Webinars are a major piece of the marketing and educational equation at SPI. And these days, webinars are more important than ever. Our webinar platform of choice is Demio, which we love for its simplicity and ease of use, especially for solopreneurs and smaller teams.
I grabbed time with David Abrams, one of Demio’s cofounders, to talk about—among other things—how to overcome webinar fear and take maximum advantage of this fantastic teaching and relationship-building tool.
Read the interview from start to finish below, or check out the highlights.
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- How Demio was born
- Why fear and time constraints keep entrepreneurs from taking advantage of webinars—and how automation can help
- How simplicity and ease of use guided Demio’s development
- How luck and hard work helped the Demio team respond to the COVID crisis
- Who Demio is not suited for
- How interactivity and engagement point the way for the future of webinars
- Why the webinar space is going to see more niche solutions emerge
- Where Demio is headed as a platform
(PS: If you want to grow your list, increase trust, and make more money, our brand-new course, A to Z Webinars, will show you how!)
Okay, let's get to the interview!
Ray: Could you give me a little background about how you started Demio and got into the webinar space?
David: I’ve been in the online entrepreneurial/digital marketing space for about ten years. I got started working in an agency. Then I branched off and built my own agency. This was pre-ClickFunnels. Even the word “funnels” was not known at all, so we had to do a lot of pre-selling on that, but one of the common ones we would do was a webinar funnel. We were coding out the idea of an automated webinar, which was a very new concept at the time. But that became a mechanism to start building out these different campaigns and building out webinars for my own business.
I met my co-founder six years ago in Tampa at a mastermind. He had an amazing SEO/digital marketing business himself. And we connected on some exterior marketing stuff. And then we both found this hole in the marketplace. We were both marketers building our businesses using webinars, but it would take 48 hours minimum to set this stuff up. We had to integrate all of these different tools. We had older tools that were built on these very ugly platforms that would freeze and crash, and we were really frustrated.
We wanted something that was easy but had the marketing power we needed. And when we looked in the market, we saw tons of other marketers having the same problem and the same frustration as us. The tooling just didn’t do what they wanted it to do.
So we said, all right, let’s make this happen. And we bootstrapped the company from day one; we had to figure it out step-by-step. We had done some smaller software in the past, but nothing to this size and this level.
We officially launched about four years ago in November. The first few years were just kind of growing as a bootstrapped company. The last two years have been our growth years.
Ray: Has that growth looked the way you hoped and expected? Any surprises along the way?
David: Anytime you’re a challenger brand in a big marketplace, there’s a lot to do. And as a bootstrapped company, the first step is to get your platform to market. Not just market readiness, but people are expecting you to match the other platforms that are there.
So the first few years, it did take us a while to catch up. We were trying to use newer technologies. We had our own ideas of what we wanted to do. We wanted a simple product, so there were some technical learning curves along the way.
But we started growing from day one, and we really wanted to invest in some key things. We wanted to invest in simplicity, in a seamless user experience from initial checkout process to customer service to the product itself to the attendee experience. Every single piece of this process, we wanted to make it easy. We wanted to have this fun, unique, and different brand.
So getting off the ground as a challenger brand, there are the difficulties of development as a bootstrap company. Those are the challenges you always face, but knowing that if we just focused on the right things, over time we would build that flywheel of positive word of mouth by focusing on those core things.
I think the platform, because of the pillars we built it on, really resonates with what people want: simple, easy to use, nontechnical. It’s not overwhelming, but it has the power I need. Understanding who our target audience is, we built this through the lens of marketing. We still have so much room to grow with this platform. So much room to make it smarter and better and simpler and easier.
This year alone has been very interesting because of COVID and the worldwide economic and business shifts. We’ve seen an explosion—in March and April we had more utilization on the platform than we did in all of 2019. And the business side also exploded; it went up and spiked like crazy, and then it slowly came back down.
But we’ve now normalized to very strong growth in the company because I think people are now more aware of the power of webinars. There’s more need for webinars, people are getting more used to doing digital events, and now is a better time than ever to get into doing events online.
Ray: When you saw that spike in early COVID, were you forced to make any adjustments internally? What did you have to do to accommodate that?
David: I want to say first that we feel so blessed to be in that position. We were a remote company and we got an amazing tailwind, but empathetically, we understand how scary and tough this was for so many businesses that weren’t in that position.
We had spent a ton of time building out a scalable architecture early on. If we had not done some of those things, we probably would have broken and died—and many platforms in our space did.
So we were lucky, but we still had work to do. We redirected all of our engineering efforts and energy into scale, into utilization, into stabilization. Our support desk went from stable to insane. And we have five-minute-or-less response times, so we had moments where we had a hundred-some tickets, and I was in there all day with our support team. We had to hire six to seven new support team members and get them onboarded.
Those were the key things we had to do, which was to put our blinders on and focus on stabilizing as much as possible. And then coming out of it, we were able to shift back to some of the more relaxed work-life balance items we try to do, but that was a “put your hard hat on and get to work every day” kind of thing for at least three or four months.
