How Thinkific Grew Revenue By 2,000% With Influencer Webinars

Want to use webinars to grow your revenue? Here's how to partner with influencers to create sales-generating webinars that actually educate AND sell.

Influencer Marketing Webinars

During his two years as VP of Growth at Thinkific, Sid Bharath helped the company grow revenue by 2,000%.

Nearly half that growth attributed directly attributed to dozens of webinars done side-by-side with partner influencers.

Two of Sid’s keys to success?

  1. Positive relationship building with influencers
  2. Getting people really excited about the product during the webinars themselves

We interviewed Sid to ask him more about both strategies.

In what follows, we’ll detail:

  1. The exact steps Sid used to find influencer partners for Thinkific webinars
  2. Sid’s step-by-step process for getting people excited to sign up for offers during his webinars

(Note: Need a way to survey customers so you can learn which influencers they follow? Fieldboom can help. Try it free for 15 days. Use this example survey to get you started.)

Influencer Marketing: How to Build Mutually Beneficial Relationships with Influencers

How did Thinkific find partners for its marketing webinars?

Like many SaaS companies, Thinkific offers an affiliate program — a 20% recurring monthly payout for 12 months after a new user signs up.

By itself, the affiliate terms were a great option for influencers looking to grow their revenue.

But Thinkific’s marketing plan went well beyond promoting its affiliate payout terms.

To find influencers to put on webinars that promote your product, Sid and the team created a process that:

  1. Identified influencers with the right audiences
  2. Built a mutually-beneficial relationship with them

Step One: Identify the Right Influencers

Want to find the influencers who have access to your target audience?

Here are four tried-and-true methods Thinkific used to identify great influencers.

1. Ask Your Audience What Influencers They Follow

Thinkific sent out surveys to existing customers to identify which influencers they followed. Here’s a sample survey we created with Fieldboom (in about 2 minutes) to get you started. Feel free to copy it. Here’s what it looks like (we got the beautiful background image from Unsplash for free!):

Sample Influencer Survey

If their existing customer base likes Influencer A, then it stands to reason that Influencer A’s audience has more potential customers for Thinkific.

2. Instagram Influencers with 10,000 Followers

The Thinkific team spent a lot of time cultivating their Instagram presence. So, they paid attention to others who were doing the same — and got in touch.

An Instagram account that had at least 10,000 followers and appeared to appeal to Thinkific’s target audience (entrepreneurs, subject matter experts, freelancers, etc.), then there was potential to do a partner webinar.

The bigger the influencer, the more time the Thinkific team spent courting their favor by interacting on the influencer’s feed (mostly commenting on and liking posts).

3. Event Speakers

“Almost by definition, an event speaker has to have some sort of influence or status,” Sid told us. After all, you don’t get invited to speak at an event if no one’s heard of you.

Thinkific cultivated relationships with event speakers by attending the event, then hosting an exclusive dinner for speakers.

A dinner for conference speakers put on by Thinkific.

A dinner for conference speakers put on by Thinkific.

There, they would lay the groundwork for a future ‘ask.’

(Note: This was only for conferences with a high number of relevant speakers—and therefore, audience overlap.)

4. Partner Companies

Convertkit workshop swap

The landing page for an early webinar done jointly with ConvertKit, another company that spurred massive growth through webinars.

Thinkific uses Zapier to enable users to integrate multiple services with its platform.

In addition to the technology, the integrations gave Thinkific a great place to find potential webinar partners.

If they had an integration with another platform (e.g. ConvertKit) through Zapier, they would reach out and suggest a co-marketing venture:

We do a webinar; you do a webinar. Everyone wins.

The answer was almost always, “Yeah, for sure.”

Step Two: Build and Cultivate Relationships

The Thinkific team didn’t just send a few emails to various influencers and hope for the best.

“A large part of it was relationship building,” Sid told us. “We had one person whose entire job was to build relationships through calls and personal emails.”

