Zoom is having quite the month.
COVID-19 (heard of it?) drove hordes of newly remote workers to Zoom for both video conferencing and Zoom webinars. But all that new business revealed serious security issues, leading to headlines like the Guardian’s “Zoom is malware.”
But even without the possibility of being “Zoom bombed,” using Zoom for webinars was always more of a workaround than a solution.
What’s a Webinar, Anyway?
First, let’s clarify what a webinar is, and what a webinar platform should do.
The word itself fuels debate, because like so many other digital era things, we’re making the language up for it as we go along. We'll start with what a webinar is not.
A webinar is not:
- A meeting
- A conference call
- A lecture
- A vlog
So what is it? Ideally, 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 — either as a lead magnet to sell something else, or as its own standalone product.
For example, coaches and consultants use webinars to teach a group how to do something (create a budget, meditate, use a software tool, etc.) then present a sales offer for their services. Likewise, users also create extended or 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. Newer WebinarNinja users are doing everything from hosting their fitness classes to using webinars as a modern QVC, since the whole coronavirus thing. But the most common way to webinar is the whole marketing-via-teaching method.
Speaking of which...
Zoom and Webinar Marketing
Traditionally, marketers break the sales and marketing "funnel" down into some version of the following stages:
Some folks have other, more specific stages in between (mostly different levels of “consideration”), but those four are pretty much universal.
So if webinars are marketing assets, the platform you use to run a webinar should have tools that help you:
- Get more registrants (Awareness)
- Turn registrants into attendees (Consideration)
- Keep attendees engaged (Consideration)
- Turn attendees into customers (Purchase)
- Keep customers happy and turn them into evangelists (Advocacy)
The platform’s job is to turn your webinar into something that does all those things -- with more efficiency and targeted strategy than other assets like blogs, social posts, or podcasts.
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 take it in terms of 3 areas: Pricing/Value, UX/UI, and Functionality.
Zoom Webinar Pricing
Zoom Price (Monthly)
WebinarNinja Price (Monthly)
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 largely an afterthought. This is the most compelling fact that demonstrates what I mean when I say that Zoom was built for conferencing, not marketing; for meetings, not webinars.
None of Zoom’s plans, from their free “Basic” tier to their most expensive “Enterprise” tier, come with webinars included.
How much you actually pay for Zoom webinars depends on how many hosts and attendees you want — and it adds up quickly. For example, to use Zoom webinars for 1 host and a maximum of 100 attendees (most people’s starting point), you have to start with at least a “Pro” plan. The bill is calculated as follows:
Pro Plan ($15/month) + Webinar Add-On, 1 host, 100 attendees ($40/month)
By comparison, our Starter tier costs $49/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 $95/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 quickly. At the top tiers, our 1,000-attendee, 4-host plan rings in at $249/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 landing pages and email sequencing that doesn't...kinda suck, you won’t want to settle for what comes out of the box with Zoom (more on that below), which means added costs. 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, and how it looks and feels.
Maybe you’re a techaholic, and no amount of complications scares you; you just want the most functionality even if there’s a steep learning curve. That’s cool. But we designed WebinarNinja with one primary goal: that our users could just forget about it.
As one of our users, public speaking coach Kolarele Sonaike of The Great Speech Consultancy put it, “It feels like the software is doing everything it can to just get out of my way.”
Zoom is known for a few things, but that kind of purposeful user-friendliness isn’t one of them.
Again, that comes back to its original purpose; it was meant as a tool for offices. It didn’t matter if it was kind of a PITA, because it was for managers whose full-time jobs include using PITA software — not entrepreneurs who just want a way to reach out with 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 exactly what our user interface looks like here on our demo video, or you can join us for a live walkthrough at our next free webinar. But long story short...it’s clean. That was always Priority One.
By contrast, even the tech-savvy can quickly find themselves lost and fumbling with the disarray of screens that float around your monitor on a Zoom webinar. In fact, you can’t really be sure what your audience is even seeing on their end, if you’re not careful to keep track of how you’ve configured the presentation.
You can request a Zoom demo here, and compare for yourself.
