We were frustrated. When we started Demio, we firmly believed that webinars were the most powerful marketing tool for bringing in leads and sales, but the results for our own webinar campaign were disappointing.

People were registering, but less than 30% were showing up. Our PPC ad costs were skyrocketing, and the costs for getting registrations were way higher than the revenue we were generating each week.

Ready for the kicker?

We are literally the co-founders of Demio: a webinar platform built for marketers.

We were using webinars to sell our own product.

And we were failing miserably.

It makes you question your efforts, your ability, and your business.

My co-founder, Wyatt Jozwowski, and I started Demio in 2014 when we realized there was a strong need for webinar software that actually worked for marketing.

We were working for our own side businesses and using webinars to sell our own products, but we were continually having issues with platforms like GoToWebinar, where they would freeze or crash on us. I think Google Hangouts had just come out and they were super delayed and really slow. So, we wanted to build a platform that had all the marketing and sales automation we needed with a webinar.

After a two-year development process that we naively thought would only take two months, spending $100K on a product that we eventually had to trash and rebuild (ouch, that hurt), and burning through $450K of bootstrapped funds on development (I talked about this painful moment here), we somehow did it: we built a reliable webinar platform that was actually delightful to use.

Then, the challenge was finding people to use it — and pay for it.

We knew the best way to sell the product was to use it by hosting webinars for marketers. The webinars would create a viral loop in which a great experience combined with our Demio product branding would attract more users.

So, why weren’t people joining our webinars? 😭 Had we gone through all of the drama of the past two years for nothing?

“Putting together a webinar campaign is a lot of work, and it takes time. When things go well, it’s worth it times 10. When things don’t go well, it feels like a big waste of time,” Wyatt says.  

Luckily, the pitfalls and hurdles we had to go through over the two years of development taught us the learning power of failure (and, more importantly, how to find what works to move forward).

Now, after testing different approaches, we’ve discovered the key drivers behind a successful webinar funnel. Today, we’re going to share them with you so you can do your own experimentation and figure out what works for you and your customers.

Discover the right hook for your webinar prospects

No, I’m not talking about knocking out your prospects with a boxing move.

In marketing, a “hook” is a short story, phrase, or concept that immediately makes your prospects want to look deeper into your offering.

In my humble opinion, the right hook is fundamental to a successful webinar campaign. I learned this lesson the hard way.

I thought to myself, “Could I attract new cold leads into a pipeline to introduce them to my brand, solve their pain, and offer a paid solution?”

Of course! The struggle is when you start this process without a strong enough hook, so you begin to see high registration costs, low registration numbers, low attendee numbers, low engagement numbers, and low sales.

For example, the title and introduction of this blog post has a hook embedded in it. Can you guess what it is?

If your answer is “co-founders failing their way to webinar success,” you’d be correct.

I could have easily titled this piece: “How To 10x Your Webinars,” and plenty of people would read it. But would the right people for Baremetrics read it?

If you’re a SaaS founder who’s allergic to hype and a fan of transparency, metrics, and accountability (a.k.a. Baremetrics’ target reader/customer), a great marketing failure story from two successful founders — and the lessons you can take from them — will make you look twice.

The hook increases all your numbers, but most importantly will attract the RIGHT prospects.

Here are some webinar hooks we’ve tested in the past:

  • The Case Study: “Case Study of a High Converting Webinar”
  • The System: “Copy and Swipe the “Smart Webinar System” that Easily Converts at 20% to COLD TRAFFIC and Adds INSTANT REVENUE from Our Ad Campaigns.”
  • The Formula: “The Simple Webinar Formula that Can Turn $1 in Ad Spend into $4 Profit on Every Campaign…  Even on Your First Webinar”

Finally, after participating in Facebook groups for marketers and listening to what our early users were saying, we found a winner with this:

We had discovered our target customers’ core struggle, and it wasn’t converting cold leads or turning ad spend into revenue. Our core audience of solo entrepreneurs and small business owners had tried every tactic they could find to grow their business — and they were exhausted.

A 24/7 automated lead conversion machine hit a burnt-out business owner right in the pain point.

