Rethinking the Go-to-Market Conference Strategy

As conferences, trade shows and other in-person events to adjust to global health concerns, Matt Heinz, President and CEO of Heinz Marketing, shares a few thoughts on how the conference ecosystem can pause and rethink its go-to-market strategy. Originally published on heinzmarketing.com.

Is nature accelerating a trend that been a long time coming?

The usual rush of spring events in B2B sales and marketing has almost entirely been eliminated in just the past couple days, in an appropriate abundance of caution.  Countless hours of work by organizers, presenters, sponsors and even attendees – gone.

Or are they?  Many of these companies are now planning virtual summits, a series of webinars and other online formats to maintain a version of what had been intended in person.

What’s really been lost? Sunk costs all around for sure.

From a value perspective, the primary variable that has really been eliminated is the venue.  If it weren’t for the fear of spreading this dangerous virus unnecessarily further, these shows would still go on – and would likely be deemed successes by all parties involved.

So that tells me there’s still clearly value there.  How much of it is tied in the actual channel (i.e. attending general sessions and just watching the big screen anyway, having another booth to staff, sponsoring another after-hours party) vs what can be enumerated and replaced elsewhere?

Too often we get caught in a cycle of incremental thinking, making certain assumptions about what we have to do.  Since we’re going to that trade show anyway, how do we make our booth more attractive?  How do we make our chochkies more desirable?  How do we stand out from everyone else sponsoring, presenting, shouting at the crowd?  That’s incremental thinking.

Exponential thinking, for example, means eliminating trade shows entirely.  It’s no surprise or secret that many marketers loathe the trade show circuit but have considered it a necessary evil.  It’s historically been too scary of a thought to not show up, to not be there when “everybody else” will.

So now that those shows are literally gone, now that a virus has leveled the playing field, what will you do?

There’s still significant value and need here:

    • Organizers still desire a platform to share their story, gather their customers and build greater market share, sales pipeline and more.
    • Sponsors still desire a targeted channel to meet new prospective customers and fill their own sales pipelines
    • Attendees will still seek an opportunity to learn, to network with their peers, to benefit from parallel thinking in other organizations

These needs exist independent of the channel, independent of the venue.

Most companies that have produced and/or sponsored events this spring will either wait things out on the sidelines or attempt to replace those in-person shows with webinars.  And unfortunately, most of those efforts will fall flat, fail to generate value, or at minimum just look like what everyone else is doing.

This is not an opportunity to take advantage of a dangerous and scary situation, let me be clear.

This is an opportunity to rethink our go-to-market strategies, to practice some exponential thinking, to reinvent how we create, deliver and build on the value that’s very much needed, especially in the absence of traditional means.

For example:

    • Could some of those trade show resources be better deployed in digital prospect experiences?
    • Could you convert mass-scale event participation into local in-market events that may be smaller but have a bigger impact on target accounts?
    • How about organizing your customers and industry community into local user groups to replicate part of the community-building at large events that has been lost?
      • Perhaps these include live events eventually, but could start with an online community, Slack channel or other format – either organized by your company or orchestrated/supported with a local customer/evangelist leader
    • Can you convert the usual badge scan “was she qualified” guessing into an investment in greater intelligence and intent data on behalf of the broader account and buying committee, not just who happened to stop by the booth?
    • Get your team together (in a group video call if you’re working remotely) and explore/brainstorm something that just a couple weeks ago may have felt less reasonable.

Sometimes companies and leaders are bold enough to make exponential leaps in value and innovation.

Sometimes the market compels us to do it.

Digital Alternatives to Canceling In-Person Events

You’ve been planning your firm’s annual intellectual property law conference for months. Presentations are in the can. RSVPs have been confirmed. It’s nearly showtime, when…

Word comes down from head office: the conference is postponed or maybe even canceled outright. All non-essential firm travel is put on hold and speakers can’t get to the venue. Clients are rethinking participation and in some cases withdrawing completely.

Switch out “annual conference” for partner retreat, industry presentation, or even breakfast briefing, and the question remains the same: how to recover the investment the firm has made in planning and organizing an event while continuing outreach to clients and potential clients in the face of circumstances beyond your control?

This article originally appeared on JD Supra. Shared with the author’s permission.

The answer: move your event online with a webinar, virtual trade show, or personalized microsite – that allows you to safely bring speakers together, deliver thought leadership to clients and targets, and record individual sessions for your content portal. Some considerations:

A Client Conference

Webinerd guests

Multi-day or full-day conferences translate well to the webinar format, as do big events with concurrent sessions.

