, I understand how things work. I know how things should be, what I should concentrate on. So yeah.

DB: Exactly. We spoke a bit last time about formats, sort of when you do a webinar, what does it consist of? You know, and I think just coming off talking about hybrid webinars, if you do pre-record, maybe you have can be a bit more comfortable about trying out different styles and stuff. And I mean at Zooma in our webinars, we probably haven't been so imaginative. You know, we generally do the standard single presenter with a presentation, you know, side by side, often with a Q&A at the end, and that works well. And I think that's what people imagine when they think of a webinar. But um, you've mentioned some of your customers are doing a lot more interesting things, right?

BvA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very true. And what we saw as well because of the pandemic is that, that the whole mindset of like what, what a webinar is, the traditional way, presenter, a presentation on the side, that it's more or less become literally a stage, and you can design a stage however you like. Do you want it empty? Do you want to like zoom in on the presenter? If you are, if you're looking at as a crowd at the at the stage, do you want to have a completely dressed up stage with like plants and lights and neon things or whatever? And that gives the opportunity to think a bit more creatively about how are we going to design that webinar just not, not just going to like put the camera on the presenter and then presentation slides next to him? No, we can invite other people, we can do an interactive talk show or maybe a masterclass or uh, we're going to do some quizzes and we're going to mention the people who won, or if they want to, of course.

But I mean, there are so many, so more other creative ways to use that stage apart from and presenter and the presentation, and in general, the use of a presentation. What we see as well is that what it used to be, just like bullet points, is that now more often people are trying to explain that with small video injections, that it more or less it a hybrid video. But if you want to explain a certain small topic that you can also use a video for that you show during your webinar, so that you instead of like having that bullet list, like step one, step two, step three, you're just showing a small product tour of your product or of how things are working that makes it a bit more interactive and fun to watch as well. So you see that where webinars like first started as a bit like maybe like a boring presentation. Now people can actually make a show out of it and that is, I think, quite nice to see.

DB: Absolutely. So that kind of follows on to quite an important question of how you actually get people to sign up. And that's the challenging thing with everything, you know, whether it's not even related to webinars, right? It's, you know, even if you have a inbound blog, how do you get people to read it or subscribe to it? But that's certainly something I've thought a lot about because like I said, I get a few invitations maybe to different webinars every week or every month. Um, and there's lots of them I would like to go to. But something I've realized when we've been doing webinars is it's actually quite a lot to ask of people today to book a specific time, you know, 30 minutes in their calendar, uh, even with a couple of weeks advance notice, you know, like people are busy, especially when we spoke about the pandemic and stuff, people are sat in Zoom meetings and stuff all day anyway. And um, trying to get that time in their calendar is, is more and more challenging, I think. So what would you say are some good ways to kind of get over that that block, you know, and actually make the argument to, to people who are going to participate that this is actually worth booking your time for.

