Planning, Implementing and Measuring a Successful Topical Marketing Campaign

Each month, the team at ON24 puts together Insight50 – where we provide fellow Webinerds with 50 minutes of expert insight and answer the questions that are important to you.

This time, the theme was topical marketing. Given recent news events, we focused on Brexit as a case study as to how marketers can align with themes of note.

The below is just a brief wrap up of insight from Laura Flandin at Euler Hermes, Matt Owen at Spire Healthcare and Rina Patel at Contentive – and of course, you the viewers! If you didn’t manage to see it, view it on-demand here.

Creating content around current events is a good way to create engagement amongst your target audience as well as set your company up as a thought leader. But how frequently are marketers running such campaigns?

When participants of our latest webinar were asked if they were currently taking advantage of topical marketing, 59 percent said they were using topical marketing. More than half of those – and 37 percent of attendees as a whole – have used Brexit as a theme.

Here are a few key points that were discussed by our panel, all of whom have been practicing topical marketing.

How do you plan for a topical marketing campaign?

When it comes to the question of planning, Matt shared some keen advice — “Don’t confuse topical with unplanned. You can always plan to put messaging out and it will give you a huge advantage over the unplanned.”

The majority (67 percent) of webinar attendees said they do plan their topical campaigns out up to a couple of weeks in advance, while 44 percent said they react to same-day topics and events. The same percentage plan out their topical campaigns a quarter in advance, yet none planned out a year in advance.

As revealed by Laura Flandin, Euler Hermes does yearly planning – but their schedule is fluid enough that it can be adapted to what is in the news or for topics that have created a lot of engagement. Euler Hermes tries to build into the schedule for the inevitable occurrence of unplanned content, with 80 percent of their content planned and 20 percent available for topics that come up unexpectedly.

Rina Patel from Contentive spoke about another part of planning — blending long-term content with the opportunities that arise.

“There is the planning within the editorial teams, and our editors will put a 12-month calendar in play. However, they can obviously forward plan only so much, because you can’t predict everything that happens in the world. So they will always have a calendar with enough room to work with, which will then allow us to work on the key pieces that are coming up within the industry.”

Is there a single most effective method to deliver a campaign?

One of the biggest questions of the webinar was if there was a single most effective method for delivering a topical campaign message. It might be disappointing to hear that all three panelists had a decisive answer of “No”.

Matt Owen from Spire Healthcare explains that there is not one individual channel that will get the reach marketers are wanting:

“I think it would be difficult to nail down to a single channel that will definitely get you the most responses. I guess a lot of it is around your audience, who you’re trying to reach. A lot of it goes back to timing and planning as well. Which channels do you have access to? How can you get that message out quickly? What sort of processes do you have in place?”

While Rina agreed, she expanded into the importance of understanding the different ways audiences consume your messaging.

“Everybody likes to consume content in different ways. Some people like to watch webinars, some people like to just read, some people are very happy just having the quick social media update. So, one size definitely does not fit all.”

Another question to consider is that just because a topic is in the news, is it necessarily topical and important to your audience? As Laura explained, it’s important to know who you’re talking to and if it has relevance to them.

“Is it really what your people and the people you’re targeting want to hear about? What are the angles? What do they want to hear?”

How do you measure campaign success?

Measuring the success of a topical marketing campaign is not unlike measuring the success of any other campaign. It is really about measuring on the metrics that matter to the people or department you need to prove the success to.

For topical campaigns, generally, Matt and Laura both agreed that reach was a metric they measured success on. However, Laura pointed out that leads and new business generated was what mattered to Euler Hermes’s finance department.

“When I talk about reach, they kind of wonder what I’m talking about. So what they want to see is new business.”

For Rina, her clients are interested in seeing the number of leads a campaign generates but it isn’t necessarily that straightforward.

“I think, that there are two different methodologies. There’s your brand awareness, being a thought leader, and then there’s the lead generation, MQLs and that side of things. So, when it comes to the success of a topical campaign, I think the key thing is how many people have consumed it? The whole point is you want people to read and understand the content and that’s the reason that you put it out there.”

Hear more on our Insight50 session

The quotes above are just a small sample of what was discussed and answered on February’s Insight50 session. Make sure to register to watch on-demand and strengthen your topical marketing campaigns for the year ahead.