Ray: Wow. Glad to hear. You mentioned the target audience for Demio and being a challenger brand coming up against established platforms. How does Demio fit into the competitive landscape now? Who is your target audience, and who is not?
David: Our target market is typically internet, professional services, or consulting companies that are ten to 250 people with a marketing team of two to ten people. And that’s because we’re built for that scrappy marketing team to be a platform that’s easy to use. It’s fun. It’s brandable. It’s modern. It’s that seamless user experience. But we have customers in every industry and size you can imagine, from the solopreneur using our platform for an automated event to save them time and money, all the way to the 50,000-person company doing a training event with their customers.
When you think of webinars, you can forget that they can be used for pretty much anything. Because we’re built for marketing, we’re best served for lead generation, prospect demand generation, and customer-facing events.
Where we’re not great, because of the way we’re built, is probably internal training in team meetings and communication, like classroom-specific events. So education for classrooms, not just training, but educational webinars. And realistically, probably summits, because we max out at about a thousand
attendees. We still have people utilizing us for that, because of our experience. But realistically, that’s not who we’re going after.
Ray: I’m curious about the solopreneur segment of that audience. How are you seeing those folks using webinars? Are they doing different things than people farther up the scale of company size or complexity?
David: I wouldn’t say use cases necessarily change. What we see most is a mental shift that happens between those two markets. A lot of times for the solopreneur, they’re in charge of everything they have to run their business, fulfill in their business, market for their business.
So time is very limited. Sometimes a webinar can seem daunting and overwhelming. So when they go into this initiative, it becomes mentally scary, mentally challenging. Oftentimes we’ll see someone do a webinar one time and give up, when realistically a webinar is an organic marketing initiative. You need to run it often. It can be an automated event, but you should still test it live. You may need to do it multiple times. You may need to put some time into promotion. These are so effective, but they take effort and time.
When we talk about a company that’s bigger that maybe has a bigger marketing team, we start seeing people who can invest in a marketing initiative that’s like, Hey, we’re going to do this for X months. And you are able to build it into a marketing initiative. And it’s okay if the first one isn’t great because you’re gonna learn from it, and then you’ll do it again. The mental shift is so big there.
And sometimes we’ll see companies have a webinar host, someone who runs the webinars, and that’s their job. It could be different events, but there’s sometimes advertising dollars behind it. There’s a team that can support it. So it’s easier for these companies to say, Let’s invest in this. And then we often see it scaling at different departments, going from marketing to the success team, to the sales team to the internal education team. Whereas for a solopreneur, again, it’s harder to do that.
Now where the solopreneurs really rock is with automated events, because the big thing there is you can save time and money and energy by utilizing a set schedule or an on-demand event that can run on autopilot.
Ray: You just touched on that key advantage of webinars for the solopreneur, which is automation. Any other advice for someone looking to dip their toes into webinars but nervous about the workload or scared of speaking live?
David: First of all, when you think about webinars, it shouldn’t be this complex thing. This is not anything new to business—it’s a relationship-building, interactive experience. It’s when you get to connect with your prospects and customers. People want to do business with the businesses they know, like, and trust. They want to see you and know you’re a real person.
I think we have this big movement towards transparency, more than ever. And so across the landscape, you’re seeing more and more businesses do that because a webinar gives you a one-to-many mechanism to have that personal, relationship-building connection.
So if you think about it that way, it’s nothing crazy. And I think it’s easy to take a process like this and overcomplicate it. There are a lot of moving parts with a webinar. But you can always make things more complicated over time. You can always add onto it. When you’re getting started, start simple. Think about the goal. Are you trying to generate new leads? Are you trying to build a relationship with prospects? Are you trying to convert those prospects into customers, or just move them down the pipeline? Are you trying to educate them, or onboard them into your new membership program or some type of offering?
Think about that goal, then make sure you understand who that audience is. If you’re a solopreneur, you probably already know that audience really well. Well, let’s design our events for them. How long should it be? Are they super busy moms? Can we do an hour-long event? Should this be thirty minutes? Just thinking about your audience and then understanding that it’s an organic process. So learn from your audience, utilize every single event as a feedback loop.
And people love people, so it’s okay to be personal. It’s okay to have your internet fluctuate. It’s okay to stumble and say the wrong word because you’re human—people like that. It’s so real, and it’s so personable. No one wants to see a robot. It doesn’t feel like a relationship building activity.
The other key piece is to remember no one likes to be talked at; no one wants to just sit there. Be interactive, be engaging, make this a conversation. Stop, ask questions, launch polls, launch handouts, utilize things to break up just educating, and get people involved and engaged throughout.
The other thing you need to think about is, when planning your promotion, think about how people are going to get driven there. Are you going to do an email blast to your current prospects? Are you planning some advertising? Are you going to partner with someone? It’s such a big part of this process, and something you want to think about early. Because that will also affect, again, how long is this going to be? What am I going to say? Who am I talking to? If you’re talking to a cold Facebook audience, that’s gonna be very different than your email audience.
