How Marketers Can Close the Performance Gap

The abrupt changes caused by COVID-19 have shocked our work and personal lives, upended the economy and forced all of us to rethink how we do business.

This article originally appeared on Demand Gen Report. Shared with the author’s permission.

But even in today’s brave new digital world — one where in-person events, trade shows and conferences have evaporated in the blink of an eye — other business aspects have remained the same. While COVID-19 has created a scramble for how companies should best engage with customers in this new environment, the biggest obstacle facing marketers actually existed before the pandemic.

That problem is simple. ON24 research found that marketers agree that customer experience, engagement and interactive marketing are the most important strategies and tactics in 2020. Yet, these are the very same categories they say they are performing poorly in. This is what we call a “Performance Gap.”

It’s common that business stakeholders cannot agree on what the most important metrics are. But it’s a different dynamic when businesses agree on the most important metrics and still cannot improve their performance in these areas.

In this article, I’ll highlight why this performance gap exists and how businesses and marketers can bridge this divide and drive real revenue growth.

How COVID-19 Is Impacting The Performance Gap In Marketing

Let’s take a step back. While this Performance Gap has been around for years, COVID-19 has created fundamental changes in how we market. In a digital-first world, sales teams can no longer “press the flesh” and use their own charisma and networks to get their foot in the door with a prospective customer. Marketers now own every stage in the entire buying cycle, from awareness through purchase. In the past, sales teams have been responsible for escorting customers through each stage, ultimately owning the “real selling;” nowadays marketing is the driving force behind guiding the buyer’s journey, right through to the decision-making process.

This shift brings about another change: The marketing metrics we have used in the past must also adapt as marketers expand their role in driving revenue. Previously, most marketing data was focused on qualifying prospects and generating MQLs. But just focusing on pipeline does marketers a disservice if they’re owning virtually the entire sales funnel. Marketers need to rethink how they can best measure their efforts now that they’re taking a holistic approach. Performance gaps can be created if you own the sales cycle, while still relying on outdated metrics that only measure top-of-funnel efforts.

The good news is that the best marketers were already making this change. In fact, before the pandemic, 89% of top-performing marketers reported that their team creates dedicated materials that support the entire customer journey — not just acquisition. Top marketers were also going much beyond metrics such as website traffic, email click-thru rates and social media engagement — they were looking at more actionable benchmarks of performance, namely the engagement metrics that are tied to revenue.

Turning Engagement Into Action

The best modern marketers are focused on creating immersive digital experiences that actively engage their audiences. These experiences are highly interactive and surround attendees in content offers and calls-to-action. And through this engagement, marketers access the insights needed to guide people through their unique journeys.

For example, if a prospect downloads a piece of content, marketers should be measuring that. If they ask a question during a live experience, that should be measured. This engagement in turn provides unprecedented insights for marketers.

But we need to take it a step further and turn this engagement into action. The days of handing sales teams a name — even a well-qualified name — are over. The successful marketers of tomorrow are those that put the insights and engagement data into the hands of salespeople, in real-time, to enable them to continue conversations, not start them. Marketing can even set up triggers in a digital experience that will alert the sales team to an opportunity as it happens.

Marketing can fill a key void for sales operations. That’s because marketing plays a more primary role in collecting the digital body language of prospects and surfacing these insights to sales. This provides sales with a level of intelligence they need to be successful in this digital world.

Build A Customer Experience That Mirrors Your Funnel

This engagement shouldn’t stop after a purchase, though. It needs to play a role not just in the buyer’s journey, but in customer experience as well.

Post-purchase, your customer experience team should create engaging digital experiences to uncover insights and turn those insights into effective touchpoints. Furthermore, take steps to align your marketing, sales and customer experience teams so they’re informed about customers’ interactions and preferences. That way, you’ll be able to reduce churn and simultaneously look for cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

In Conclusion

All these steps can close the Performance Gap that hampers businesses today. It’s time for marketers to go beyond generating and qualifying leads and start focusing on building engaging audience experiences across the entire buyer’s journey. In this digital-first world, the true metric for success is not the pipeline you create but the revenue you help deliver.