In fact, an online-only event can give you a great opportunity to show clients that you’re sensitive to any concerns they might have about travel and at the same time reiterate your commitment to their continued education on the topics that most affect their businesses (including, if appropriate, your perspective on how best to weather travel bans and other disruptions in their industry). You might even see registrations go up!

Once you’ve lined up the technology, send a message to registrants to say you’re moving the event online. Include the schedule of individual sessions so attendees can plan their attendance. You’ll also want to send a similar message to invitees who didn’t register for the conference so they know that the conference has moved online.

Finally, if there’s a registration fee for the conference, consider refunding all or some of that charge since your costs for hosting the event will be significantly reduced. Attendees will appreciate the gesture.

A Partner Retreat

Webinerd on demand

 

Moving a partner retreat online can seem a bit more challenging because some meetings – practice groups, industry teams, client teams, and the like – typically involve highly interactive discussions with active engagement from attendees. Other activities, like the Managing Partner’s presentation or outside speaker talks, require less input from participants.

Different types of meetings shouldn’t be a problem for your webinar technology, however, which should allow the participation level you need in whatever meeting you’ve arranged, whether it’s a small interactive gathering of 10 partners, a large presentation to 1000 people, or something in-between.

Sadly, however, webinar technology hasn’t advanced to the point where partners can use it for a virtual round of golf…

Breakfast Briefing

A webinerd and her coworkers discuss optimization

Moving a single-session presentation online, like a breakfast briefing or a mid-afternoon speaker, on short notice is easy.

Webinar technology lets you set up the event quickly so you can focus on communicating the format change to registrants. Again, don’t forget to re-invite people who haven’t signed up for the briefing: they may have declined the first time around due to unease about group gatherings.

Switching an in-person event to a webinar lets you demonstrate your sensitivity to client concerns without sacrificing thought leadership (particularly relevant if the breakfast briefing advised on responding to travel bans and other disruptions!).

You might even want to send a $5 Starbucks gift card to all registered attendees the day before the event so they can BYOB (“Bring Your Own Breakfast”). It’s a fun perk, and would probably be cheaper than catering the in-person event.

How is your firm responding to travel bans and other disruptions? I’d love to hear about it.

Your Guide to Using In-Person Conferences for Virtual Events

Conferences, trade shows and seminars are all excellent ways to generate leads and build important face-to-face relationships. But field events always have limitations marketers need to consider. First, and the most crucial, is that not all relevant audiences are going to be able to attend the physical event in question. Budgets, travel restrictions and proximity to a venue all affect attendance.

That’s why every field event — no matter how large or small — should incorporate digital experiences into its strategy. Don’t have a digital angle ready for your in-person event?  Don’t worry: combining virtual events and experiences physical, in-person events isn’t hard — all it takes is a little scrappy marketing. Here’s how you can get started:

What Is a Virtual Event?

Before we begin, let’s get some terminology out of the way. A virtual event is an activity taking place online where attendees can interact with a brand through digital channels. Virtual events can be as short as a 20-minute webinar or as long as a morning-long summit. Often, they take place in coordination with a physical in-person event or, on occasion, act as a standalone event.

What are the Main Features of a Virtual Event?

There are a variety of ways virtual events can be held, but there are a few common traits each event shares. All virtual events are:

Digital — By their nature, virtual events take place in a digital environment online.
Interactive — All virtual events should offer attendees the opportunity to download resources, interact with speakers and engage with the environment they’re in.
Multimedia — Virtual events excel when presenters and sessions contain multimedia elements, like video, GIFs, slides, music and more.

What is the Difference Between a Digital Experience and a Virtual Event?

Virtual events and digital experiences are similar ideas at first glance. In fact, a digital experience has all of the trappings of a virtual event. But on closer examination, the difference between the two is stark.

Digital experiences, for example, are far more immersive, coordinated and enjoyable from an end-user perspective. They’re more polished and consistent in their presentation than virtual events and tend to draw larger numbers of attendees.

Virtual experiences, by comparison, are short and immediate. One way to think of it is the difference between a massive, multi-day conference and a roadshow across the country. Both have their purposes, but one generates far more buzz by its nature.

