Webinars have established themselves as an essential B2B marketing tool for driving engagement and interacting directly with your best prospects. They are relatively affordable to promote and produce, and the business intelligence you can gather from a 45-minute interactive session just can’t be replicated by a simple email response or standard form submissions.

But what if the prospects who attend your webinar don’t interact with your featured speaker or content assets? Sure, you still can reinforce your key talking points, but it’s a missed chance to refine your B2B demand generation strategies and really connect with your best revenue opportunities.

The obvious question is: Why would a potential customer go to the effort to attend a webinar, and then not take full advantage of the opportunity to ask questions or share their own perspective?

Maybe they just like to learn by listening and watching, and that’s OK – modern B2B marketing is about embracing each prospect’s individual purchase journey preferences.

Or maybe you are trying to pump too much information into your webinar, and you’re unintentionally talking over your audience. Or perhaps you are trying to replicate the experience of an in-person trade show – which almost always has a huge Sales component – with your online marketing experience.

In any case, a webinar with poor audience interactivity can still be good, but it’s not great. Fortunately, it’s also a problem that you can fix with a little planning and smart event organization.

Webinars’ Road to Top of B2B Demand Generation

Let’s be clear – if you are in B2B marketing, it’s safe to assume that you are running webinars, and that by and large you are happy with the results. In fact, webinars were cited as the best way to generate qualified leads by a whopping 73 percent of respondents in the Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 benchmarking survey.

Along the same lines, Demand Gen Report’s 2023 report found that webinars are the best source of engagement for high-funnel leads, even ahead of trade shows. And way back in 2019 (that’s like a century in the digital age), as many as 95 percent of marketers said that webinars were a critical part of their business.

And then came COVID-19.

In the first three months of the pandemic, the number of B2B brands running webinars increased by about 70 percent. With in-person trade shows simply off the table, everyone rushed to shift that budget into online events.

By last year, the global webinar market was expected to hit $800 million, even as some spending is shifting back into physical spaces. And the trend toward webinars doesn’t seem to be slowing down, with most surveys finding that B2B marketing teams plan to spend more on the channel in coming years – even though it typically commands no more than 10 percent of the overall B2B marketing budget.

Why Aren’t Attendees Interacting in Your Webinar?

But, as with any rapid growth spurt, webinars have begun to demonstrate a few growing pains. Notably, only about a third of webinar marketers say their online events are highly effective. Overall, they are pleased, but most marketers say they aren’t fully optimizing the chance to interact with their best prospects.

Of course, there are countless reasons any B2B marketing channel may be running a little flat. Oft-cited issues with webinars include poor integration with your CRM and a general glut of online events in the market. It’s tough to stand out in a population that grew by 70 percent in just three months.

And then there’s limited interactivity. Webinars are designed to be interactive (at least, they should be) – otherwise, they are just a video. Yet many B2B marketing teams cite limited interactivity as an issue with their webinars. In fact, it was a major concern for respondents to a recent survey of our own demand generation customers here at Bython.

So, why would an attendee pass on the chance to ask questions and share insights with their peers?

Your Topic Is Not as Interesting as You Think

You may want to talk about the need to update your accounting software this cycle, but your Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) are far more interested in how to stretch the lifecycle of your current version with a few smart system integrations.

Be sure to pick relevant, actionable topics that speak directly to the audience you want to engage. Big, sweeping industry trends – “Investing in Enterprise-Wide Financial Clarity” – may be OK for some audiences, but more focused problem-solving is usually best for driving interactivity and engagement.

One of the best resources for finding the right webinar topic is intent data, which of course is also essential for finding prospects who are at the right point in their purchase journey to actively participate in an online event. Your demand generation partner should be able to identify and elevate the specific topics that your ICPs are actively researching and help you refine your webinar agenda.

Your Webinar Interface Is Not Inviting

With the post-COVID explosion in the webinar market, there are a ton of software platforms touting new innovations, most devoted to driving interactivity. A lot of this is marketing, of course, but you should definitely take a hard look at your current platform and be sure it has:

  • An easy-to-use chat
  • Person-to-person messaging
  • An intuitive asset library
  • Clearly visible audio / video controls
  • Accessibility features, including voice-to-text

Beyond that, it’s really a question of your brand and the tone you want to set for your webinars. There’s a big push toward gamification and rewards for active participation, but that’s primarily in B2C. Your mileage may vary.