Downloading Software: Another unnecessary PITA is the fact that as a host, you have to actually download Zoom software onto your computer; it’s not web-based. It’s just another clunky tool taking up space on your drive.
I suspect that’s because Zoom is pre-cloud technology, meaning the world hadn’t really started to expect cloud-based everything when Zoom started. Naturally, 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 are unlikely to struggle with lag, delay, or poor quality as long as everything is tight on your end and the attendees’. Zoom in particular is noted for very high audio/visual quality. WebinarNinja is no slouch in this department either, but Zoom rightfully uses it as a selling point.
Aesthetics: Zoom has been accurately described as “corporate,” “boring,” and “office-like.” Because it is. Aesthetically, it’s the software equivalent of khakis — inoffensive, but certainly not fun or memorable.
That doesn’t matter when it comes to conferencing. But it means the world when it comes to marketing.
Again, Zoom concerns itself strictly with function. 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)
You can read any number of articles about how important landing pages are for inducing an action, like registering for a webinar. That’s why our built-in registration pages are designed and optimized to get those “Sign Up” buttons clicked.
Crucially, 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: a design that’s optimized for high conversion, but still yours.
That, and we also have on-site registration, meaning you can 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. They’re nothing more and nothing less than a place where a person can sign up for a webinar — but they don’t do anything to convince them to do so. And the customization is limited, to say the least. Nor can you embed registration for Zoom webinars 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 people see right after they register. It integrates with Google Calendar (among others) to make attending the webinar a more real commitment.
Then, the registration triggers an automatic sequence of reminder emails, right up until the webinar starts.
Again, the structure of these emails is already built into the platform, designed to increase attendance. But you can still customize each email in the sequence with your own personality, copy-wise.
Zoom has its own email sequence, but the setup is a bit more involved.
The way I think of it is this: with WebinarNinja, you work backwards, customizing an existing, fully set-up email sequence. 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 minimum, 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 in order to interact with the host.
In practice, this means that instead of having a natural, free-flowing conversation that also organizes the information, hosts have to instruct attendees to participate.
On WebinarNinja currently, all that stuff is just under the video screen, and fairly intuitive for both hosts and attendees. People can chat away, drop specific questions for the host to answer, and respond to polls pretty breezily (we’re actually making the whole interface even more natural for WebinarNinja 6).
The end result is that with a dedicated webinar platform, you can work the crowd. With Zoom, the crowd has to work.
It is worth noting that Zoom has a pretty creative feature called “Virtual Hand Raising,” whereby attendees can click a button that lets the host know they want something without interrupting. I don’t really 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 marketing and sales: no pre-made sales offer feature.
On WebinarNinja, you can pre-package a sales offer just for the webinar that's seamlessly embedded into the presentation. Attendees can just click and buy without extra steps in the way.
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 will cost you revenue.
One of the biggest developments in webinardom has been the automated or pre-recorded webinar. Why is this so clutch? Mostly because it vastly increases both registration and attendance – because 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, with the purpose of inducing action (like a purchase, or registration for a live webinar later).
Zoom does not offer automated webinars. They offer “On Demand Webinars.”
“On Demand Webinars” on Zoom can’t be integrated with a payment processor, so no sales are possible. They aren’t compatible with Zoom’s email sequencing, so forget any lead nurturing. These are just videos, not marketing assets — 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 are personal and intimate and idiosyncratic, and that’s why they inspire so much trust and consumer confidence.
Because Zoom started in the pre-webinar era, with a software designed specifically to move corporate meetings online, dynamic isn’t their thing. Functional is their thing. Business, in both the efficient and totally boring sense of the word, is their thing.
Zoom was designed 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 the reason you’re thinking about webinars is because you want to collaborate with a team, where each of you is on camera sharing your thoughts the way you would in a meeting, Zoom is the right kind of tool. But if you’re trying to build a following, nurture leads, and sell a product or service, you need a tool designed just for that.
And it isn’t Zoom.
Wanna get together and see how WebinarNinja works? Sign up for the next free, live walkthrough below:
Don't miss the next great post. Subscribe.
Want the best webinar guides, tutorials, and tips? We got you.