Develop A Digital Team

Webinerd Team

Whether you’re moving your in-person event fully online or complimenting your physical presence, having a structured plan in place makes all the difference. The first step is to identify your key stakeholders in your marketing and sales departments. Here’s a list of the marketing roles that ought to be involved:

Program Director – Organizes and develops digital/physical event strategy and approach

Event Coordinator – Identifies event topics and related focus areas

Webinar Manager – Organizes webinar strategy, content creation and promotion

Operations/Demand Gen – Sets up a webinar, webinar production, lead qualification and tracking

For Sales and Customer success, the list is:

Field Reps – For identifying target audiences, personas, accounts and event presence

SDRs – For webinar and event engagement, outreach, promotion and follow up

Customer Success – For event follow up, trial organization and support

Once assembled, sit down to identify how you want to run your digital experience. Typically, there are three options to consider to incorporate your digital experience:

    • In tandem with your in-person event
    • As an extension of your physical event
    • Or as a post-event experience attendees can enjoy

Also, take this time to identify the target accounts, audiences and personas you want to connect with.

Organize Content and Branding

Webinerd working on a webinar

Content

With planning elements in place, it’s time to organize your content and branding. In general, content should reflect the speaker’s presentation and any handout material you may have onsite. Gather digital copies of relevant e-books, case studies, reports, presentation slides and track down any appropriate virtual-based content as well, like on-demand webinars or blog posts.

Now, it’s time to organize content for your digital experiences. In general, there are three options to consider when delivering content through a digital experience. Here’s a quick rundown:

Targeted landing pages. Targeted landing pages provide attendees with a quick, concise overview of your presence at an event, along with any relevant handouts or materials. You can also use these pages to stream a webinar or a recording of the in-person event, as well as putting attendees directly in touch with presenters and SDRs via engagement tools like CTAs and virtual business cards.

Content hubs. If you’re running a larger event, like your own conference, or have multiple sessions to share, use a content hub like ON24’s Engagement Hub. With a content hub in place, you can sign virtual attendees up for multiple presentations throughout an event, provide in-person attendees with presentations they may have missed and — if you’re hosting — organize your breakout sessions and keynotes into tracks or topics.

Live or simulive webinars. Finally, there are webinars, which can stand on their own, or be embedded in the previous two options. Webinars have the option to be streamed live, simulive or on-demand, but for conferences, focusing on live and simulive is best.

For streaming live webinars, you have two options: high-quality broadcast streams or using webcams. All you need to get started is a webcam and, depending on your set up, a tripod stand. We recommend streaming live webinar presentations through webcams first, as they’re more affordable, scalable and less complex than broadcast video. Broadcast video is best suited when your organization is the conference host and you have keynotes you’d like to stream.

More often than not, simulive, where a presenter records their session ahead of time for virtual audiences, is the safest and most practical decision. Sit down with your speaker(s), identify opportunities to engage a virtual audience via polls and Q&A engagement tools and record the presentation. Then, when you broadcast, have a representative available to answer any questions your virtual attendees may have.

Regardless of whichever tactic you choose, make sure you build in engagement features for your virtual attendees. These can include simple CTAs, chat rooms and Q&A tools to powerful tactics like interactive pushing polls and surveys during a presentation.

Branding

When it comes to branding, one rule is important: consistency. Landing pages, webinars, content and content hubs all need to match your organization’s theme or design for an in-person event. This also includes physical assets, like booth design and handouts.

Sit down with your designer, design team or agency and list out all of the assets you’ll need to be branded for field events. Once those assets are identified, get your design in order and make templates out of them. This way, attendees — both in-person and virtual — have a consistent experience no matter where they engage your brand. You can (and ought to!) reuse these templates with other events as well.

Run Your Event and Move to On-Demand

A webinerd and her community dancing happily in a virtual circle

Okay, so you have a plan in place, content ready, consistent branding and folks registering. All that’s left is to run your digital experience. Right?

First, there are a few things to keep in mind to make your events go as smoothly as possible. These items include setting up email reminders (before, during and after your in-person event starts), practicing live presentations ahead of time to run through any technical issues, recording and organizing your simulive events in content hubs and landing pages and training your team on how to engage virtual attendees. But these steps should be relatively easy to work through.

With an organized approach, your event should run smoothly. Remember to take the time to engage your virtual audience, acknowledge their presence, answer questions and push your in-person attendees to your digital experience for additional resources. When the event is over, make sure your digital experiences reflect that fact. Update your content hubs and landing pages to say the conference, trade show or field event is over. You don’t want any confusion over the status of an event.

The On-Demand Element

Webinerd on demand

Unlike in-person trade shows and conferences, digital experiences don’t have an expiration date. To take full advantage of digital experiences and to extend the impact of your in-person event, have a plan in place for on-demand access.

For on-demand, you have a few options. The easiest is to simply push recordings of your event into on-demand content hubs for consumption. But if you want to go the extra mile, develop a few ideas that can extend your in-person assets — speakers, subject-matter experts and attendees — and expand on your event’s impact.

