How webinars are creating value for marketers through COVID-19

As the current coronavirus pandemic forces more key downstream decision-makers to work from home, webinars are booming in popularity.

As the current coronavirus pandemic forces more key downstream decision-makers to work from home, webinars are booming in popularity.

As experts in digital marketing, Petrochemical Update (a division of Reuters Events) seeks to unpack the best practices we've gained by organizing digital thought leadership products up till now. What's more, we aim to tackle critical questions marketers may have about the value of and delivery of webinars in these uncertain times. 

These questions are; how do webinars create value and what more can marketers do to ensure that their message resonates with buyers? Furthermore, how can marketers best use webinars to support vital lead-generation work while the market downturn continues, and is this worthwhile? 

In addition to this article, Petrochemical Update will be publishing a complete guide to 'Marketing in COVID-19' on May 6. You can download the full report for free here now >>>

Why webinars? Why now? 

Many marketers will be scrambling to identify new routes to market in light of the current crisis. However, creative and long-term marketers will be increasingly reliant on webinars to ensure sales pipelines get replenished with qualified, sales-ready leads. 

Before lockdown reported that 73% of marketers and sales leaders find webinars to be one of the most reliable ways of generating quality leads. If asked again, I'd wager that percentage would have increased. 

Firstly, webinars help to engage your existing pipeline. Customer engagement is now more than critical than ever to ensure that valuable market share and brand recognition are not lost before the recovery starts, particularly if your business is shuttered. 

The popularity of webinars was already rising before the current pandemic; they're a powerful tool for showcasing thought leadership and increasing brand visibility. What's more, as part of a more comprehensive content marketing strategy, webinars provide a valuable opportunity to secure the 'top of funnel' leads that will be critical to future sales opportunities. 

So, as traditional face-to-face marketing channels have become unfeasible under lockdown, think events and client meetings, webinars are filling the gap as a means to demonstrate technology and services, alongside highlighting critical industry best practice.

Making a webinar that delivers 

Traditionally, industry webinars will secure anywhere between 400-800 registrants, but timely topics or major executive speakers will vastly increase attendance. 

For instance, on April 16, we ran a live webinar in conjunction with executives from SABIC, BASF, Maine Pointe and others to explore the key challenges facing petrochemical supply chain leaders. This webinar reflected on the dual challenge of the coronavirus pandemic and oil price crash. Moreover, it gave participants a chance to deep dive into critical issues such as demand imbalance and rapidly changing supply network cycles. 

As a result of the webinars timeliness, the total number of registrants surged from an expected 600-800 total to an incredible 2,233. 

Admittedly, high-level thought leadership discussions may not be achievable or relevant to all businesses. 

Instead, Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers more generally should use webinars to emphasize any experiences or solutions they have for customer needs. While emotive messaging is rampant amongst Business-to-Consumer marketing, B2B sales involve reasoned, analytical decision making. 

The downstream market especially, alongside critical industries such as power plants, pharmaceuticals, public health and transport, is being counted on to work harder and leaner than ever before. As such, products or services that can improve bottom-lines, safety or productivity can remain winners even under market downturns. 

Conversely, gimmicks are out. B2B messaging should stress reliability and durability over the chance for buyers to become more cutting-edge, regardless of how much more competitive the product will help the buyer become in future.

Under such parameters, well-crafted content such as a webinar provides an invaluable opportunity to provide critical knowledge and demonstrate technical prowess at solving real-world business challenges.

Using webinars to grow your pipeline

In our upcoming 'Marketing during COVID-19' report, we look at the wealth of lessons learned marketing through recessions from 1930 to 2009 and apply them to the current coronavirus downturn. The message though is simple. Invest in marketing if your business is able, and you will become more profitable than if advertising gets cut. 

The logic, proven time and again, rests on two findings. 

First, marketing is one of the only business functions that actually generates revenue. Second, companies who increase or maintain their advertising budgets during a downturn grow their sales far quicker as the market improves. 

