Are Webinars a Waste of Time?

From LinkedIn:

“Are webinars a waste of time? It would be interesting to hear from those of you who run regular B2B webinars about how this technique works for your business in terms of “lead generation” and/or “lead conversion”, and also whether you feel that there are other benefits to your business besides lead generation.”

My response:

No, they’re not a waste of time, but I would advise caution.

The very strong trend that we’ve seen in the last year or two is a shift in Webinar strategy for B2B clients such that online events are now used primarily for lead conversion (lead nurturing) rather than lead acquisition.

This is simple economics – Webinars (or any sales event, for that matter) require an investment in time that yes, result in more qualified leads, but at the expense of prospects who don’t register simply because they’re not at the point in the sales cycle where they feel such an investment is merited. Consequently the response rate with Webinars is less and the cost per lead is higher than with alternative offers such as white papers. (In fact, when we’ve tested white papers and similar information offers head to head to Webinars, all things being equal white papers generate twice the response.)

However, in the context of a lead nurturing program, Webinars make sense because they’re a natural “next step” for the prospect who has already been educated on your product but now wants to see it demo’d, or hear a customer talk about his/her experience, etc. Response rates are higher because the audience is already familiar with your company and thus is more likely to invest the time.

Don’t forget to leverage your Webinar beyond the live event. Archived or on-demand Webinars can have a long shelf-life on your Website (be sure to require registration for viewing) or as assets alongside white papers, case studies, podcasts, analyst reports and the like in a content syndication program. Many clients report receiving many more leads from the archived event than they ever did from the live program.

My advice would be: look for less expensive vehicles (SEM, content syndication) to bring raw inquiries into the lead funnel, and then employ systematic lead nurturing, including not just Webinars but a range of different content offers, in order to further profile, qualify, and educate leads and convert them to sales-ready opportunities.

5 thoughts on “Are Webinars a Waste of Time?

  1. Steven Woods

    Great points Howard. I would agree that webinars are best positioned as lead nurturing vehicles, and as an additional point, attendance in one or more webinars can act as a very valuable criterion for lead scoring on the lead’s level of interest.

  2. Michael A Stelzner


    I Like the snow on your page. Nice effect.

    Webinars can be very effective, esp. when done right.

    I am actually selling access to webinars and they can be a great source of revenue. As far as leads, I cannot say.


  3. Ray Harris

    Your article is quite interesting. Would you be willing to provide the metrics behind your conclusion that a white paper out draws a live webinar? Some time back I did some research on the relative ROI of a lead generation webinar versus a direct mail campaign. It would be really great to see a mixture of lead generation services compared.

    Keep in mind that webinars are used for far more than lead generation. We produce fully managed webinars for business and association clients. We see a lot of sales training, association educational events, corporate messaging , and of course financial. In fact, I would rate lead generation as a significant, yet not top three application for our webinar services so I might tend to agree with your conclusion (of course the actual metrics you used would be cool to see).

    And yes, I can attest that webinar replays draw more viewers than live events. However, the average time a viewer spends on the replay is far, far less than the time they spend on the live event. replays are best when a table of contents is appliced that lets viewers skip around to specific sections (of course few clients opt for this as it does add cost). Even better is a brief summary, a “reader’s digest” of the live event that is reduced to less than five minutes (again, few clients do this either as it adds editing and production costs).


  4. Howard Sewell

    Ray – thanks for your comment. I completely agree that there are ancillary benefits you gain with a Webinar campaign versus a simple download offer like a white paper.

    All I can tell you is that on the occasions when we’ve tested Webinars versus white papers head-to-head, that is: the only variable is the offer and all the benefits described for both the webinar and the white paper are identical (“In this free webinar/white paper, learn how to …”), registration rates for the white paper have been significantly higher, sometimes by as much as 100%.

    That doesn’t mean that white papers are always a better choice than Webinars. But I do think that when companies choose a Webinar strategy for lead acquisition they should also expect that any kind of live event requires a greater commitment on the part of the registrant, and that in turn will drive a lower response rate.

    As you so correctly point out, however, Webinars have many other applications, not just lead qualification. And they may even make sense for lead acquisition for some companies if the benefits that derive from driving people to an event (for example – interactivity, being able to demo the product) outweigh a lower response rate.

  5. Brian Bolton

    We run 5 to 6 webinars per year and our experience has consistently been that of lead nurturing as opposed to lead gen. We recently launched a corporate blog – – and intend to integrate pre and post webinar messaging with the blog to better market the event and keep the discussion going after the fact.



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