Webinars 2.0: Increasing Renewals Through Engagement Marketing with ON24

In marketing, we talk a lot about customer engagement. Why? Because we inherently recognize the importance of engagement to the perceived value of our companies and products.

It’s not something we have to create complex algorithms to understand: We like Bob because when we talk to Bob we actually have a conversation—not a one-sided spiel. Our favorite teachers are ones who create a learning environment where assumptions are challenged and ideas are tossed back and forth like a ping pong ball.

That’s engagement: when we realize value from our interaction. But often we’re so busy trying to show value in our webinars that we’re not engaging customers or prospects and allowing them to extract value from a conversation.

We create amazing content, but then we basically just present a slide show for an hour. We’re not creating a digital discussion around value.

When it comes to renewals, it’s evident that customers who see value in our products are exponentially more likely to renew. So when I took over the BrightEdge webinar program about seven months ago, I wanted to shift our focus to community building, to becoming the go-to source of actionable information on SEO and content performance.

My hypothesis was that if we could become that thought partner for our customers, we would help them attain better adoption of our platform, boost brand loyalty, and ultimately, see an increase in our renewal rates.

Take just a second and re-read that last sentence. See what came first? Value to our webinar attendees—not results. One-sided slide show presentations and sales pitches disguised as webinars are self-serving. By replacing results with value as our number one objective, we can create the engagement necessary to actually achieve results. It’s a little counterintuitive, but let’s dive into our process and see what happened.

Step 1: Filling the Digital Seats

It doesn’t matter how amazing your webinar content is if people don’t see it. At BrightEdge, we were struggling with low webinar attendance. It wasn’t that we didn’t have valuable information; we just didn’t have a good vehicle to get people to attend.

When we looked into the numbers, we saw we were only getting about an 80 percent deliverability rate on our emails. The problem was in our email strategy. We were sending out mass emails to a large pool of customers and prospects. This wide-net approach can burn folks out on your communication, and more than that, it doesn’t take into consideration the value your recipients want.

We did some work in our marketing automation strategy and narrowed our target for each webinar. Now, our emails are relevant to the audience and delivered at specific times when the webinar content is most useful: onboarding, middle of the funnel, etc.

With just a few simple tweaks, we went from low email engagement and webinars with only 40 attendees to a 99.2 percent email deliverability rate and engagement marketing webinars packed with thousands of people. These numbers aren’t just for show, though. Because if your focus is on value, the attendees influence the direction of the webinars.

Step 2: Make It Relevant

One of the best webinars we’ve ever hosted, in terms of engagement, was from an agency speaker who walked through a case study of one of their customers. They had the customer on the webinar as well to provide additional insights and confirm results. It was an in-depth look behind the scenes of how the customer achieved success, and the audience absolutely loved it.

Why? Because it helped attendees learn how to be successful themselves. They got to hear a real use case rather than some generic sales pitch touting X% returns. Those types of webinars aren’t relevant, and the audience can’t extract any real value they can use to make their own organization successful.

By walking through the process, step by step, prospects can learn techniques, regardless of the method, and current customers gain a working knowledge of the product that they can then turn into tangible results.

Step 3: Listen

This is the most important step in a successful webinar engagement strategy. To be able to facilitate real-time engagement, a powerful, nimble webinar platform is a must. At BrightEdge, we use ON24 for all our webinars.

ON24 lets us derive an understanding of the customer needs—and market needs— with two invaluable in-webinar engagement features:

  • Q&A: This is where webinars turn into a true digital discussion. Attendees can submit questions at any time during the live webinar, and because we craft our content to be a conversation, these questions aren’t an interruption. They’re an opportunity to add value.
  • Polls: Every five to ten minutes, we poll attendees on the webinar topic. This allows us to get an understanding of the audience’s sophistication and knowledge of the topic. This information then drives the direction of the webinar in real time.

Step 4: Follow Up

Engagement doesn’t stop once the webinar ends. That’s why it’s important to have a solid follow-up strategy in place. If you’re listening and engaging attendees during the webinar, you’re also collecting tons of useful information: what questions were asked, what were the poll responses, and who attended the webinar.

If you’re using ON24, you also gain additional insights from the attendee’s ON24 Engagement Score. This goes several steps further than traditional lead gen tracking—who registered versus who attended. ON24 tallies each participant’s engagement related to their level of activity within the webinar.

Through integration with SalesForce, our CS and Sales teams have that information and can tailor their messages to add even more value to the prospect or customer. Then, we’re not just pushing our agenda through customer communication; instead, engagement in our webinars is enabling 1:1 value-add conversations.

So… Does It Work?

Short answer: absolutely. We have seen that the higher engagement we have in webinars, the higher likelihood for a renewal. By combining webinars into an overall engagement model built around giving value to our prospects and customers—including live events, user groups, and CS outreach—our existing customers are more informed, engaged, and deriving more value from our product.