How Top Marketers Drive Better Experiences and Engagement

Today’s B2B marketers face more challenges than ever before and finding ways to effectively navigate those challenges is key to any success. Those able to break through the noise and provide quality interactions with customers have found a way to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.

So, how’d they do it?

We wanted to understand more about how top-performing marketers became “top performers,” so we joined forces with Heinz Marketing and Market2Marketers to research the behaviors and strategies of leading marketers that result in better customer experiences everywhere.

Together, we created the Experiences Everywhere Report, which surveyed over 130 B2B marketers from a variety of organizations in differing industries. Top-performing marketers were classified based on how they rated the success of their marketing program on a seven-point scale. Marketers who scored themselves high were deemed “top-performing” while the rest were referred to as “mainstream” marketers. (More details on the research method can be found here.)

Experiences and Engagement

One of the pivotal areas top-performing marketers excel in is customer experiences and driving engagement. When asked to rate their company’s performance in several areas, top-performing marketers are more likely to rate their company very positively.

Fifty-eight percent of top performers said their company’s customer experience was excellent compared to 27% of mainstream marketers. Similarly, 45% of top performers said their efforts in driving engagement were excellent whereas only 21% of mainstream marketers said the same. Other areas of interest include personalization (47% vs. 16%), account-based content (55% vs. 19%) and interactivity of content (43% vs. 17%).

Top-performing marketers also recognize that potential customers can be anywhere both in a physical location and online. Buyers typically research several sites and sources to gather information to make their buying decision, so it’s important to make sure marketing efforts are reaching them where they are. Top performers are almost twice as likely (74%) as mainstream marketers (40%) to agree that their marketing is everywhere their customers are.

Many B2B marketers focus their efforts on attracting new customers and then turning those leads over to their colleagues in sales. Eighty-nine percent of top-performing marketers and 73% of mainstream marketers go beyond this and routinely create specific marketing materials that support the entire customer journey, not just the acquisition phase.

Creating the right content for the right stage of the customer’s journey and marketing it in the right places is only part of the challenge. Marketers also need to make sure they stand out from their competitors and to do this, the content needs to be timely, relevant and as personalized as possible. When asked to rate their confidence level on whether their content is relevant, timely, and personalized to their target audience, 68% of top performers and 22% of mainstream performers stated they are very confident.

The Content and Channel Top Performers Use

Top-performing marketers are also more likely to use more content on more channels. The report investigated nine types of content and top performers outranked mainstream performers in seven of the nine categories: videos (78% vs. 75%), case studies (58% vs. 54%), interactive tools like quizzes and surveys (65% vs. 41%), webinars (53% vs. 51%), interactive webpages (54% vs. 48%), content hubs (46% vs. 29%) and virtual events (41% vs. 27%).

When asked to think about their marketing plan for the next year, top-performing marketers are likely to hold the status quo over mainstream marketers. Of 14 possible marketing channels, on average top performers plan to incorporate 8.5 channels into their upcoming strategy while the mainstream plans to use 7.3 channels.

For the participants who use webinars, top performers more often include tools to increase interactivity and improve the audience experience. The top two areas were video (70% vs. 48%) and personalized content (50% vs. 26%).  With 38% of webinar registrants watching on-demand only content, half of top performers (50%) are capitalizing on this trend and offering simulive webinars compared to only a third of mainstream marketers (33%).

Lastly, top performers set themselves apart from the mainstream in the areas of experience and engagement by recognizing that there are multiple facets to the customer experience. When asked about the most important factor in creating customer experiences, 25% of all respondents selected “increase customer engagement” with mainstream marketers (27%) more likely to select this than top performers (23%). This shows that top performers are more likely to consider additional elements such as customer loyalty (23% vs. 16%) and likelihood to convert (20% vs. 16%), which allows them to move beyond the obvious and focus on underrated areas that may be more important to the customer.

Why Experience Feeds into Engagement

The better the experience a prospect has, the more likely they are to engage with you and your brand.  To ensure your clients and prospects have quality experiences, make sure your platform is easy to navigate and contains information that is useful to them.

