I had the pleasure of interviewing Ginny Tonkin, Technology Partnerships Manager at Instapage. She sits at the intersection of marketing & business development. Previously, she worked at Edelman and GoErie, and she has a background in demand gen and performance marketing. She has nearly five years of international experience working and studying in China, India, Vietnam, and Australia.
In this interview, which we’ve condensed and lightly edited for clarity, we discuss the webinar program she’s created at Instapage, including the big ideas and small details that can help you get one started for yourself or your company.
Read on to learn more about how to choose your partners, build your ad campaigns, and select the right webinar software, plus get tips and tricks for making a webinar program run smoothly.
Let’s start with the basics. What is your name and what is your role?
My name is Ginny Tonkin. I am Technology Partnerships Manager at Instapage.
What does Instapage do?
Instapage is a conversion-automation platform. Instapage enables advertisers and marketers like you and me to build personalized post-click experiences — meaning everything after the click — at scale. Part of our platform is a powerful landing-page builder. We’re the only platform that offers scalable creation, personalization, and real-time collaboration. We also have experimentation tools, like A/B testing and heat maps, plus customer success and professional services wrapped into our Enterprise package.
When selling your solution, what channels do you get most of your conversions from? Where are you currently selling your product?
We have really strong inbound. We have a self-serve product and an Enterprise product. A lot of people who are currently using our product, even when they’re not on our Enterprise plan, love working with Instapage, and they say that once you start working with Instapage you just want more. So a lot of our Enterprise sales come from our self-serve product.
We also have a very strong email program and email database, so a lot of inbound comes from our email program. And as a post-click automation platform, we love and appreciate using paid. We have a very strong paid component as well.
How do webinars play into this? Are they a big part of that inbound strategy?
When I was hired, I was originally on the product marketing team. They needed someone to help with building sales enablement and building out this webinar program. In college I was in broadcast, both radio and TV. I worked for my hometown paper, in part with video and digital development. So when they’re like, “We need someone to build out our webinar program,” I’m like, “No sweat. I got this.” And it was really fun.
Previously, we had product-focused webinars. So it was like, “Okay, now that you’ve signed up to Instapage, let me tell you how to use our product,” or, “We’ve just recently launched this new feature. Let me tell you a little bit more about it.” I was brought on with the intention of building out a thought-leadership and demand-generation program. That’s designed a little differently.
If you are partnering with somebody else, that helps to give a halo effect around your brand. If you’re working with one of the world’s greatest brands, you look a little bit better because people say, “Oh, they work together, they collaborate. They must be somebody to pay attention to.” One of our strategies is finding good partners to work with — partners where both teams can benefit, where there’s a shared ICP, and where we have a really interesting, compelling, joint story. That creates and leads to a really successful demand-gen play.
Having good partners is not just for thought leadership, for branding, but it also helps to drive registrants as well. What really helps drive registrants is the partner and the topic. You want to have a good partner, but you also want to have a good timely topic that’s relevant to your target audience.
When talking about thought leadership and demand generation, what is the metric that you track, to know that you’re successful?
What’s great about a webinar program is that it’s really easy to attach metrics to it. With brand campaigns, sometimes it can be a little bit more challenging. With impressions, for example, you can talk about whether that is actually a valuable metric or not.
Some top-level metrics I look at are registrations and attendees. I want to see at least 20% attendees from registrations. It’s also good to get a lot of registrations, because generally you get to then put those people into your funnel. So even if you don’t have them as attendees or even if they don’t watch your on-demand webinar later, you still have those new registrants as part of your marketing funnel.
A couple of other things that we look at are new MQLs, sales-accepted leads, and revenue. It feels really good when I can see that I’ve driven X hundred thousand dollars. I like being able to see the revenue that we help generate.
Do you have target goals when you go into a webinar? Are you trying to get a certain number of registrations? How are the goals broken out for you?
I definitely do have times where I think to myself, “I would like to get in between 500 and 1,000 registrations for a webinar.” When we started out, 500 was great for us. One of the first webinars we ever did, we hit 500 and we were all so surprised and excited. But now, the most registrants that we’ve gotten is almost 2,000.
So being able to see the growth from when we started the program and then where we’ve been able to take the program today has been really rewarding. That being said, yeah, now I’d like to see in between 700 and 1,000 registrants per webinar.
Is that 20% attendance rate normal for you? Six or seven years ago, it seems like the attendance rate was higher, maybe 30% to 35%. But it’s been going down and now 20% seems pretty normal. At 25% I’m excited, and if I get 30% I’m super stoked.
Yeah, that’s on par with my expectations as well. If I’m not hitting 20%, I wonder if we are doing something wrong. We are getting a lot around 25%, and if you’re seeing something like 30% that’s generally a really good thing. Webinars are cool and interesting, but they won’t be the most powerful resource forever. It’s always nice when something new comes in and people are interested in that. Webinars are only a tactic for a time. They won’t be around forever.
