In ancient Rome, most people walked to get from one place to another. The royalty, armies and a few rich entrepreneurs were privileged enough to have horses for transportation. To attend a meeting or event, businessmen traveled for days, sometimes weeks.

Fast-forward to now. People fly, drive and take trains to get from one place to another. They communicate through phones, email and the Internet. Employees, partners and customers are located around the world. Holding a convention or series of seminars at one location means exorbitant airfare, lodging and other travel and technological expenses.

Fortunately, many companies already know the value of using the Web and teleconferencing as an efficient way to effectively communicate, without the extreme price tags of global travel. Today, you can bridge the gap from a prospect to a qualified lead through the use of a Webinar, one of the most powerful, cost effective ways to communicate with both prospects and customers.

But even those who regularly use Webinars in their sales and marketing processes make common mistakes that limit the full potential of a successful campaign. Converting a Webinar registrant to a customer takes more than a powerful presentation on the day of event.

Mistake #1: The focus is only on the lowest-hanging fruit

The typical process for lead conversion goes something like this:

  1. A promotion (typically electronic-based) is implemented to drive registration for an event (Webinar).

  2. A subset of the registrants attends the event.

  3. The sales team of the event organizer follows up with all attendees and those who ask to be contacted.

Believe it or not, that process actually drives acceptable results when viewed under a ROI microscope. However, there is a major flaw.

Let's examine the numbers. Take an event with 200 registrants. The industry average is that only 33% of registrants show up to the event. In this “industry average” scenario, you are left with 66 people. Now we go through the event, and the sales team works on the most interested attendees to move toward the close. If you assume that 1 in 10 is ready to buy, expresses interest in your product, and so on… you are left with seven new customers.

Do the math, and seven new customers for the dollars spent on a typical Webinar seems a great return for most business-to-business companies. A closer look at the numbers, however, suggests otherwise: 193 potential customers are left on the table. What is the plan to cultivate them? Surprisingly, often there is no plan.

Solution: If someone takes the time to respond to your promotion, fill out a registration and give you their contact information—odds are they have a need that your company can potentially solve. Focus on the big picture, and lay out a longer-term strategy to address the needs and opportunities of all your registrants.

Mistake #2: Only the event is interactive

Marketers and sales professionals love Web events because they are personal and interactive. This is true. The larger truth, however, is that the event itself is only one element of what should constitute a comprehensive interactive experience. As in mistake #1, don't put all your eggs in one basket (the event).

Most Webinars are educational in design. An online event that merely promotes your company is more like a commercial or a sales presentation. At a Webinar, registrants come to learn more about a problem or issue. As the instructor in this process, think of it as your responsibility to deliver the right information to your audience. Why not offer white papers and relevant case studies before the event so attendees are better informed?

Delivering a quality presentation is an obvious requirement, but think what your attendees may need to help them frame their business challenge in the context of your offer or solution before the event. And finding out what your registrants are looking for is simple. Just ask them when they register for your event.

More importantly, give it to them. Deliver focused information—case studies, customer examples, relevant articles based on the data collected so that the content can be personalized as much as possible.

Solution: Registrants are coming to you, raising their hand and asking for knowledge and help. Have a plan in place to engage and deliver to address their needs before the Webinar campaign gets started. You will find higher attendance, more satisfied participants and higher conversion rates if you execute properly.

Mistake #3: Considering management of Webinars an administrative task

The advice regarding Mistakes 1 and 2 can be followed only if one understands the importance of effective Webinar management.

Maximizing the opportunities of a Webinar can deliver immediate results from some among your audience, and long-term payoffs from those on whom you make the right impression.

Developing and managing a process and system to deliver, engage and convert your audience take resources from your marketing, sales and IS groups. As with any opportunity, the results depend on the investment that you make. What is a single customer worth to you?

As a cost-effective way to generate more leads, Webinars enable you to better qualify leads and give your sales team the important information they need to close more sales. Holding an online event can tap into and compliment your current marketing plan. It can even accelerate your sales cycle. Therefore, you can't leave any details to the unknown.

So, before you even consider hosting a Webinar, understand this: the best Webinar is only a means to an end. No matter how good the presentation is, how smooth the speakers are or how wiz-bang the features are, the only thing that really matters is what comes out of the event.

You have to know what your goal is in order to measure your success. From there, you build the plan of attack to make it happen.

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Todd Davison ( is President of Bulldog Solutions.