In April 2020 during the early phase of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, the number of webinars produced increased 167% YOY for clients of webinar platform company ON24. I also saw this first hand at my former employer where we increased our webinars beginning in March from an average of 1-2 per month to 6 to 8 per month.
That volume and cadence is consistent with the ON24 report, which revealed that during April their clients were hosting webinars an average of twice per week.
According to ON24’s recently released special COVID-19 webinar benchmark report, the number of webinars hosted on the platform in April 2020 increased to 19,294 webinars versus an average of roughly 7,234 webinars the company hosted each month in 2019.
Since ON24 didn’t share the actual April 2019 numbers, we don’t really know the exact YOY increase. But what is clear nonetheless, is that with in-person conferences – a major source of leads for most B2B companies – being cancelled and virtual events taking several months to get organized, webinars became the hot “go to” marketing activity.
Interestingly, the ON24 report, which was published in early July, did not include webinar numbers for May or June. This may have simply been that it took a few months to produce, or that the volume of webinars in May and June declined from April levels and thus was not as noteworthy and so were not included in the report.
My own observation was that many people binge-watched webinars during the first few months of working from home (March-April), but then started to get “webinared out.” I certainly saw that you had to work much harder in May and June to get the same level of registrations as during March and April. As such, I believe many companies also started to reduce the number of webinars they hosted from the high point, and got back to placing a greater focus on their webinar goals and delivering more strategic content.
Key Questions to Ask to Determine the Right Webinar Frequency
If you currently manage a webinar program or are looking at starting one, determining a cadence that your team can support and meets your business objectives is a key first step. Following are some key questions to consider:
- Goals: What audiences are you targeting and types of webinars are you planning to run: Public/Prospect, Customer only, Partner, and Sponsored. For example, if key goals are retention of existing customers and to generate new leads and awareness, you might want to host a minimum of 1 each per month. But if resources support, you might be able to host 4 each or 8 total per month.
- Resources: Do you have someone on your team who can focus a significant percentage of their time managing webinars? Or are you resource and webinar expertise strapped and might only have people who can dedicate a small percentage of their time to managing webinars.
- Content/Assets: Do you have a pipeline of assets such as white papers, guides, studies/special reports, case studies, etc. that you can build your webinar content from and use to drive additional benefits during registration?
- Topics/Speakers: Webinars ultimately are about relevant and valuable topics and content that is presented by engaging and knowledgeable speakers. If you struggle to come up with topics and/or have a limited supply of good speakers, then 1-2 webinars per month is likely your maximum cadence. If, however, you are in a fast-changing industry with several subject matter experts in your company, you might be able to deliver several quality webinars per month.
- Format: Are most of your webinars very slide-centric, which requires significant advance preparation, or are they more of a panel and conversation-style format? Are your webinars all live or are some percentage of them recorded for on-demand only viewing which allows increased flexibility for presenters?
- Database/Email Marketing Resources: Webinars can be a lot of work, and the same amount of effort is required whether you have 50 attendees or 500. Do you have a large enough database and email marketing resources to actively promote your webinars and drive a significant number of registrants and attendees?
- Follow-Up Process: Webinars are only as successful as how you follow up with registrants and attendees. Do you have an inside sales team or process to qualify attendees and follow up with them in a timely manner? Do you have a lead scoring process to prioritize leads and nurture them through a marketing automation program?
- Measure and Improve: Like any marketing activity, webinars need to be measured against key goals. At one webinar per month, tracking detailed performance metrics is not as critical as if you are hosting say two per week. Do you have the resources to actually monitor and measure webinar performance, test and learn, and continue to improve your program?
Because in-person conferences are not happening possibly until mid to late 2021, webinars and virtual events will be one of the main sources of content and insights for attendees and leads and awareness for brands. But the competition for attendees will become intense as people become more discriminating on which webinars they register for. The quality of your webinar program and how you convert attendees should be your key focus versus the volume of webinars you produce.