Webinars, as a function of a comprehensive marketing strategy, provide an essential service in generating leads at the 'top of the funnel'. Furthermore, they are increasingly valuable if webinars are prioritizing new leads. 

For example, on April 23, we delivered "COVID-19 and the Oil Price Crash - What does it mean for the Downstream Industry?" This webinar brought together senior executives from both Reuters & Wood Mackenzie to analyze the current business climate and share their perspectives on what the impact of both crises could mean for downstream. 

Not only did the webinar offer to deliver insights and analysis that are critical to downstream decision-makers, but by prioritizing new leads and external channel marketing, Petrochemical Update was able to secure more than 1,000 new subscribers for our database. These results were only possible because we were able to offer invaluable insights in return for customers providing their data. Over time, these new leads will be nurtured and create new business, leading directly to new clients and sponsors for our future webinars and digital products.

Ensuring quality vs quantity of leads

One of the chief mistakes made by marketers, as they invest more in digital marketing, is that they try to go viral.
Put plainly, webinars or any B2B marketing for that matter don't need to go viral. What's more, the virality of marketing only serves to skew results and provide a false sense of success. Instead, webinars should always focus on capturing leads in a given target audience. Quality is king. 

For example, delivered on March 5, our webinar with LyondellBasell targeted decision-makers involved in the niche of shutdowns and turnarounds. This webinar brought in 369 leads, but based on keywords such as turnarounds, STO, planning etc. we were able to calculate that nearly 70% of our audience were directly relevant industry professionals.
Similarly, an April 8 webinar sponsored by PALL Corporation found that 65% of its registrants fit the intended target audience of key process engineering stakeholders. 

Creating a profile for what a 'good' lead looks like is essential. Your marketing strategy can then be optimized to use the routes most visible for your target audience. Likewise, judge the return-on-investment of a webinar based on the quality of leads generated, not the quantity.

Crafting or marketing a webinar

The coronavirus pandemic has rapidly and unexpectedly emerged as the defining crisis of our generation. On top of all the social and economic challenges, business viability will necessitate that marketers become more agile, creative and accountable than ever before. 

Accordingly, companies must leverage the full spectrum of marketing channels available to ensure success. As such, direct emails should get heavily reinforced by paid social media, advert retargeting, influencer promotions, partner marketing and more to provide higher pick up by your target audience, and most of all, registrations from new contacts. 

However, while webinars provide an invaluable opportunity to bring in critical leads, many B2B marketers lack the resources to bring them together in the first place. Let alone market them in a way that has a lasting impact on their businesses direct sales. 

With this in mind, working with reliable and experienced partners can be pivotal, especially when they have a legacy of effective marketing to your target audience. 

For instance, Petrochemical Update is home to a network of more than 60,000 decision-makers with outreach potential to 400,000 more downstream professionals through our partners. Moreover, our ability to create, segment and market effectively to our audience means that our digital products, webinars included, are becoming relied upon more and more by industry marketers.

As a result of our laser-targeted marketing, our webinar sponsors can be sure they're getting a marketing campaign that truly penetrates the noise and resonates with the buyers, end-users and executives that matter most. 

Furthermore, as pioneers of content marketing, we foster year-round contact with our customers. The quality and value of information our subscribers receive inspires loyalty and high engagement across all marketing we send out. This approach further underpins our status not just as a leader in business intelligence, but also digital content and marketing services for the downstream market. 

Are you interested in creating high-quality webinars or content? Or do you need to help to promote your brand's existing content to weather the current COVID-19 crisis? 

Instead, is your brand keen to explore virtual events and online-workshops to increase the number of top decision-makers you're engaging? 

Either way, then download our full digital marketing prospectus here to ensure your marketing strategy is primed for success! >>>

Note: The recordings to all webinars mentioned can be found on the Downstream Insight Hub here now. 

Please reach us if you have any questions.