When to Use Live Webinars and When to Try Another Format

We love webinars. It’s a format we have a great appreciation for and one we use quite a bit alongside our friends at ON24 and the ABMLA

But while we love webinars, we need to acknowledge something about the format.

They’re not a lead volume driver.

If you’re expecting your webinars (specifically Live Webinars) to be your volume workhorse, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Webinars Are Bottom of Funnel Content Format

Marketers have always been obsessed with volume. It’s logical, of course—they’re simply trying to improve their odds of generating a conversion. 

In terms of lead volume, the best content format over the past six years (if not longer) on the NetLine platform has been eBooks. Year over year, total eBook registrations grew 15.5%, accounting for 43.3% of all requests

According to our 2022 Consumption Report, all Webinar formats combined represented 2.3%. It’s also worth mentioning that On-Demand Webinar registrations increased by 45%—40.75% more registrations than Live Webinars. 

To underline just how popular eBooks are amongst B2B audiences: Guides, Cheat Sheets, Tips & Tricks Guides, White Papers, Research Reports, Kits, Webinars, and Checklists combined still represent a smaller number of registrations than eBooks.

In short, if you’re looking to diversify your content library beyond text-based formats, Webinars are a terrific option. They simply pale in comparison to eBooks, Guides, Cheat Sheets, and White Papers. 

Despite this fact, there is something that White Papers have in common with Webinars.

Their ability to signal a buyer’s maturation along the purchase path.

Live Webinar Registrations Are an Intent-Rich Signal 

Knowing when (and who within) your audience plans to make investments is incredibly valuable information. 

Thanks to our How Buyer-Level Intent Data Reveals “Who” is Ready to Buy report, we learned that ~31% of all respondents expect to make purchases within the next 12 months. Going further, 15.2% of all respondents shared they would be in market within the next six months.

This research also revealed fascinating equivalencies between the buying journey and content format. Based on this data, we can suggest that White Paper registrations are a greater indication that a user is in a late stage of a purchasing decision. 

Webinar registrations, however, represent the most significant purchase intent signal. 

Users registering for Webinars are 29% more likely to be correlated with a purchase decision within the next six months. This is due to the fact that as users progress further into their buying journey, the fewer “peers” they have, meaning there’s less volume at this stage. 

The volume may not be there, but your interested prospects certainly are. 

The Live Webinar Paradox

Marketers use NetLine (or any lead generation vendor) to leverage our expertise in demand generation and lead nurturing to fill their pipeline with engaged prospects at scale. 

The majority of content formats are quite good at accomplishing this goal. The challenge with a Live Webinar, however, is that while we (and the client) can generate interest, getting a user to come to the event is quite difficult.

Herein lies the crux of the issue that Live Webinars face: Attendance. 

What Truly Drives Live Webinar Attendance

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

The concept of “real-time” is fascinating. It’s what has sparked a massive influx of cash into the world of professional sports in the United States. For example, while baseball’s popularity has declined in recent years, local broadcasters pay top dollar in order to capture the attention of their market for more than six months each year. 

In short, these broadcasters pay because fans pay attention in real-time thanks to how much they care. The same ideas can be applied to Live Webinars. 

The importance of the subject matter, speaker, and perception of the session will immensely drive attendance rates and cannot be understated. Sessions lacking oomph will surely take a hit when people feel like they can miss the session. 

Conversely, something perceived as must-see webinar content will draw attention even through busy schedules. 

ON24’s Webinar Benchmarks Report 2022 states that, in 2021, 59% of Webinar registrants became attendees. ”Of registrants, 35% converted into live webinar attendees and 24% converted into on-demand attendees.” Live Webinars outpacing On-Demand Webinars in terms of attendance rate is surprising. NetLine has seen client campaign content cover the spectrum of engagement. 

Content that failed to resonate strongly failed to clear 5% attendee rates. Content that commanded excitement and mindshare resulted in attendance rates north of 50%. 

Live Webinar Volume vs. On-Demand Webinar Volume

We shared earlier that On-Demand Webinar registrations increased by 45% YOY; 40.75% more registrations than Live Webinars. Part of this comes down to the availability of On-Demand Webinars. Historically, the volume of content available for a given format is a reflection on audience demand. The more users consume, the more marketers will produce. 

In 2021, Live Webinars represented 3% of all content added by B2B marketers on the NetLine platform. While this is less than half of the offerings available for On-Demand Webinars (7.3%), this isn’t an insignificant figure for a format so closely associated with serious purchase consideration. 

In the end, On-Demand Webinars feature a modest 7% increase in registration activity in comparison to Live Webinars.

On the surface, everything appears to be quite similar. But it’s not. 

Ultimately, the reason why these two Webinar configurations are so different is simple: On-Demand Webinars can be consumed on your time. 

Live Webinars cannot.

Resetting Expectations

Live Webinars cannot be expected to drive high lead volume.

We don’t want you to walk away with the impression that Live Webinars aren’t worthwhile.

They most certainly are. They simply need to be deployed correctly.

With all of these factors laid out, it’s easier to realize how improbable it is for any bottom-of-funnel-oriented format to drive large volume. Conclusively, we hope you leave this article knowing two things:

  1. Live Webinars cannot be expected to always drive high lead volume
  2. Live Webinars are a wonderful content marketing format for engaging with high-intent buyers

That’s it. The details above require greater attention, as well as additional efforts to educate B2B professionals. It needs to be taught and discussed so we no longer have reason to scratch our heads when a Live Webinar doesn’t deliver the volume you were hoping for.

When to Use Live Webinars in Your Content Marketing Strategy

As we’ve shown with the data provided, the values that Live Webinars provide come at the bottom of the funnel, toward the end of the buyer’s journey.

Live Webinars should be leveraged for your most engaged prospects, providing information that can only be heard and seen by attending. Use this time as a means of demonstrating your industry authority, innovation in the space, and your ability to solve specific problems for your customers.

Without being this tailored, your efforts will likely be for naught, leaving you with low turnout that could have been shared via email or a demo. 

When Not to Use Live Webinars in Your Content Marketing Strategy

Obviously, if you’re banking on massive volume to fill your funnel, we’d suggest starting with another content format before moving those registrants over to webinars once they have demonstrated greater intent. 

The list of options for the top of the funnel is endless, as Live Webinars won’t serve those just exploring for the first time. However, eBooks, Guides, and White Papers are a marketer’s best friend if you’re looking to drive lead volume

Live Webinars Are a Great Content Format

Now that you know how best to use Live Webinars, we hope your content strategy will be improved because of it. 

Live Webinar registrations and show-ups are chockful of superb intent data. Armed with this knowledge, you should be better equipped to crush your next one.

Ultimately, it’s important to find balance in your content approach. 

Regardless of its ability to drive leads or conversions, each format serves a different purpose for your audience. Avoid relying on personal preferences or opinions to drive your content strategy and production. Instead, lean on your audience data; look closely at the needs of your buyers and their consumption trends to better understand your audience. 

This should yield a content library that not only offers a solid mix of formats but one that speaks to buyers across their journey. When all is said and done, that’s all you want anyway: The opportunity to connect with your prospect at every stage.