BvA: Indeed. Well, there are a couple of more strategic things that you have to think about when you are planning on hosting a webinar, like, who is your target audience and make it maybe as small as possible so that you can also define what is the value that I'm going to give to those people, uh, during those 30 minutes. Also make sure that whatever the value is, that you are saving that a bit to the last part of the webinar, but that is also more about retaining the webinar viewers that you have, because what we also see is that if you are hosting a webinar which is like super open for everyone and you are putting a budget into LinkedIn ads for a bigger audience and maybe even Google Ads to attract people to your to your webinar, that no one actually finds it very valuable because they are coming from different sides with different angles, with different assumptions with which they are not being served. And I mean that's even if they are subscribing, but a lot of people are then going to a registration page and are like, I don't know what I'm going to get out of this. It doesn't really sound super interesting to me. So have a look at an industry at a certain type of customer that you want to reach out to. Another more like practical tip that we see that works super well for us is that whenever we are hosting a webinar, that we put a banner on our website just on the top of the website, we are using Intercom for that. But I think there are plenty of other software tools, and you can of course also like develop one yourself and just mention there that you are hosting a webinar very soon. Um, place that banner, uh, two weeks in advance on your website and you will see that the people who are actually already visiting your webinar will show up in that you are already visiting your website. Sorry, are going to register for your webinar because they are coming to your website for a reason. They already want to see something from you. So that is the best way that people are actually coming to you, that you are welcoming them to your webinar instead of reaching out to an audience who is actually not waiting for the webinar invitation. Because indeed what you are saying is very true. The amount of invitations for webinars in your mailbox is probably rising. But if you are now going to a certain website, and you are actually interesting about their software, about the product or whatever, about doing business with them, then you're more likely to visit one of their webinars because you are actually interested. So it, it's coming from you, the incentive. Another thing that of course always helps is having a certain like lead magnet at the end of your webinar. It can be valuable, it can be, it can be just like valuable knowledge that you're going to share, but it can also be connecting that ebook that you already have to that webinar which you're going to hand out at the end of a webinar. I would then always choose, often what we see is that ebooks are gated content. In that case I would say, okay, someone already registered for that webinar. You already have their email address. They hopefully already gave consent to a newsletter or whatever, so give that e-book whitepaper, whatever it is, away for free. You can always measure, at least with WebinarGeek, if that person clicks, and that makes it of course a more valuable lead, or if it downloaded the ebook. So you still have the information that you need, so you need to make sure that you remove that gate because then otherwise people feel a bit fooled, like, oh, it was already somewhere there on the website and no need to fill in my email address again. But these are a couple of tips, and especially the one, like try to focus on one audience and see or think about what is the value that I can bring to them. I mean, every company has a certain expertise. What is that and why are people coming to you now? Just also look at your own customer base. Why are they doing business with me and how can I give the most minimal form of whatever I'm providing to the people who are watching my my webinar?

DB: Definitely, I think that's a really good point because that was something also we learned after a webinar we did maybe two years ago, um, which was about ABM, account based marketing, which was kind of intended just to be like a semi-training, semi kind of inspiration thing about, you know, what is and how to get started really. And it went okay. But of the feedback we got, a lot of it was either, “this was way too simple for me,” and then the other half was, “this was way too advanced for me.” Because, you know, we, we didn't focus on one specific thing. It was meant to be kind of a general introduction. But then, you know, you get the challenge that it's not really a good fit for anyone. And yeah, that was a good learning for us because I mean, that's something you think about with any other type of content. You know, if you write an article, then you think, okay, what am I really trying to say? And who is the particular person that needs to read this? But I think that's even more important when you have a webinar just because you're asking, you know, you're not just asking someone to click on a link and read your article. You're also asking them to join and book time and, you know, take a moment out of their day to watch your webinar, so it really needs to be laser focused on them really. 

But another thing that sometimes Zooma has forgotten, but I know that other people forget too, is following up and actually using your webinar as something that can drive business, because I think, especially for companies that are new to webinars, a lot of the attention goes on, you know, we need to learn, choose a tool first and learn it and practice and produce our presentation. And we need to find someone to host who's comfortable and enthusiastic and good in front of the camera, and who do we invite, you know, it's a lot of considerations, both technical and design and so on. And then sometimes the webinar finishes, everyone's happy, but then two days later you realize, Oh, right, what do we do now? Then, you know, we forgot that we should do something after this and try and get something out of it. And then sometimes you have to make that quickly afterwards and it's not so thought through. So do you have any ideas there on a good follow up process?