Engagement Hub Experience 

One of the primary ways organizations can help customers and prospects engage is through quality Engagement Hub experiences. Engagement Hubs that are user-friendly, easily searchable and filled with relevant content attract customers and prospects to engage with your brand more regularly.

To help users find the content they want, build engagement hubs that are curated to customer’s interests and industries. Clients can click on industries or topics that interest them and find relevant content that is connected to their topic of choice. This prevents them from having to sift through content that isn’t of interest to them.

Target Page Experiences 

If you need to include more detailed information on your Engagement Hub, consider building specialized Target pages. Target pages open from the Engagement Hub and include additional information or links that aren’t the right fit for the look, feel or format of the main Engagement Hub pages.

Target pages can include anything you want but are typically focused around additional information about speakers and their other on-demand content for an event Engagement Hub, or articles, case studies and other topic-relevant information related to a video on a content library-style Engagement Hub. You can see an example of an Engagement Hub with Target pages in our MINDSHIFT event.

How to Drive Engagement

Webinars

Webinars are a great tool for engaging with current and potential customers, not just because they can hold an attendee’s attention for 30-60 minutes, but also because they offer audiences the opportunity to talk and interact with the hosts. Webinar widgets like polls, surveys and Q&A give customers the opportunity to do more than just listen during the presentation and they give marketers the opportunity to gauge interest and generate more data on participants’ content consumption habits.

Every ON24 webinar generates more than 40 data points per participant. These data points, combined with others over the course of a client or prospect relationship, give marketers a much clearer picture of who is on the other side of the screen.

All of this allows marketers to better understand their clients and how to best engage with them as they navigate the buyer’s journey. The more marketers know about their clients, the more personalized, relevant and timely the content can be allowing them to break through the noise of unwanted content and competitors.

Engagement Tools

The ON24 Webinar Platform has several built-in engagement tools to help you connect and interact with webinar participants. When setting up your webinar console, you can offer widgets like social media and Q&A tools for your participants to explore on their own. You can also send out quizzes, surveys, and polls to participants at designated points throughout your webinar.

Not only do these tools help keep participants interested and establish two-way interaction during the webinar, but they also capture every action a participant takes on your webinar console.  This provides you with better data because you have a better picture of wh

at your prospect is interested in and an engagement score that tells you how this participant compares to others in your system.

Audience Interactivity

One way to drive engagement is through audience interactivity with your brand, whether it be through social media posts or webinars. As already discussed, webinars have built-in tools that allow your participants to engage with you during your presentation, but the interactions shouldn’t start and end with the webinar.

When planning a webinar, don’t forget to plan how you’re going to interact with potential participants before and after the presentation. These opportunities are often overlooked because webinar hosts are focused on creating the main event, but failing to plan the promotional and follow-up phases are wasted opportunities to connect with current and potential customers.

Very few people enjoy “hard” or “forced” sales pitches that leave both sides of the conversation cringing at the approach method. To avoid these types of interactions, take advantage of opportunities to start conversations with prospects and customers in a way that feels comfortable to them like informing them of upcoming events or following up by gauging their opinion of a past event.

Two Powerful Webinar Tools Oregon’s Education Board Uses for Open Enrollment

More than 65,000 members and their dependents rely on the Oregon Educators Benefit Board during open enrollment season to relay information and answer questions regarding their health insurance plans. It’s a daunting task, but one Jackie Cowsill, OEBB’s Communications Coordinator and OEBB staff are proud to take on.

Daunting but Doable?

Getting the right information to members can be tricky. With multiple carriers covering an array of options, and reps overloaded with presentations to give and calls to return, the small (but mighty) team needed a platform that would help them reach their wide membership base across the state while saving time and reducing travel expenses. Using ON24 Webcast Elite, the team lightened its workload and got members on the right track.

Here’s how they did it:

Tool One: Pre-Recorded Videos

Jackie Cowsill asked OEBB staff and carriers to pre-record their presentations for audiences to view during the live webinar, or “on demand.” By dividing and conquering with bite-sized videos, team members and insurance carriers could revise and refine messages in advance and deliver a substantial amount of information, clearly and concisely. With pre-recorded messages in place, the team ensured all plan options were thoroughly covered and each attendee got a chance to ask questions. Presenters appreciated that they no longer needed to worry about running out of time, forgetting to mention a critical point, or accidentally misspeaking, like they used to with live presentations.