The team experimented with various CRMs to keep track of each relationship (They started with Streak, then moved on to Hubspot, then settled on PipelineDeals).

Adding influencer marketing names to their CRM made it easier to delegate tasks and automate the “grind work,” as Sid called it.

By using a CRM, the team was able to keep track of each relationship — what messages had been sent, and when they’d talked to each influencer on the call.

There were a few occasions where that relationship building process took months — or years.

“For example, when we got in touch with John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire, it was first with someone from his team,” Sid said.

Thinkific promoted a book Dumas had just published. A year later, they promoted his next product.

“Then we finally met him at a conference where we invited him to a dinner,” Sid said. “It was only after that did we broach the subject of doing a webinar.”

“That’s how it was with many of our biggest influencers, with us promoting them first with no expectations, and then eventually proving to them that we were a good partner.”

As happened with Dumas, many of the relationships they cultivated eventually developed into webinar opportunities.

Once that happened, all Sid had to do was show up for the webinar and work his magic.

“We used Demio, which has things like email invitations and follow up sequences built in,” Sid said. “To set it up, all we had to do was duplicate a previous webinar and change the name of the influencer. Demio took care of the rest. On the day of the webinar, I’d simply log in and run with it.”

Get Paid to Speak

Hugh Culver during his partner webinar with Thinkific.


How to Boost Conversions During the Webinar

Getting the right influencers is a major step in the right direction if you want a successful webinar.

But there are also strategies you can use during the webinar to boost engagement — and therefore conversion rates.

These strategies amp up the audience, give influencers a way to chime in and make saying ‘yes’ to your offer easier.

They’re how Sid and the Thinkific team achieved an average conversion rate of 20%.

1. Bring 10X Energy

Sid with Paddy McGill

Sid (left) with Paddy McGill presenting from Thinkific’s webinar room.

When you do a webinar, viewers should feel like they’re having a face-to-face conversation.

But to create that vibe, Sid says that you must put in “10x” the amount of energy as you would for in-person interactions.

“You need to be extra-hyper-energized, and that will come across as normal on a webinar,” he explained.

Amping up your energy levels from the very beginning — and maintaining them throughout the presentation — sets the tone for the rest of the webinar.

2. Ask Lots of Questions

One of the most important steps in developing a good webinar is to ask your audience questions.

Sid’s webinar was all about how to create an online course.

So, Sid would always ask the audience, “What is holding you back from creating a really good course?”

After a few sessions, he realized most of his audience struggled either with marketing or with setting up the course.

So, he always addressed issues with creating a course during the webinar. At the end of the webinar, he covered “just enough” on marketing to leave participants hanging.

Then, he offered a bonus course on marketing for those who signed up for Thinkific within a certain time frame.

3. Build a ‘Yes Pyramid’

While some of Sid’s questions were to gather information and get the ‘pulse’ of his audience, others were designed only to increase conversions.

If he demonstrated a nifty functionality, he would ask, “Hey, what do you think of that? Is that cool?”

His audience would always answer: “Yes!”

He’d also ask questions like, “Do you want to create courses that easily?”

“Yes!” came the response.

After a few ‘Yes’ responses, he’d ask: “Are you committed to creating a course? Yes? Then give me a date.”

For participants who set a date, he unlocked special bonus offers to incentivize sign-ups.

The strategy here is to get participants to say “yes” to simple things, building the momentum for them to say “yes” when you make your final pitch.

4. Address Common Misconceptions

Part of a good webinar is knowing the objections that audience members have, then systematically working through them.

For example, one of the major misconceptions Sid addressed was the idea that creating a course requires expensive equipment.

To combat that idea, Sid showed the audience a successful course creator who has a fancy studio and a team that works on her courses with her.

Seems complicated, right?

But that’s not how this course creator made her first course. For that, she filmed all the content for the course with nothing but her phone camera.

Thinkific Deck Example 2

An example of a creator who used only her phone to create an online course.

The example was proof that you don’t need expensive equipment to create a course.