While I can’t share the exact renewal numbers publically, suffice it to say they are well above the industry standard. And all the credit goes to the value we’re providing the community through our omnichannel customer engagement strategy. So, if you’re tired of one-sided slide share webinars, low attendance, lackluster engagement, and high churn rates, perhaps it’s time to stop looking inward, and start looking out—to your customer community—for answers. By simply listening, you’ll have a better understanding of what they want, and with ON24, you’ll be ready to give it to them.

Originally published on Upshot stories

How to Expertly Promote Your Webinar on LinkedIn

Looking for great webinar guidance? Get the freshest webinar tactics and strategies at Webinar World 2019.

This is a guest post from Alex Rynne, Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn.

Webinars (or webcasts) rank among the most engaging and immersive forms of marketing.

They represent a simple and convenient method for tapping into video. When set up interactive experiences, they open direct channels between brand and customer. They can also help you establish trust and authority in your industry or niche.

According to the B2B Content Marketing 2017 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report, 58 percent of B2B organizations use webinars, and one out of three respondents named it the most critical tactic for content marketing success.

The rationale is clear. But a webinar is useless if no one attends, or if it doesn’t provide legitimate value to both presenter and viewer.

With this in mind, we’ll lay out some pointers for putting together an effective B2B webinar, and then promoting it on LinkedIn for maximum impact.

Choosing a Webinar Format

Before you set up your webinar, the first step is deciding what you want it to be. The term “webinar” is quite broad, and can encompass anything from filmed conversations to narrated slideshows to product demos and beyond. Hands-on instructional sessions are often very popular when they address a persistent challenge for your audience.

Any of these formats can be suitable for the right purpose. Sync the webinar closely with your overall content strategy and editorial calendar, ensuring that it fits contextually and aligns with coinciding activities.

Narrowing Your Audience

One could argue that this should take place even before you determine the content of your webinar because the people you’re trying to reach should dictate the way you try to reach them. This is where LinkedIn’s tools really start to come in handy, as you can drill down your demographics and create a distinct audience.

If you’re using an account-based marketing approach, you’ll want to learn as much as possible about the company (or companies) on your radar, and construct the webinar accordingly.

If you’re pursuing a more traditional and broad audience, we still highly recommend using advanced segmentation features. Refine parameters to filter your ideal participants by company size, location, vertical, job function, seniority, and so forth.

This is an important consideration for any marketing campaign, but especially B2B webinars. Professionals are busy and won’t commit time in their schedule unless the value offering truly speaks to them

Setting Up for Success

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The adage rings true with webinars, which require thoughtful preparation to yield strong results.

Scheduling is vital. Although these presentations can often be viewed later, drawing an audience to the live session is far more engaging, and crucial if there will be interactive elements (Q&A, poll questions, etc.). You’ll want to pick a day and time more likely to be available on the calendar of possible participants. Although the optimal timeslot for a webinar can vary depending on the audience, we find that Wednesdays and Thursdays around the lunch hour tend to work well.

It is natural for something like a webinar to slip someone’s mind, even if that person is genuinely interested in attending. We recommend including “Add to Calendar” links in webinar invites and setting up automated email reminders for people who have signed up. (A day-of reminder 30 minutes ahead of a live webinar can drastically increase participation.)

Promoting Your Webinar on LinkedIn

Once you’ve figured out the makeup, direction, and scheduling of your webinar, it’s time to focus on driving attendance. LinkedIn can be one of your greatest assets here, especially with B2B webinars tailored to specific professional segments.

First, plan out some organic content to support the webinar theme. Share a post from your company blog that ties to the topic and teases the information you’ll be covering. Spread the word in relevant LinkedIn Groups (preferably ones where you’re already an active contributor). Publish a few Company Updates in the weeks and days leading up the webinar to build awareness among your followers. If there’s a featured speaker or presenter, encourage them to post about the event so as to leverage their personal network.

After taking care of owned and earned media, you’ll want to add paid media to the mix. Since you already narrowed your audience earlier, it will be easy to set up targeting filters and make sure you are delivering ads to the right members.

LinkedIn Sponsored Content will help you gain visibility on the feeds of professionals who might be intrigued by your webinar subject. You could amplify a Company Update that performed well organically or create new Direct Sponsored Content. Meanwhile, Sponsored InMail is an invaluable tool for sending highly personalized invitations to prioritized attendees.

With both Sponsored Content and InMail, you can add Lead Gen Forms – which populate automatically based on a user’s LinkedIn data – to collect information and feed your sales pipeline.

It’s a good idea to use unique tracking parameters for each disparate webinar promotion tactic, on LinkedIn and elsewhere, so you can monitor and see which ones are performing best.

Following Up

The job isn’t done once the webinar ends. A day or two after the event, we like to send “Thank You” notes to those who attended (or “Sorry We Missed You” to those who couldn’t). Ask for feedback. Share any supplementary materials or related content. This is a good opportunity to drive next-step action with a direct CTA; recipients will be more receptive if the webinar effectively moved them forward in the funnel.

