The Automated Webinar (Why it May Not = More Sales…)

Have you ever watched a webinar, only to realize midway through it was an automated replay?

The host may have been answering questions live in a chat, but they weren’t doing the webinar live.

Did this make you feel… hoodwinked? Intrigued perhaps?

I’m like a walking sponge for online funnels. So when I stumbled across an evergreen, automated webinar on Consulting.com not too long ago, I had to know:

Was this webinar automated?

They still had someone there answering live questions via chat. I asked and the assistant was honest. She said yes.

Some webinar hosts are not as honest. They go to great lengths to portray it as a live event.

“Oh we’ve got Timmy from California in the chat! Mary from Spain–Hey Mary!!”

I’ll give you my stance on this coming up. It might surprise you.

In this article, we’re going to demystify automated webinars. We’ll define what they are, discuss the benefits, downsides, and share tips for setting up your own.

We also talked to a couple of top marketers to see what their stance was, so you won’t want to miss those.

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What is an Automated Webinar?

An automated webinar is pretty self-explanatory. Here’s a good definition from webinar software company Livestorm: “Automated webinars are pre-recorded, live simulated online webinars that you can host anytime with minimal resources. The ‘automated’ part means that the webinars are not live.”

Adding automated webinars to your sales funnel (typically later in the funnel) is a good way to add an additional revenue stream, but you can achieve significantly better results with a live webinar.

I remember John Lee Dumas at Entrepreneur on Fire used to do webinars every week. Most of his sales were coming from these webinars, in fact.

Why? They were consistent, they were events and Dumas would always give out a special offer that was only available during the webinar.

Indeed, ClickMeeting, a webinar company, went so far as to call 2017 “the year of the webinar.” According to their stats, last year, video comprised most Internet traffic (nearly 75%). That number will likely keep growing, making webinars a valuable part of your marketing arsenal.

Photo via ezTalks

The Benefits of an Automated Webinar

Have you ever Googled around for the benefits of an automated webinar? They all seem to suit the webinar host.

There’s no doubt that automated webinars are very beneficial for hosts. They can kick back, relax, answer questions (if someone isn’t doing that for them) and watch the money roll in.

What about the customers, though?

I can only think of one benefit for the audience: they can watch the webinar immediately or almost immediately after it airs. They can also come back and watch it later if they can’t finish it in one sitting.

I reached out to Neil Patel to get his thoughts on the benefits of automated webinars.

“Automated webinars are a great way to make money because of their high conversion rates,” Neil told us. “They don’t convert as well as live webinars, but if you are strapped for time and you have a consistent flow of traffic, it would be worth considering using them.”

The Downsides of an Automated Webinar

Moving on to the downsides of automated webinars, here are a few of them to consider:

  • If the audience has questions for the speaker, that speaker may not always be around to answer them. That said, if someone just as knowledgeable is running the chat, this issue can be mitigated.
  • If the webinar seems live, the audience could be upset once they find out it isn’t.
  • The sense of urgency is lessened with a replay, unless you offer the webinar replay for a limited time.

Rand Fishkin at Moz added this word of caution: “I’ve never actually used them, but I’ve seen how disappointed folks are when they think it’s a live webinar and discover it’s automated ☹. I’d strongly prefer to stay away from that and just put our recordings of webinars to serve this purpose.”

Photo via OptinMonster

How to Make an Automated Webinar Work for You

If you want to make an automated webinar of your own, here are some tips:

  • First, record a live webinar and make sure that converts for you at a rate of at least 5-15%, depending on the price point. Make sure with each live event, you record it. The recording is what you can re-use when you automate it.
  • Don’t make your webinar date-specific. You should also make sure your email newsletters, landing pages and other promotional materials aren’t date-specific, either. This keeps your webinar evergreen so you can replay it again and again.
  • Avoid discussing current pop culture trends. This may seem like a great way to hook in your audience, but it dates your webinar.
  • Make sure your webinar has a live chat component. You be clear with your audience that your webinar is automated, but having someone on hand to answer questions adds value.
  • Tally up your viewers and make this number visible. This way, people feel less alone watching your pre-recorded webinar. The evergreen webinar tool, WebinarJam lets you do this.
  • Remove any branding, even a YouTube logo, from the corner of the video (I made this mistake when we first attempted to setup and automated webinar). This keeps your viewers from getting curious and clicking that logo, thus leaving your website. Plus, this branding can look cheap. Wistia is a great tool for showcasing your videos your way as well analyzing viewer engagement.
  • Be transparent about whether your webinar is pre-recorded. Even if parts of it are live and only a few minutes are pre-recorded, let your audience know. They will appreciate the transparency and it will be good for your brand long term..

