Are There Too Many Webinars?

January 19th, 2010 by Bob Bly

An article in BtoB (1/18/10, p. 21) says, “Given the plethora of webinars these days, it isn’t altogether surprising that some companies report a decline in attendee registration.”

I love webinars as an offer, especially in e-mail marketing. But can BtoB magazine be right? Is the market becoming oversaturated with webinars, just as some people say it is already oversaturated with white papers?

And if so, what offers can we use in BtoB lead generation in lieu of webinars and white papers? What other offers are in your bag of tricks for B2B lead gen?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 at 4:28 pm and is filed under Direct Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

30 responses about “Are There Too Many Webinars?”

  1. Joseph Ratliff said:

    Possibly good, meaty samples of the product being sold? Let the marketing and the information/trial use of the product sell the rest.

    I don’t think there are too many webinars, I just think the “standard” will be raised as to what gets people to pay attention to them and respond to the offer.

    In other words, if you do a webinar, you might have to market them to a smaller “microgroup” of people…targeting a very specific need.

    Or…

    You’ll have to make your content appear so amazing that a larger market will attend and respond.

  2. Mark Smallwood said:

    Bob,

    I think webinars are going through the same changes that other free media are experiencing. Like white papers, webinars that are thinly-veiled product pitches will continue to lose viewers, while content-rich webinars will flourish. Also, webinar providers will need to focus more on targeting their niches, rather than depending on PPC ads alone to try to ferret out real prospects from the general public.

  3. Eric S. Mueller said:

    I don’t think there are too many webinars. There’s probably too much noise, but eventually the market will even out and some of the noise will die down. Another commenter pointed out that most of us know the majority of webinars are product pitches. The rest of them, at least in my case, are at inconvenient times. They’re either while I’m at work, or during family time. I don’t bother signing up for webinars anymore unless they specify that a recording will be provided.

    The last “social media” webinar that I attended didn’t contain any information that I didn’t already know, and was nothing more than a conduit for an expensive “boot camp”. I wasn’t interested.

  4. Kelja said:

    Bob,

    Are you asking this because your most recent webinar was undersubscribed?

  5. Jim Logan said:

    The greatest B2B lead generation offering I’ve had to date — and routinely use due its continued effectiveness — are customer stories.

    As I use them, customer stories are a hybrid of a white paper, special report, and case study — a real-life example of a business challenge, solved by a tactic or strategy, told as a story of a customer success.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Kelja: my most recent seminar had 1,700 attendees registered. Is that undersubscribed to you?

  7. Brett Owens said:

    I don’t think the market is yet oversaturated – otherwise you wouldn’t have had 1,700 registrants!

    The company we use for webinar recruitment and creation, WebAttract, is hitting the ball out of the park on their webinars as well.

    The bar is definitely higher on webinars than they were a few years ago…poorly done or promoted events will be undersubscribed. But there are still plenty of spoils for those who do it right.

  8. Mike Agron said:

    As Brett Owens said above, and I’m paraphrasing, not all webinars are created equal.

    To set the context for my comments, let me start with a brief introduction of who we are, as our approach to webinars is somewhat different than more traditional approaches.

    As one of the co-principals of WebAttract, our primary offering is using webinars for demand creation for our B2B clients who are interested in promoting their brand, boosting their thought leadership and or generating fresh new sales leads. We do this by offering a turnkey service that takes care of the multitude of logistics across what we’ve developed as a 8 week life cycle.

    There exists a huge appetite today for B2B companies to use webinars as a demand creation tool and having been the executive webinar producer for key global brands such as Oracle, Microsoft, Google, Underwriters Laboratories as well as numerous emerging companies we see a lot of opportunity to improve this medium, and I’d like to discuss a few challenges.

    The biggest challenge isn’t the technology, although today’s hosting platforms have a long way to go, but they get the job done.

    It’s as much the human factors involved from having a project driven methodology covering all aspects from identifying the targeted demographic, developing a compelling value prop as part of your message to drive them to register and then be able to have presenters deliver on the key points by connecting with the audience.

    It’s as much about the ability to connect and more so than presenting facts or doing a sales pitch. This takes a collaborative effort where the client is willing to invest the time to participate in table reads and dress rehearsals, to ensure that the content and delivery is relevant and engaging.

    You can’t just show up and do a webinar without practicing and planning, and having a coach behind the scenes to bring the best out in the speakers along with a moderator to keep the flow engaging is another critical factor.

    Probably one of the biggest challenges we see is that to do a webinar properly where information is communicated, rather than a naked sales pitch takes a lot of behind the scenes planning, as there are many moving parts that need to be managed and coordinated over a planning horizon.

    My partner and I realize that as good as we believe our value prop and offerings are, we need to keep one step ahead and always look for ways to keep audiences engaged and be able to deliver results to our clients.

    I think as long as something of value is being offered, i.e., being able to provide insights, best practices, metrics, lessons learned around a case story on how a business or technical challenge was solved, and it’s not a naked commercial pitch, people will attend and come back to attend others of the same quality.

    We’ve had as many as 1300 register for events we’ve produced with over 700 attending, and typically find that our retention rate is about 93% through the hour, or that most attendees spend about 52 minutes of the hour with us.

    I’d love to hear what others think, as we’re keen to hearing what audiences are looking for. For instance, why not deliver highly impactful webinars in 30 minutes, instead of the customary hour foramt?

    In closing,the webinar scene reminds of the mid 80′s when PowerPoint for the Mac came out, and everyone thought that the presentation was about the cool technology, when in fact it was about the message and connecting with the audience first.