Here are some easy to do examples that you can do live or on-demand:

Coffee Talk

An informal, unscripted chat between two to three people for about a half-hour. The best format for a Coffee Talk is video — all you need to do is grab a webcam or camcorder and start recording. If you want to add some production to it, get an HD camera, record the discussion and push the recording on-demand. If you’re in a pinch, an audio recording can suffice as well.

Fireside Chat

A bit more involved than the Coffee Talk, a Fireside Chat is typically a high-quality video recording of a casual but structured conversation between a moderator and a few guests for about an hour. Since fireside chats usually involve keynote or high-quality speakers consider putting some extra focus on the quality of the recording.

Subject Matter Expert Keynote

Audiences love reports, charts and statistics. So, a traditional presentation where a speaker presents new research, industry trends, their experiences or other related topics to the audience is a great opportunity for on-demand engagement. For this, talk to customers, internal experts and industry subject-matter experts and get permission to both record presentations in either audio or video formats and share the presentation’s slides.

Extra Q&A Sessions

Extra Q&A sessions are low-effort, high-impact opportunities to add value to both in-person and virtual attendees. Grab a webcam, set up a small space and take five to fifteen minutes with a subject matter expert to run through additional Q&A submissions. It’s a great opportunity for them to answer key questions that official sessions might not have had time to cover during their presentations.

And that’s it, really. If you’re crunched for time, go through and identify the actions that are easy to produce, but have a high impact for your audiences.

Bridging the Gap Between Product Centricity and Customer Centricity

I’m a firm believer that the greatest technology companies are product driven-companies. Apple, Microsoft, Netflix — at their core, they create tremendous products.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about customer centricity lately. After all, it’s at the heart of everything we do at ON24.

Many B2C-first companies like Apple and Netflix have had the benefit of getting real-time feedback from individual consumers. You could tell immediately from sales, downloads, daily active users, etc., how much your customers liked or didn’t like your product. That, in turn, made these companies customer-centric as well, as they adapted their product to meet consumer needs.

But it’s generally been more difficult for B2B companies to access this feedback. Until recently, that is. Now unprecedented engagement and back-end analytics have pulled back the curtain, so B2B companies have the insights they need to understand how customers are leveraging their product.

But there still needs to be a shift in the B2B mindset around customer centricity. For the majority of my career, the collective thinking was that companies never had a world-class product and a world-class customer experience. If you had a great product, that could make up for an average customer experience — so why invest in it? And if you had a wonderful customer experience, that was likely because you were compensating for a not-so-wonderful product.

But I’ve come to a different conclusion: product and customer-centricity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe that the companies that win tomorrow will be those that use data from their customer experience to improve their product and learn from their product’s different use cases how to better serve their customers.

What’s changed? Digital experiences have evolved tremendously in recent years. Customer journeys start with marketing touchpoints. But today the best digital experiences go further:  ushering prospects through each stage of the funnel, surfacing personalized content, answering Q&As in real-time, and providing helpful information at every turn.

The result is that customers get personalized recommendations and content, while companies gain unprecedented insights into what these customers want and need. Through real human engagement, ON24 has been able to get the insights to drive both our pipeline and our product. It’s just another example of why today’s best products don’t happen by chance – they happen because they are constantly enhanced thanks to insights from a customer-centric approach. And that’s something we should all strive for.

5 Ways To Engage Your Audience While Running A Live Webinar

For a lot of participants, it’s not easy to sit behind a screen and listen to all of the content in a webinar.

That’s why the ideal webinar is one in which your online audience members feel engaged. You need to put effort into conceptualizing a webinar that your audience loves and actually wants to be a part of.

For this reason, you’ll need to try and answer the following questions:

  • What sort of activities, quizzes, questions and information would excite your audience?
  • What is your audience’s motivation behind attending this webinar?
  • Could you ask your audience what they’d like to see in the webinar?
  • What are some examples of highly engaging webinars? What can you learn from them?

In this article, we’ll give you five solid ways of engaging your audience while running a live webinar. So let the fun begin!

Ed. note: This guest post is by Ryan Gould, Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing.

#1: Audience Poll

If there is a topic you’d like your audience’s opinion on, you can run an audience poll to ask for their votes while running the live webinar.

Most webinar software tools come with audience poll features built-in. So all your audience has to do is either click on a ‘hands up’ button or click from one of the options you put out for them to vote against. This way you can collect votes for a question or issue you bring up and empower your audience to be an important part of the webinar.

