SalesFUSION’s, becoming Sugar Market’s, annual customer conference, FUSED, will be held this week, October 9-11, 2013, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, FL. In addition to best practice and educational workshops, FUSED 2013 will culminate in a client award ceremony for the Marketing Hero program implemented by SalesFUSION in 2013. One of those heroes, Mike Agron, will be a guest speaker at the conference.

Mike Agron – Executive Webinar Producer and Co-Founder for WebAttract

Webinars that are used for demand generation are a well known tactic for attracting a targeted audience to educate them on how they can learn, achieve and improve business or technology challenges. They are an elegant way to go beyond sound bites and tell a story that can inspire attendees to want to have a conversation or demo “after” the webinar, which is when to start the sales process. I’m very excited to present at Fused2013 how we use SalesFUSION to supercharge our demand generation outcomes. But, not all webinars are created equally , and here’s 3 big myths that explain why.

Some really inform and inspire and yield positive commercial outcomes while delighting their audiences, and others are covert sales pitches that simply don’t connect and are boring. To me, webinars are a high art form of content marketing, because they can breathe life into static content such as research reports, case studies and white papers.

As I thought more about what separates an exceptional webinar from a so-so one, it suddenly dawned on me that just about everything I’ve learned over the past six or so years from producing hundreds of webinars, can be boiled down to understanding these simple, yet profound three webinar myths.

Myth # 1 – Build it and they will come.

Years ago, you’d be able to build your list by having people register for your e-newsletter. Now, Ezines are the least effective lead generation tool, according to a recent B2B article, because everyone started doing newsletters.

Now, three to five years ago when webinars were fairly new, the novelty of a webinar could attract many people to register, even if they only had a mild curiosity in the topic. Today, attracting new prospects to a webinar is becoming a challenge for B2B organizations as we are all receiving so many hourly and daily emails, many of which are requests to download a free white paper or attend a webinar. Our prospects have limited bandwidth on what they’ll open and take action on.

If the topic isn’t genuinely going to educate your prospects and inform them about a pressing challenge that they are experiencing pain, they’ll ignore your invite. And, if your content is a “nice to have” instead of “must have” – chances are your prospects will ignore your email, delete it or even unsubscribe from your list.

If your prospects like what they read, and click on the registration link, there’s a 25 percent +/- chance they’ll register. Meaning 75 percent of the people that click on the link are not going to register for your event. It’s clearly a numbers game. Of those that register, about 40 percent will actually attend the live webinar. So you need to get it right out of the gate.

Just having a large well-known brand isn’t enough anymore to guarantee you’ll attract a large audience. For example, we did a webinar for one of the best known brands on the planet. They had a great case study and credible presenters to match. But the market, which is the ultimate arbiter, wasn’t interested in their offer and we struggled with achieving our registration and attendance targets.

On the other hand, we’ve seen small regional firms blow the doors off with high registrations, landing page conversions, attendance because they had something timely that the market was very interested in.

Myth# 2 – All attendees are “sales ready” to buy now

This is another fallacy that can create unrealistic expectations and disappointments up and down the organization sponsoring the webinar.

One of the most common themes I heard over and over this month at the Content Marketing World Conference (where I spoke on creating a thought leadership webinar series), was the fact that 70 percent of today’s B2B buyers prefer to do their research online before they want to speak with a live salesperson.

Think of the last time you went into a retail store, and were merely starting to research a purchase, and an overfriendly salesperson comes up and says “Hi may I help you?” You quickly reply, “No thanks, I’m just looking.” The same goes for many of the people who register and attend your webinar. They are looking to get better educated and informed.

There’s nothing like a sale closed from an attendee that didn’t exist in your sales pipeline before the webinar. It does happen, and we’ve had several clients who as a result of the webinar close seven figure deals. But, it’s more the exception than the rule.

You need to realize that people are in varying parts of their buying experience. So you need to have a strategy for capturing intelligence across the webinar lifecycle so you can segment leads. And, you need a post-webinar sales follow up strategy that should incorporate email marketing, content marketing, social media marketing and tele-marketing efforts. You want to raise your brand profile, showcase your thought leadership and nurture prospects from the webinar so they eventually become customers.

Myth# 3 – I’m a great presenter, I’ll just show up with my slide deck and wing it

There are real considerations, from technology, environmental, location and numerous human factors that blow a hole in this myth. Even if you are a presentation god, a webinar, unlike a live in-person event where you can use your presentation skills and think on your feet, gauge the mood of the audience and shift your topics or thoughts to keep them engaged, seldom works in the virtual world of webinars.

Audio is the Achilles heel of all virtual events and failing to taking the time do several sound checks, or making sure you and your other speakers are optimally “miked”, have fast enough internet connections to mitigate latency issues, or echoes is something you can’t wing.

Mea culpa, several years ago, I learned the hard way about this myth. I was very excited about a topic and was going to moderate a panel of former webinar speakers. I became overconfident and decided we didn’t really need to rehearse, and thought I could wing it. I could tell about 3 minutes into the webinar that I made a big mistake in not having set aside the times to make sure everyone was comfortable with their talking points, was clear on what we wanted to cover. During the webinar, it took every ounce of my energy to keep this webinar from going off the rails. This was a painful, yet good humbling, as it reminded me of the need to practice, practice, practice and so the audience gains maximum value.

While audiences in general will be forgiving if you provide real substance over style, they won’t tolerate a sloppy and boring webinar. It might be socially difficult to get up in the middle of a live presentation and walk out of the room, but the anonymity of a webinar makes it really easy for someone to start multi-tasking by checking their emails or social media channels.

During the live webinar, if the audio quality is poor and they can’t hear you clearly, they won’t be able to connect with you. If your slides aren’t visually appealing, or if the speakers/panelists aren’t able to maintain a conversational style and they drone on in a monologue rather than a dialogue, you’ll lose your audience by them bailing. And you’ll potentially lose a prospect who could become your customer.