Remember: you can continually test and measure every aspect of the webinar promotion process – content, targeting, logistics, ad copy/visuals, follow-ups – with an eye on optimization. This will help you develop insights to sharpen your strategy in the future.

Originally published on LinkedIn Marketing Solutions blog

Tips For Making a Great Looking Slide Deck

Looking for great webinar guidance? Get the freshest webinar tactics and strategies at Webinar World 2020.

This is a guest post from Kate Schmeisser, Creative Content Manager at SendGrid.

You’re putting the finishing touches on what should be a home-run webinar presentation when you start to second-guess the design of your deck. Between choosing the fonts, pictures, icons, arrangement of all the above, and more, it’s enough to make your head spin.

Most companies can’t commit design resources (budget or actual designers) to webinar programs, which means many of us are building slides without any formal education in design — which can be challenging!

If you find yourself in a tailspin, the good news is that you probably know more about design than you’re giving yourself credit for. When you’re creating content, you’re making little design decisions every day — where to put a paragraph break to make the text more readable, whether to use bullet points or numbers to divide up a list or when to use a larger font or italicize a message in a memo to make sure no one misses the key message.

At SendGrid, where I work as the Creative Content Manager, we’ve experienced a 40% increase in webinar registration and a 55% boost in attendance since 2014. That didn’t require artistic brilliance or official training (my background is in business and marketing); we simply focused on concise content and clean, attendee-friendly design. Here are a few tips I pulled together that I wish I had known when I first started building the decks for our webinar program:

5 Slide Design Tips for Webinar Professionals

Stick to the Main Points When Deciding what Text to Include

Often times people make the mistake of packing their presentation slides with text in hopes that “more is more.” I disagree with that thinking. If you have too much text on your slides, it will likely distract from what you’re saying. Use the text you include as a way to focus your audience’s attention on the key points of your presentation. What do you want people to leave your event with? Your slides can ask questions that you can answer, share key challenges that you’ll explain, or draw attention to key figures from a case study.

The text on your slides should enhance your presentation, but shouldn’t be the *entire* presentation.

(Good) Stock Photos Are Your Friend

Webinerd at the computer

The use of the right stock photos can show excitement, tell a story, and leave an impression on your audience. When you’re working with a strong photo that you’ve chosen to help tell your story, why not make it the wallpaper for your slide and place your text on top of it? This way, the photo takes center stage and will help bring the concept you’re discussing to life.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are many stock photos out there that are terrible. Be picky when you’re curating the stock photos you’ll use! Don’t give up too early and settle on the first thing that pops up after you search one keyword. Your content deserves better and your audience will notice the extra effort.

When to Use a Branded Template

This can be a tough decision to make and I think it all comes down to two things: who the audience is and the intended purpose of the webinar. If your event is focused on introducing your company or your product to a new audience (such as an audience of prospects), you’ll want to make sure your presentation is heavily branded. The main point is to explain who you are and what you do, so put your brand take front and center! On the flip side, if the webinar is more focused on best practices or thought leadership topics, try to have a bit more fun with your content! Many of our webcasts end up being themed. By choosing a theme, you’ll potentially have a much easier time finding graphics/photos to support your main points. But of course, still (tastefully) include your logo throughout the presentation — your company put in the work to create the content and should receive credit for it. Speaking of themes…

Themes Help You Tell a Story

Your on-demand webinar audience awaits

Often times, webinars can get a little dry. We’ve all been there — you log in with every intention to pay attention and ten minutes later you’re in your inbox or working on another project. Themes can help keep your audience engaged (and maybe even entertained). For example, if your main theme for the presentation is business growth, visually show your attendees growth by using stock photos with plants. Start with images of seedlings and as the presentation progresses, work your way up to a full-blown garden! Within ON24 you have the ability to customize the look and feel of the console to fit your presentation, which is a great opportunity to bring your theme full circle with specialized wallpaper and widget icons.

Content Is Still King

The design of your presentation deck is a tool to help you engage your audience. Webinars are a part visual, part audio experience and these tips are meant to help you deliver on the visual aspect of your event. BUT even with the best design, if your content isn’t delivering value to your guests it won’t be a successful presentation. Never cut corners on crafting superb content for the sake of your deck design.

Think of the design of your presentation not as the whole sundae, but as the cherry on top of a stellar presentation! Your audience will thank you.

Using Big Marketing Event Ideas to Drive Pipeline

This is a guest post from Mike Taylor, Demand Generation, Virtual Events and Content Marketing at InsideSales.com. @mikegtaylor, linkedin.com/in/mikegtaylor

Digital marketers love data. We’re always refining our process to sort and qualify leads more effectively, using A/B testing to drive just a little more marketing pipeline, or tinkering with SEO to squeeze out that added Google boost. As the company behind the first total sales acceleration platform, InsideSales.com understands the importance of analytics, but our greatest wins come from a back to basics approach: a marketing idea, propelled by some great channel partners, and a little simple math.

