Pre-recorded webinars are an exciting development in lead generation and sales. But like anything relatively new, there’s an awkward initial phase where we’re not sure exactly how best to use it.
Just as we originally used the Internet to share boring academic research instead of delightful cat memes, it can take time before people realize what new tech is really for. Case in point: recorded webinars are not necessarily “automated” webinars. It depends on how and why you recorded them, and what you do with them after.
Webinar replays and “simulated” live webinars don’t give you or your audience the real benefits of automation. To pretend otherwise is at best poor strategy — and at worst a trust-demolishing deception.
The presentation you create for automation should be totally separate from the one you share live. The way you promote it should be different. The way you follow up should be different. The whole system is a different animal, and should be treated as such. Otherwise, you’re not “automating” your webinar content.
You’re just faking it.
Live Webinars vs Replays vs Automation vs Simulation
First, let’s get the semantics down. If you appear live to an online audience, demonstrate your expertise, field questions and comments, teach them something, and maybe make an offer — all in real time — you’ve just given a live webinar.
Now, if you record that live webinar and make it available to, say, registrants who couldn’t make it, or attendees who might want it as a reference, cool. If you tell new contacts about a great live webinar you did once, and make the recording available to them as a content offer, great. Those are webinar replays.
If you shoot a presentation for people to watch later, and build a marketing system around that, it’s an automated webinar. You record, promote, and follow up on a presentation that was never live — for an audience of people who never thought it was.
Then, there’s “simulated” live webinars. You create a presentation designed to look like it’s live, or just repackage a previous live webinar. But unlike a webinar replay, you register people who think it’s live — either because you told them so, or you just let them assume so. You might even have some chat going, remotely with you or entirely forged.
You hope the audience buys it, along with whatever else you’re selling.
Simulating your webinars is not the same thing as automating them. In fact, I think simulating your webinars can do more harm than good in the long run.
Why (and How) We Use Automated Webinars
For value to the audience and conversions for you, nothing beats a live webinar. Live webinars are the best way to create a real relationship with an audience, and build the living heck out of that sales-driving trust. A live presentation and real-time interaction are irreplaceable for the depth of trust we’re talking about.
But you can’t be online all the time.
As I discussed in a recent post, there’s nothing wrong with extending your reach by automating your webinars. You can webinar market 24/7, theoretically, with automation. You just have to be comfortable sacrificing a little of that intimacy, and be able to live with a statistically lower conversion rate.
That’s ok! Automation is just closer to the top of the funnel.
Automation is best for getting more people interested, while live webinars are best for getting people more interested. You’ll convert a certain percentage of attendees to your automated webinar, and the rest will require a little more interaction. But if it weren’t for automation, you might never have had their attention in the first place!
The problem is when people try to treat live webinars as automate-able.
They’re not. Not if you want to build your brand on a stable foundation.
How Simulation Can Backfire
A hammer is great at hammering precisely because it lacks the advantages of a screwdriver. Screwdrivers are fine and precise. Hammers offer blunt force. Now, can you get a screw into wood with a hammer? Sure. It fails to take advantage of the fact that screwdrivers exist, won’t be as secure, and may split or weaken the wood. But you can do it.
The question is: should you?
Using a live webinar to market around the clock — the way you can with automated webinars — is like using a hammer to install screws. You can totally do it, but the foundation you build will be unstable, especially if you’re telling people the hammer is a screwdriver when it’s not.
With each “simulation,” you risk eroding trust.
Digital marketing today is intimate, responsive, and more personal than any kind of marketing or advertising we saw before the Web. In other words, today’s customers trust people way more than they trust any marketing or advertising materials.
That’s why you have to be the material. And that material (you) has to be trustworthy.
If you present recorded content as live content, you might get some short-term benefits. But you’re building a relationship on a falsehood. Real success for entrepreneurs is a long game, played in the long term. Your reputation, and your audience’s trust, is the single most valuable asset you have.
It’s also the hardest asset to build.
So get to work: share what’s genuinely valuable about you and your experience. Build a following, and earn their trust. You’re not a massive corporation with a limitless marketing budget (yet), so your success will be built largely on your personal reputation. Present live webinars. Offer automated webinars. Do both.
But do them separately.
Don’t risk your reputation by manipulating the people you want to support your business. Automate, don’t simulate.
Years from now, you’ll be glad you did.
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