What Is Topical Marketing and How can It Drive Engagement?

Our upcoming Insight50 session will be exploring the issue of topical marketing – and in particular, using Brexit as a case study for how to tie your message to key events. Sign up for the session to get your questions answered, with expert speakers including Leanne Chescoe of Demandbase, Joel Harrison of B2B Marketing, and Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing.

Great marketing is delivered to the right person, at the right place, at the right time. That’s something all marketers learn early in their career. But capturing attention never easy.

However, when a theme is on your buyer’s mind, you can get them to listen by aligning your message with their thought process. And while customer journey maps help map out the questions they will likely be asking, that’s not everything that they will be thinking of on a given day.

Topical marketing is one way of getting that alignment between what’s on their mind and what you can offer.

So what is topical marketing?

We’ll discuss more of this on the session, but essentially it’s talking about a particular theme happening at a particular point in time.

While news cycles provide a steady feed of hooks on which to hang your message, topical marketing doesn’t have to be limited to that. Some examples include:

  • Particular events, such as trade conferences and summits
  • Holidays
  • Deadlines for regulatory change or compliance
  • Major market events, such as M&A, IPOs or updates from central banks and finance bodies
  • For sectors with a fixed season (such as higher-education or even sports and fashion), key calendar dates
  • Even editorial calendars for major publications within your industry

How can topical marketing drive engagement?

If a particular theme will be on the minds of your target audience, creating content and campaigns based on this theme can help satisfy their need for information when it’s top of mind.

Another benefit of topical marketing is how it can potentially fit into a variety of time scales. Some events will be planned or known about for years in advance, allowing you to establish a share of voice in that space.

For topics that emerge rapidly, a fast approach to getting a message out can help you cut above the slower-moving competition when it’s otherwise hard to stand out.

How can webinars help with topical marketing?

A key benefit of webinars versus other content is that they allow you to have two-way communication with your audience. As such, they can be used at any stage of your topical marketing campaigns.

For early-stage topical campaigns, webinars can help you test the water and understand what questions matter to your prospects. Panels and Q&A sessions can elicit this feedback. Determining what assets get the most engagement can also help you figure out what’s working.

Later on, webinars centered around taking direct action can bring your prospects closer to conversion. For example, if one of your topics involved an upcoming regulatory change, an engaging session that answers questions from specific customers can be converted into sales conversations and follow-ups. Demo sessions can lead on strong calls-to-action to take out a trial, while those aimed at existing customers can look to increase retention or upsell activity.

To find out more, make sure to sign up to our topical marketing webinar.

The Biggest B2B Trends Around Content and Experience

We surveyed our sponsors for TOPO Summit 2018 and asked them to identify three trends their companies are following in 2018.  Based on those responses, we will be publishing a series of blog posts over the next several weeks, categorizing their thoughts into six themes: AI and Data, Everything Account-Based, Content and Experience, Sales and Marketing Alignment, Marketing and Sales Development Orchestration, and Sales Focused.

Want to hear more from these companies? Be sure to meet with them at TOPO Summit, where these topics, and more, will be covered by our speakers and our sponsors.

CONTENT

Loopio  – Thoughtful Personalization
With multiple organizations vying for a prospect’s attention, personalization is becoming more important. We’re seeing this in creative outreach methods e.g. white-boarding and video, but also in responses to information requests, such as proposals. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t effective anymore. Targeting is becoming more important and the shift towards Account Based Marketing and Sales is helping to focus outreach to target accounts and personalize in a more scalable way.

Radius – Direct Mail
There is a belief that direct mail is dead however we think it couldn’t be more alive. In a digital world, direct mail is a breath of fresh air. It is highly personalized, highly targeted and easily measurable.

LinkedIn – The Blockbuster Approach to Content Marketing
Content marketers have two key hurdles: Producing quality content and producing enough of it. The Blockbuster approach helps content marketers get over both hurdles. It’s possible to produce quality content with frequency. With the Blockbuster approach, marketers borrow the Hollywood model of building sequels from powerful brands such as Star Wars or Toy Story. B2B marketers can mimic this approach by creating Blockbuster or Big Rock content on a regular basis. Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report is an annual hit for Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. Similarly, LinkedIn has seen success with our regular Sophisticated Marketer’s guides. The fact that marketers can “turkey slice” this quality content into blog posts, Tweets, LinkedIn articles goes a long way to solving the content quantity/frequency issue.