Marketing strategy: Taking a big leap

The Red Bull Stratos program wasn’t just one of the great marketing event ideas, it was also a milestone in human achievement. Daredevil Felix Baumgartner teamed up with Red Bull to set the world record for highest jump, plunging 24 miles from a balloon in the stratosphere on October 14, 2012. It was a jump 52 years in the making. Baumgartner and the Red Bull team recruited Colonel Joe Kittinger, a retired US Air Force pilot who had set the previous record in a series of high altitude jumps back in 1960.

For Red Bull the marketing strategy, was a record setting event too. The dive was the most-watched Youtube livestream ever at that point, with around 52 million views. That translated into serious ROI. Sales rose 7% in the next 6 months, and a whopping 17% over previous years (according to research firm IRI). It didn’t take clever ads or whimsical marketing ideas — we’d set a world record, and consumers wanted to be part of that.

Making the dive go off without a hitch was a serious technological feat, but getting media coverage to drive the marketing pipeline was simple. We set a goal, divided the work up between our field marketers, and added up channel partners until we got there. So if we wanted to pull in 10 million viewers with 50 field marketers, we’d start with some basic division: 10 million ÷ 50 = 200,000 viewers per marketer.

That sounds like a lot, but we had the connections to do it and the content offering was an easy to sell. If a field marketer can get a TV station to promise 40,000 viewers, and a radio station to bring in another 20,000, they’re already 30% of the way there. And with YouTube alone bringing 9.5 million viewers, we ended up shattering our goals. Because we had a big, creative marketing idea that no one wanted to miss, it was a sure hit.

Marketing event ideas to drive webinar attendance

Your webinar might not have the drama of a world record jump, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use big marketing ideas to drive your event in just the same way — that’s how we made our Sales Acceleration Summit a success. We created a brand new category called sales acceleration to bring automation to the sales team, then took it to our channel partners and our email list. We signed up speakers and sponsors with the promise of 10,000 viewers, and got our partners to promote us by promising a 5x match on leads if they could hit 500 registrants. The event has become a Hubspot must attend event and has reached over 80,000 sales people.

Use this simple math equation for big results — a network of motivated partners, each bringing their own share of leads (work backward from your goal) and a big idea. The rest was just simple math.

The Dangers of 1-Week Email Promotions

Looking for great webinar guidance? Get the freshest webinar tactics and strategies at Webinar World 2019.

After all the work you put into webinars, is your webinar promotion letting you down? Do you announce your events with complete email marketing campaigns, or do you just send out a few emails when you have the chance?

As marketers, we’ve had it drilled into us over and over that if our content is useful, our audience will want it. But great content is only half the battle. Your customers and leads have busy lives, and there are a lot of vendors vying for their attention. A lot of your webinar promotion emails won’t even be opened because the recipient is too busy at the moment, or the subject line doesn’t appeal to them. Other recipients will scan the email and move on. And even when you earn a registration, it doesn’t mean you’ll get an attendee. If you don’t follow up, or your webinar doesn’t stick in their head, they might not even remember signing up.

If you want your email marketing to boost attendance, you need to make sure your audiences get the right message at the right moment. To do that, you need to put as much effort into your email campaign as you put into your webinars.

How to promote a webinar: Email marketing best practices

The most important thing is to plan ahead. If you set attendance goals (and you should), then your webinar promotion email campaign is part of the actual webinar, and demands the same amount of planning and attention as any other part.

One month out from the webinar, sit down to create a schedule for your email marketing campaign, working backward from the webinar to the beginning of the month. Our general rule of thumb is three weeks of webinar marketing emails, including the week of the webinar.

Remember, the goal isn’t to drown them in emails — all you’ll do is burn your contact list. In fact, one of the biggest advantages of planning multi-week email marketing campaigns is that you can give customers a few opportunities to register without pestering them excessively. We recommend sending no more than one invite per webinar per week.

Vary your webinar marketing emails

Studying email best practices is great, but there’s a danger in over-optimizing your emails. You want to surprise your customers to pique their interest, and you can’t do that if you use the same fancy HTML template for every webinar promotion. Try weaving in a text-only email (from the presenter if possible). Try a few different subject line strategies. Try asking a question, or sharing a surprising statistic. Try titillating the audience with an email that hints at a “secret” you’ll reveal in your webinar, then share an email that spells everything out. And A/B test your emails if possible. It will give you more data to work with in future webinar marketing campaigns.

Don’t be afraid to double up your webinar promotion emails

If you’re only running one webinar a month, it makes sense to give each event its own email campaign. But what happens if you’re running two webinars every week? If you’re doing three weeks of promotion with one email per week, you could end up sending certain leads six separate emails — and that doesn’t even count follow-up emails after the event. From your audience’s perspective, that’s going to get really old, really fast.

