We’ve been doing a lot of comparing lately, looking at the features different webinar platforms (Zoom, GoTo, etc.) offer. Mostly, it’s to make the case that certain kinds of users — independent trainers, coaches, and the like — have specific needs.
As for which platforms best meet those needs...well, that’s for you to decide.
Let’s put aside WebinarNinja specifically for now, and address some universal webinar truths. There are certain features that any webinar platform needs, if we expect it to empower independent business people.
Let’s discuss those.
You, dear reader, are going to use the platform that works best for you: the one that lets you hook and convert audiences with as little hassle as possible. The one you like using. The one that has features that let you do your thing most efficiently.
Maybe it’s WebinarNinja, maybe it isn’t. But what should it look like?
Whichever platform you choose, make sure it has the following features, organized here by category. If not, you’ll be limiting your ability to grow your business.
Category: Ease of Use
This is Rule One of webinar platforms: they shouldn’t be a PITA for you — or your attendees.
Certain webinar platform features reduce hassle to manageable levels. Others do better, reducing it enough to free you. If you’re not held back by technical issues or an overwhelming interface, you can just shine. Ideally, you don’t really think about the tech.
You just get what you need — and your audience gets you.
Feature: Nothing to download Benefit: Attendance is easy
Ok, so this “feature” isn’t something your platform should have — it’s something your platform should lack. Without naming names (I did that in another post), some platforms require your attendees to download a whole dang other software onto their computer, just to see your presentation.
What year is this?
Every extra step your registrants have to take before seeing your webinar is added friction. Friction is not your friend, unless you’re trying to start a fire. Friction is everything that makes your customers’ “buyer’s journey” less smooth. It may seem like a small step, but small steps add up — and cost you business.
Feature: No lag Benefit: Your message is heard
Latency pours cold water all over your webinar. Do your own research, read reviews on sites like Capterra, and make sure the platform you choose doesn’t have a reputation for...wait for it...lag.
See what I did there?
If your audience is seeing what happened in the past, it’s hard for them to participate in the conversation. You want as much interactivity as possible — not easy if the folks at home are behind, even by a few seconds. Let the chat, questions, and polls flow uninhibited.
If it’s even slightly less than real-time, it’s not “live” in the ways that matter most for engagement.
Feature: Mobile-friendliness Benefit: Increased attendance
If it happens online, it’s more and more likely to be happening on a phone. With faster connections and better hardware, audiences today expect to be able to do...well, anything on their mobile device.
That includes attending webinars.
It’s a mobile-first world out there (even Google’s mysterious algorithm gives greater priority to the mobile version of each web page they index). Don’t limit yourself to your audience’s desks, or their laps. Get in their pockets.
Category: Customer Support
This might be the single most important category of all, one that affects all the other categories and features. It doesn’t matter how incredible, advanced, or feature-laden a webinar platform is if you can’t get help when you need it.
Bad support is a deal breaker, full stop.
Feature: Live Support Benefit: Peace of mind, expert help in a jam
Again, do your homework. Check out the company’s website. Is there a little chat feature in the bottom corner? If so, how long does it take them to respond? Do you chat with a person, or only a bot? Can you call for live phone support?
Not to be all “worst case scenario,” but live support is a safety net, and no one wants to work without one of those. Hopefully, you don’t need it much. But if you do — and you will if you host webinars long enough — you want to know support is there and ready to help, 24/7.
Feature: Help Articles Benefit: Quick answers
Every software on the planet should have a healthy repository of simple, to-the-point Help Articles that explain various features, common problems, and solutions you can apply yourself -- without live support.
There are two reasons this is so crucial.
First, it can be a heck of a lot easier for you. If you can type a problem description into a search field and get an immediate solution, that’s way more efficient than talking to someone. But just as importantly, good Help Articles free up the live support staff, so you don’t end up in a long queue when you do need a human.
Feature: Resources & Tutorials Benefit: You get more out of the platform
A webinar platform will only work as well as the user’s knowledge and skill levels allow. So it’s incumbent on the platform to educate the user. Look for a healthy library of instructional videos, blogs, e-books, and other helpful resources — like regular webinars specifically for users.
Part of customer support is investing in the customer’s knowledge.
You should be able to turn to your webinar platform for advice and training on everything from filming to promotion to email sequencing to using social media. Y’know the old saying about teaching a man to fish?
Well, just handing someone a rod isn’t going to feed anyone.
Category: CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
A webinar without a CRM system is just a performance.
