Why a Time Limit in a Webinar Tool is a Deal-Breaker

In my extensive testing of webinar tools, there's an issue I complained about a couple of times: limited runtimes for webinars.

For example, Crowdcast and Webinar Ninja events are limited to a maximum of 2 hours.

Now, 2 hours seems like a pretty long time... and these days, everything's instant and social and people's attention spans are dwindling away, right? Should you ever even do a webinar that lasts longer than 2 hours?

Yes. But only if you like money.

More...

How Webinar Selling Works

To understand why a 2 hour time limit on a webinar event is a deal-breaker for me (and should be for you, too), let's examine what webinar selling looks like. 

Before we get into this: the 2 hour limit isn't only an issue if you're doing a sales webinar, but it's the biggest issue on a sales webinar. I'll discuss other scenarios below.

High Priced Products

If you're selling something on a webinar, it's likely going to be a high priced product. Expensive products are just more suited to the medium. If your product is a $5 novelty coffee mug, you probably won't go through the trouble of setting up a webinar funnel and giving live presentations to sell it...

Typically, I see companies use webinars to sell courses & other information products in the price range of $200 - $2,000+ or services and SaaS products priced at around $100/month and upwards.

Selling something in this price range requires long sales pages and/or long webinars.

The Trust Factor

Have you ever noticed how the more something costs, the longer the sales page tends to be?

The main reason for this is the trust factor. If you see a $5 mug that would make a great gift for a friend, you'll be whipping out your credit card in record time. You don't need to know a ton of details about the mug or the company that creates it, before you're ready to purchase. In part, this is because the risk is low: worst case, you wasted $5.

If you're about to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars, it's a different story. No one wants to make a bad purchase decision that costs such a substantial amount.

So, before you're ready to purchase, you'll be looking for more information and - importantly - trust signals. You want to make sure that the product is good, that it suits your needs, that it will really solve your problem and that the person or company behind it is trustworthy.

Delivering all this requires a long sales page. Or a webinar that lasts a long time.

Value Exchange

If you've attended marketing webinars, I'm certain you've had some really bad experiences. You sign up for a webinar with a promising title, but then the entire thing is an awful pitchfest. Some overhyped rags-to-riches story followed by non-stop hard-selling.

I don't know how effective this approach to webinar selling is. What I can tell you is that there's a different approach that I've used many times, with great success.

My preferred structure for a sales webinar looks like this:

  1. Provide lots of value.
  2. Present the pitch.
  3. Spend time answering questions.

The first part is there to prove expertise and to provide real value to everyone (including the 80%+ who won't end up buying anything). This is one of the best ways to create trust. Instead of manufacturing some story that's supposed to make people in the audience relate, why not just deliver something useful? I provide value first, before I ask for something in return.

The second part is where I present the product and call to action.

Then, I spend time answering questions and basically delivering more value.

Here's the key insight: most of the sales happen in the 3rd part and they happen gradually, over time.

When you make your pitch, some attendees will buy right away. But most won't. Most will have some questions and objections. Or they're not sure about you (the presenter) yet.

As you keep the webinar going and keep being helpful and answering questions, more sales come in, one by one. Most people won't buy until at least their most important questions and objections have been answered.

If you make your pitch and then end the webinar, you're losing out on the majority of sales!

This Takes Time

All of the above is the long answer as to why a 2-hour time limit on a webinar is a serious problem. I've done countless sales webinars over the years and most of them were longer than 2 hours. I've been on live webinars, with a sizable audience, for up to 3.5 hours.

And yes, sales keep coming in, even after the 3 hour mark.

To me, a webinar tool that imposes a 2 hour limit must be made by people who fundamentally misunderstand how webinar selling works.

Delivering a value-packed, educational presentation alone can easily take 45 minutes to an hour. Delivering a sales pitch and explaining all the aspects of a product can take up another 30 minutes or longer. And then, you can spend an hour or more answering questions. It's surprisingly easy to blow past a 2 hour time limit. And if you're selling a high ticket item, such a limit could cost you tens of thousands...

What About Shrinking Attention Spans?

Maybe you're thinking that long webinars may have worked years ago, but these days, does anyone still pay attention? When we've all been conditioned to tap and swipe at our screens at record speeds and a 20-second Instagram story gets skipped before the halfway point, aren't long webinars totally obsolete?

As it turns out, attention spans aren't just shrinking generally. Instead, whether we pay attention or not is very context dependent.

Sure, if you make a social media post, it needs to be short, snappy and easy to consume, otherwise people will skip past it. That's how the social media environment works.

But the goal of a webinar isn't to get or keep everyone's attention for as long as possible. The goal is to deliver value and build trust so that by the end of it, only your ideal customers and super fans remain.

Remember: you aren't going to sell your product to everyone, so don't try to appeal to everyone.

A long webinar, like a long sales page, acts as a filter, to separate people outside your target market from those smack in the middle of it.

Over to You

That's my take on webinar selling and why I insist on having no time limits. As a side note: I've also done a good number of non-sales webinars that went on for more than 2 hours. So, even for the purpose of educating and hanging out with my audience, I wouldn't want a time limit.

What's your take on this? Have you done long webinars? Have you tried the "value exchange" approach to webinar selling, as described here? 

Let me know by leaving a comment!

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About the Author Shane Melaugh

I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.

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  • Carol says:

    I enjoyed your video, Shane. So what webinar platform do you use and suggest to others?

  • I really appreciated this post and video. I am marketing a high priced ticket item (Around $7,000 AUD) and this is my first time in creating a webinar, which I wish to promote via Facebook and YouTube paid advertisements. I wondered, however, whether my 9-minute webinar was going to be too long but after watching your video and reading your post, my mind was put to rest.

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