#2: Run A Pre-Webinar Survey

We’ve found the trick to successful live webinars is to put a lot of planning, and pre-work before the event actually takes place. And part of this pre-planning is understanding what the audience wants out of the event, which is why we run a survey about a fortnight (that’s two weeks) before the actual webinar is held.

You can include questions like:

  • What are your motivations behind attending the webinar?
  • How is it possible for us to engage you in this webinar?
  • Would you like to interact with other attendees in the webinar?
  • What are some webinars you’ve loved to attend in the past and why?
  • What would make you jump out of your chair with joy while you attend this webinar?

Asking them questions like these will arm you with the right knowledge to take the right action.

#3: Create Amazing Webinar Content

Don’t just put up slides with lengthy sentences for people read on their own in a webinar. Your job as a webinar organizer is to create amazing webinar content that makes your audience come alive.

Start by thinking of a catchy topic that grabs the attention of your audience. Then, if you have the time and resources for it, present your content in interesting formats, like creating infographics, interactive videos or visually-appealing GIFs.

Then, think about some background music you can play before the webinar or a GIF animation you run while the webinar is running. Just make sure the background effects aren’t too distracting  — the audience’s attention should be on your content, not your GIFs. Also, if you’re giving a live presentation, make sure you check the microphone for voice clarity before the event starts.

Another helpful presentation tip we’ve discovered is to make strategic use of your webinar slides. Often, the fewer, the better. Run slides for a specific duration of time, about one or two minutes per slide as a general rule of thumb, until you switch over to the next one. This gives your speaker time to exhaust what they have to say on the slide’s topic while giving your audience enough time to review its content. While we’re on the topic of slides: try to keep their content light. Busy slides distract from your speaker and your message.

#4: Make Audience Members Interact With Each Other

One great thing webinars can do is connect people with similar interests!

That’s why the biggest service you can render to your attendees is to facilitate them to interact with each other. You can do this by organizing them into private online groups while the webinar is going on, enabling the chat feature so they can send each other private messages or organize Twitter threads or hashtags for organic conversations.

#5: Q&A Sessions

Letting your audience ask you questions while the webinar is running is a great way to engage your attendees. While it may not be possible to answer every question ‘on the go,’ you can always build in Q&A sessions into the webinar format.

This is where you’d allow your audience to freely ask you questions of their choice, and reply straight away like you’re in a conversation with them. And what could be a better way to engage your audience other than a live conversation!

Wrapping it up

There are a million and one ways to engage an online audience during a webinar. The important thing to know is which ways would best suit both your brand and your audience. Through trial and error, and measuring your audience engagement, you’ll come up with the best approach for your unique business.

Ryan Gould

 

How Marketing Can Make Events Work

As a marketing professional, I hate events. That is a bold statement from someone who personally loves a good tradeshow and walking away with six bags full of free stuff I will probably never use. As a marketing professional, however, they are stressful, time-consuming, pressure-cooker situations that I am happy to do without.

So, is the answer to never do physical events? Of course not. We have to do events as part of the marketing mix, both virtual and physical. People do business with people. It is human nature to like face-to-face interactions and get a feel for the person you are about to do business with.

There are of course some great events out there, such as Webinar World, where you go because you know the people you want to meet are going to be there and it will be well organised. If done right, good events can generate new leads, new business or strengthen existing relationships. So, to correct myself, I love events done right.

Madeleine Bergquist is the Nordics Marketing Manager for Marketo, an Adobe Company and a speaker at Webinar World Stockholm.

Build The Case for an Event


I try to manage my budget so that it never takes up more than 40% of the total. That usually makes it the top or second-most costly activity in my budget, depending on digital media spend. This is still fairly conservative, especially if I look at the B2C side, which often spends up to 70% of budget on events.

But I still want to keep events in check, because contrary to what people outside of marketing think, the event does not start at 9 am on the day of the event and finish by 5 pm that afternoon. It started weeks earlier, and, done well, there will be 4-5 days of follow-up to make sure you get value out of your investment. Putting on a good show does not drive business in itself.

While there are differences between the various types of events, whether virtual or physical, there is one uniting principle behind them all: if they are not measurable don’t do them! If you can’t show the return, it basically didn’t happen. You put on a show, you spent lots of money, you had a great time, but after the event, when Finance wants to know what the return was, you will struggle.

On the flip side, if you are in a situation — like many are these days — where you are being asked to do more with less money, and you are able to bring numbers to the table proving the value of your activities, it will lead to a completely different discussion.

Be clear on why you are going, every event should be measurable

You must start by asking “Why are we going and what are we getting out of it. Be clear on the aim of the event. ‘Because we did it last year’, ‘Sales wants us to go’, or ‘our competitors are there’ are not good reasons to attend an event.

