What’s the difference between a cliffhanger that has the audience chewing on the furniture in anguish because they have to wait months to see what happens next, and a cliffhanger that has the audience rolling their eyes wondering why they even bothered?
Why did millions tune in to find out who Negan butchered, while millions tuned out when they realized they no longer cared about the fate of Oceanic flight 815?
*I know a lot of people loved (and still love) “Lost”. But the fact remains that it shed a full third of its audience between seasons 3 and 6 (I read it on Wikipedia, so it must be true).
We’re going to investigate what makes a successful cliffhanger in this article. You may or may not approve of my conclusions, but I’m sure we can all agree that creating a successful “to be continued” is more complicated than simply fading to black with an unresolved story.
For webinar hosts this is an important discussion because the marketing and promotion of your webinar is a teaser. It’s about opening a loop that your audience can only close by attending your webinar.
It’s giving your audience an itch that they loooong to scratch.
And your primary weapon in this battle…?
Read on to find out (Mwahahahaaaa).
From Free to Premium
Do you remember “shareware”? If so, you must be REALLY old. At least 35.
Shareware predates the Internet as we know it and was a method by which software producers spread their product to as wide an audience as possible. While mainstream software distributors were coming up with increasingly labored means to prevent piracy, shareware creators actively encouraged users to copy and share their product with anyone they liked.
The catch was that the shareware version was usually limited in some way. To get the full version of the software or to obtain advanced features, you would have to pay full price.
*If you ever played Commander Keen or the original Doom, you’ve played a game originally distributed using shareware.
The modern-day version of this business model is the “freemium”. Combining the words “free” and “premium,” a freemium is a strategy where you give away a premium piece of content for free with the intention of encouraging recipients to want to pay for the full version of the product.
In this instance, however, you’re going to use a freemium in a slightly different way. Instead of giving something away and asking for money to access the full product, you’re going to give it away and ask people to ATTEND YOUR WEBINAR to access the full product.
This is not a subtle difference.
You might not think that asking someone to attend your webinar is akin to asking for money, but consider that you’re asking people to give up time and clear space in their schedule to be at your event. In many ways, this requires an even bigger commitment from your registrants than merely asking for payment.
This is why you should be thinking “freemium” rather than “lead magnet”. When you offer a freemium to visitors to your page in exchange for registering for your webinar, your gift needs to accomplish more than just capturing an email address. Your freemium needs to create a cliffhanger that will COMPEL people to attend your event.
On the Brink of Success
Your freemium must give your registrants something valuable. It can’t just be marketing hype. But, at the same time, it does need to act as a marketing asset.
Thinking of it as a cliffhanger is a good frame of reference.
For example, your webinar offers training in… XYZ. Therefore, your freemium will do the same, but in such a way that it is incomplete without the webinar content.
In a sense, your freemium is Part One and your webinar is Part Two.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just taking a chunk of your content and transforming it into a giveaway. Remember, not every cliffhanger is effective.
Get it right, and your customers will be clawing for more.
Get it wrong and people move immediately on to hunt for Keto recipes on Pinterest.
I’ve spent some time thinking about cliffhangers, especially as they relate to a television series, and I believe there are two key elements that have to be successfully managed….
A definitive resolution
If a cliffhanger asks a question, the next episode must answer it. If you delay the answer for too long or if you only partially answer the question, you risk losing your audience.
Who did Negan kill? Who shot J.R.? Did President Bartlet get shot? Will Ross marry Emily? All critical questions that were answered swiftly in the next episode.
By contrast, Lost, while initially doing a great job with its cliffhangers, turned into a series of hazy resolutions. Eventually, people realized that every half-answer the show offered would be accompanied by another half a dozen questions.
There are only so many times you can do this. It’s exhausting and makes people go away.
The Lesson: Your freemium should leave plenty of open-ended questions with a promise to answer everything on the webinar. Which means, once your event takes place, you MUST deliver.
An outcome that matters
It can’t be a coincidence that some of the most memorable cliffhangers are those that revolve around whether or not someone died.
It’s taking the stakes to their highest possible peak by asking you to question whether or not important characters are still going to exist.
When it comes to a successful cliffhanger, there can be no holding back.
The Lesson: This means you have to go full throttle. Your freemium should help your registrants recognize that what they’re going to learn on your webinar is critically important to their success long term.
Six Freemium Styles
There are lots of possibilities for the format of your freemium. Here are six of the styles we’ve found to be most effective.
- The Report
- The Mind map
- The Flowchart
- The Checklist
- The Worksheet
- The Training Video
Report: This one is always popular because it’s simple to put together. However, it can also be the trickiest to get right. Give away too much in the report and readers may be too busy applying what they’ve learned to attend your webinar. The key is to use the report to show the reader WHAT they should do, but they’ll need to attend your webinar to learn HOW to do it.
Mind map: These look great, especially when printed out and stuck to the wall as a memory aid. Mind maps lend themselves well to a webinar freemium because, by their very nature, they contain limited descriptions. Try coming up with cool sounding names for the strategies that you’re going to teach. You can put these names on your mind map and create some intrigue for your event content.
Flowchart: As with the free report, these are popular because of their simplicity and obvious value. Take a cue from the mind map by limiting descriptions for each step and using creative, provocative names for the strategies your webinar is going to teach.
Checklist: As with the previous two styles, checklists make great giveaways that readers can print out and keep as a teaching aid.
Worksheet: This is the most obvious style for creating a cliffhanger for your webinar. Your worksheet should contain a series of questions that the reader can use to decide on a course of action. But to answer the questions effectively – to, literally, fill in the blanks – webinar attendance is required.
Video Training: If you have the resources to pull this off, a short training video is a great way to warm up for your webinar. It gives you the opportunity to introduce yourself, familiarize your audience with your teaching style, and empathize with the pain your audience is experiencing.
In all of these different styles, make sure you share 1-2 really valuable points. What you’re shooting for is to have your registrants thinking, “Wow – if this is what I get with this short freemium, just imagine what amazing things I’ll be learning on a full-length webinar!”
It also helps exponentially if the production value of the freemium is high. PDFs should be well-produced with custom graphics and a professional design. Videos should have a great intro (and outro) and have as much polish as you plan to apply to your webinar.
Offering a freemium to your visitors doesn’t just increase registrations, it also increases attendance to your live event.
But again, the increase in attendance will be dependent on how well your freemium acts as a cliffhanger.
When you develop anticipation to the point where your registrants can’t BEAR the thought of missing out on the content your webinar is going to deliver, that’s when your audience size grows to record levels.
Looking to create video freemiums for your webinars? WebinarJam can do that for you!