Tool Two: Live Q/A

For the OEBB members, choosing an insurance plan can be confusing and stressful. Implementing a live Q&A at the end of each pre-recorded video empowered the OEBB team and insurance carriers to answer everyone’s questions in real-time, reducing the enormous volume of phone inquiries the team had grown accustomed to. OEBB members appreciated that they could type their questions privately into the Q&A and receive a quick direct response from an expert without needing to wait their turn or risk embarrassment in front of a large group.

Using ON24 Webcast Elite, OEBB was able to provide a more satisfying enrollment experience for its members while reducing their workload and cutting costs. By replacing in-person presentations with webinars, The board was able to streamline communications, answer member questions with more privacy and speed and deliver clear and complete information to members in one seamless experience.

How Marketing Can Deliver on the Performance Metrics That Matter

The abrupt changes caused by Covid-19 have shocked both our work lives and our personal lives, upended the economy, and forced all of us to rethink how we do business.

But even in today’s brave new digital world—where in-person events, tradeshows, and conferences have evaporated in the blink of an eye—other facets of business have not changed. Though the pandemic has created a scramble for ways to best engage with customers in the current environment, the biggest obstacle facing marketers existed before the pandemic wreaked havoc.

This article was originally published on marketingprofs.com. Shared with the author’s permission.

That problem is straightforward: customer experience, engagement, and interactive marketing are the most important strategies and tactics in 2020, marketers agree—and yet those are the very same categories they say they are performing poorly in, our research at ON24 found.

That is what we call the “performance gap.”

It’s common that business stakeholders cannot agree on what the most important metrics are. But it’s a different dynamic when businesses agree on the most important metrics—yet still cannot improve their performance in these areas.

In this article I’ll highlight why that performance gap exists and how businesses and marketers can bridge the divide and drive real revenue growth.

Covid-19’s Impact on the Performance Gap in Marketing

Let’s take a step back. Although this marketing performance gap has been around for years, Covid-19 has created fundamental changes in how we market.

In a digital-first world, sales teams can no longer “press the flesh” and use their own charisma and networks to get their foot in the door with a prospective customer. In the past, sales teams have also been responsible for escorting customers through each stage of the buying cycle, ultimately owning the “real selling.”

Nowadays, though, Marketing is the driving force behind guiding the buyer’s journey, right through to the decision-making process. Marketers now own the entire cycle, including every stage from awareness through purchase.

That shift brings about another change: The marketing metrics we have used in the past must also adapt as marketers expand their role in driving revenue.

Previously, most marketing data was focused on qualifying prospects and generating Marketing-qualified leads (MQL)s. But just focusing on pipeline does marketers a disservice if they’re owning virtually the entire sales funnel. Marketers need to rethink how they can best measure their efforts now that they’re taking a holistic approach.

Because performance gaps can materialize if you own the sales cycle while still relying on outdated metrics that measure only top-of-funnel efforts.

The good news is that the best marketers were already making the necessary change.

In fact, before the pandemic, 89% of top-performing marketers reported that their team creates dedicated materials that support the entire customer journey—not just acquisition. Top marketers were also going much beyond metrics such as website traffic, email clickthrough rates, and social media engagement; they were looking at more actionable benchmarks of performance, namely the engagement metrics that are tied to revenue.

Turning Engagement Into Action

The best modern marketers are focused on creating immersive digital experiences that actively engage their audiences—highly interactive experiences that surround attendees in content offers and calls to action. And through such engagement, marketers access the insights needed to guide people through their unique buying journeys.

For example, if prospects download a piece of content, marketers should be measuring that. If they ask a question on a live experience, that should be measured. That sort of engagement in turn provides unprecedented insights for marketers.

