Webinars are for Companies, not Customers

LinkedIn and the Fortune 500 world are abounding in webinars. Watch them. Sign up for them. They are almost all free.

Who are they for?

The more I think about them, the more I feel that webinars aren’t really for the viewers. They are for the creators.

We already know that webinars are touted as a “powerful” way to capture leads. In meetings, the idea of doing webinars (or doing more of them) are often promoted as a way to create more leads.

If done well, they work for that purpose.

Does your organization have A/B tests that demonstrate webinars obtain quality leads, or help customers, as well or better than other channels?

Do people really want to sign up for webinars? They know they are giving away some information for a sales team to follow up with them, or worse, for some auto-mail bot to start trying to onboard them to the next step in the sales process.

But they do it because it’s touted by the company as “the way” for them to get to know the product better, or to engage with it better.

We also know that many “webinars” are hardly equivalent to a real-world seminar. Many webinars are partially (or entirely) automated. The feedback/question time is stale, usually at the end (can’t interrupt), and rarely feels like a true human connection.

It’s usually one person talking at an audience, combing a tepid presentation with a lack of understanding of that same audience.

Companies do them because it suits them. They are (relatively) scalable. They are low-cost. They can limit real interaction (i.e. friction). They can even hire relatively inexperienced presenters who might otherwise choke in a more conflicted and confused room of users or prospects.

I suspect that we will see a slow death of webinars. Recorded video will always be around, but not webinars. They are often boring, typically time-constrained (unless you just do as many do and wait for the recording later), and are unnecessarily long in almost all cases.

This is especially ironic in Customer Success and Support Operations. We are, quite literally, using webinars to teach leads and customers about our product offerings using a method which is unfriendly to our own customers.

I suspect that, if polled, a majority of customers who sign up for webinars would prefer a number of alternate options.

For instance, why not instead spend time making micro-videos (45 to 90 seconds) of each feature, enclosing them in chapters, letting people skip around, and doing them with Hollywood excellence? If our customers and leads are “visual learners”, let’s let them learn that way, on-demand, and asynchronously.

Building excellent community sites, knowledge bases, and documentation should be first responder.

With new sales, large companies often have only lead-capture methods such as webinars, or worse, white paper downloads. Sometimes, it’s nearly impossible to find a screenshot or quick feature video on a company website. What’s a customer to do? Google it and find it on a third-party review website and – possibly – never return.

Maybe webinars remain a popular top-down medium because we want to automate, keep costs low, and don’t trust our sales teams, customer success managers (and support staff) to be as knowledgable as they could be, or to help our users really take advantage of our product.

Webinars are for companies to feel good about their work. They are not for customers unless only one small channel among a sea of options. We need to rethink webinar use if we want to compete with an edge toward excellence.