Zoom is having a hell of a month.
COVID-19 (heard of it?) drove hordes of people to Zoom. But all that new business revealed serious security issues.
The result? Headlines like the Guardian’s "Zoom Is Malware."
But even before "Zoom bombing," Zoom webinars were more of a workaround than a solution.
What’s a Webinar, Anyway?
The word "webinar" itself causes debate.
For us, webinars are defined by their goals. For example, lead nurturing, list-building, or sales. A true webinar platform helps you achieve those goals.
But let's make it even simpler. Let's start with what a webinar is and isn't.
A webinar is not:
- A meeting
- A conference call
- A lecture
- A vlog
A webinar is:
- An interactive lesson
- A marketing asset
In other words, a webinar is a remote teaching tool with a business twist. A webinar host offers a valuable lesson. The lesson is either a lead magnet, a sales pitch, or its own standalone product.
For example, coaches and consultants use webinars to teach a group how to do something. Maybe it's how to create a budget, meditate, or use a software tool. Then, they present a sales offer for their services. Or, they create in-depth webinars, and charge people to attend.
Either way, the formula is the same: leverage lessons into business.
That said, I should acknowledge that there are other ways to use webinars, especially now. Since the 'rona, Webinar Ninjas are doing new things. From live fitness classes to QVC-style product showcases, they've adapted. But the most common way to webinar is the whole marketing-via-teaching method.
Speaking of which...
Zoom and Webinar Marketing
Marketers break the sales "funnel" down into the following stages:
Some folks include more stages (usually different levels of "consideration"). But those four are pretty universal.
So if webinars are marketing assets, the platform you use to run them should have tools that help you:
- Get more registrants (Awareness)
- Turn registrants into attendees (Consideration)
- Keep attendees engaged (Consideration)
- Turn attendees into customers (Buying)
Keep customers happy and turn them into evangelists (Advocacy)
The webinar platform’s job is to turn your lesson into something that does all those things. And of course, the price should reflect a good ROI.
Do Zoom webinars do all that? Do they do it well compared to a dedicated webinar platform (like ours)?
Let’s look at it in 3 areas: Pricing/Value, UX/UI, and Functionality.
We'll start with the cost of Zoom, compared to WebinarNinja.
Zoom Webinar Pricing
1 Host, 100 Attendees
4 Hosts, 100 Attendees
1 Host, 300 Attendees
4 Hosts, 300 Attendees
1 Host, 500 Attendees
4 Hosts, 500 Attendees
1 Host, 1,000 Attendees
4 Hosts, 1,000 Attendees
*Zoom does not offer a 300-attendee package, so this price reflects the 500-attendee package necessary to host 300 attendees on a Zoom webinar.
If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this:
Zoom does not include webinars.
Zoom does not include webinars.
Zoom does not include webinars.
With Zoom, webinars are an add-on. An upsell. And that’s because they’re an afterthought. This is the most compelling fact that demonstrates what I mean when I say they built Zoom for meetings. Not marketing, not webinars.
Zoom's cost structure reveals as much. None of Zoom’s plans, from "Basic" to “Enterprise," come with webinars included.
How much you actually pay for Zoom webinars depends on how many hosts and attendees you want. The price adds up fast.
For example, to use Zoom webinars for 1 host and a max of 100 attendees, you have to start with at least a “Pro” plan. Zoom calculates the bill as follows:
Pro Plan ($15/month) + Webinar Add-On, 1 host, 100 attendees ($40/month)
By comparison, our Starter tier costs $99/month, which includes 100 attendees and up to 4 hosts. In fact, to get the same capacity as our Starter tier — 100 attendees, 4 hosts — on Zoom, the bill would look like this:
Pro Plan ($15/month) + Webinar Add-On, 4 hosts, 100 attendees ($160/month)
And that’s limiting your audience to 100. With any luck, that's a limit you’ll soon outgrow.
The next highest tier for WebinarNinja (the Pro plan) is a 300 attendee limit, with 4 hosts, for $199/month. Zoom’s next highest webinar plan includes 500 attendees, which at 4 hosts costs $575 per month (it’s $155 for just one host).
Like I said, it adds up fast. At the top tiers, our 1,000-attendee, 4-host plan rings in at $299/month. To get that on Zoom, it costs a forehead-slapping total of $1,375 per month!
Not exactly great for scaling.
And that’s before we get into the “phantom costs” of not using a dedicated webinar platform. If you want nice landing pages and email reminders, don't settle for what comes out of the box with Zoom. Video storage over 1G also gets costly on Zoom, for another example.
UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface)
Software download required?
Look & Feel
Next, there’s the matter of how easy (or not) the platform is to use. Then, there's how it looks and feels.
Maybe you’re a techaholic, and no amount of complications scares you. You want the most functionality even if there’s a steep learning curve. That’s cool. But we designed WebinarNinja with one primary goal: that the host can just forget about it.
One of our hosts, public speaking coach Kolarele Sonaike of GreatSpeech.co put it this way:
"It feels like the software is doing everything it can to just get out of my way."
Zoom has a great rep for a few things, but that kind of purposeful user-friendliness isn’t one of them.
Again, that comes back to its original purpose. They built Zoom as a tool for offices. It didn’t matter if it was kind of a PITA, because it was for managers whose jobs include using PITA software. It wasn't made for independents who want minimal hassle.
Even the nomenclature — Zoom refers to them as “Video Webinars” — sounds like it’s from a different time in tech.
Studio Interface: You can see what our user interface looks like here on our demo video. But long story short...it’s clean. That was always Priority One.
By contrast, even the tech-savvy can get lost in the disarray of screens that float around on a Zoom webinar. In fact, you can’t really be sure what your audience is seeing on their end, if you’re not careful.