The Group is Large and Intimidating

Nobody likes to be the first to talk in a crowd.

As a baseline, we assume you’ve designated a host for your webinar who will break the ice with a few questions to your subject matter expert. Consider having them ask an attendee, preferably a current customer, to share an experience or ask for some information. Making sure that the first audience interaction is positive is a great way to break the ice.

And, if your audience is particularly large (say, more than 100 or so), you may want to schedule regular breakouts. This encourages attendees to speak to each other, which is one of the best sources of engagement and business intelligence you can hope for from a webinar.

You Are Not Seeding the Conversation in Advance

Most webinars (69 percent, according to a recent survey) include downloadable assets and information as a key driver of interactivity. In fact, downloads rank only behind Q&A as the favored way to get folks talking.

But, you don’t need to wait for the webinar to offer this kind of information. Sending out talking points, data sheets and other “snackable” versions of your content in advance of the webinar will help attendees organize their own thoughts and come to the online event ready to ask smart questions.

Your B2B demand generation partner should be able to help you build such conversation starters (usually delivered via email or social) into a comprehensive campaign strategy. Some partners (including our webinar services team here at Bython) can also help in creating this purpose-built content.

PRO TIP: In addition to pushing content to attendees in advance, you should definitely plan on dropping them follow-up assets shortly after the webinar, as well. Regardless if they raised their hand during the event, if they attended, they’ve expressed a high level of interest in your message. Tracking content downloads and targeting attendees with the appropriate follow-up is a huge benefit of having webinar data integrated with your CRM.

There’s Not Enough Practical Information

We can’t stress this enough – webinar attendees engage with useful, actionable content, and that engagement leads to follow-up questions and interactivity.

Search Engine Journal famously reports that 70% of B2B professionals primarily want tips and best practices information, and that’s true across all content channels. Even if you are talking about the C-suite, remember that everybody has a job to do, and if you can help them do it a little better, you’ve taken a huge step in building a relationship.

You Are Talking Too Much

Don’t fall into the trap of just re-creating a quarterly PowerPoint report and droning through a bunch of text-heavy slides.

No matter how charming your host may be, you want to break up the dialog with big, clear graphics and even embedded video content. Videos, in particular, are great at adding humor and starting conversations – a recorded customer testimonial from someone you know will be in attendance can be the perfect icebreaker.

Product explainer or demo videos are a great way to close out your session with a light, entertaining sales’ message. Which leads us to…

You Are Selling Too Hard

This may be a symptom of the pandemic-era shift away from physical events, where Sales typically has a presence to escalate really hot prospects. But those conversations need to be one-on-one – attendees simply aren’t going to completely pull back the veil on their core business challenges during a public webinar chat.

Keep any product-specific messaging to a minimum and leave it to Sales to follow up immediately with attendees who express that level of interest. In fact, this is a great use of the private messaging feature your webinar platform should include.

You Just Asked the Wrong People

Webinar attendance is not a volume play – you’re driving engagement with the absolute best-fit opportunities, who also happen to be the people who are most likely to interact with your content.

You want to ensure that you invite only tight fits with your ICPs, and that intent data intelligence suggests that attendees are at the right purchase journey stage for the online event you are promoting.

Smart audience segmentation is essential in all aspects of data-driven B2B marketing, and it’s particularly critical for building active webinar audiences. Your demand generation partner should have current contact records for all your ICPs and full coverage in every market where your webinar message will resonate.

The Right Content + Right Attendees = Webinar Interactivity

Webinars are a staple of B2B demand generation, and most marketers agree they are a great source of high-quality leads. But to get the most from your online events, you need to incent attendees to get involved – ask questions, download assets, and share insights.

Your demand generation partner should be an essential resource for finding the right attendees and seeding the conversation to take this premium engagement channel to the next level.

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