How to choose a webinar platform
Choosing an appropriate webinar platform for your marketing webinar program is critical to your program success. To begin your search you will want to make sure you have a clear idea of your program goals. How many events do you plan to produce? What level of attendance do you expect? What is the goal for each event? Are you planning a series of repeat events? Is interaction, and therefore memorability, important? Do you want to accelerate the sales cycle? Is mobile reach important? Is recording and ondemand capabilities key for your program goals? How important is branding and customizability?
Choosing a webinar technology vendor you can rely on is extremely important for meeting your goals long term. The smaller inexpensive players in the web conferencing market are continually influx – one pops up only to disappear within a year. This will force you to start over with a new vendor. For a list of top web conferencing vendors, the Gartner Magic Quadrant report or The Forrester Wave™ report are good resources to start with as these analyst organizations have been tracking the webinar and web conferencing space for years.
Once you have a clear idea of program goals, here are some things to consider as you search for an appropriate vendor:
- Campaign tracking: Do you want to track the source of your registrants? If so, ensure that the vendor easily enables you to promote and track campaign sources.
- Persistency: Consider the convenience and time saving of content persistency. Is it important to you that the content you upload to a webinar room, or your overall room design set up, remain as you left it indefinitely? This is a critical time saver for rehearsals and for repeating events.
- Content library and uploaded content: Do you need, or would you find it convenient, to have a content library, either shared or for each individual, from which you can easily access content to bring into your webinar room(s) either in preparation for an event or on the fly during an event?
- Number of hosts/speakers required: You’ll want to think through how many webinar production hosts you will need on your account and how many presenters/hosts/moderators you may need during each webinar. Having the ability to give host and speaking rights to multiple people at once during an event will make your event smoother. Some platforms allow for multiple people to have host/speaker rights at once and some only allow for one at a time which requires time and coordination during the live event to pass rights around. In addition, many platforms sell webinars based on number of hosts. If you need a large number of hosts, it may make sense to choose a platform that allows an unlimited number of hosts.
- Capacity: How many attendees do you plan to have? Webinar platforms are typically sold by webinar room capacity – the larger the capacity, the more expensive the room. Keep in mind that on average only 30-40% of registrants for non-paid webinars will attend.
- Interactivity functionality: Webinar platforms vary widely on the number of features that they offer. If interactivity and, therefore, memorability is important to you, ensure that you are choosing the platform that provides the most options for flexibility and creativity.
- Engagement tracking: It’s important to measure overall engagement to improve presentations as well as individual engagement in order to prioritize leads for sales. Look into the engagement measurement and tracking of each platform and understand how each platform measures engagement.
- Lead scoring: Most platforms provide some sort of lead scoring options based on the demographics collected during registration and attendance. Look into the robustness of this functionality if it’s important to you.
- Attendee behavior tracking: Tracking and/or scoring leads on behavior during a webinar, beyond attended or not attended, is a huge value to provide your sales team and increase conversion. Look for platforms that help you track and score on behavior, beyond demographics. This includes files downloaded, poll answers, questions asked, etc.
- Recording, including editing and view tracking: Recording your webinar is extremely important for both the attendees as well as non-attendees. Strong editing capabilities will enhance the polish of the finished recording product. Ensure that you are able to track viewership of recordings as well. Look for output formats, including MP4 to ensure that the recording is assessable via mobile devices.
- Video streaming: If you plan to stream video or webcams during your webinar, look for platforms that stream well and do not limit the view of live streaming to a limited number of attendees. You’ll want to understand the webcam rights and advanced functionality.
- Mobile access: Mobile access is becoming more and more important. Choose a webinar platform that will give you the broadest reach across all devices (iOS and Android) and understand what the attendee experience will be on each of those devices.
- Registration functionality: If you plan to use the webinar platform for your registration microsites, carefully research whether the platform will support all your registration requirements such as custom fields, brand-ability, capacity caps, email reminders and confirmations, approvals, etc.
- Branding and customizability: Providing a custom look and feel via your webinar program so that it seamlessly reflects your brand is important, so choose a platform that allows the most customizability for both the registration landing pages as well as the in-webinar experience.
- Presenter-only area functionality: Does the webinar platform provide an area for presenters, speakers and hosts to communicate and prepare out of view of the attendees? What is the functionality of this area?
- Audio options: Understand whether the webinar platform will support your audio requirements. Some platforms include unlimited free VoIP and/or teleconferencing while others charge a fee for one or both.
- Marketing automation and CRM systems integration: As a marketer you will want to make your life easier by looking for a webinar platform that will integrate with your marketing automation or CRM systems for passing leads to sales and/or scoring leads.
- Free and advanced training availability: Look into whether the vendor provides free training or resources to help you get up and running. If you desire more advanced training you’ll want to check into the options and costs for this service as well.
- Price (unlimited hosts vs named host, VoIP inclusion): Pricing can get complicated and it can be even more complicated to compare the pricing of vendors because vendors may use different pricing models. The most common two models are a Named Host model or a Seminar Room model. If you plan to have a large number of hosts, you may find the Seminar Room model a better way to go as this allows for an unlimited number of hosts across the organization to use the license (you are simply restricted to holding one webinar at a time on each Seminar Room license). If you only plan to have one host or a few, the Named Host model may be the way to go. Some vendors also offer a pay-per-event model or a monthly webinar room option that may be good for those customers that only hold a couple webinars a year. Regardless, the functionality should be your main focus – most vendors will work with you on pricing, especially for volume purchases, regardless of their pricing model. You’ll also want to take into account whether the vendor is going to charge you for VoIP or other audio services as this will significantly increase your overall cost. And remember that the larger the room, the bigger the price tag so you’ll want to fully understand the number of attendees you expect. You can always increase your room size if you find your webinar program is more popular than you anticipated.