For the webinars that have higher attendance rates, what types of strategies or topics have you done?
I believe that the top two things that determine the success of the webinar are partner and topic. Another important part is your promotional program.
It’s easier if you have a regular, dedicated webinar program. People know that it’s coming up, so they’re primed and ready for it.
For our webinar program, email is always our biggest driver, as I think it is for most people. It’s tried-and-true for a reason. Your email campaigns are likely going to drive the bulk of your registrations. Make sure you’re sending it to the right audience lists, the audiences that are going to be the most interested. If your webinar is about advertising, send it to your advertising audience. You’re going to want to make sure that you’re not sending things to people who are not interested.
Also, you need to make sure you’re sending your people to a good landing page. What are you using to gather attendees? Do you just have a static page that looks like it was thrown together by an intern? Or do you have a dedicated landing page that is optimized to get the registrations that you’re looking for? Webinars are not just something you throw together. It generally takes time and thought. If you are already investing time into this kind of program, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re getting as many registrations as possible. So create a landing page that’s optimized for that.
Thinking about the audience and segmentation in your example, how do you know that someone is interested in advertising? What gave you that insight?
That’s not really my department, but I know we have specific Marketo lists. I’m sure they’re using Clearbit and MadKudu and similar programs to make sure that they’re sending it to the right people.
With the promotion process, you send out the email to a dedicated list, and then you drive into that landing page. What’s the rest of the promotion process for your webinar program?
Obviously, if you’re working with a partner, you’re going to want to have some sort of co-marketing agreement with them. You’re going to want to leverage their channels for registrations. Email lists and social posts are the most common channels.
It’s always important to talk through these kinds of questions at the beginning: what is your expected number? How many are you expected to run? What kinds of social promotions are you doing? It’s always a little bit different for each partner, but make sure that you’ve talked that out beforehand, so it’s not a surprise when they only send one email and give you 100 leads. That’s probably not going to feel very good.
I recommend running a paid social program. We don’t require it of our partners, but we have seen really good results when both teams put together a paid advertising budget. Of course, with every paid campaign, don’t just throw money at it. If it’s not successful, maybe disinvest from that channel. Make sure that you’re watching and making sure that this is actually giving you some return. But I do find that a paid social program is often helpful.
What’s your cadence? When you go to announce a webinar, how early do you announce the webinar before it happens?
I think two-and-a-half weeks is a really good spot. I know some folks can do it with a week-and-a-half timeline, but I really like the two-and-a-half or three weeks because people can see it, people can plan for it, but it doesn’t feel like, “Oh, I have to do this right now.” People can think about it a little bit and then be reminded that they should sign up for it.
So you send out this first email to a dedicated list that you’re focused on. Say you send it to me, and I don’t register. How do you follow up with me? What is the logic you use to say, “I need to follow up with that a person”?
I think a very common approach is to have about three email touches, whether that’s a newsletter or a dedicated email blast. If you’ve signed up with the first email blast, you’re going to be taken off the list for the second one.
Whether you get the next email depends on your interaction. Did you open the email? Did you register? If not, then we’re going to be sending you another round.
So even if they open the first email, you’ll still send them a reminder if they haven’t registered?
If they registered, then your name’s going to be taken off the list. But if you didn’t register, we’re definitely going to send you another one.
You’ve talked about how important the partner is to this. It seems like your webinar strategy is focused less on the product-marketing side and more on the, I would say, partner-marketing side of things. Is that the way you think of it?
I think it’s really a blend. What I do is a blend of business development, product marketing, partner marketing, and lead generation, all in one.
You want to be strategic about it. You’re not going to partner with someone who’s going to get you 10 registrations. You’re going to partner with someone that’s going to help you, from a lead-generation perspective. That being said, let’s say you’re working with a larger partner and they can’t really help you send out an email. But you know that just because you have them on as a host, that their name alone will help you gather registrants. That’s something that you have to consider.
That being said, you also have to consider, from the product-marketing side, can the partner tell a good story? Is partnering with this company going to help you further your message? If not, then you should consider whether or not you should work with them.
How do you collect feedback from your attendees about the webinars you’re running?
We have a survey that we send out in the follow-up email. Oftentimes when someone has a webinar, they’re sending a follow-up email that says, “Thank you so much for coming,” or if they didn’t come, “Here is your link to the webinar.” In that email we also say, “We’d love to improve our program; we’d love your feedback. You have a chance to win $20 if you fill out this survey.”
So we have this survey and we get a lot of really insightful feedback. Of course, it’s the internet, so people are not always going to be helpful or say helpful things. But the vast majority of people will say things like, “This was really great, and maybe next time I’d like to see X, Y, and Z.”
I also think that it’s helpful to create surveys with the topics in mind. Say the webinar is about ABM and your company is interested in ABM. You can craft that survey to have more questions about ABM and even get some feedback about how your customers are looking at ABM. You can kind of figure out how to craft your survey from that perspective.