If you’re running multiple concurrent events, experiment with combining them in one email. It will make it much easier for customers to sort through all your announcements, and find the information that’s most valuable to them. If you want a good example, check out our recently launched monthly webinar marketing email, promoting everything we have coming up for that month.

Segment your webinar promotions

Doubling up is great for situations when you have a lot of valuable content designed for a similar audience, but that’s not always the case. You might have multiple target buyers with very different interests and concerns. Rather than trying to shoehorn everyone into your email marketing campaign, try segmenting your audience.

We’re experts on this, not because of our webinar experience, but because of our customer base. Our clients come from across all industries, with use cases ranging from meetings, to marketing webinars, to training and certification, to thought leadership. As a result, we’ve heavily segmented our webinar promotion. We invite everyone to our monthly webinar best practices series, but also run multiple customer spotlight webinars each month that target specific verticals. The best practice emails are sent to everyone by default, so when the need arises we simply carve out the vertical for the next spotlight and have two different email streams.

Have fun with your webinar marketing

Remember, an email marketing campaign is still a marketing campaign, and good marketing is fun! Your audience has a sense of humor — they’d rather read a pitch with a good joke or a funny image in it. They’ll be more likely to attend a webinar if they know the presenter is also a good entertainer.

Don’t be afraid to make your webinar promotion light-hearted, or even a little goofy where it’s appropriate. Make puns, tell inside industry jokes, be a little irreverent if it makes sense for your audience and topic. Don’t just tell them it’s important to attend — make them want to attend.

The Right Thought Leadership for the Perfect Content Strategy

This is a guest post from Fred Isbell, Senior Marketing Director, SAP Digital Business Services and SAP HEC Marketing at SAP.

Thought leadership is a bold phrase. It conjures up ideas of a person or company whose ideas and understanding are so advanced that they truly stand out. And when it’s done correctly, that’s the impression it leaves on the audience. But behind the scenes, it’s really a collective team effort, requiring a wide range of skills to create your content strategy and drive increased awareness as well as marketing pipeline. As SiriusDecisions teaches us, you need:

  • Thinkers: People like senior executives, R&D engineers, product managers, and others who have big ideas to share
  • Orchestrators: Solution marketers, content strategists, corporate communications, and others who are skilled at connecting the different parts of the team together into a well- run, integrated program
  • External collaborators: Authors, industry leaders, and analysts who can help you relate to your industry or wider community with a relevant point of view
  • Program leadership: The corporate communication & strategy and solution marketing people who can supervise your thought leadership efforts as part of a strategy for your entire organization

When all those people come together in just the right way, it’s a miracle to behold. We call this the “perfect storm,” and happened with a thought leadership program for SAP run with ON24, our strategic webinar partner globally.

The thought leadership challenge: Digital transformation

In 2016, we did a webinar series on Digital Transformation featuring a webinar called, “Thought Leadership: IT Leadership for the Next Phase of Digital Transformation.” It was a very timely and relevant topic. Digital transformation has become part of virtually everything businesses do, and IT and business leaders need to grow beyond their traditional roles. They need to become strategic leaders to businesses, working with stakeholders from the ground floor to the C-suite to ensure their solution addresses the evolving needs of the entire business.

Our approach to building and promoting the thought leadership webinar series was based upon a solid tactical execution, featuring valuable content and speakers and heavy on social media promotion. I wrote a pre-event blog tied to the ON24 registration page, and we sent out targeted customer invites and used extensive social media promotions across multiple channels to increase our reach. That’s a great example of a 360º marketing approach leveraging multiple channels of communication and outreach to customers. We focused upon building a forum for an executive-level, conversational format with an interview format — and not a traditional PowerPoint-heavy format (“death by PowerPoint”).

We used consistent SAP branding throughout our program featuring quick and strong follow-up. That included a follow-up blog discussing the key things we learned from the webinar. It was a thorough summary and drew attention to our thought leaders own points of view, and also drove readers to the on-demand webinar replay.

What made the difference was our webinar panel — representing an internal, external, and customer-focused points of view:

  • Pete Russo: The Vice-President of SAP S/4HANA Marketing. He’s a former PAC analyst, who once ran the SAP Services Marketing field engagement and SAP RDS teams. Not only is he my good friend and one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with, but he’s also someone who brings insider expertise — key to thought leadership — and the ability to articulate the intrinsic value of the solution.
  • Geoff Scott: The CEO of America’s SAP user group, representing thousands of small, midsized and large SAP customer companies. He created a bridge between the company’s perspective and the needs and interests of the users and shared some recent ASUG customer research on the topic.
  • Pete Swaby: This Economist Intelligence Unit leader brought the perfect outside perspective as a Senior Editor, and EMEA and Global lead. His team did great work on one of our IT audience marketing campaigns to combine thought leadership and analyst insight into a series of campaign offerings, providing a great offer for this webinar.
  • Fred Isbell: That’s me — Senior Director & Head of Thought Leadership at SAP Digital Business Services Marketing. I brought in the leadership skills to coordinate all these brilliant thinkers, and the project management and event hosting skills to bring the whole project together and server as moderator.

