Four Best Practices for Optimizing Lead Generation and Qualification

According to the 2015 Demand Gen Report Benchmark Study, 73% of marketers say webinars are their most effective tactic for generating qualified leads for their sales funnel. Furthermore, 65% of marketers believe webinars are the most effective way to influence leads in the mid and late stages of their funnel. Demand Gen’s report clearly indicates that webinars are one of the most important tools for today’s modern marketer.

As prospects increasingly self-educate through the buying cycle, webinars have become a primary source of information that buyers turn to before making a purchase decision. And the effectiveness of webinars spans the entire sales and marketing process, from driving awareness to lead generation and lead nurturing and cross-selling and upselling.

In this blog post, four webinar best practices are discussed that will help you to improve your ability to generate, qualify and nurture leads. These “tips and tricks” focus on ways to:

  • Get prospects into action
  • Capture and hold prospects’ attention
  • Move prospects to “sales ready”

Smart FormsBest Practice #1:
Use ‘Smart Forms’ to Increase Accuracy and Conversions
The effectiveness of lead qualification depends on how much information you have about a prospect. One of the primary ways marketers collect prospect data is a registration form. Often, however, marketers require visitors to fill out 10 or more fields, which negatively affects their abandonment rate and the likelihood that they will obtain accurate data. Asking fewer questions will increase data accuracy and registrations, but it provides limited data for your lead qualification process.

Registration “smart forms” address this marketing challenge. With smart forms, prospects are simply asked four questions: name, title, company and email address. With this basic information, the smart form will dynamically retrieve (from Dunn & Bradstreet, for example) the company address, telephone number, revenue, industry, and other relevant profile data – and deliver this more accurate information about your prospect to your webinar platform.

The use of smart forms with your webinars can dramatically improve your registration conversions, data accuracy and, ultimately, your lead quality.

ON24 webinar funnelBest Practice #2:
Match Webinar Content to Each Stage of the Buying Cycle
To be most effective, webinar content must be tailored to the specific objectives of each stage of the buying cycle. Marketers’ primary goal is straightforward: identify new prospects and progress them from one stage of the buying process to the next, ultimately moving them to the purchase stage.

The key is to deliver the right type of webinar content at the right time (see illustration below). For example, while demonstration webinars are appropriate for bottom-of-funnel stages, they do not work well for top-of-funnel lead generation programs. If designed with the buying cycle in mind, webinars can be an extremely effective method for moving prospects from one stage to the next.

The ability to include related content and social media in a webinar also accelerates movement in the buying cycle, according to the 2013 Customer Engagement Survey conducted by IDG Enterprise. The study shows:

  • An average of 8 assets are downloaded and used in the decision-making process.
  • Prospects are only receptive to related content over a relatively short period of time.
  • Decision-makers use social media to discover, share and discuss information.

By including white papers, data sheets, industry blogs, articles or other content, webinars can deliver multiple decision-making assets at one time. And the addition of social media, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, allows prospective buyers to share insights or invite others to join their network from within the webinar.

 ON24 IBM webinar screen-grabBest Practice #3:
Use Interactive Webinars to Drive Engagement
One of the main reasons that webinars successfully influence prospects in the buying cycle is their ability to capture a viewer’s attention for a significant period of time. Sending prospects an email or having them view your website may capture their attention for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. In contrast, an average viewer spends 56 minutes in a live, interactive webinar, according to our benchmark data.

The key to providing more engaging, interactive webinars is to allow attendees to “personalize” their user experience. For example, from within ON24’s Webcast Elite platform, viewers can open and close information panels, access social media, respond to polls/surveys, view complementary resources, and network with other participants.

Today’s webinars need to provide engaging content and interactive features to keep viewers’ attention and discourage their tendency to multitask.

CRM & Marketing AutomationBest Practice #4:
Integrate Your Webinar and Marketing Automation Platforms
According to Forrester Research, 58 percent of top-performing companies, where marketing contributes more than half of the sales pipeline, have adopted marketing automation. Sophisticated marketing automation tools, such as the Engage platform from Silverpop, an IBM company, allow the marketing team to understand the evolving needs and behaviors of prospects and to do so across all marketing channels.

While webinar analytics are incredibly valuable in and of themselves, they become invaluable when delivered to a company’s marketing automation platform. For marketing automation, bigger data leads to greater visibility. By capturing your customers’ webinar activity in your marketing automation platform, you can tailor your email communications, considering every individual’s experience. The result – your prospects and customers will feel more valued, and a greater number of leads will become sales opportunities.

For example, ON24 passes over 25 types of ON24 webinar metrics to the Silverpop platform – including viewer duration, behavior, engagement score, poll responses, and questions. The benefits of this integrated solution are:

  • User engagement metrics can be used in Silverpop’s lead scoring algorithms, allowing marketers to more effectively identify sales-ready leads.
  • ON24 webinar analytics can be used to tailor and refine lead nurturing programs, allowing companies to accelerate opportunities in their sales pipelines.
  • Ready access to webinar metrics (such as viewer activity) allows sales representatives to be more effective in their post-webinar interactions with prospects.

The combination of webinars and marketing automation allows marketers to identify sales-ready leads in real time and follow up with the most qualified prospects immediately. By integrating webinar and marketing automation platforms, marketers can optimize their marketing programs and accelerate prospects through the buying cycle – going from lead to revenue.

By Tom Masotto, ON24 Vice President of Business Development. He has worked in sales, marketing and business development in the technology industry for 20 years.

“Four Best Practices for Optimizing Lead Generation and Qualification,” as posted on the IBM Commerce blog, 3/24/15