Just as people will hasten to say "email is dead," they often malign webinars as an outdated tactic—particularly those who enjoy making sweeping statements like "this will be the year of livestreaming" or "this is the year of the podcast."

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The fact is, this is the year to do whatever your audience responds to, and many audiences still respond well to webinars.

Fully 73% of marketing and sales leaders surveyed by InsideSales.com indicated that hosting webinars is one of the best ways to generate quality leads. Of course, some webinars are more effective than others. Luckily, getting the maximum return on your webinar investment can be as simple as following a few simple tips drawn from an analysis of other successful webinars (in this case, 350,000 successful webinars, to be precise).

GoToWebinar recently released the Big Book of Webinar Stats, loaded with insights into webinar trends and best-practices. For the TL;DR set among us, I've invited Daniel Waas, director of marketing for GoToWebinar at LogMeIn, to discuss the data from that study and ways you can use the findings to create the optimal webinar for your business.

It turns out, there really is a best day and time to conduct your webinar, and specific guidelines for the timing of your promotional efforts. Daniel is full of webinar tips, and gives up the goods on this week's episode of Marketing Smarts!

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Don't focus on improving your attendance rate, focus instead on promoting your webinar to attract more registrants (03:22): "A lot of people get hung up on attendance rate, but what the data showed was that, in a lot of cases, attendance rate wasn't really that important. What mattered more was how successful people were at promoting. So if you were really successful at promoting, when we looked at the top 100 webinars, 42 of the top 100 had a really poor attendance rate, yet they were among the most-attended webinars overall because they did a stellar job at promoting.... They had so many people that had registered that [attendance rate] didn't matter. 

The best time to host a webinar sometimes depends on your topic (04:25): "[A] question we get all the time is, 'What's a good time to host [a webinar]?' And the answer is 10 AM Pacific/11:00 AM Pacific; those are good times to host. But the surprising answer is, sometimes if you do something specific, another time might work well for you. One of our best-attended webinars is about knitting, and the knitting webinar happens around 8:00 PM in the evening, and that's when it pulls in its audience, so it might depend on your topic."

One-fourth off the people who registered for your webinar were never planning to attend live (05:19): "About 26% of people say they sign up only because they want to watch the recording. They don't actually want to attend live...so it's important to record everything and make it available on demand. Overall, how we assess impact and what are the things to look for are how many people consume and are engaged with that content. Again, attendance rate is just a relational metric. It doesn't really tell you the whole story. You want to make sure that you have the maximum amount of people engaged with that content, and that can be live or it can be on-demand."

Seriously, trying to improve your attendance rate isn't going to work (even with mobile reminders) (06:19): "The road that leads you [to webinar success] is doing promotions really well, because attendance rate, you don't have that many ways to impact that, even if you do send reminders. We did a test on text message reminders. You'd think that text reminders would have a big impact. Had almost no impact. Because the reality is, one of the prime reasons why people can't attend is that they're busy. They're doing something else. So even if you send a reminder, that's just not going to help.

"So focus on the people that make it there, and it doesn't matter if they make it there live or watch the recording. Then make sure that you connect all your data to your marketing automation system and CRM system, and that you're creating context from it. [Make sure] that you're getting that engagement and porting it into your marketing automation system and, hopefully, getting your sales team to do a good followup and turn it into business. When we look at it, we look at how much pipeline was touched, how much pipeline was specifically generated, and how much was closed."

Ask people to take the desired action during the webinar—don't wait for the follow-up email (07:23): "In terms of followup, we ask people right then and there on the webinar, 'Are you interested in a demo?' [or] 'Are you interested in a meeting?' We include that as a poll, and we get twice the hand-raisers if we include it in the webinar itself—if we do it live, when people are thinking about it, when it's urgent for them, and collect their hands right there, then contact them later."

If you want people to attend live, timing is everything (08:33): You want to optimize for when the most people are able to make it. What works really well for the United States, assuming that you have an audience that is distributed and sits across the different time zones—10:00 a.m. Pacific, 11:00 a.m. Pacific are usually the best times to host, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday are the good days to host, and they work equally well. Make sure you time your webinar to one of these hot slots... On average, we see people pick up the most attendees at these times."

To learn more about the research, check out the GoToWebinar blog, and follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielWaas.

Daniel and I talked about much more, including what the data revealed about the timing of your promotions, tips for naming your webinar, and what attendance rate you should be hitting, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode! 

This episode brought to you by GoToWebinar:

GoTo Webinar makes it easy to produce engaging online events. Whether you want to connect with your prospects, customers or employees, GoTo Webinar has the tools and analytics you need. Start creating interactive and educational webinars your audience will love.

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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