And the last one is, think about what your marketing hook is—the thing you’re trying to get them to understand to trade their time for the education you’re going to give them. It’s going to be living on your registration page, in your emails, in your webinar. It is the thing that’s going to get them excited and where they’re going to find the biggest value. So put most of your attention on that.
Want to use webinars to grow your list, increase trust, and make more money?
Ray: On the upper end, are you seeing any novel, exciting ways that established entrepreneurs are using webinars?
David: I don’t think we see a cutting-edge invention here that’s going to be this silver bullet hack to building a webinar. I think by understanding the basics, you’re in your best position to succeed. We see the events that do the best, and the companies that do the best, enjoy this process. And you can tell there’s a passion in connecting with their audience.
You also see a lot of interactive content. I’ve seen some really cool events where people have a game show, where they’re launching polls and they have slides involved and they’re celebrating through those polls and they’re breaking often. It’s not that drone-on, seventy-slide deck. It is fun. It’s an interactive experience. I’m seeing more and more move toward thinking of these as content shows. In fact, we’re going to be thinking about how we can use Demio as a content show. How can we have fun with our audience and make it a very interactive channel to build our brand? It doesn’t even have to be a lead generation event.
I think the more interactive you can be and think about this as a mechanism to build relationships, the more you can improve and build on top of what people have. The medium itself is just video communication, and on top of it, you can kind of make it your own. But I think the interactivity and the engagement is the key piece.
Ray: You mentioned how Demio could evolve to become more content focused. Are there specific ways you’re trying to enhance the platform? How does that fit in with where you see the webinar space going?
David: I think the webinar space is going to continue to evolve. We’re going to continue our focus on marketers and marketing teams. And so we’re going to go deeper on what that means for our platform. I think it means a stronger replay process that gives you that full interactive experience as a replay with great tracking, bigger and stronger integrations that pull your marketing stack together—things like Slack for your support team or you to get notifications and do interesting things with them, better and more interactive tooling (polls and things along those lines), and better segmentation from your webinar so your sales or marketing team can follow up.
Think about how much you can learn from an event from a demand generation perspective: how long people were on, how engaged they were. Did they ask sales-specific questions? Did they request a consultation? Do we want to have a sales person follow up? Should we move them to a specific campaign type because of their poll answers? And stuff like that. So it’s all about how we make this mechanism fun but also built into your marketing stack so you can continue to build and grow your business in an easy and simple way.
Ray: Making a webinar a richer, more engaging experience seems so crucial because people are stuck on their screens so much these days.
David: I would say two other things: first, the mobile intuitiveness of the platform—more ability to host and present on- the- go as we become a more mobile society. Also, bigger and deeper brandability of the platform, smooth channel creations for your website, making the room and the whole environment seem more your own. Those things are important because now when you’re having this interactive experience with your audience, it feels like it’s your interactive experience.
Ray: We talked a bit about what’s cutting edge in the webinar space. Does the stable of competitors seem pretty set right now, or do you see other upstarts doing anything cool?
David: The COVID crisis did spotlight holes where niche platforms could come out—platforms like HeySummit, which is a summit-based platform. I’ve seen some funding rounds for very specialized types of video communication platforms coming out. And they will continue to come out, which is one of the reasons why we want to stay very, very focused, because you can battle someone like Zoom that does meetings and enterprise, and Teladoc, and all these things. And it’s like, man, you’re going to have a really tough time right now when you have giants. And it’s really about finding your niche-down area where you can go deep.
Ray: What are your goals for Demio? Where would you like to see the company in five or ten years?
David: We want to go super deep on what Demio can do. We want a valuable platform that is an essential part of the marketer’s toolkit. We want to have a value-driven platform that people love to use. We’re so driven by being customer centric and product centric. We want people to have a great experience, love the product. That’s what drives us. We literally have a “celebration center” where we celebrate feedback from our customers, wins from our customers, things we see in the support desk from great events. That is the thing that drives us most.
So when we look forward, we want to continue to improve and be able to listen and grow. As a bootstrapped company, we have the mindset to stay lean, to stay profitable, and to not raise [VC funds], because those things allow us to create our own platform in the way we want to do it with a fun and unique brand.
Ray: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with SPI and how that came about?
David: About three years ago, we were at a Leadpages event called Converted. And we met Pat Flynn there, who was an advisor to Leadpages. We were running an event with ConvertKit at the booth, and we got to explore Demio together with Pat. I think he was a little skeptical about platforms that were being built at the time, but we worked together for almost three years with him running events on Demio, and I think he saw some massive results in his business. And I know because of that, it became a key marketing initiative in Pat’s business. And it’s a really exciting thing to be a part of.
After loads of trial and error with other webinar platforms, we discovered Demio. It was love at first sight. Finally, we found a platform that provides great video quality, is super stable, makes adding guest presenters a snap, and provides a seamless user experience. Click here to try Demio for free.