You can request a Zoom demo here, and compare for yourself.
Downloading Software: Another unnecessary PITA is having to download Zoom software. It’s not web-based. It’s yet another clunky tool taking up space on your drive.
I suspect that’s because Zoom is pre-cloud technology. The world hadn’t really started to expect cloud-based everything when Zoom started. That’s not the case for us. Our platform requires no downloads for anybody, on either end.
Reliability: Whether you use Zoom or WebinarNinja, you're not likely to deal with lag or sudden bad A/V.
Zoom in particular has a great rep for A/V quality. WebinarNinja is no slouch either, but Zoom rightfully uses it as a selling point.
Aesthetics: Users have described Zoom as “corporate,” “boring,” and “office-like.” Because it is. It’s the software equivalent of khakis — inoffensive, but not fun or memorable.
That doesn’t matter when it comes to conferencing. But it means everything when it comes to marketing.
Again, Zoom is strictly functional. It’s a minivan. It gets the kids to practice, it picks up the groceries, and it only gets noticed when there’s a problem with it.
But if you’re a marketer, an independent entrepreneur, you can’t use a minivan.
Metaphorically, I mean. Get the groceries however you want.
Functionality: Zoom Webinars vs WebinarNinja
On-site Registration Available
Add to Calendar
Yes, integrated with Google Calendar, Yahoo, Outlook, iCal
Yes, but requires setup
Yes, pre-set and customizable
Yes, but hard to find
Yes, but hard to find
Yes, but hard to find
Virtual Hand Raising
Not really (see below)
Let's break this down by category, too:
You can read lots of articles about how important landing pages are for inducing action. That’s why we optimized our built-in reg pages to get those “Sign Up” buttons clicked.
While our pages are design-optimized, they’re still customizable. In other words, bring your own images, color palette, and copy writing style. Plug it all into our reg pages, and you have the best of both worlds. You get a design that’s optimized for high conversion, but still yours.
You can also embed our registration forms onto your own website. If you don't have one of those, check out Pixpa for some nice templates.
With Zoom webinars, the registration pages are purely functional. People can sign up for a webinar, but the page does nothing to convince them to. And the customization is limited, to say the least. Nor can you embed forms onto your own website. Bummer.
Once you have the registrations, it’s important to proactively encourage attendance.
The first thing WebinarNinja does to help with that is an “Add to Calendar” option on the “Thank You” page. It integrates with Google Calendar (among others) to establish a more firm commitment.
Then, registration triggers an automatic sequence of reminder emails. Those emails keep coming, right up until the webinar starts. The email sequence is already built into the platform. However, you can customize the number, timing, and copy.
Zoom has its own email sequence, but the setup is a bit more involved.
Think of it like this: With WebinarNinja, you work backwards, customizing a complete email campaign. If you never changed the default settings, it would work just fine. But with Zoom, you have to build your sequence almost from the ground up.
A webinar is not a lecture. If there’s no interaction, they might as well be on YouTube. That’s why webinar platforms offer at least a few key functions:
Zoom webinars do indeed have chat, Q&A, and poll functions…but they’re kinda hidden.
I don’t know how else to describe it. Attendees on a Zoom webinar have to find a very discreet little control panel to interact with the host.
This means that instead of having a natural conversation, hosts have to cajole attendees to participate.
On WebinarNinja, all that stuff is right under the video screen, and totally intuitive. People can chat away, drop questions for the host to answer, and respond to polls pretty breezily.
On top of that, we've got Handouts, Offers, and an attendee Presenter feature.
Bottom line? With a dedicated webinar platform, you can work the crowd. With Zoom, the crowd has to work.
It's worth noting that Zoom has a pretty creative feature called “Virtual Hand Raising." Attendees can click a button that tells the host they want to say something, without interrupting. I don’t see the conversion potential of that, but it’s cool.
This is probably the most glaring example of what makes Zoom great for meetings but inadequate for sales. There's no pre-made sales offer feature!
On WebinarNinja, you can pre-package a sales offer for the webinar and embed it right into the presentation. Attendees simply click and buy without extra steps.
Remember: Every. Second. Counts.
When you’ve finally gotten attendees to the point of sale, every obstacle is a chance to lose them. While you can sell things on Zoom with payment processor integrations, not having a dedicated Offers feature can hurt sales.
One of the biggest developments in webinardom has been the automated or "evergreen" webinar. Why is this so clutch? Because it vastly increases registration and attendance. People can attend whenever they want.
But as we explained in this post, an automated webinar is a very specific thing.
It’s not a simple replay of a live webinar, or a video like the kind you can see on YouTube. An automated webinar has functions and features that let you embed engagement and sales tools into the presentation. It helps you induce actions like buying, or registering for a live webinar later.
Zoom does not offer automated webinars. They offer “On Demand Webinars.”
You can't integrate “On Demand Webinars” on Zoom with a payment processor, so it's a weak tool for sales. They're not compatible with Zoom’s email sequencing, so forget any lead nurturing. They're just videos, not marketing assets.
Zoom "On Demand" webinars are perfect for conveying information...but not much else.
What Makes Webinars Webinars
Webinars are a dynamic marketing channel.
They’re meant to be a portal through which personalities can shine. They're personal and intimate. That’s why webinars inspire so much trust and consumer confidence.
Zoom started in the pre-webinar era, with a software designed to hold corporate meetings online. It was created to replace the conference call, and ultimately the physical office itself.
“Zoom bombing” and data-sharing aside, it’s done an outstanding job of that. If you’re thinking about webinars because you want to collaborate with a team like you would in a meeting, Zoom wins.
But if you’re trying to build a following, nurture leads, and sell, you need a tool designed for just that. And it's not Zoom.
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