Skip to Content
Marketing

How To Host Webinars That Spark Audience Engagement and Demand Generation Marketing

Our Global Webinars CoE shares in-depth expertise on how to host effective live webinars to engage customers and prospects – and send qualified leads to Sales.

Webinar host setting up her camera on her desk
[@OLEKSII SYROTKIN/Stocksy United]

Hundreds of in-person events were canceled in one day in 2020, and the Salesforce Global Webinar Center of Excellence (CoE) team immediately began producing 10x the number of webinars we had in the past. We challenged ourselves to transform our in-person event magic online, and live webinars became our first and ultimate choice. As a result, webinars have become one of the top three channels driving demand at Salesforce. Here’s how we built them, and some of our best practices for successful preparation, engagement, and follow-up. 

How can webinars support your marketing efforts?

Webinars are a great way to speak with customers. Eric Stahl, Salesforce senior vice president and general manager of Digital Experience, said, “At a time we can’t do in-person events, dinners, or fly customers to the Salesforce Innovation Center, webinars have never been more important. They give us an infinitely scalable way to deliver pragmatic, how-to content that drives leads, pipeline, and booked revenue.”

What types of webinars drive the most engagement?

Several kinds of webinars that trace the steps of the customer journey have worked really well for us, including:

  • Thought leadership discussions: A weekly event series of tips and resources from Salesforce, business leaders, and our community of Trailblazers.
  • New research report findings: Industry team members share the latest data, trends, and statistics from the most recent Salesforce State of Sales, State of Marketing, or State of Service reports.
  • Ask an expert: Similar to an “Ask Me Anything” session made popular in social media, these webinars feature question-and-answer sessions with leaders in their field.
  • New product releases: We’re always working to extend the capability of our existing products and produce new tools to help anyone who runs a business. Beyond just a product demo, in these sessions we show our products in action from multiple perspectives: the developer, the business user, and the customer. This is one of our most popular online events for registrations and conversions.
  • Customer success stories (what we call Trailblazer stories): We sit down with customers who use our products and ask them about the challenges they faced, the process of implementation, and how their new tools have changed their business.

How do you create an engaging webinar?

Follow these seven simple steps for planning, running, and learning from a webinar:

Step 1: Plan for your webinar

It’s said that, “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” and it’s certainly true about webinars. Our advice to you is this:

  • Choose the right webinar technology platform. The choice you make here is critical for your event’s success. For us, it was essential to find a tool that could integrate with Salesforce Sales Cloud to help our marketers track webinar effectiveness, and to help the sales team generate leads for a timely follow-up.
  • Know your audience. Segment your audience to tailor the promotional messaging and webinar content specifically to those you want to attend. Tell a compelling story and make it super relevant to the attendees. 
  • Create a single source-of-truth webinar brief. Everything flows more smoothly when all teams are working from a single document. We create a Quip template to track all of the key information on speakers, scripts, schedules, registration links, and other deliverables, such as creative assets and promotional messaging. This document is then shared with all administrative, production, and marketing teams.

Step 2: Promote your webinar

You have planned. You have published the registration page. Now you’re ready to promote. We suggest a multi-channel promotion strategy.

  • Promotion cycle and timing: We recommend a three-week promotion timeline. The earlier we can reserve calendar space on our prospects’ and customers’ calendars, the better. More than 60% of our webinar attendees register for events two weeks before a webinar. Also, never underestimate the power of a day-before promotion. Many registrants also sign up last minute.
  • Email is the #1 driver of registration: While we promote across social media channels, email is by far our most powerful outreach. Webinars are submitted through the Salesforce Dynamic Email Engine and rolled out to our email subscriber list based on target audience and segmentation.  
  • Spread the word internally: Use your internal communication tools to share why/what/when/benefits to extended sales teams.
  • Send a last-minute reminder: We send a reminder email 15 minutes before every webinar. Consider investing in an automated tool that places the watch link at the top of the registrants’ inbox when they need it.

At a time we can’t do in-person events, dinners, or fly customers to the Salesforce Innovation Center, webinars have never been more important. They give us an infinitely scalable way to deliver pragmatic, how-to content that drives leads, pipeline, and booked revenue.