SalesLoft  – Video becomes an integral part of the rise of multichannel prospecting.
Email is a quick, easy way to “touch” prospects without the threat of rejection. But 130 billion B2B emails are sent daily– which renders the channel less effective, with nearly 80 percent of sales emails not even opened, let alone read. A multi-channel touch is important! In our experience, incorporating personalized video can drive open and click rates three to four times the average message.

ON24  – Making human connections at scale
One trend we’re tracking, and that plays close to home for us, is forging a human connection at a digital scale. We’re of the philosophy that marketers can no longer simply push content out into the world and expect their audiences to digest on their own. Instead, marketers have to engage with and build a relationship with their readers, listeners or viewers with great material.

Fortunately, the digital tools available to us today make this relatively easy. Anyone, for example, can launch a podcast, which a great educational, influential and attention-grabbing medium. Webinars, which are my bread-and-butter, are another worthwhile format, especially when you can push additional content, measure engagement and hone in on your most interested audience members.

EXPERIENCE

LeanData – Aligning brand to customer experience
Marketing and sales teams need to focus on getting back to the basics of branding and storytelling to engage with their customers. Customers want to work with brands they believe in; brands need innovative technologies that deliver customized content to customers. At LeanData, we’re committed to pushing the humanity of our brand and technology forward with content that’s relevant, relatable, and actionable.

ON24  – Interactivity
As marketers, we want to know if our audience is engaged and interested in our product. One of the best ways to measure that interest is through interactivity. So, we’re constantly looking for solutions that help create two-ways experiences. Video is a great example. Traditionally, it’s a one-way street where the broadcaster speaks to an audience. New technologies, however, are bringing more interactivity to the medium, letting broadcasters push polls, examine chat streams and a whole lot more. Any opportunity to bring the audience in and engage with them on a one-to-one level is, to us, something worth looking at.

LeanData – Improving relationships with customers, partners and employees
In 2017 and now 2018, platforms such as Gartner peer reviews, TrustRadius and G2 Crowd have enabled brands to connect deeply and build lifelong relationships with their customers and prospects through peer reviews and ratings. Account-based marketing, specifically with account targeting, have helped sales and marketing teams drive revenue, but also create better connections with customer prospects.

ProsperWorks  – Design takes center stage in the 2018 enterprise world
Despite the plethora of innovative new solutions that have hit the market in the past year, one problem remains inherent in the majority of enterprise software: design. Clunky, hard-to-use tools are increasingly becoming a pain point, and in 2018, companies that fail to prioritize design will begin losing business to a younger cohort of startups that provide enterprise software with a consumer-like experience.

Mintigo – More precise and genuine customer journey with data
The beauty in predictive marketing is it enables companies to really understand their target customers and directs them towards those who have the highest likelihood to buy. It saves companies time and effort and gives them the opportunity to be more productive by focusing on high-quality leads and accounts. With this powerful technology, the next step is for companies to dig deeper, into a more individualized level, to explore avenues that truly synchronize with the customer journey, and to offer genuine value that resonates and sticks with the customers. In other words, predictive marketing is only going to intensify real connections between brands and customers.

Radius – Omnichannel
Because of their experiences in the B2C world, B2B Buyer expectations are transforming the way B2B sellers deliver products and services. Buyers expect product information and messaging to be consistent across every channel. When done right, omnichannel can be a powerful competitive advantage

Mintigo – Best-of-breed/vendor partnerships
Customer journeys are complex. Aside from individual customers having various levels of intent, expectation, and brand trust, they also use different platforms and approaches when interacting with a brand. While predictive marketing helps companies improve their engagement with customers, vendor partnerships are necessary to reach its full potential and to strategically navigate this multifaceted market landscape. Vendor partnerships mean creating mutually beneficial collaborations that empower all parties involved. It’s about orchestrating best-of-breed marketing stack that enables everyone to tap external resources, easily scale up and down based on changing needs, and gain new skills and access to long-term expertise at a lower cost.