But we need to take it a step further—and turn that engagement into action. The days of handing sales teams a name, even a well-qualified name, are over. The successful marketers of tomorrow will be those who put the insights and engagement data into the hands of salespeople, in real-time, to enable them to continue conversations, not start them. Marketing can even set up triggers in a digital experience that will alert the sales team to an opportunity as it happens.

In a post-COVID world, Marketing can fill a key void for Sales operations. That’s because Marketing plays a more primary role in collecting the digital body language of prospects and surfacing those insights to sales. That provides Sales with a level of intelligence it needs to be successful in this digital world.

Building a Customer Experience That Mirrors Your Funnel

That engagement shouldn’t stop after a purchase, though. It needs to play a role not just in the buyer’s journey but also in customer experience.

Post-purchase, your customer experience team should create engaging digital experiences to uncover insights and turn those insights into effective touchpoints; furthermore, you should take steps to align your marketing, sales, and customer experience teams so they’re informed about customers’ interactions and preferences.

That way you’ll be able to reduce churn and simultaneously look for cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

* * *

All those various steps can close the performance gap that hampers businesses today. It’s time for marketers to go beyond generating and qualifying leads and start focusing on building engaging audience experiences across the entire buyer’s journey.

In this digital-first world, the true metric for success is not the pipeline you create but the revenue you help deliver.

Introducing New ON24 Conversion Tools To Track Buying Signals

ON24 is excited to introduce ON24 Conversion Tools, a new set of interactivity tools designed to help better convert your audiences to buyers. These new Conversion Tools enable audiences to self-identify and signal their buying interest; then, equipped with this data, marketers can identify quality leads, trigger sales follow-up and effectively measure audience conversion and prove program ROI.

The Book Meeting and Request Demo Conversion Tools

The first two Conversion Tools launched in ON24 Webcast Elite are Book Meeting and Request Demo. Leveraging these Conversion Tools, users can lead audiences to continue their journey and convert through their buying cycle. Whether linking to a calendar tool or a contact us form to book a sales rep meeting, leading prospects to a demo registration page, or linking to an email alias to create a 1:1 connection point to schedule personalized meetings or demos,  the Conversion Tools are easily configurable to your program setup.

When an audience member clicks on one of these Conversion Tools, the action and their desired needs are captured in the new “Buying Signals” section of ON24 Intelligence reporting, where you will be able to view the total number of conversions from Conversion Tools across all of your webinars, or filtered by time period.

Buying signals can also be delivered to your CRM, marketing automation platform and other business systems so you can efficiently act on these signals — ensuring quality leads are prioritized for follow-up actions. Via ON24 Connect and other native integrations, buying signals are tracked allowing your connected systems to quickly obtain data on specific users who have demonstrated a deeper interest in an offering or service.

If you’re already an ON24 customer, please check out our release notes to learn more on how to leverage ON24 Conversion Tools. We are committed to empowering you to track and measure conversions across the entire ON24 Platform — look out for more powerful conversion and audience engagement tools coming soon!

How Top-Performing Marketers Use Data and Measurements

Modern marketers rely on data to drive results and make decisions. With the ever-changing landscape of marketing and the constant struggle to break through the competitor’s noise to reach consumers, a data-driven approach is more important than ever.

As we continue to explore the details of our Experiences Everywhere Report, we want to delve deeper into how top-performing marketers use data and measurements differently than mainstream marketers.

How Top-Performing Marketers Approach Data

Webinerd in a green jacket adjusts data to reduce churn for her company.

In addition to great customer experiences and driving engagement, top-performing marketers also use data and measurements differently than mainstream marketers.

To-performing marketers are more data-driven and are more likely to report on engagement metrics than mainstream marketers. When asked about the most important metric to report on for their go-to-market program, top performers more strongly value both individual (45% vs. 29%) and account level (41% vs. 30%) engagement metrics. These engagement metrics are in addition to bottom-line numbers like customer acquisition cost (57% vs. 35%), marketing-influenced revenue (49% vs. 38%) and cost per lead (47% vs. 38%).

With the average B2B sales cycle being six months and up, many marketers fail to consider long-term metrics. Trying to show results from short-term metrics doesn’t accurately show the whole picture of a marketing plan. Top-performing marketers realize this more often than mainstream marketers. In fact, 88% of top performers say they focus on long-term metrics just as much as short-term metrics. In comparison, only 73% of mainstream marketers agreed with this.