A webinar is a centerpiece; around the center you need tools to move your audience down the ol’ marketing and sales funnel. Let me be very clear about this point: the sales you make during the webinar are not the only sales you’ll make because of the webinar.
Which means certain things have to happen: either your webinar platform has to include CRM features built in, or it has to integrate with external CRM features. Or both.
Feature: Built-in email automation Benefit: Higher attendance, more sales
You want a webinar platform that cuts down the time you spend nurturing leads.
One super-simple, powerful way to do that is to include email automation. Someone signs up, and the platform sends email reminders leading up to the webinar. After the webinar, the platform sends “thank you” emails, or “sorry you missed it” emails, depending on the contact’s actions.
The platform keeps the conversation alive, before and after the webinar. Naturally, you can customize these automated emails, adjusting the timing, style, and content to your liking. Once you set the automations up, you let the platform do the rest.
You won’t convert all your attendees during the webinar. The email sequence is like a clean-up batter — your webinar gets runners on base, and the emails bring them home.
If you can do all that without a separate email software, you’ve saved some time and money.
Feature: Email Integrations Benefit: Same as built-in email automation
At the very least, your webinar platform should allow you to continue the conversation on your own, by integrating with separate email platforms. This is a great option if you’re a more sophisticated email marketer, or you already use great email marketing software like MailChimp, HubSpot, or Active Campaign.
It involves a few extra steps, but quality integration can make it surprisingly seamless, letting you maintain lists, segments, and tags across both platforms.
Alternately, a great webinar platform lets you do both: in-platform automations take care of all your webinar-specific emails, while easy integrations let you do everything else. It all depends on how complex you want it to be — or not.
Feature: Landing/Thank You pages Benefit: Better registration/attendance
Landing pages seal the deal when it comes to registration. “Thank You” pages can improve attendance, and even help spread the word further.
Especially for those of us who aren’t web designers, it’s important for the platform to take care of this part. The landing and Thank You page templates your platform offers should be customizable and brand-able, but without coding or other extra work involved.
Especially good landing page options include easy social sharing, the ability for registrants to add the webinar to their calendar, and room for multimedia, like video.
Feature: Analytics Benefit: Measurable goals, better strategizing
Of course, you can’t make any attempt at a marketing strategy (webinar-based or otherwise), without a clear picture of the current reality. How engaged is your audience? What are realistic targets to increase that engagement?
If you can’t answer those questions, you’re adrift.
That’s where good analytics come in. At the very least, your platform should tell you:
How many registrants your webinar had
Of those registrants, how many attended
How many registrants watched the replay
How long attendees stayed
How many attendees clicked on offers
You. Need. Stats!This information is crucial to making sure that all those metrics trend upwards. If you’re not familiar with SMART goal planning, check out this post.
But the key takeaway here is this: while live webinars are best, pre-recorded webinars can really extend your reach. An effective webinar platform should let you use recordings in two essential ways:
Feature: Webinar Replay Benefit: Higher (if delayed) attendance
Your platform should record and store your live webinars, so you can let people watch them later. Sometimes, this is just a valuable bonus you offer to live attendees, for reference. But for registrants who don’t attend, the replay is crucial!
The replay is your second chance to reach the people you almost had.
The stats tell the tale. According to a well-sourced webinar benchmark report from lead gen experts Deck 7, up to 70% of registrants who fail to show up for a webinar watch the replay.
70 percent! Imagine the missed opportunities of not having replay.
No, seriously, imagine it. I don’t want to.
Feature: Automated webinars Benefit: Greater reach, location independence
But as I explained (and keep explaining, to anyone who will listen), a recording of a live webinar is not an “automated webinar.”
Replays have their uses (see above). But to really take advantage of full automation and market yourself around the clock, you need a full-fledged webinar automation system. For you, it means recording videos specifically for automation, not just repackaging live footage.
For the platform, it means “On Demand” scheduling capabilities, and all the CRM stuff we discuss above. Because pre-recorded webinars aren’t as intimate or personal — and therefore don’t convert as well — you need tools in place to follow up.
As for pre-recorded webinars designed to look like live webinars...I’ve made my thoughts clear on all that.
There you have it, friends. The team and I are trying to build the absolute most convenient, effective webinar platform for entrepreneurs. As we’ve learned more and more from our users, we’ve had to adjust, adding new features as we studied what makes life easier for webinar hosts.
The features listed here? For my money, they’re bare minimums. Whichever webinar platform you use, make sure it ticks all these boxes. Meanwhile, we’ll keep studying — and improving.