I’m going to say something. It’s gonna sound a little trite, a little Hallmark. But I mean it, and it’s the answer to the question "Do webinars actually work?"
So here goes: Trust is everything.
I actually believe this, and not for sentimental reasons. It’s a matter of strategy. The Internet has changed marketing to the point where trust is the single biggest differentiatior, and webinars are the best way to navigate that fact in a world of cynical offers, and customers with better bullsh*t radars than any generation before them.
We’re just too sophisticated now, as consumers. We’ve seen behind the curtain enough times to recognize insincerity when we see it.
We don’t believe that fast food chain is actually making “artisanal” burgers.
We don’t believe that guru has an exclusive “secret” to weight loss.
We don’t believe you can make $100,000 a month with this One Simple Trick.
We don’t buy, because we don’t buy it.
So when you actually have a real way to address people’s problems, it can be incredibly difficult to convince people of it. Consumers are bombarded by so many false promises, they’re suspicious of genuine solutions. It doesn’t matter how great your product is; it’s hurdling the Great Trust Barrier that stops 99% of businesses from taking off.
I think webinars are the best solution to that — but only if you understand the double-sided nature of customer trust.
The 2 Trust Factors
I don’t think “trust” is a singular thing. I think it’s a coin with two sides.
It can be really hard to build both simultaneously, without detracting from the other — like trying to lose weight and build muscle at the same time. It takes finesse.
- Relatability is the trust factor that lets people see themselves in you. It makes people feel safe via familiarity. It convinces them that you understand them, and therefore understand their problem just like they do — and therefore have credibility when you offer a solution.
It also makes whatever result you’ve accomplished seem attainable. “If this person who’s just like me can do it, so can I!” It’s why we wear t-shirts instead of ties. It’s why we make jokes. It’s why we write soul-searching blog posts and tell personal backstories on our “About” pages.
- Professionalism is the factor that sets you apart from the consumer. It makes people feel safe via competence. It convinces them that you know something they don’t, and therefore understand their problem better than they do — and therefore have credibility when you offer a solution.
It also makes whatever results you’ve accomplished seem attainable if they have your help. “If this person is in my corner, I can do it!” It’s why we hone our powers of presentation, why we gather testimonials and display our credentials. It’s why we spit and polish our image and delivery to project confidence, clarity, and strength.
The Problem With Trust
The two sides of the trust coin can be tough to balance, because they’re fundamentally opposite.
On the one hand, being too professional can make you seem impersonal, self-interested, calculating. Especially when you’re talking about a business that involves coaching or mentoring, potential customers need to feel the humanity, and the distance that professionalism creates can screw that up.
And on the other hand...
Seeming too relatable can make you seem less competent. After all, who needs help from someone who’s on their own level? People want help from someone who knows more, has more experience, and is further down the road — someone they want to be, not someone they already are.
So you have to inspire both kinds of trust simultaneously, without either detracting from the other. To pull that off, I like to use a certain method, and a certain tool.
The Foreground/Background Method to Building Customer Trust
I like to resolve the dual trust problem by taking a foreground/background approach. In the foreground, I put all the relatability elements. My (allegedly) charming personality goes up front. I’m open, honest, self-deprecating. I put on the T shirt. I share a personal tidbit. I’m just a guy.
I write blog posts like this one about stuff that has nothing to do with business — and has garnered a truly surprising amount of traffic for me in the years since I posted it.
In fact, we conducted a recent survey with our users in which we tried to pin down the reasons people looked closer at our webinar software, so we could double down on whatever it was. We assumed it would be the stuff we always hype: the ease of use, the ride-or-die customer support, the tech.
Overwhelmingly, people reported being drawn in by me and Nicole. They liked us, our relationship as “partners in business and life,” our clear and utter regular-ness. The product was shockingly irrelevant to the initial consideration stages for potential customers. Being a likable couple hustling to build a life for ourselves turned out to be a massive marketing asset.
But that’s top-of-the-funnel stuff, not enough to get people all the way to a sale.
That’s why I concentrate all the “professionalism” stuff in the background. I don’t make it obvious or even apparent, but I put work and money into looking like I know what I’m talking about.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours in public speaking training, learning to modulate my voice and gestures in ways that convey (gentle) authority. Once it was in the budget, I hired a writer to help me nail my messaging by nailing my wording. I have a business coach. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on gear to raise the production value every time I’m on camera.
My audience generally knows none of this, unless they actively look into it. But it has an effect on how they perceive my authority. The general foreground/background philosophy is this: if it makes you relatable, you should actively display it. If it makes you professional, you should be passively letting it support your credibility.
How Webinars Create Trust (Both Kinds)
And this is where webinars, as a tool, excel in creating customer trust in both necessary ways.
First, webinars (especially live webinars) create an opportunity to display an undeniable, un-fake-able level of relatability by letting you interact with potentially huge numbers of people. Emphasis on interact.
Webinars are not lectures, ideally. They’re conversations.
That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of the interactivity of webinars, and use features that promote engagement and a two-way experience. Chat, polls, dedicated Q&A functionality; all of it breeds trust in a way that a blog post or an Instagram story can’t.
On the professionalism side of the coin, the very fact of hosting a webinar ups your credibility. I hate to admit it, but for now, hosting webinars is still uncommon enough to be a massive differentiator. We sure hope that changes. But until it does, your willingness to step into the spotlight and deliver a webinar screams competence, professionalism, and authority.
Your attendees don’t need to know that webinars aren’t that difficult, that certain webinar platforms (*ahem*) make it incredibly easy, even for the most “relatable” among us.
Of course, the more research and practice you put into your webinars, the more professional you’ll seem. That’s why half our mission is education: writing blog posts like this, hosting our own webinar workshops, and offering courses. That’s the “background” in which our users invest time and resources into their professional appeal.
Webinars get both jobs done. That’s why I think they’re the future of marketing for independent business people, especially coaches, trainers, and anyone else whose business depends on convincing people that they’re for real — in every sense.