With good thought leaders, our content strategy connected

This truly represented the “perfect storm” of speakers, subject matter experts, and marketing and promotion all coming together nicely. We supported our webinar series with a powerful content strategy leveraging the SAP Digitalist thought leadership platform to connect with our community. That meant publishing on this platform along with blogs from internal and external thought leaders that provides a rich set of executive quarterly tablet magazine, and white papers, infographics, and other research — all shared and promoted through social media marketing.

The results of the Digitalist speak for themselves:

  • Over 3.7 million page views YTD
  • 1.3 million unique visitors YTD and an audience drawing largely from C-level and senior executives
  • A conversion rate of up to 45%

It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of promotion and a true team effort to get so many eyes on our webinar series, and clever marketing to keep bringing in new viewers. But it wasn’t overtly hard either. With the right thought leadership team, the “perfect storm” of a solid approach based upon best practices, and a solid team of subject matter experts, anyone can drive increased awareness as well marketing pipeline via thought leadership.

Discovering Simulive, an Easier Way to Schedule Webinars

Webinar dates are locked in, speakers are on board, and timings are confirmed. Everything seems to be in working order — until an inevitable issue arises to interfere with the scheduled webinar flow. The best way to avoid these abrupt circumstances is a simulive webinar event. In a simulive webcast, all audio, video, and presentation materials are pre-recorded. The webinar is scheduled and delivered to a live audience at a designated date and time. This gives you the flexibility of creating an on-demand presentation, plus all the benefits of running a live webinar. It’s almost like hosting a fully automated webinar.

As a Demand Gen Marketer at ON24, I execute a variety of marketing programs and, with the help of simulive webinars, I am always prepared for sudden changes with my programs. Here are some ways simulive webinars can help:

Global webinars

A webinerd and her community dancing happily in a virtual circle

One problem I have faced when working across global teams is trying to find the best time that can fit the schedules of all parties involved (including those overseas). It is technically possible to find a time to air a live webinar in EMEA or APAC from North America, but only if someone is sacrificing their sleep!

Marketing programs are a global effort. EMEA and APAC timings are drastically different than in North America. Running our webinars simulive has been a life-saver! Now, our EMEA webinar hosts jump right into the ON24 platform and record their slides during the time that fits best with their schedule. This relieves the stress of late-night or early morning phone calls and juggling a million schedules at once. Simulive webinars are also a great way to repurpose content that was created in North America as an EMEA or APAC resource. With simulive, we can simply copy over an existing event and select for it to air “live” in an EMEA or APAC specific time zone. Pretty cool!

Speaker unavailability, PTO, and OOO

Simulive webinars are a GREAT way to keep your webinar on track. More often than not, I receive email notifications from a speaker mentioning that they are unavailable to commit for a live date proposed on the marketing calendar. With simulive webinars, I have the option of letting my speaker know that they can always pre-record the event at their convenience and we can still run it on the date that best fits in our calendar. It’s a win-win situation!

By setting up an event as simulive, we can pre-record the entire webinar before the scheduled “live” air date. Speakers can go into the recording platform and record audio on their own time in the comfort of their homes, hotel rooms — literally anywhere (with a working wifi connection, of course)!

Simulive webinars take the stress out of running around attempting to lock down guest speakers. During the “live” air date, the producer and/or presenter(s) will just be monitoring live questions that come in during the Q&A session of the webinar.

Speaking nerves

Webinerd holding a webinar.

I work with a variety of speakers daily. Some speakers are extremely outgoing and able to do live webinars in a breeze, while others are a bit timid and prefer to not be put in the spotlight. Simulive webinars are a GREAT way to calm your speaker’s nerves. Simulive webinars allow speakers to log in to the event on their own time and comfort, without feeling the stress of a live event. If the speaker makes a mistake, he or she can simply go back into the event and re-record over any slides.

Simu-live also gives speakers an opportunity to hear their recorded presentation from start to finish. If they don’t like what they hear, speakers can go back into the event and make edits or re-record. Having control over what can be changed in the presentation relieves speakers and calms their nerves.

Live event emergencies

Webinerd looks out for hazards

 

All marketers running webinars have experienced a couple of live webinar event emergencies: The speaker can’t dial into the event, the phone bridge doesn’t seem to be working, the slides aren’t progressing, screenshare isn’t sharing to the audience, etc. Simu-live webinars help avoid any live event emergencies. You have the ability to pre-record your entire presentation, so if something does come up, it’s easily fixed and redone! Especially when speakers decide to screenshare and present a live demo, it is extremely convenient to leverage simulive. You can take the time to make sure the functionality is working correctly and pre-record rather than project an empty screenshare to an impatient audience during a live event. Simulive relieves all the stress of a live event, so all you have to do on the air date is sit back, answer questions, and enjoy the show.