Instead, a good reason would be ‘I am going to meet new people to expand my current database by adding new names in a GDPR compliant manner so that I can market to them, and grow our business’, or ‘I am going to meet my customers and work on our retention, cross-sell and upsell opportunities’.

Establish goals and ROI estimates before the event

Set clear business goals and expected ROI – all events should have a finance metric against it relating to cost, pipeline and/or revenue. Educated guesses are ok when you start out, you have to start with something, but as you go you will be able to be more and more accurate.

If your goal is to increase the size of your database, you can calculate cost-per-new-name-acquired and compare that to other methods of acquiring new names. If your goal is to work on customer retention, upsell or cross-sell, you will be able to calculate the reduction in churn, or added revenue to existing accounts.

Focus on the decisions that improve ROI

Find out what works, what doesn’t work and what you can improve on. The numbers will not tell you the entire story. There is a difference between doing an event that you should never have done in the first place if you had done your research, versus a good event but you executed it badly. It could be for any reason, you got the time zone wrong on your webinar, or your physical booth was not placed where the people you wanted to talk to were. Both are easily solved if you were to do it again.

Have a post-Event follow-up strategy in place

A webinerd and her coworkers discuss optimization

Maximise your marketing activities before, during AND after. It is easy to forget to do the work after an event, whether it is physical or virtual. You need to establish clear post-event processes ahead of the event so that everyone knows who is doing what as part of the follow-up.

Plan your lead allocations ahead of time and prioritise them together with sales. You do not want a hot lead ignored for a week because your SDR’s did not have it as a priority. Timeframes and service level agreements need to be in place with sales as well so all know when the follow-up work should be done. You also need sales plays in place to drive high-quality conversations. Finally, you must force the pipeline conversation – the era of blind faith is over!

Putting Event Prep Into Practise

A webinerd and her community dancing happily in a virtual circle

So how do we do this in practise? Up until Adobe recently bought Marketo, we were a very lean organisation of around 1,000 people. We had to be crystal clear on what our returns were as we did not have the budget to get it wrong.

As a result, we evaluate all our activities based on the following criteria:

  • Our investment
  • The multi-touch pipeline we created (no one will buy your product on the back of one single touchpoint with you)
  • How many opportunities it generated
  • The ratio between investment and pipeline
  • The percentage of activities within each channel that perform above the minimum ratio that we have deemed as a success (At Marketo, the ratio for very successful is above 15, good is 10-15 and less than 10 is seen as unsuccessful)

The last bullet one is perhaps the most important metric. This means, as in the example below from a few years ago, that we can have tradeshows that on average come in above 10, but only 49% of them were above the 10 minimum. That means that we had a few great ones and a few that we should definitely not do again.

If you compare with webinars, they are more cost-efficient and the return for us is very high at around 25 with 70% of webinars performing above the 1:10 threshold.

 

Program Channel Investment (MT) Pipeline Created (MT) Opportunities (MT) Ratio % Above Min (MT) Ratio*
Tradeshow $2,896,619 $30,619,242 644 10.6 49%
Webinar $634,610 $16,095,792 362 25.4 70%

Once you have this level of detail, you can then drill down and identify the specific activities that did not reach your targets.

This information gives you a completely different level of bargaining when you go into your budget discussions with Finance or activity discussions with Sales. You will be armed with all the ammunition you need in order to drive your agenda. Just remember to be clear on why you are going, ensure every event is measurable, establish goals and ROI estimates before the event, focus on the decisions that improve ROI, and have a post-event follow-up strategy in place. The result will be a budget well spent and a marketing department not overstretched.

Register now for Webinar World Stockholm and learn how you can get more out of your events — both physical and digital. For more details on how to run a successful event campaign, download Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Event Marketing.

Revisiting the Brand v. Demand Gen Debate

It’s a simple yet persistent question facing CMOs and marketers today. Do we take the billboard route, which will probably reach a wide audience but provide very little data on customers and their interaction with the advertisement?

This article was originally published at marketingmag.com.au. Shared with the author’s permission.

Or should we take the digital route instead, by means of Facebook ads or increasing SEM, which might reach fewer people but will give us detailed metrics and tracking that will demonstrate our campaign’s ROI?

The Big Marketing Question

In some ways, this debate poses a more philosophical marketing question: What is more imperative, cultivating the long-term brand of your company, or driving immediate and, of course, tangible sales results?

For the modern marketer, generating awareness and driving demand generation efforts should never be seen as mutually exclusive, like a game of heads or tails.