    How many death by PowerPoint meetings have we all been subjected too? The poor presenter was more enamored with the technology than delivering a message.

    I think the same challenges will exist in the world of webinars, i.e., until people subordinate the cool technology and realize it’s an enabler to better communication, we’re going to see webinars that don’t meet these standards go away, and the ones that do provide value, will continue to flourish.

    Mike

  9. Jim Logan said:

    @Bob: “…my most recent seminar had 1,700 attendees registered. Is that undersubscribed to you?”

    It certainly isn’t to me. That’s greater than my last X number of events combined.

    I’m professionally jealous :)

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  11. Katherine Chalmers said:

    When marketing budgets are slashed, webinars are one of the few promotions companies can still afford. And with travel budgets also being cut, it’s tough for people to attend in-person events. Webinars are a great solution to these two problems, but there are A LOT of them right now.

    I’ve seen a huge increase in Webinar offers since Q3 of last year. Right now, I get at least 30 webinar invitations A DAY. There’s no way I can attend all of them. Only the ones that make it to my calendar are a) very relevant to my needs, b) target content I don’t know much about and want to learn, or c) feature guest speakers and event hosts I greatly respect.

    I only have time for about one webinar per week so the content better be meaty. I’m going to bail pretty quickly if the entire first segment is nothing but sales rah rah and stupid pre-qualifying polls. Webinars with replays or podcasts are the best since I can listen in later at my convenience.

  12. Hans de Groot said:

    Bob,

    You can also ask yourself whether there are too many books. Are there too many e-mail newsletters or whitepapers. Are there too many websites or banners.

    I think the answer will always be no. People or companies want to stand out and promote themselves. By writing a book, sending an e-newsletter, writing a whitepaper or whatever. And these books, newsletters and whitepapers can be good or not so good.

    The good will survive and be promoted by others, the not so good will disappear. Like it has always been, with everything. Including webinars.

  13. Kyle said:

    I have declared all out war on long boring intros.

    Once you become aware the enormous time wasting meaningless chatter on webinars, interviews and all things podcast– you can only shake your head and utter some quick prayer.

    Having spent decades in radio and TV we learned to distill. And it can be done.

  14. Stephen said:

    I think there are too many “for fee” webinars. I prefer ones I can view on my schedule.

    My Webinar Wishlsit
    1) make it free
    2) Post it so I can view after the event
    3) make them easier to find

    Regards,

    Stephen
    http://www.inventionaddict.com/ (blog)
    http://www.inspiration2innovation.com/ (my company)

  15. Mark McClure said:

    Without a transcript and a way of downloading / viewing them after the event I’m unlikely to attend. Time is too precious to waste.

    Before deciding on a ‘pay’ webinar I’ll check out the presenter’s previous offerings. And if there are none I usually don’t attend the 1st live session but will subscribe to get the after class materials.

    Once a presenter has a ‘track record’ of offering instructive webinar content I’m less gun shy about signing up for a topic of interest. it’s all about gaining trust and providing value.

  16. coetsee said:

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  17. Brad said:

    Free webinars are just one method of “volunteering” free products or services to get sales. I don’t think there could be too many unless they are literally crowding the internet like junk mail.

  18. I.A. said:

    I would love to see Bob Bly giving a few teleseminars and webinars.

  19. Fiona Fell said:

    I don’t feel that there are too many.

    Perhaps they are not as targetted or content full as previous times, or our expectations have risen.

    Promise me content, and deliver 10min worth in the first 12mins (2min intros) and I’ll stick around for the rest.

  20. Patrick said:

    I don’t think there are to many as I struggle to get to a lot that are done in the USA.

    The problem I have a is the time difference. I find some are at 7pm in the evening when we are sorting out the kids others are at 10pm at night when you are going to bed.

    People never put the GMT time on a lot of them and by that I mean London GMT as we have summer and winter times here.

    I than have to spend my time trying to find the time zones and converting it to GMT.

    I now don’t bother if the time is not listed I don’t attend.

    Huge market here 65 million people and you don’t list the right time for UK.

    The government has made it a policy here that every household in the UK will have access to broadband.

    By the way cheques are going here by 2016 so if you cant pay on line you wont be able to pay.

  21. Lou Wasser said:

    Since testing is king in direct response … what is the test to arrive at the magic number which equals “too many” webinars?

  22. Beverly said:

    Kyle said, “I have declared all out war on long boring intros.” and I agree with that wholeheartedly! Some great suggestions here about preparing the speakers, making them easy to find and available after the “live” event, as well as incl. the live time in multiple time zones.

    I’m starting to see “virtual events” – so far usually for internal training. Has anyone had experience with them for customers?

  23. Talmadge Boyd said:

    Webinars need to evolve into shows done live, fast and easy and measurable. There’s always such a big run up to a webinar and then ultimately, what do you have? 20 minutes of decent audio, a powerpoint, and some product plugs – meh. We need connection and personality now.

  24. Sam Jones said:

    There are so many webinars available for all interested participants. However, I don’t find other webinars effective. Most of them obviously focus on sales than sharing their knowledge to their participants.

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  27. Amanda said:

    I instantly click away from internet marketing webinars now. I have better things to do than sit in front of the computer watching a 40 min ad.

    The other annoying thing is that many webinars are aimed at the US audience only. Running a webinar on a Monday evening LA time is something like midmorning Tuesday for many other parts of the world. And most of us are too busy doing real work at that time of the day.

    What would be far more useful would be to record the audio as a podcast that could listened to anytime, anywhere, and to have powerpoints and transcripts downloadable.

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