Transform your marketing into experiences audiences demand. Learn how with Experiences Everywhere.

Another area where top-performing marketers set themselves apart from the mainstream is through measuring and reporting their program’s performance. It’s no shock to anyone that marketing professionals want results quickly and easily since there never seems to be enough time to do their jobs. Thirty-four percent of top performers say their process of gathering and reporting results is “very easy” whereas only 8% of mainstream marketers can say the same.

Similarly, top performers are much more confident in the accuracy of their data and measurements than mainstream marketers. When asked about their confidence level in measuring their marketing program compared to their goals, 64% of top performers responded with “very confident.” Only 16% of mainstream marketers responded in the same way.

How Data and Measurement Impacts Marketing Results

So, you may be wondering, why does all of this matter? It matters because you need to understand how your marketing resources are being allotted and whether they’re working the way you want them to.

Often, the marketing budget is one of the first areas downsized in times of business financial crisis. This results in disgruntled marketers who feel their department isn’t valued because they’re always the first thing cut.

But imagine if you could show the higher-ups exactly how your marketing efforts are impacting the business’ bottom line. Maybe they wouldn’t come to you first next time. (Side note: check out Cheri Keith’s conversation with Jay Gaines in the 31st episode of CMO Confessions for his take on this practice.)

Tracking results is also important because you need to know which campaigns and tactics are working and how well they’re working. By having hard numbers and results that trace directly back to your marketing programs, you can see which efforts are having the impact you want, and which ones are missing the mark. Instead of continuing to spend time, energy and money on tactics that aren’t working, having data and measurements gives you the opportunity to regroup and try something different that may have a better outcome.

By having evidence-based information on how your marketing efforts are performing, you give credibility to your efforts, budget, department and leadership within your organization. When analyzed and reported correctly, numbers don’t lie so your results prove that your marketing programs are powerful and a worthy investment.

Overall, you need metrics and data to show how your marketing efforts are performing in the greater landscape. This gives you insight on how you can control, and eventually improve, your marketing programs to ensure they have maximum impact on your target audience.

Tips and Tricks for Becoming a Data-Driven Marketer

We all want to be top-performing marketers who can flash shiny reports from an office full of MarTech solutions all over Instagram, but since many marketers and marketing programs haven’t reached that upper echelon, we thought we’d share some data and measurements tips and tricks to help you get there:

Establish good data habits early on. Get in the habit of checking on your program metrics and tracking them regularly. You need to establish data history so you can see how the numbers change as you add or adjust your marketing programs. If you wait until you need the info, it’s too late.

Also, make sure you keep up with this habit even when you’re busy. You’ll thank yourself for this routine when you need last-minute info to save the day. And remember, the more you familiarize yourself with the data, the easier it is to synthesize it and apply it to your cause.

Start with the basics. Successful marketing does not require advanced degrees in statistical analysis so start with basic measurements and analysis and grow as necessary. You’re more likely to maintain something simple and easy (but still robust!) so start small and add new areas only when you’re comfortable with your current data set. If you dive too deep too quickly, you’re going to feel overwhelmed and the process will become daunting.

Measure what matters and nothing else. Each marketing department and business may want data and measurements on different things, so a one-size-fits-all data set isn’t usually the best option. Determine which metrics matter for your marketing programs, department and leadership and stick to measuring those areas.

It’s perfectly acceptable if these metrics change over time or if you switch it up every now and then but try not to measure things that don’t matter. Research, analysis and reporting require significant time and energy so don’t waste it on things that aren’t relevant to the success of your programs and department.

Whether you’re a marketing data and measurements noob or a seasoned pro, it’s important to know whether your marketing efforts are having the effect you want. It may be intimidating to set up an analytics program from scratch, but knowing your marketing is having the impact you want on your audience and having the numbers to prove it is worth the initial struggle.