Why? Because modern marketing can actually accomplish both of these goals: building brands by means of advertising, while still driving clear sales-focused lead generation efforts. But in order to make sure their entire marketing team is aligned, CMOs today must ensure team members know the value of both of these marketing efforts.

The Marketing Gulf

If we take a step back, the gulf between content marketing (which generally falls into the brand-building category) and demand generation (which drives more leads) can seem like completely different worlds.

Demand generation professionals often have immensely different skill sets than the content side. Metrics and terminology will often vary as well. While the content team might be more concerned with broad exposure for a blog post, white paper or other digital content, demand generation teams are more engrossed with raw engagement statistics, interaction, and how that is effectively impacting their pipeline.

Best of Both Worlds

As you can imagine, depending on a CMO’s marketing philosophy and priorities, it can be easy for one of these teams to feel neglected or snubbed. In addition, a company’s sales culture plays a huge role: is the sales force currently contented with their leads and in need of high-quality content to back their conversations with prospects? Or is the sales force asking for instant and higher-quality lead volume, with less emphasis on content?

It’s therefore vital for CMOs to illustrate to all members of a marketing team what their role is, and how it contributes to the larger team goals and business objectives.

CMOs need to consistently outline the vision for the marketing team: high-quality content works best with a demand generation component and vice versa.

Awareness campaigns don’t always need to directly lead to sales pipeline, and demand generation efforts needn’t always have to deliver a significant boost to brand awareness.

Yet the two are inseparable, and the best marketing teams will succeed when the efforts from both sides supplement each other. And today’s CMOs need to not only know the short-term and long-term benefits to both — but also be able to communicate those benefits to their teams in order to achieve the best of both worlds.

How To Win Audiences and Influence Prospects with Live Webinars 

With tools like webinars, marketers can engage audiences virtually anywhere at any time. But while always-on marketing is an important element in your marketing toolbox, it’s not the only tool to use.

Consider the live webinar, which enables you to interact with your audience directly and drive genuine engagement. Or, as Tessa Barron, our own Vice President of Marketing at ON24 put it for Toolbox Marketing:

“It is about having a two-way conversation with your audience rather than a boring one-way presentation. With a two-way conversation, there’s genuine human engagement and interaction, which can then inform a conversation with sales and provide an overall better customer experience.”

So, how can you act on the live webinar promise? Here are some pointers to consider:

Harness the Power of Your Brand 

Webinerd social media

What’s the first thing you think of when you think of “brand”? Logo? Name? Company colors? It’s doubtful that live webinars are on this list, but they should be. After all, brand is more than just immediate imagery. Brand is your organization’s way of life, how it positions itself to the outside world — it’s the mixture of company principles with action.

Practice your praxis by embedding your brand values into your live webinar. If your organization values education and supporting audiences in their career journeys, offer certificates or continuing professional education credits with your webinars. If your company has an active customer community, then provide a variety of webinars — from panel to product updates — addressing audience needs and allows them to communicate with your organization directly.

Most of all: be consistent in your approach. Your webinars should have familiar styling, tone and presenter presence. Which brings us to our next point…

Build a Series 

Webinerd on demand

Audiences love consistency. And when it comes to winning audiences and prospects with webinars, a programmatic series like you’d find on television is an excellent idea. If you’re going to build a webinars series, there are a few things you should know.

First, you need a topic, and one addressing the needs of your unique audience. For example, we run our Webinar Best Practices Series so our audience can learn how they can run an excellent webinar program that delivers results.

Second, you’ll need an energetic presenter who’s not afraid of going on the screen and talking with audiences (for more tips on how to find or nurture your webinar presenter, check out this edition of WBPS).

Third, and following from the second point, if you’re going to do a series, you’ll need to use video so your audience can connect your brand with an actual human being. This is important because — as audiences engage with your webinar, ask questions and respond to polls — you’ll need someone who can respond to audience reactions in real-time.

Fourth, you’ll want to brand your webinar with your company’s colors and logo. And we’re not just talking about the basics. Modify your webinar’s icons to match your brand’s identity, change the background image to something that either matches the tone of your event or enhances your brand. We have some great examples of well-designed webinars here.

Finally, pick a day and time for your series and run it as consistently as you can. This last point is perhaps the most important, because if your audience comes to expect an edition of your webinar series every week and you miss, then you’ve damaged your brand’s relationship with audience expectations.

If you’re interested in developing your own webinar series, check out this edition of The #Webinerd Channel covering this very topic.

Show Your Solution

Webinerd guests

Prospects want to know how your solution works specifically for them. Live demo webinars are a great opportunity to both show them and address and specific concerns they may have.