BvA: Yeah. Well one of the first things that you should definitely do even before the webinar is actually over is use the  evaluation form, so that you get feedback that can help you, that can help you with improving your next webinar. It's super easy, especially in WebinarGeek, you just switch it on. We have a couple of default questions, but you can of course also edit that and have your own questions there. But that helps a lot with understanding the follow up on a personal level. Another thing is that with WebinarGeek, but also of course with other tools, you can send follow up emails before you're actually publishing your webinar. So that is the moment that there is a registration page where we are already telling you, don't forget to create a follow up mail so that not all of a sudden a week after your webinar you're like, “Oh yeah, follow up mail, completely forgot it.” So make sure that these are ready and you can make as many as you like. What we often see is that people send a follow up mail with the replay a day later and then after that, a week later, and then some companies have even three follow up mails, or depending on the interactions on the poll answers that they gave, more information on that subject that they chose. Um, and another thing that is very important is to integrate that tool. We often see marketing teams hosting that webinar. They gathered the data and then some, like other department, needs to work with it. It might be sales. If we're talking about leads, it might be customer success, or maybe support or customer service if it is a webinar about training customers or whatever, but make sure that if you integrate with that, make sure to integrate with other tools so that the information and data that you're collecting actually flows through your organization. Of course with consent with from the viewers. But make sure that like people can actually use the data to make better decisions in their, uh, in the follow up on leads or like when they see that the customer was struggling with the quiz questions, that they receive a phone call and make a little plan for that. You don't have to think it all through, but just a bullet list for like, okay, you are going to get a lead. You know the industry that he's working from, that's what we ask for, you know, his phone number and, you know, his experience with our product because these are the questions that we are asking during the webinar.

And then a sales or a business account executive can do something with that and can call or email the leads coming in. Same for customers. If you're training them with webinar software, um, make sure that you inform the customer success team. We are asking this, do you want me to ask more? That's of course, maybe also a good idea to like have the influence and like input from other teams so that your webinar is actually becoming more of a company effort, right. And use that information again and they can use the information coming in again from the webinar to help that customer much better. If you see that someone did not pass their assessment, then it is time for a call to just explain or see how you can improve things for them. See how maybe other how you can give like a more personal training or onboarding, that is, I think, very important. And also to have if you integrate with another tool, then at least that contact profile is there, and you can again send personalized emails based on the decisions that they made during the webinar or send a different invitation to the people who already visited a webinar or watched a webinar compared to the people who never watch the webinar, I think can be a bit more like personalized.

DB: Yeah, definitely. I think that's a really good point to finish on is, you know, that you take advantage of the unique benefits that webinars bring. Just the insights that you get and the engagement that someone shows by actually sitting through a whole webinar and asking questions, you know, that's something that you spread through the whole organization, like you said, rather than just treating webinars as kind of an extra addition to your content mix that you do every year or twice a year.

BvA: Yeah. If you can make it a part of your funnel or maybe even part of multiple funnels, then it can really like provide a lot of information because you have the attention for 30 minutes. I mean, if you're creating an ad, then I think that you have less than three seconds to get someone's attention. And now and like most webinars are 30 minutes, 45 minutes-ish. Of course, there are always some people hosting a webinar for four hours because they feel like that they have so much information that they want to share, but you actually have 30 to 45 minutes and attention from your potential customer or from your customers. That is super special. And during that time you can get so much information from them and there is no other way to collect so much data from potential customers or current customers.

DB: Exactly. Great. Well, I think we should finish up there. But thanks very much, Bryan, for joining today. Before we go, people can try out WebinarGeek, right, If they want to?

BvA: Yeah, that is true. If you visit webinargeek.com, then you can start a 14 day free trial, no strings attached. So you can just start an account. If you like it, then you can buy it. If not, then that's it. And we are also not going to bother you further with other things. But we see that a lot of people, especially if you want to host webinars and you have a webinar software, that is actually building webinar software features, that people are honestly happy with the development that they see at WebinarGeek, together with that customer service and the customer support that we have. Yeah, I'm more than happy to welcome everyone to visit the website and see some more beautiful designed stages online.

DB: No, I agree. I should say that Zooma, you know, we're not partners or anything. We don't have any kind of agreement with WebinarGeek, but we have used it before and I would definitely recommend it. It's a nice tool. It's not always the easiest thing to host webinars, so it's nice to have a tool at least that doesn't fail on you or make life difficult, you know?

BvA: Exactly, exactly. And thank you, of course, for saying that.

DB: Yeah, Great. Well, thanks again, Bryan. And yeah, we hopefully we might have you on again soon at some point. 

BvA: Thank you. 

DB: All right, then. Take care.

Doug Bolton
Doug has been a Content Producer at Zooma since 2021. Originally English, he now lives in Sweden.
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