Fish for a captivating hook before you use a formula

There are formulas a-plenty that claim to boost the hook-ability of content, ranging from headline generators to finding gold in popular Kindle highlights. And those hacks can come in handy — as long as you know what your particular audience cares about.

The two of us did some research and discovered how to always find an interesting and relevant hook: talk with and listen to your current, previous, and prospective customers.

Sounds fairly doable, right? 😉

Take the time in the early stages to do your research. Know your prospects. Talk to them, survey them, really dig in. Make sure and test that you have a hook that interests and attracts the RIGHT prospects.

Volumes have been written about how to talk with people to gain marketing insights, so we won’t go in-depth here, but here’s what Baremetrics’ very own Josh Pigford says about finding the right positioning for an offer:

“The most efficient way I’ve found is talking to real, live humans. Not blogging. Not tweeting. Not shooting a mass email out to a list asking what problem they want solved.

Have a real conversation, on the phone, to other people in the industry you’re in and figuring out what they hate about running their business.”

The secret to finding an inescapable hook:

Look for the struggle.

Copywriter John Carlton says that an attention-worthy hook exists outside of the obvious list of product benefits and features:

“A great hook has nothing to do with how the client sees the product. It usually isn’t part of the features list, and only occasionally shows up among the benefits. Non-veteran writers miss it, because it’s not obvious to ANYONE associated with the product.”

Coming up with a great hook requires that you don’t just listen to what your prospective customers have to say about how your product helped them achieve their desired outcomes, but also what they wrestle with while working toward their goals.

Here are some questions to answer about your customer that will lead to finding the right hook for any marketing content — whether it’s a blog post, a podcast, a webinar, or a tweet:

  • What values do your customers care about?

Customers love nothing more than a brand that “gets” them. Understanding and delivering on what matters to your customers is key to building trust and loyalty.

Baremetrics customers value transparency and data-backed decision-making. They’re looking for the real stories behind the numbers: the good, the bad, and the painful to revisit.

So, with every bit of content, Baremetrics delivers that raw, open, realness their customers are craving. Last year, Josh’s tweet with a link to a Google sheet listing his business successes and failures got over 443 retweets. That may be the most excited people have ever gotten over a spreadsheet.

What are your customers picking a fight with?

Everyone has something that drives them nuts about their industry or the way other people do things. When you promise that your webinar will offer them a way of doing something without their pet peeve, it shows your customer you’re rooting for them to win.

Codeacademy Content Marketing Manager & Strategist Ashley Hockney offered a webinar for SaaS marketers that tapped into a common battle content marketers are waging: the quest to create and promote robust content without burning out.

  • What is something your customers have tried before that didn’t work for them?

If you’re reading this piece, chances are you’ve either attempted a webinar campaign and failed, or witnessed other webinar or course launches crash and burn. Tapping into failures your customers have already experienced is a way to demonstrate empathy for their struggle.

TeamGantt offers weekly webinars focusing on general education topics for project managers. They listen deeply to the discussions people in project management have about different methodologies and the common problems they encounter. Their webinar topics, like “Why Agile Isn’t Working for You,” reflect those failed attempts with a promise that with the right approach, prospects will find success.

Putting your hook to the test

Alright, now that you’ve sharpened your hook-detection skills, it’s time to do what great marketers do best: experiment, find a winning formula, optimize, repeat.

In this stage, split tests will be the name of the game.

When we were searching for the right hook for Demio prospects, Wyatt and I didn’t just test titles; we tested every piece of content for the webinar campaign, from Facebook ads to pre-webinar emails, trying to land on the right pain points that would drive our audience to our presentation.

Soon, we could tell when a webinar campaign was sinking like the Titanic.

Low registrations, high cost per click on ads, high registration costs on ads, low conversions, and low attendee numbers all corresponded to the same problem: the message was not resonating with the target audience.

But whenever we stumbled on a good hook, we had lift-off.

Truthfully, when you find a marketing message that targets the right audience at the right time, you see a landslide of results. You’re no longer fighting for it. You see costs go down, ROI go up, and engagement skyrocket. This is such an exciting feeling, and when you can combine marketing success with a stellar offer, you’ll see huge results.