For example, if your company produces software, a live webinar demo can address integration concerns, highlight features or show audiences how they can use your solution to solve a specific problem. You can apply these same principles to organizations needing to show how an object is manipulated, like those in the manufacturing and automotive industries.

Finally, live demos are a great way to gather data on what your audiences actually want from your solution. Polls, surveys and even Q&A sessions can identify customer or prospect concerns and directly connect your audience with your product team.

The Power of the Panel 

A webinerd and her coworkers discuss optimization

Finally, audiences love a good discussion, which is why you should almost always consider running — or participate in — live panel webinars. There are two flavors of live panel webinars to consider: internal panels, which feature your organization’s subject matter experts and partner panels, which brings a range of SMEs from different organizations together.

The former, featuring internal panelists, are great for demos or thought leadership positioning. The latter, which feature a collection of SMEs, are where live panels can shine.

Live panel webinars provide a few obvious benefits to the audience. They provide a range of opinions on a topic, gather experts into one event, empower audiences to discover new solutions and perspectives easily and — best of all — allows audiences to interact with panelists directly and ask their burning questions. This is good because it enables your company to get its message and thought leadership out to new audiences which you wouldn’t reach otherwise. Which brings us to our next point…

Live panel webinars are lean, mean lead-generating machines. That’s because, often, your organization and your partners will share leads generated from live panels — introducing you to new prospects you may not have reached otherwise. If you decide to go this route, sit down with your partners and hash out the details to ensure that all partners are promoting and driving as much registration as possible.

There are many, many more ways live webinars can help enhance your audience’s content journey, but these four points provide you with the basics of getting the most out of your live webinar program. Head on over to our upcoming webinars page to learn how live webinars can enhance your overall digital experiences.

How Webinars Fuel Captivating Digital Experiences

Webinars are powerful lead generation tools that capture attendee interest and give marketers the insights they need to what audiences genuinely want. But webinars are only one part of the audience’s content journey. With the right eye and the right tools, scrappy marketers can use webinars to craft unified digital experiences that audiences love.

To see how marketers can use webinars to push digital experiences forward, we asked some of the smartest people we know: our #Webinerd community. Here’s what they had to say about transforming basic webinar marketing into captivating digital experiences:

Use Webinars for Podcasts, Branded Series and More

With the right vision, webinars can be more than webinars. One webinerd said that, since podcasts are so popular right now, they’re using the ON24 Platform to create and record short live video podcasts. With these recordings in hand, they can then extract the audio and share it across multiple podcast platforms.

Learn how you can turn your webinars into podcasts here.

Podcasts are great, but there’s a lot to be said for running a great webinar series as well. One webinerd said their organization is testing out a “webinar-a-week” program for its major product line and will use simulive webinars to run the same lead generation or thought leadership webinar throughout the month. It’s a great way to kickstart a simple webinar series, test post-webinar engagement tools like surveys and polls and — as this webinerd points out — make the most out of limited speaker time.

Kickstart your own webinar series with WBPS: How To Create Engaging Webinar Programming.

Drop the Slides and Pick Up Video 

Webinars ought to be exciting, engaging affairs. But too many webinars are simply presenters calling in and speaking to a set of slides. Dull.

Well, the webinerd community it changing it up with video. Multiple community members say they’re not only dropping slides in favor of video, but incorporating video elements throughout the entire audience content journey. One webinerd said they’re moving away from slides in favor of speaker panels, video podcasts and short video clips that play before a live webinar.

Another webinerd is planning to turn away from slides in their presentations and use videos instead while others say they’re using video clips to point audiences towards other webinars of interest. Regardless, integrating video in your webinars isn’t as difficult — or expensive — as it seems. Learn how you can easily incorporate video into your webinars here.

Focus On Audience Engagement

By far, the number one thing webinerds do to enhance digital experiences is focusing on the audience’s engagement. For example, one webinerds has created an early access program that requires an orientation webinar with their company’s product manager. The result: exclusive features for engaged members and a direct line between the end-use and product manager.

Other webinerds are mapping out engagement opportunities throughout their customer journey using the ON24 CTA tool. This tool allows marketers to direct audiences towards the next step in their content journey, flag important assets to download or directly schedule meetings with a member of the sales team. One webinerd said they’re getting scrappy and using engagement tools — like polls and downloadable resources — to support email campaigns and product launches.

So, next time you find yourself wondering what you can do to enhance your marketing program, take a page from the webinerds and think about how the creative ways webinars can help enhance your digital experiences.