Analyzing Mutual Fund, ETF Webinar Performance

What self-respecting asset management firm hasn’t hosted at least one Webinar in the last year or so? Mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketers have seized upon Webinars as a way to present their thought leadership and, when trade publications and others’ lists are involved, broaden their reach (aka generate leads). Although daunting for some early on, the mechanics of Webinar production are straightforward and processes have been worked out.

So, how are you doing? Or, should I ask how your analysis of how you're doing is doing?

After the Webinar content is planned and produced, speakers selected and coached, and the promotion and registration process completed, many firms don't have much energy left for the analysis. This week I sat in on two Webinars sponsored by BrightTalk, the online event platform, that offered some insights that you might find useful.

I appreciate this data-sharing for the same reason that I value the data recently shared by Arkovi (social media usage by the financial advisors using the Arkovi social media archiving platform) or AddThis (the content that's shared using AddThis social sharing buttons) or LinkedIn (the top first names of CEOs, based on LinkedIn CEO profiles).

Like others that publish insights based on proprietary data about how customers are using their products, BrightTalk can't make any claims about all Webinars, let alone all asset manager-sponsored Webinars. What it's sharing is based on its experience in delivering almost 8,000 Webinars last year. The thinking and experience related to the data being shared and conclusions drawn are worth your consideration.

Below I highlight some of what I learned, but you’ll want to listen in yourself to the on-demand Webinars embedded at the bottom of this post. The first, "Analyzing Webinar Performance: From Registrations to Revenue," is the most recent and took place this week. The second, “DataLeaks 2012: The Demise of the Webinar Cargo Cult," was delivered in January. It's slightly more polished and presents more data.

Key Performance Indicators

Do you have key performance indicators (KPIs) for the Webinars you work on? KPIs suggested by BrightTalk (starting at the 13:25 marker in the Analyzing Webinar Performance presentation) include:

  • Community growth: This metric measures the development of the audience for your Webinars over time. It fosters a longer term perspective and a portfolio approach that's lacking when you think of each Webinar as a one-off.
  • Audience activity, including four segments: Live attendees, on-demand attendees, those who have registered but haven’t attended yet and those who pre-registered.
  • Audience size: BrightTalk says its average Webinar attracts 144 attendees, a number “that has a standard deviation of 50 or 60.” Its industry breakdown shows the number is a tad higher (149) for financial services Webinars.

In this instance, BrightTalk's experience probably doesn't apply. Most asset manager Webinars draw more than 144. Webinar benchmarking data provided by Advisor Perspectivesreports an average 448 registrants and 219 attendees. Investment News, which covers a wider variety of subjects including technology, says its 2011 Webcasts averaged more than 1,300 registrants and drew approximately 800 attendees.

  • Live viewing behavior: Check out this fabulous BrightTalk graph. Less than half the BrightTalk audience is online by the time the Webinar starts, and the audience peaks 17 minutes into the presentation. This is data that BrightTalk says might influence when you deliver your marketing message. Note that only half of your attendees will be there at the end with you for the Q&A.
  • Viewing duration of the on-demand presentation: Half of the on-demand audience will view for just 10 minutes in total (not necessarily the first 10 minutes) or less. But BrightTalk stresses the importance of making the on-demand presentation available as soon as possible after the event. Twenty percent of the audience views the content within the first three days and you don't want to risk losing their attention.

Scheduling the Webinar

What’s the best day to schedule a Webinar? That’s the question we all obsess over. BrightTalk’s answer (24:19 of the DataLeaks presentation) is so counterintuitive that you and your internal constituents may find yourselves choosing to ignore it: When BrightTalk links registrations to attendance, it concludes that Monday, that’s right Monday, is the best day. Oh and 11 a.m. local time. You could always test it.

But again, this space may be different. Becky Allen of Advisor Perspectives tells me that they prefer to schedule Webinars on Tuesdays or Wednesdays at 4 p.m. Eastern.

Timing the promotion

BrightTalk has a lot to share about Webinar promotion and timing considerations. Email is still the most effective promotional channel. Social media produces just 7% of traffic on average. Don't promote too early (30 days in advance or more), for example, or you’ll be disappointed in the return. People will register but not show. And, don’t miss the BrightTalk findings on email subject lines and the registration process (right around the 19:00 marker in the DataLeaks presentation).

Extracting value from leads generated by Webinars

At the 41:16 mark of the Analyzing Webinar Performance presentation, a discussion begins about how to evaluate a Webinar program. What is the return on this investment? Can you point to revenue produced as a result of leads generated?

While some of it may seem obvious, hang in there until 43:36 when the speakers explain their approach. BrightTalk runs various types of Webinars ranging from awareness to product-centered and, by way of example, shares how its revenue earned per subscriber climbs.

The following is from David Pitta, marketing director:

“Marketers who just use Webinars to create product-neutral awareness-based content and immediately send leads to Sales are going to find reduced ROI with their Webinar programs.

"Marketers that then take it a step further and start to develop content that is more related to addressing the issues that their target audiences is experiencing around the products and services they sell will find a much higher return.

"And marketers that don’t even send everything to Sales right then but further nurture those folks into product messaging campaigns using email will find an even higher return.”

Admittedly, BrightTalk sells Webinars and prior to this comment Pitta acknowledged that this type of Webinar presentation is productive for them in terms of driving revenue. Regardless, give Pitta’s comments some thought.

If you’re running just thought leadership Webinars and not following up with product or service-specific Webinars and if you’re not entering Webinar leads into an email nurturing program, it's possible that you’re not maximizing the value of your Webinar investment.