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Why Webinars, Now 25 Years Old, Are More Effective for Sales Than Ever

Webinars have been around for quite some time now. Webinar-specific software arrived in 1995 when PictureTel launched LiveShare Plus. Microsoft got into the game in 1996 with NetMeeting, a component of Internet Explorer. And the word "webinar" was trademarked in 1998.

Nearly a quarter-century later, webinars are more powerful than ever for growing your business and making sales. Technology has vastly improved, and there are few ways to build rapport with prospective customers faster than a live-streamed webinar.

There's a right way and a wrong way to go about creating your webinar content. As an online business owner who enrolls clients using webinars and has led webinars for audiences of 50,000 or more women, I know what it takes to systematically build and scale a webinar-based business.

You don't need a giant audience, but you do need to make sure your webinar presentation touches on certain points. Here are three things to know before promoting your webinar.

1. Focus on the why

Customers buy a product not only to solve a problem but also to feel inspired. This is an important distinction. Your product has to work and give them the desired result, but that's not the reason they end up buying from you.

I frequently see entrepreneurs turn their webinars into workshops and long-winded tutorials. A webinar is designed to educate, but it's also designed to sell. You want to encourage excitement and emotion during a webinar because emotion is what leads to the sale.

If you give your attendees everything they need to succeed, they won't buy. You need them to buy because using the product is what ensures the promised solution actually comes to life.

2. Illustrate the gap

One of the most famous sales pages of all time is the "two men" ad that ran in The Wall Street Journal from 1975 to 2003 and led to over $2 billion in sales. The opening of the ad is compelling; it describes two men who graduate from college together — 25 years later one is a middle manager while the other is the company's president. The difference? The latter subscribed to The Wall Street Journal, of course.

This ad was a moneymaker because it illustrated the gap between point A and point B clearly. Your potential customer needs to not only believe that your product works but also that it will work for them. This requires making it crystal clear what the gap is between point A and point B.

This is the magic of webinars; you're able to provide this education on point A and point B in a clear, easy-to-follow format. Here's a formula I like to use to determine the primary content for my next webinar:

  • Define point A. What are my ideal webinar attendees experiencing right now? What are their biggest problems? Name this clearly. Consider identifying this information in your webinar.

  • Identify point B. Where do your customers want to go? What do they want more of? Who do they want to become? Again, it's not taboo to explicitly define these details at the opening of your webinar session.

  • Simplify the gap between A and B. No one wants to buy a long shot. Explain how someone gets from point A to point B in the simplest terms possible.

Don't give away every little detail about how to close the gap from point A to point B. This is what your product or program is for, taking them to point Z. Instead, give enough information to help people realize the journey from point A to point B is shorter and easier than they think.

3. Push, but with respect

Often, I see female entrepreneurs being too quiet during their product launches. When you are launching, it's time to be loud and proud about your offer.

For starters, pushing in a webinar launch makes your product more familiar to attendees, and studies show consumers prefer to buy something that's familiar. In the classic 1885 advertising handbook Successful Advertising, author Thomas Smith theorized that a consumer needs to see an ad 20 times before making a purchase. Twenty!

Sending a couple of e-mails before or after your webinar is not enough. You need to push. And you don't have to sound like a broken record. Hit on these points to create variety in your e-mail marketing as you launch:

  • Testimonials. Have past customers gotten amazing results from your product? Document it — relentlessly. According to a recent study, 87 percent of people read online reviews for local businesses when making decisions.

  • Frequently asked questions. Consumer buying styles vary. Some customers buy on the spot, while others like to vet a product and inspect it carefully. Addressing a slew of frequently asked questions shows prospective customers that you've already thought through each and every issue.

  • Why other solutions don't work. Is there commonly believed advice in your industry that's actually holding people back? Name it. Don't be afraid to contradict the status quo; this helps lay the groundwork to assert why your product or program is the superior solution.

I was in business when webinars began. And now, 25 years later, they're my presentation format of choice. That's because they close clients! The next time you want to sell to many people at once and win back your time, look at doing a webinar. When your approach gives attendees the information they want and need, they'll say yes to the sale.

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