“You can absolutely tell when your attendees are genuinely excited for your event. There’s a different energy, a different level of engagement, and all of it ultimately shows in your conversions, “ says Wyatt.

Now that we’ve pivoted our customer persona and are changing our focus from small businesses to SaaS marketers, we’re discovering again that the “24/7 Conversion Machine” webinar angle isn’t as successful.

To our warm list of entrepreneurs and small biz owners, it worked well, but, again they know, like, and trust us. However, when we offered it to colder prospects in SaaS marketing, the audience wasn’t as enthusiastic. This could be a targeting issue or the campaign hook.

So…back to testing we go.  Yippee. 🎉

Alright: we’ve established that finding a great hook is key to an unmissable webinar.

Once you discover the right hook, how can you build an exciting campaign that leads up to and follows the webinar event itself?

Go narrow on campaign strategy and simple on tactics

With all the funnel-building tools out there, you may be tempted to create an epic funnel map with 20 emails, dozens of Facebook ads, retargeting, and every other growth hack out there.

RESIST.

DO NOT ATTEMPT (at least, not at first).

If there’s one thing the two of us learned spending two years and $450K building 40% of the product we first set out to create in two months, it’s the power of simplicity.

I can’t state this enough: go simple to start. Only complicate the process and add more tactics once you see traction begin.

The key to a successful webinar campaign is building anticipation.

“In the past, I’ve had webinars with higher registration rates, but ultimately a pretty bad attendance rate,” Wyatt adds. “This can all be related back to the pre-promotional phase; I did a bad job of setting expectations and making it a must-see event.”

Fortunately, Demio has some marketing-savvy customers from whom we’ve learned the art of creating FOMO (fear of missing out).

But more on that in a minute. (See? Anticipation.)

Think of your webinar campaign as an MVP

Your goal with your webinar isn’t to capture every eyeball out there; it’s to deliver relevant, valuable content that convinces your ideal customer that your product is the answer they’ve been looking for.

So, when you’re building your post-registration campaign, keep it simple and powerful. Lean into your hook without pestering or overwhelming your registrant before or after the webinar.

Here’s a bare-bones funnel map to get you started:


The folks at SaaS startup (and Demio customer) FunnelDash are fans of letting their webinars do the talking and keeping their campaigns to-the-point. They start with a series of Facebook ads:


This Facebook ad, targeted to freelancers, leads to the webinar registration page, which converts at 44%:

FunnelDash reports they spend $1,500–$2,500 on Facebook ads, per webinar. Their cost per lead for webinar registrations averages out to $4.47, and they typically earn around $55 per lead in revenue from their webinars.

Leverage affiliate partnerships to spread the word about your webinar

The surest way to reach your target customers is through someone who is already reaching them.

Demio was able to shift from a free beta to a paid launch thanks to a referral network of hundreds of affiliate partners.

We had a lower usage level on some of the free beta users, but the people who actually did use the platform gave us great feedback. In fact, many of those people signed up to be affiliate referral partners instantly.

The affiliates invite their lists to Demio’s automated webinars in exchange for recurring commissions on sales.

Looking at the market and other SaaS programs, we decided on a 40% referral commission structure so people can make a good amount of money with a great platform.

Like Demio, FunnelDash relies on their affiliates to get the word out about their webinars.

“We would have Company XYZ send 2–3 emails on our behalf (that we wrote and they would adapt to their audience) to promote our webinar. Then, we would do the same for them to promote their webinar,” reports Tanya Brody, FunnelDash’s Content Marketing Manager.

Keep your webinar reminder emails short and packed with FOMO

“Getting someone not only to register for an upcoming event, but then actually take the time out of their day (at a scheduled time) to show up is challenging,” says Wyatt. “The only way to do this effectively is to build excitement around your event and do a great job of demonstrating the value that will be received.”

With a 20% conversion rate and/or $250 in revenue, per attendee, FunnelDash has discovered a winning formula for wrangling webinar registrants into their events.

They have a series of five “anticipation” emails containing registrants’ unique join links to the live webinar so they can easily find it when the time comes.

As for timing, the secret is to send reminders far enough out that people will mark their calendars, but close enough that they won’t forget they registered.