Webinar Best Practices Series: 5 Trends to Look Forward to in 2018

Looking for 2018’s webinar predictions? You can catch the on-demand version of the event right here. Happy webinerding. 

Hi there, folks! I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season and are getting back into the swing of things at work (I know it’s taking me some time).

Since it’s the beginning of the new year, and since we just produced a webinar on the subject, I figured it’s a worthwhile endeavor to take a quick look at what I think 2018 will have in store for webinars (hint: a lot of great developments).

But, just before we begin, a few house-keeping items. First, if you want to get the full webinar experience, head on over to our on-demand section to watch the very event this post is based on.

Second — and a bit more fun — I wanted to let you know our annual conference, Webinar World, is right around the corner! We’re hosting our second conference from March 5-7 at the Westin Saint Francis in downtown San Francisco. It’ll be here sooner than you realize, so head on over to our landing page to learn about who’ll be speaking (including yours truly) and to book your tickets. Can’t wait to see you there!

So, without further ado, here’s what’s in store for webinars in 2018:

Webinar success will be judged on lead quality

The original lead process for webinars was simple: collect as many names as possible and reach out for more. Effective, but this method is burdensome on SDRs. In 2018, marketers are going to use the engagement metrics they have to identifying better leads for sales and — hopefully — conversions. When executed with evaluation models, personas and easily accessible conversion forms, marketers can easily identify the low-hanging fruits for targeting.

Emerging marketing technologies will enhance webinar success

There are a lot of MarTech solutions out there and few ways to get them to talk to one another. In fact, a lot of marketers think of MarTech as independent spheres; They’re kinda related, but don’t always work with each other in mind. Webinars change that equation. Webinars can unite a great deal of MarTech capabilities around the webinar. For example, marketers can use predictive analytics to drive additional attendees or inform you of which nurture stream an attendee should be guided towards while they’re actively participating in a webinar. Expect to see a boost in trying different technologies and methods to the content around webinars.

Webinars will go Netflix

One of the best things about Netflix is binging. One of the best things about webinars is enabling on-demand. There’s no reason why marketers can’t build their own binge-worthy webinar libraries. This customer-centric approach helps marketers share content with their audience on their audience’s terms. Better yet, just like Netflix, webinars and related content can easily be sorted by topic and skill level, letting viewers sit back, relax and enjoy the webinars they want to consume in one sitting without the need to constantly search for relevant broadcasts. Think “webinars and binge” in 2018.

Demo webinars will replace static demos

The experience we deliver at the bottom of the funnel needs to change. Canned, static demos where viewers sit passively will no longer be enough to get people over the finish line. Instead, static demos will be phased out in favor of dynamic webinars where broadcasters can show their product off. In fact, they can demonstrate how customers use it, respond to questions in real-time and show how their product responds to customer cases on the fly. It’s time for demos that show, don’t tell.

Webinars will drive ABM success

Everyone does ABM, but not everyone does it well. Often, ABM goes off the rails towards the end of the process, where campaigns need to deliver actual engagement. Landing pages don’t deliver like they used to, but webinars — oh boy. I think 2018 will be the year of account-specific webinars, where easy-to-scale and easy-to-adapt presentations are used in a highly-interactive and highly-targeted method for driving prospects to specific locations. It’s a great way to bring together the prospects and the content they’re interested in one place.

Now, of course, these are only predictions. We’re going to have to wait a whole year to see what’s right and what’s a little off-base. If you have any predictions, sound-out in the comments below or tweet at us at @ON24 on Twitter.

Don’t forget to tune into our next webinar, An SMB Marketer’s Confession: Why I Blew My Budget On Webinars (And How I’m Still Employed).

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

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.

Your Webinars Are Really Not That Interactive

What makes webinars one of the most valuable marketing tools we have today is the ability to directly engage an audience in ways that most marketing tools simply can’t. But most webinars today still fall into the “we present and you listen” model. At this point, you are probably saying to yourself, “Not us! We do Q&A at the end of every webinar.” Well, that’s great, but it’s not enough.