Multiple webinar events

Webinerd social media

Webinars are important for our business, therefore we do A LOT of webinars every month. There have been times where we book two or three webinars on the same date because that’s what makes sense on our marketing calendar. Simulive webinars make it easy for the producer to be in multiple webinar events at once. Personally, I have managed multiple webinar events that happen on the same day because they run on simulive. I have everything set up for the webinar events before the air date and can monitor the Q&A for both events without a hassle. It’s that easy!

On a final note, it’s important to be equipped to face any webinar scheduling troubles/live day hassles and provide your speakers (and yourself) with seamless alternatives and sanity. Most of the time, simulive webinar events are the answer to all my webinar worries. On the day of the scheduled “live” event, there is minimal effort to be done by the producer and presenters; they can sit back and enjoy the show — literally. Bring out the popcorn!

Going Bigger: How to Promote Webinar Marketing Events

This is a guest post from Phillip Angerhofer, Campaign and Digital Event Manager at Qualtrics. Read his first post here.

A week-long webinar event represents a major investment of time and resources for your company and your guest speakers. Make sure your marketing strategy gets your speakers the attendance they deserve, and your company, the ROI it needs. Here’s how we promote major digital events at Qualtrics.

Set strong goals

Everyone knows you can’t measure ROI without goals, but that knowledge doesn’t always make it into practice. Companies sometimes just decide to “hold a great event” and measure whatever they always measure. That might work with an occasional one-off presentation when you’re just trying to test the water, but it doesn’t give you enough direction to put together a major digital event.

If you’re holding a webinar event because you want to drive marketing leads, that’s great! How many leads do you want to drive, and how will you measure them? Have you picked the right topics and subject-matter experts (SMEs) for that goal? If you’re simply hosting a webinar series because it’s something your community will find valuable, or a way to build your brand, that’s fine too — provided you can define and quantify your goals. How can you measure value? How will it help your company? What types of presentations will establish thought leadership?

It’s OK to cast a wide net. Qualtrics uses webinar events both as a lead generation tool and an opportunity to drive sales leads, but we still have to set goals. We know where we’re looking in the marketing funnel, and how we’re going to measure progress.

Segment your marketing database

Your contact database isn’t a list of people to shout at until they attend your events and buy your products, so don’t treat it that way. If you’re ready to hold a major webinar event, you should have detailed information on, at the very least, your more promising contacts — where they are in your marketing funnel, what segment and job position they occupy, what their interests are, and what content they’ve downloaded or interacted with in the past.

Use that data to create a refined marketing strategy, targeting your marketing leads and contacts with events and tailored language that appeal to them. If a webinar is aimed at IT, don’t send it to marketing contacts. If an event is aimed at helping managers increase productivity, it might not appeal to senior leadership, or may require different language to connect with them. You can get away with more targeted emails and InMail messages if you’re holding a big webinar event, but you still don’t want to club your contacts over the head with content that doesn’t appeal to them.

Develop your own webinar marketing best practices

Industry marketing benchmarking reports and webinar best practices are a great place to start, but they’re just guidelines. You need to be collecting data and seeing what works for your company. For example, it’s webinar marketing gospel that you’re best off sending emails Wednesday or Thursday at 9 a.m. when your marketing leads are just getting into work and checking their email. However, for some strange reason, 1 p.m. Wednesday outperforms 9 a.m. at Qualtrics. That doesn’t make that rule a bad rule, it just shows that our market is an exception. By trying different times and measuring opens and CTAs, we can get better results than a company that treats benchmarks as gospel.

The more precisely you can measure the performance of your marketing strategy, the better your ROI will be. You don’t want to go into a major webinar event unaware that, for whatever reason, your Facebook ads never get clicks from your client’s IT department — you need that information before you start.

But webinar marketing best practices aren’t just about targeting, they’re also about flexibility. If your free social posts are leading to tons of conversions early on, make some more! If your paid LinkedIn ads aren’t getting the ROI you need, but your promoted tweets are, shift your marketing strategy. The quicker you are at reacting to feedback, the better your results will be.

Use all applicable marketing and promotion channels

Your marketing strategy starts with using conventional channels that work for you, including Adwords, LinkedIn, guest blogging, and email, but you can go beyond that. If it’s an asset that you could use to reach leads, now’s the time to put it in play. You can spoof thought leader presenters (with their permission) and send emails promoting their presentations that reply to your own webinar event team. They can be as simple as, “Hey, I hope you saw this presentation I’m giving on [topic] at [event/time]. Click to register.” The important thing is using their influence to build your event.

You should also ask presenters to promote for you, providing them sample emails or guest blogs to send to their own contacts. They’re as interested in building their own brands as you are, and many of them will be happy to lend their voice — especially if you make it easy for them by providing content they can share.

Plan your webinar event follow-up

We often come out of webinar events with 20,000 or more registrants, thousands of attendees and varying data points for each lead. If we had to sit down and figure out how to use that data after the fact, it could take us a week or more to actually follow up. And by then, we’d have lost a lot of interest and opportunities.