What is the technology stack that you use to set up your webinar program? What are all the tools that you’re using to set up your webinars and get it done?
I assume that wrapped up into this question is choosing your webinar platform.
I feel like I’ve had this conversation with several folks recently, so what are you guys using right now, for your webinar program?
I was working with another partner company and they were using Demio, and I was super impressed with them. We used to use Livestorm, but that just wasn’t cutting it for us.
That being said, I loved using Livestorm. The UX of Livestorm was super easy. As a presenter, it was intuitive. It didn’t take that long to figure out how to use. But if you had any inconsistencies with your internet, we had too many incidents where things were not as smooth as they should have been. I wanted to switch to something else to make sure that our webinars would go off without a hitch, no matter what.
So we’re currently using ON24 [see screenshot below] and really enjoying that. I did look at Zoom as well, but one thing that I didn’t like about Zoom is that it didn’t have any sort of semi-live or automated webinars, which I think is really important. If you don’t have a dedicated webinar person, it can be very challenging and very time intensive. So having a webinar platform with the capability to have an automated or semi-live environment, I think is really important.
So platforms that I really like right now, ON24 is the tried-and-true webinar platform and we do currently use them. I will say, it does take dedicated onboarding time. So if you have a smaller team or even if you don’t have a smaller team, you still need to dedicate man-hours to learning how to use the tools. So it may not be for everyone. So that’s why I tell people to look at Demio.
For the rest of our marketing stack, we have paid social. We have display ads, ads across LinkedIn, Facebook, sometimes Twitter, and organic social. Our email marketing platform is Marketo. Of course, you should be using some sort of post-click automation platform.
Instapage would be a good opportunity.
Instapage is great, we use Instapage. Honestly, I use Instapage because it’s really easy to use. I’m not a designer, I’m not a developer, and I really like using Instapage.
Then, of course, we have Salesforce to collect the leads afterwards and to funnel them into a CRM.
What is the biggest fail and biggest success that you’ve had in your webinars, so far?
I guess you should always put the worst things first, right? The worst thing was when we were using the previous webinar platform, and our partner, who was co-hosting with me on the webinar, got kicked off. It was the most embarrassing thing. My face is hot, I’m sweating, because I’m on the production side, trying to figure out how I can fix it. We figured it out and it was okay. That was our highest recorded webinar ever, in terms of both attendees and registrants. So, it was a good problem to have but highly embarrassing to have an unstable webinar. After that I was like, “I’m switching webinar platforms. Never again.”
My biggest success has just been growing this webinar program by over 200%. I think it’s probably much more than that now, but taking it from more of a product-based webinar program to a webinar program where the last several webinars that we’ve done have been over 1,000 — especially since we used to be so happy to get 500 registrants. So seeing the growth and strength of the program has been really rewarding.
Something else that was really rewarding happened when I was in this continuing education class. It was a growth program, and someone was like, “Hey Ginny, I heard your webinar. It’s great. And our team loves your webinar program. They just rave about it all the time.” And I was like, “Oh my God, someone recognizes the fact that I do these.” It was just a really nice thing to hear, especially from peers in your community.
What are the top three tips or things that other people should be thinking about when they’re going to go launch a webinar or when they’re going to do their webinar program?
The webinar itself is important, and you’re going to want to have an important piece of evergreen content that you create. So the first thing is to create your webinar with the long game in mind. You’re going to use this again. Maybe you’re going to share it with your partner and your partner’s going to use it, again and again. You can use this as a future lead magnet, so that’s a great thing to have.
Your campaign is also incredibly important. This is a lead-generation campaign for you. We’ve been able to drive a lot of revenue from webinars. So think through your campaign and approach it from a campaign perspective, instead of only from a content perspective.
The third and final thing I would say, and this is going to sound very cliche, but truly have fun with it. I’ve been on several webinars where people are just like, “And then you do this,” and who wants to listen to that? So put a little inflection in your voice, have fun with it. We’re all nerds here. We love to talk about marketing. So just own it, you know?
Any final thoughts, anything that we should be adding to this, or anything that we’re missing?
I also say to make sure that you give yourself a quiet space and a hardwired ethernet connection, and make sure that your guest speaker does as well. We’ve had a couple instances where people have not been in quiet areas, so it’s always good to have the conversation ahead of time where you just prepare people for that live recording.
A big thank you to Ginny Tonkin for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to me about how she runs the incredibly successful webinar program at Instapage. She had great insights on webinar advertising, metrics, technology, and processes. As someone who’s done dozens of webinars (and didn’t have the benefit of Ginny’s insights before starting), I’m confident you’ll save yourself time, money, and headaches by following her tips for a successful webinar operation.
If you’d like a little extra help getting your company’s webinar program off the ground, or if you’d like someone to run the entire thing from start to finish, we’d love to talk. Schedule a free consultation with Dan McGaw and learn how our webinar services can help you drive long-term, sustainable growth.