Email 1: Three Days Before the Webinar

FunnelDash sends their first reminder email three days before their live webinars.

“We also include a free guide in the confirmation email and the first anticipation email,” says Tanya. “This guide prepares people for what they’ll learn in the webinar and even shows them how to use FunnelDash before they see the full presentation.”

Email 2: 24 Hours Before the Webinar

The next email goes out the day before the webinar and includes a special video message from their webinar presenter, Tim Paige.

Tim’s video gives a sneak peek at a few of the slides attendees will see the next day. It also tells registrants about the three free gifts anyone who attends the webinar will receive (FOMO FTW). Finally, the video encourages registrants to join the webinar early and to write down any questions they have so Tim can answer them live, during the webinar.

Emails 3–5: Day of the Webinar

The last three emails go out the day of the webinar:

  • One first thing in the morning to get registrants excited about joining later that day.
  • One an hour before the webinar, so registrants don’t lose track of time and miss the whole thing.
  • One 15 minutes before the webinar, encouraging registrants to join right away.

Reel stragglers in with a replay and post-webinar sequence

About 20% of webinar conversions happen after the live event, so be sure to offer a recorded version to send folks. Ensure FOMO with a limited-time offer, and with a “live” or “hybrid” webinar replay, you can run the replay at certain times so a team member can be available via chat for questions.

“Our email sequence starts by sending registrants to the replay page,” says FunnelDash’s Tanya. “As the time draws closer to the deadline to get the offer, we talk more about the offer and losing the opportunity to get in on it. By the time we send the last email on Tuesday night, we get another 2–5 purchasers.”

To see FunnelDash break down their high-converting webinar strategy, check out their story here.

Create a webinar that teaches more than it sells

All this effort is for naught if your webinar is just a thinly veiled sales pitch that’s all about your product and nothing about your customer.

“Just like anything, take time to build something that people actually want,” advises Wyatt. “The medium won’t work unless you’re really doing something of value.”

Keep testing and optimizing…and failing and improving

A webinar campaign is only as good as the value it delivers. If your target audience changes or your offerings change, you need to re-evaluate your strategy and re-adjust your positioning.

“Don’t give up if your first event gets a low show-up rate,” Wyatt says. “There are lots of factors to tweak, completely change, and improve.”

Case in point: as we re-focus our attention to the SaaS market, we’re in the midst of a shift to a robust content marketing strategy to increase organic leads. We’ve put our “24/7 Conversion Machine” webinar on pause until we can discover a more meaningful way to communicate the value of webinars to SaaS marketers.

As I mention here over and over, we need to continue testing, but as we do so, we want to pause our ad campaigns and allocate that budget to great content marketing.

No doubt we’ll also stumble in our content marketing journey, too. But that’s a good thing.

So, here’s to your next failures. May they lead you to profound discoveries and success.

TL;DR? Here’s a quick summary of the webinar marketing wisdom that we ( Demio co-founders David Abrams and Wyatt Jozwowski) discovered through trial and error:

  • The right hook is everything
    • Talk with and listen to your current, previous, and prospective customers to discover their biggest struggles that you can help with.
    • Test a variety of webinar titles that center on how to overcome your customer’s struggle.
  • Keep your marketing strategy narrow and simple
    • Resist the temptation to go all-out on marketing tactics until you’ve gotten traction with your messaging
    • Your pre-promotional campaign should focus on building anticipation with drivers that are meaningful to your specific audience.
    • Affiliate campaigns are a genius way to get the word out about your webinar — make it as easy as possible for your affiliates to promote your event by providing them with pre-written email templates.
    • Keep reminder emails short and to-the-point, while gradually increasing a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) by promising relevant incentives only to webinar attendees.
    • As many as 20% of your conversions can happen after the webinar, so don’t neglect to offer a replay for a limited time.
  • Focus your webinar content on delivering value, regardless if someone buys or not
    • Don’t waste your prospects’ time on a sales pitch disguised as informational training.
  • Test, fail, gather data, try something new, repeat
    • When you approach each marketing campaign as an opportunity to gather more data on what drives your customers to action, you’ll always come away a better marketer than before — even if your campaign flops.