It got the audience thinking: “Hey, I could do that,” which meant they were one step closer to signing up.

5. Create ‘Quick Wins’ in the Moment

To combat his audience’s biggest fear — that they would create a course only for it to bomb — Sid helped participants create a “quick win” while on the webinar.

He’d ask for one or two volunteers to do an exercise.

He’d have each of them describe their course idea — what it was, who it was for, and the value they thought it would bring to those people’s lives.

Then, he told them to post their course idea and description to Facebook — right then and there.

He’d continue teaching the webinar, but — almost without fail — within a few minutes, the volunteers would start commenting, telling everyone that their Facebook friends thought it was a great idea and that they should move forward with it.

As the responses and affirmations rolled in, other attendees found the courage to post their ideas online, almost always with the same result.

“You can’t just tell people, ‘Oh, someone will buy your course,’” Sid explained. “They won’t believe you. They have to see the results for themselves.”

Thinkific Deck Example 1

Sid asked webinar attendees to post this to their Facebook feed.


6. Relax and Just “Bee” yourself

The more the audience sees you as a “guy or gal like me,” the better your sales numbers will be.

Sid often had a helper monitoring the group chat during webinars, so he would keep the atmosphere light by joking with his teammate throughout the presentation.

Ratha Song and Paddy McGill of Thinkific

Ratha Song (left) and Paddy McGill of Thinkific. Sid often had other team members on the webinar with him to help monitor comments and questions.

Instead of using a boring stock example he prepared in advance, he’d have the audience come up with funny ‘fake course’ names on the spot — things like “How to Survive a Canadian Winter” or “How to Ride a Horse.”

He’d then demonstrate Thinkinfic’s features by building a course using those titles.

And if something throws you off during your presentation, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be successful.

One of Sid’s friends — who also used webinars in his marketing — was once startled by a bee that invaded his home while he was presenting. The audience was treated to his frantic attempts to get the bee back outside.

It didn’t make him seem unprofessional, and it didn’t hurt his conversion rates at all.

Instead, it helped everyone relax and see him as a fellow human being.

7. Pitch a (Time-Sensitive) Offer They Can’t Refuse

At the close of each webinar, Sid would hold a Q&A and thank his co-host (the influencer who brought him on as a guest).

He’d also share the link to a landing page with a special, time-sensitive offer for webinar attendees.

While the specific offer changed over time, it typically involved a one-month free trial of the ‘business plan’ Thinkific offered.

Eventually, it also included a free course on marketing (thanks to audience feedback, of course). All the offers were risk-free; participants could cancel the plan during the trial period without being charged.

After the webinar, Thinkific sent three automated follow-up emails:

  1. One immediately following the webinar that included a link to the webinar recording and links to bonus content
  2. One the next morning, reminding them of the time limit
  3. One an hour before the special offer expired

As he wrapped up, Sid would ask attendees, “What excuses do you have left?”

They had validation (through the “quick wins” Facebook exercise).

They had all the tools they needed to start (through Thinkific’s platform).

The logical next step was to accept Thinkific’s trial offer and get started.

The ONE Thing That Skyrocketed Conversions

One other thing…

Finding good influencers was a critical component of Thinkific’s successful webinars.

And Sid’s techniques for engagement kept conversions consistent.

But Sid found that one thing above all others produced above-average conversions (i.e., greater than 20% conversion rates).

If an influencer (1) had a loyal, engaged fan base, (2) was engaged during the webinar, and (3) obviously had a positive relationship with Thinkific — sales were guaranteed to be good.

“Sometimes, all the influencer had to do was say, ‘Oh my gosh, you guys should get this.’” Sid told us. “And then they would.”

(Note: Need a way to survey customers so you can learn which influencers they follow? Fieldboom can help. Try it free for 15 days. Use this example survey to get you started.)

Olivia is a freelance copywriter who loves science, cats, and swing dancing. If she can tell a story with her writing, it's a good day.