According to the 2017 ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report, 82% of webinars have Q&A during the webinar, most of the time at the very end of the presentation. The problem is that if you save Q&A for the end of your presentations, your audience is in passive listen-only mode for a majority of the webinar. But this is easy to change.

There are many interactive tools available, including Q&A, to make your webinars more engaging. And how you use these tools is just as important as using them in the first place. Here are some ideas to quickly add energy and engagement to your webinars:

Polling

Polling is one of my favorite engagement tools. I love to add at least 2–3 polls to every webinar. They keep the audience active and involved, and they get to have a voice in the conversation. Polls are great because the force the listener to take an action, which keeps them mentally dialed-in to the presentation. I usually start every webinar with a poll, just to get the interact

Group chat

Group chat can be a fun way of keeping your audience connected to the content and the webinar. Your audience has an opinion and would love the chance to comment on what is happening in the webinar. The key is to make sure that you have someone (not the presenter) managing the discussion to keep the discussion positive and on track.

Social Media

Getting your audience engaged socially is another great way to connect and interact with your audience. Twitter can be a really effective way of extending the conversation beyond the webinar. With a pre-set hashtag, your audience can comment on your content and highlight what they think are the most important parts. After the webinar is over, you can favorite and retweet those comments to continue the conversation.

Gamification

Why not have some fun with your audience? Use polls or the Q&A feature to quiz your audience or do raffles or give-aways. It’s another way to let the audience get involved and feel more connected to the webinar. Also, when they know there is going to be a give-away, they will pay more attention.

More Q&A!

But even if you are just doing Q&A, why not consider taking questions throughout the webinar instead of just at the end? If your presentation is broken into a few different topic areas, pause after each section to take a few questions. It’s a great way to keep your audience engaged.

The modern webinar is much more of a conversation than a presentation. Don’t talk at your audience, talk with them. Increased interactivity and engagement will lead to longer attendance times, more content retention, and ultimately, better leads. So don’t make your audience wait for their chance to speak, get interactive right from the start.

How Does Your Webinar Stack Up?

OK, I admit it. Here at ON24, we may be just the tiniest bit obsessed with webinars. We think about webinars. We write about webinars. We dream about webinars. And, of course, we deliver webinars. Then, once a year, we step back to do something completely different: we measure all of the thousands upon thousands of webinars.

Our annual Webinar Benchmarks Report lets us take a detailed look at the wide world of webcasting to identify key trends and actionable best practices. The insights we get are so interesting that we can hardly wait to share them with you in a special edition ON24 Best Practices Webinar. This year, webinar marketing maestro Mark Bornstein dove into the benchmarks data and brought us four data-driven webinar tips that you can start using today:

Don’t Shortchange Your Promotion Cycle

Over and over again, we hear that the single biggest webinar challenge for marketers is driving registration. So why are so many people only sending out one or two emails to promote their events? Our benchmark data shows that a full 23% of webinar registrations come in more than two weeks before the event. WOW.

If you’re only promoting your webinar for a week or two and only sending out a couple of emails, you are missing out on an enormous potential audience. Instead, plan on a promotional cycle that lasts around three weeks, and send at least three emails (at ON24, we usually send a mix of formatted HTML and plain text emails to appeal to a wider audience). And don’t forget the day of the webinar itself! More than a quarter of all webinar registrations come it at the last minute!

Don’t Fear the One-Hour Webinar

Think all your content needs to be snackable? Think again! Since we started tracking webinar benchmarks, we’ve seen the average viewing time go up every year, reaching an all-time high of 57 minutes in 2016, up from 38 minutes in 2010. As much as people love infographics and listicles, there’s also a huge appetite out there for long-form, in-depth content — and the 2016 data shows that nothing satisfies an appetite like an engaging and interactive hour-long webinar.

Get Interactive

When it comes to webinar interactivity, Q&A still leads the pack. In our study, we discovered that 81% of webinars include a Q&A portion. But there are so many more options available! Social tools are on the rise this year, with nearly 1 in 3 webinars integrating social media. And polling and surveys are still strong performers, each making an appearance in nearly a quarter of all webinars.

If you aren’t using these tools in your events, you could be missing out on a chance to engage with your audience in a fun and meaningful way. And if your event attendance is falling short of the average 57-minute mark, adding moments of interactivity may draw people in and keep them around for longer.