Eric Stahl, Salesforce senior vice president and general manager of Digital Experience

Step 3: Prepare for your webinar

Here’s how to prepare for the event in the days and hours before going live: 

  • Content and speaker readiness: Ensure the script content is ready and that all the presenters are familiar and comfortable with their talking points. 
  • Test the technology: One to two days before the live webinar, make sure all of the speakers are comfortable with the technology. Have them log into the platform and test their audio and webcams. 
  • Run through the show flow: Have each speaker practice clicking through their slides and transitioning to the next speaker. Test out polls, Q&A functions, and other interactive tools before showtime. 

Step 4: Engage your webinar attendees

Create interest for webinar attendees with a customized, branded, and interactive live experience. 

  • Set a branded stage: Use webinars as an opportunity to showcase the brand identity with a company logo and a customized background. 
  • Include calls-to-action: Provide links or access to downloadable takeaways with relevant information so the audience can continue their journey after the webinar ends. 
  • Make time for Q&A: Create time in the schedule for the audience to interact with you during the event. The speakers and moderator can prioritize the questions they address. 
  • End with a survey: Include an interactive pop-up at the end of each webinar that gauges your audience’s level of enjoyment, product engagement, and likelihood to recommend your product or service. 

Step 5: Build on your webinar’s longevity

All that time and effort you put into your live webinar created more than an enjoyable and/or informative experience for an hour. It has so much more to give! You’ve also created an incredible piece of marketing content with many future benefits. 

  • Convert live webinars to on-demand: Share a link to the recording with all the attendees and the “no-shows” to encourage on-demand viewing. 
  • Send customer questions and feedback to Sales: This is a great opportunity for Sales to follow up with their customers and prospects. 
  • Cross-promote when you can: Capitalize the time and effort you put into each webinar. Create a blog post from it, add it to newsletters, and ask the presenters to share the link to the recording on their social channels, etc. 

Step 6: Measure your webinar’s results

These are the metrics we look at to assess a webinar’s success: 

  • Before the webinar: We measure audience targeting, segmentation, and the registration progress before the live event. Different types of webinars have different engagement, but we are always interested in each webinar’s audience awareness, consideration, loyalty, and evangelism. With Sales Cloud and Tableau data analysis software, we’re able to track, analyze, and take actions before each event. 
  • After the webinar: With registrants and attendees automatically tracked in Sales Cloud, we can now evaluate overall marketing attribution and return on investment (ROI). Key metrics for us include our most popular topics, segments, campaigns, products, and our most effective drivers. We’re also very interested in our attendee profile, the number of registrants, the number of attendees, and how many minutes they stayed to watch and engage. And, of course, we track dollars added to the marketing pipeline and dollars added to the Marketing team’s annual contract value (ACV).

Step 7: Integrate what you’ve learned from your webinar

  • Event optimization: We run rigorous user meetings and business reviews to determine the event’s marketing impact, each webinar performance, and discuss best practices we can share with our global webinar community.
  • Sales alignment: We align closely with the Sales team to help them generate leads. At their request, we may hold registrants in the queue and only have Sales follow up on attendees; or we use Campaign Status in Sales Cloud and track audience engagement over time. 
  • Scalability: We built our webinar platform to scale so that if attendance increases dramatically, our systems are robust enough to accommodate rapid changes.
  • Efficiency with automation: We automate many webinar processes, including registration, attendee conversion, content publishing, and archiving. We have also planned and invested in templated web pages, registration forms, and integration setup for every new channel.

Since 2020, we’ve learned how to support a 10x increase in webinar volume, and our live webinar events have become one of the top three channels driving demand for the company. As a Global Webinar Center of Excellence at Salesforce, we collaborate with cross-functional teams to offer customer-facing marketing webinars, and we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished.


Elaine Li is a marketing professional with 20 years of experience in high-tech. She has a proven record of driving global marketing demand and marketing technology scale and innovation. Li has worked for IBM, Microsoft, Motorola, Novell, Progress Software, and Nuance Communications, and she now runs the Global Webinar Center of Excellence (CoE) at Salesforce. Li established the operating model and global team to support the 10x increase of webinar adoption worldwide. Elaine Li is also an active advisor at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University.

More by Elaine

Related Stories

Astro

Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Get the latest stories from The 360 Blog, every week.

Enter a valid e-mail address
Select your Country
Select a state
Please read and agree to the Master Subscription Agreement

Yes, I would like to receive the Salesforce Weekly Brief as well as marketing communications regarding Salesforce products, services, and events. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Salesforce values your privacy. To learn more, visit our Privacy Statement.