The Four Ts To Making A Digital-First Marketing Transformation

As we all know, COVID-19 has changed everything. Everything from how we get groceries to how we have happy hours, to how we consume entertainment. Not to mention work has gone totally digital.

This article was originally published on demandgenreport.com. Republished with the author’s permission.

As we get on video conference calls and work from home, the line between our personal and professional lives has blurred. That means we have to disrupt the way we do marketing. If our B2B buyers are remote-first, we must pivot to marketing digital-first.

We can no longer rely on in-person events to make human connections. But, making the change from physical to digital is not as simple as downloading an app to shop for groceries. For true digital-first event transformation to take hold, you need to do more than just upgrade your technology. You need to completely rethink the people and processes that use the technology to make this new digital vision a reality.

If it sounds complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Just follow the four Ts to get started:

    • Time
    • Team
    • Turnout
    • Technology

Time

Time is a major factor in preparing for either physical or digital events. Physical events unfold in a sequential, linear fashion. You start with a plan that includes event design, content creation and live presentations, and then figure out how to manage and nurture leads after the event is over. Once a physical event concludes, there’s little to no opportunity for lead generation once everyone has gone home.

In a digital world, that sequence is different. Marketers often work backwards, identifying the end result they want and outlining what they want to do with the leads they collect. Once that process is complete, you have to simultaneously create the content, create the promotions and start promoting the event. Often, plotting out pre- and post-event lead nurture programs for virtual events requires a series of discussions with sales and demand generation teams to identify the criteria for an ideal lead.

Of the two event approaches, digital takes far more planning and coordination. The best thing you can do for a digital event is to develop a work-back plan: Identify the goals for an event that you can work back to during its production. During this process, you’ll need to coordinate with your sales and demand gen teams to act on the engagement data you’ll gather from both your event and your promotions. Then, develop nurture plans accordingly.

Team

A webinerd and her coworkers discuss optimization

Every event needs a team to get things off the ground and running. But, again, physical and virtual events differ in how teams are organized and how those teams operate before, during and after an event.

Physical event execution is typically siloed. It’s usually headed and owned by a field or event marketer who turns to demand generation and marketing operations specialists for promotion and organization of an event. Consequently, these separate roles typically generate their own key performance indicators and continue to operate in their own silos.

In the digital world, you must have a much more integrated operation. Demand gen and operations teams need to be involved from the start. That’s often because your team will gather actionable data as soon as promotions start. In fact, your team will need to be ready to pass leads on in real-time as they qualify either for sales or nurture. Your whole team and event structure must be ready to continue the journey for your prospects.

Here’s the good news, though: Now that you’re digital, nearly everything can be integrated to inform your approach. Consider how you use your digital channels to promote events. Integrations can consolidate and analyze those channel results to inform and optimize your campaigns. When you create a virtual event, it’s no longer only about the success of the event but also about how this moment in time can help improve the entire buyer’s journey.

Turnout

A webinerd and her community dancing happily in a virtual circle

Every event has turnout, but there are massive differences in scale between in-person turnout and digital turnout. In the physical world, for example, there are concrete limits on the number of people who can attend, no matter whether you’re renting out a hotel ballroom or convention center. Attendee numbers are restricted by the event’s location, cost of attendance, fire department limits and more. In a post-COVID world, marketers can expect to be limited to 25% or 50% capacity in the near term.

Digital’s scale is nearly infinite. Anyone who wants to attend usually can, often at a time of their choosing. That’s because virtual event turnout is measured over weeks and months, not one or two intensive days. But with so many attendees over a period of time, your traditional methods for processing those leads get a lot more complicated. Now that you have so many signals coming from so many people, you need a strategy to understand who in your audience is ready to buy and who is just there for some interesting content.

You’ll need to have a series of serious discussions with your sales, demand gen and marketing operations teams about how to surface buying intent from audience activity. For example, what virtual activities show a buyer is ready for a sales meeting and serious about making a purchase? How can your team hone in on these leads while reducing noise from attendees who are not interested? How can you prioritize follow-up based on the different buying stages your audience is in?

Any approach you take will need to be multi-dimensional with an approach to segment leads by the interest, intent, stage and fit they have for your solution. Decide if and how you want to engage attendees who won’t become viable leads — there will be many of them and they may be a good opportunity to help boost brand presence elsewhere.