That’s why it’s crucial to figure out how to break up your registrants, and what you’re going to do for each group before the event is over. Who gets passed to the sales floor? Who gets dropped into the nurture track? What type of content and marketing strategy will you use for each group? We like to divide registrants into four groups based on attendance vs. nonattendance, and contacts vs. leads, but you should also look at market segmentation, position, and other factors that might affect your messaging.

Don’t forget to send out notices when the content is available on-demand! Your registrants were interested enough to register, but a lot of them have busy lives. Give your audience a way to watch the webinars on their own time, and you’ll get a lot more value from the event.

Make the experience enjoyable for everyone

Making a big digital event is a lot of work for your team, but it can also be a rewarding experience. Show everyone you appreciate their work, and make sure they feel like they have a voice in the event. Getting your team to love what they do will help you continue to get great results and up your game with each webinar event.

Going Big: How to Host a Major Webinar Event

This is a guest post from Phillip Angerhofer, Campaign and Digital Event Manager at Qualtrics.

Creating a positive experience is core to any successful webinar event, but for major Qualtrics digital events, it’s especially important. As an experienced management platform, providing webinars in a way that serves and delights our community isn’t just about leads (although it’s definitely about leads!) — it also shows we can walk the walk. But how do you cram dozens of webinars into a week-long event, drive your marketing pipeline, and maximize lead generation, all without driving your team crazy? Here’s how (and why) we do it.

Why have major webinar events?

Qualtrics runs up to three major digital webinar events every year. Each event runs four days, with about 30 webinars. That’s a lot of speakers, and although we draw about one-third of them from inside Qualtrics, the rest come from thought leaders, partners, and other groups outside of our organization.

There are some obvious challenges and drawbacks to an event like this. Think about all the work that goes into a webinar, from planning to finding the right presenter, to creating a slide deck, to promotion and follow through. Now, think about all the things that can go wrong with a webinar. Presenters can reject slide decks or opt-out at the last minute, hosts can get sick on the day of the big event, technical issues can make a good event flop. Now, multiply all of that by 30.

There’s also the risk of diminishing returns — at least by certain metrics. With one-off presentations, our attendance is about 35% of registration; but with our webinar events, it drops to around 25%. And if your webinar promotion strategies flop, you’ve lost a lot more than you would with a single webinar.

So why do we do it? Because it’s big, and we can market the hell out of it for a fantastic ROI! Your leads won’t appreciate a barrage of emails for a single presentation, but if you’ve got 30 different exciting presentations, demos, and roundtables from speakers in different segments, each point of contact is a chance to build excitement. That drives leads down the marketing pipeline like you wouldn’t believe. And, for people who are curious, but haven’t really had a chance to research it, it’s a fantastic lead generation opportunity. And those drawbacks above? It turns out they’re not a problem if you know how to use your team effectively.

How to host a webinar event

Like with any process, scaling up your webinar program requires refinement. We operate on a 10-to-1 rule, which means that for every 10 webinars, we leave one week for recording and editing. For companies with a slower webinar cadence, that might sound impressive, but we manage to do do it while keeping our team happy — and you can too. Here’s what you need to do:

    • Build the right team. You need a strong team, representing all stakeholders. For a major webinar event, we recruit people from product marketing, digital marketing, sales, our client success team, and the campaigns team to create a project that serves everyone’s goals. Coordinating all those teams requires strong leadership — in our case, it’s the head of marketing who brings everyone together. Your webinar program might be organized differently, but it’s important that you have someone with the enthusiasm and leadership skills to coordinate all your members.
    • Get everyone on board. A major webinar event is a company-wide project. It’s something everyone can contribute to in some way, even if it’s just promotion. At our company-wide meetings, we make sure to get everyone excited about the event and share relevant details. We talk about how much of the marketing pipeline will be in attendance, and what opportunities the webinar presents for their departments and the company as a whole. We also get into the nitty-gritty of our registration strategy, and how both marketing and sales can fit in. Getting marketing and sales to work together to promote the event can be tricky in some organizations, but it’s worth the work.
    • Make things easy for yourself. Simulive is your friend. Your mileage may vary, but we’ve found it’s just not worth the hassle to wrangle 30 speakers on the day of the event unless there’s an in-person audience. Using live webinar hosts and subject-matters experts (SMEs) to introduce speakers and answer questions after the presentation is much more manageable than having entire live presentations, and it means that, even if there’s an issue like a bad mic, your webinar event will still go off more or less as planned. And make sure your webinar hosts have scripts and alternates, in case someone can’t make it for some reason. Even if you can’t field a second expert host for a particular topic, you’ll still have a host to introduce the event and refer questions to someone in your company who can answer them.

Make your webinar event a big deal

A major digital event is a chance for you to strut your stuff, show your leadership, and let the industry know-how great your company is. If you can engage your team and give your whole organization a stake in the outcome, your webinar event will be legendary.