Most of the time, I try to talk directly about things to relate to writing, indie author marketing, branding and so on, but I had an experience watching webinars a couple weeks ago that I want to relate because it’s about delivering on promises. In a roundabout way, though, my experience does relate to the broader topic of writing and marketing because those are also about delivering on promises
So, a couple weeks ago, I watched two webinars. For those of you who aren’t familiar with webinars, they are essentially live webcasts that feature an expert or two speaking on a topic with the aid of slides. One of the webinars I watched was about inbound marketing. The other was about a piece of writing software called Scrivener. The experience of watching these two webinars could not have been further apart.
The inbound marketing webinar, sponsored by Hubspot and featuring marketing expert John Jantsch, was what I would consider a textbook example of how to do a webinar. Jantsch delivered a structured talk with supporting infographics, charts and explanatory slides. He moved smoothly from topic to topic and wrapped up his talk in approximately 42 minutes. For remaining time, Jantsch fielded moderator-selected questions to which he gave very cogent answers.
The Scrivener webinar was hosted by Joel Friedlander. It featured presenter Joseph Michael, the self-styled Scrivener Coach, and a moderator. This webinar was, by most measures, a hot mess. The purported purpose of the webinar was to show people how to write in Scrivener and then export files into ebook formats…effortlessly.
From the outset, it was clear that this webinar was being delivered off the cuff, with minimal preparation or thought given to structuring the content for maximum value. They lost a lot of valuable time bouncing control of the screen between the presenters. The content itself came across as a tour of features that the presenters liked, rather than the promised tutorial.
A major low point for me came when one of the presenters attempted to walk the other one through a new process for saving research material. While no doubt a valuable tip, it could have been shown to viewers in under 60 seconds, instead several minutes, if they practiced it prior to the live webinar.
By then, I was ready to bail and go do something productive. However, at the beginning of the webinar, they promised that 50 attendees who stayed until the end would get a chance at a free copy of Scrivener. So, I stuck it out. I figured that another 20 minutes for a chance at free software was a small enough price to pay. Only, things didn’t work out quite as advertised…
When the “educational” portion ended and the obligatory product pitch commenced, a standard feature of webinars, we found out that the only way to get a “free” copy of Scrivener was to sign up for a $497 training program cost.
For my money, saying viewers can get a free copy of something, as a stand-alone statement, implies the free item is a no-strings inducement to stay until the end. What happened was more like getting promised a free Blu-ray player for showing up at car dealership’s event and finding out you need to buy a car to get the Blu-ray player. Maybe it’s not precisely illegal, but it’s not ethical.
The Scrivener webinar failed to deliver on all of its promises. It didn’t show me how to do anything on Scrivener effortlessly. Even listening to the presentation was an effort in trying to discern meaning. It barely discussed, let alone provided a walk-through, of exporting a file as an ebook in any format. Finally, it failed to deliver the promised 50 free copies of scrivener to attendees who endured the whole webinar.
Those failures, particularly the shady advertising, turned me off to any future webinars by Joel Friedlander and Michael Joseph, but also guaranteed that I’ll never buy anything from either one of them. If they play that fast and loose with potential customers, I can’t imagine how they treat actual customers.
All of which brings me around to writing and indie author marketing. All writing, and all forms of content when you get down to it, serves a purpose. We identify the purpose with titles, tags, and category descriptions. We identify fiction and non-fiction and, when people see such identifiers, they expect the content to conform to that.
When I say that my Sam Branch novels are contemporary fantasy with a dose of action-adventure, I’m making a promise. People who read my books know that I deliver on that promise. The books are contemporary, fantasy, and deliver action-adventure. I also like to believe they deliver good writing, but that’s always debatable.
Whether as a writer, someone producing YouTube videos, or someone offering a webinar, we should take those promises seriously. Building audience trust takes time, but one bad experience can destroy that trust forever. The Hubspot webinar promised to discuss inbound marketing and it delivered an in depth and detailed discussion. I’d absolutely roll the dice on another Hubspot webinar. The Scrivener webinar promised much and delivered almost none of it. I won’t be wasting my time with them again.