Tim Paige at Leadpages shared this little gem (which you can find in our 6-Figure Sales Funnel, reopening this month) in an interview with me: Leadpages’ webinars converted better when they made their offer upfront before the webinar began. Their product pitch was short and included the price. Viewers were also treated with a special offer.

Paige said this takes the pressure off the viewer. Some people come to the webinar knowing they’re going to be made an offer, but not all of them do. Others may think, “oh, I can’t afford this” and jump off early.

By being transparent that early on, more viewers might buy the core offer at the beginning of the webinar.  

Automated Vs. Live Webinar Case Studies

We’ve talked up the benefits of both automated and live webinars, but which one is best? Here are two case studies that point towards what Neil said before, that live webinars convert better.

First, we’ll start with a case study for an automated webinar.

YouCanBrand.com owner Jenna Soard’s first webinar (which was live) had a small turnout. Only 30 people attended, and of those 30, five purchased her $997 product. In all, she made roughly $5,000, which is not shabby at all.

With a 16% conversion rate, though, Soard wanted to do more for future webinars. Since the first webinar was limited to Squarespace users, Soard opened up her second webinar to a wider audience.

Her second webinar did worse than the first one! This webinar was pre-recorded. Her audience was bigger, though; she now had 70 viewers. That said, no one bought anything, so Soard generated no revenue.

With about 12 hours left on her offer, Soard sent out a series of post-webinar emails, which netted her $12,000 of sales that her pre-recorded webinar did not.

Now, let’s look at an example of a live webinar. Document management company Recall, now known as Iron Mountain, worked with marketing firm Arketi Group to achieve their webinar success.

According to Arketi, they decided to break up Iron Mountain’s webinars into a video series called Your Roadmap to Total Information Management. Each webinar was 30 minutes long and live.

This was crucial to Arketi’s strategy, which was to set up Iron Mountain as “a trusted advisor and educational resource for SMBs struggling with digital and physical information management.”

Iron Mountain’s live webinar had a 40% registration rate. Most attendees who viewed the webinar bought Iron Mountain’s products, as the company made $290,000 from this live webinar alone.

When Iron Mountain decided to replay the webinar, the company said they got more views and leads, but did not share how much revenue—if any—their pre-recorded webinars made them.

That said, this campaign was successful enough that Iron Mountain received the Public Relations Society of America’s Award of Excellence.

Conclusion

Can’t get enough of sales funnels? Don’t miss my “11-Point Sales Funnel Checklist.”

So, it’s time address the question presented in the title: should you add an automated webinar to your sales funnel?

The answer is, it depends. As you can see from the case studies and stats presented, automated webinars often do not perform as well as live webinars. Neil Patel even backed that up.

That doesn’t mean that automated webinars don’t have their place, though. You can absolutely re-air a webinar for a second, third or even a fourth time, and generate revenue from the follow-up emails, as we saw in Soard’s case.

But don’t expect revenue and engagement to be as high on the recorded webinars themselves.

To review:

  • If you are planning to do an automated webinar, make sure you omit any dates and pop culture references that can age your presentation. You want your webinar to be evergreen.
  • Let your audience know that parts or the entirety of the webinar are pre-recorded.
  • According to Leadpages’ Tim Paige, his company had a lot of success when they presented their main offer at the very beginning of the webinar. This prevents you from losing people when they see the price later and realize they can’t afford it.
  • Make sure you have chat functionality set up. Try to be there personally to answer questions that come up during the re-airing of the webinar.

Have you ever hosted a webinar before? Was it live or automated? Which was more successful for you? Let me know in the comments.

Keep Hustlin’, Stay Focused,

—Matt

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