Have an On-Demand Strategy

Believe it or not, 1 in 3 people who watch a webinar miss the live date entirely, as they would rather watch it on-demand. Let’s face it: we’re all getting used to an on-demand world of binge-watching and streaming services that put the viewer in control of the media experience. So, why would webinars be any different? As marketers that means that we need to think beyond the launch date alone. When planning your webinar promotion strategy, you need to have a plan for promoting the on-demand version of the webinar as well so that you don’t miss out on a much larger potential audience. 

There are a lot of ways to promote on-demand webinars, from banner ads to emails. Personally, I’d recommend a nice blog post — after all, you’re reading this one!

For more great tips and a ton of webinar data, catch up on our latest edition of the ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report.

How to Use Relevancy to Accelerate the Sales Funnel

Every day we go through it. We all receive the dreaded, unsolicited email. Most are automated, a copy and paste of previous messaging that often has little, if anything, to do with your company or personal needs. It’s volume versus relevancy. The salesperson figures if he/she sends the same terrible email to everyone, at least 3% of the market will want a demo. Right? Wrong.

In 2015 the average person received 122 emails a day and this figure is expected to grow. In a perfect world, these emails would be relevant—they would be timely, personalized, provide value, and even better, make us more productive. Instead, our inboxes are like battlefields and we’re all just trying to survive the constant barrage. As a marketer, if you want to move prospects through the buying cycle, you have to provide custom-tailored value. Here’s how:

Understand Context to Build Trust

Resist the temptation to batch and blast a random message. Who is the person on the other side of that email? What do they care about?

Before someone will respond to you, they need to trust you. To build trust, show them you know them. Spend time reviewing their LinkedIn profile and their Twitter feed, Google them to find any recent news, then reach out with a common interest. Based on what you have learned and their interaction with your content, categorize them into a buying stage. Are they in the early research stage, figuring out their options, or evaluating vendors? Offering a demo is the salesperson’s goal, likely not the buyer’s.

Use Timing to Communicate Effectively

What’s the most important thing in comedy? Timing. Without it, the message fails to come across the way it was intended, and instead of delighting an audience, the punchline falls flat. The same goes for communicating effectively with a prospect. Timely follow-up on an inquiry within five minutes of a request will result in a 100 times better chance of reaching them — and a 21 times greater chance of qualification. But you can’t be relevant if you don’t first contextualize your message.

Relevancy in outbound communication involves the study of implicit and explicit behaviors. An implicit behavior might mean a prospect is reading a case study on your website because they connected with the same challenges. When you reach out, bring up solutions from the case study. Explicit behavior is more straightforward—when a prospect fills out a contact form or downloads an asset. Continue the conversation by addressing the stage they are in, a clue that can be found in the explicit behavior they initially took.

Always Deliver Value

Zig Ziglar once said: “Help enough people get what they want and you will get what you want.” Your success ultimately rides on the value that you can deliver for others. At every stage of the sales funnel, prospects are evaluating you based on the value you could bring to them, so make sure your content addresses this. Buyers take action for two reasons: 1) to achieve an aspiration or 2) to alleviate some pain or problem.

A relevant offer doesn’t feel pushy, because it’s not. If it’s useful, the prospect will welcome it. A good offer strategy involves knowing what stage of the buying cycle they are in, and the common questions they are trying to ask at each stage.

  • Awareness – What problem do I have?
  • Consideration – How can I solve the problem?
  • Transaction – How do I make the best decision?

For example, if someone is in the Consideration stage, give them the in-depth education they’re searching for with a case study or best practice guide. They’re past the need for a basic how-to blog post, but they’re not quite ready for a free trial. It’s imperative to deliver content that meets a prospect’s needs, at the appropriate time. Offering the wrong piece of content, or not having an offer strategy at all, can harm your marketing efforts. Give them what they want… not what you think they want.

Commit to Relevancy

Relevancy takes commitment. If we continually work on building trust, communicating effectively, and delivering value, then we are honoring this commitment that will ultimately help us be better marketers and close more deals. What actions are you taking to make your sales efforts relevant today? Share in the comments.

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This is a guest post from our friends at Response Capture.