Technology

Webinerd funnel

Physical events tend to have a lower demand for technology because success measurement is determined by a predictable outcome: Those who attend and of those attendees, those who buy. The need to nurture and segment is limited because your audience — by merely attending — either signal high intent or are active customers looking to optimize their use of your product.

But digital enables data to be generated in real-time and across each channel. As a consequence, all activities — from social to email to attendance — need to be integrated for analysis and optimization. The right kind of technologies can make lead flow and marketing operations much, much easier.

If you’re looking for event technology that’ll boost your virtual event experience, you need to find a viable solution that’s up to the task. That requires a platform that integrates into your existing marketing technology stack and to provide you with the data and insights you need to inform future campaigns, segment nurtures and optimize sales follow-up.

Just like your technology stack, all of the four Ts must work in synchrony with one another — only then can you really make a winning digital-first event strategy successful.

New at ON24: ON24 Engagement Hub Updates, Functionality

At ON24, we are focused on tools and features that not only make designing and managing digital experiences effortless, but also ensure the audience experience is intuitive and engaging. With the latest ON24 Engagement Hub release, we focused on usability for both you and your audience as well as clean audience interfaces that improve content findability. Here’s a bit of what’s been cooking:

New ON24 Engagement Hub Hero Layout

We’ve introduced a brand new hero layout for your Engagement Hub that captures audience attention and drives increased content consumption. The hero layout offers new content design and organization flexibility and functionality. Leverage an eye-catching home page, newly styled category pages, refreshed landing pages and dedicated search to create the most immersive content experience for your audience.

Robust Search To Improve Content Findability

The new hero layout includes a dedicated search page so that your audience can find the most relevant content for their journey. They can search and filter by unique search terms, categories and custom filter groups. By making finding the right content easy, your audience will engage with more content—allowing you to understand more about their interest and your content’s impact.

Subscriptions Drive Continued Content Consumption

Audience members can easily subscribe to not only your entire Engagement Hub, but also the individual categories within your Hub, so they receive updates on the topics and content they care most about. After subscribing, audiences will receive a weekly digest email alerting them when there is new content added to your Hub.

And there are so many more enhancements! If you’d like to learn more about ON24 Engagement Hub, please contact us. If you’re an ON24 customer, contact your CSM to get started.

It’s Time to Get VIRTUALIZED

To help marketers navigate these unprecedented times, we’re putting on a little summit: VIRTUALIZED. It’s a first-of-its-kind live digital event and certification program designed to ensure professionals like you are educated and skilled-up the latest techniques and strategies that you need to succeed in a digital-first era.

Taking place today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific Time, VIRTUALIZED kicks off with a live keynote webinar featuring leading experts in webinar and experiential marketing. After the keynote, attendees can take a five-part on-demand webinar certification course that will provide participants with the knowledge of how to build digital experiences that engage across the entire customer journey.

Powered by the ON24 Platform, VIRTUALIZED features a line up of world-class marketers to share their insights and best practices in a post-COVID world. Jason Talbot, Managing Director of The Crocodile, will provide a keynote, “The Art of Human Connection.” ON24 VP of Content Marketing Mark Bornstein will host and also deliver a keynote.

Those keynotes will be followed by a decorated panel, whose speakers include: Ash Parikh, SVP of Marketing at Informatica, Steve Arentzoff, VP of Demand Generation, Medallia, Jack Foster, Senior Director of Demand Generation at SurveyMonkey, and Deanna Ransom, Global Head of Marketing & Marketing Services at Televerde.

Attendees can expect to learn:

    • A framework for running ongoing VIRTUALIZED campaigns
    • The set of tactics for omnichannel promotions, from email to chatbots social
    • Innovative production and presentation formats, from virtual talk shows to after-parties
    • How to supercharge live engagement and networking in virtual experiences
    • A playbook for putting engagement data to work

VIRTUALIZED comes after ON24 powered MINDSHIFT in May, a digital event assisting the fight against COVID-19 while connecting and inspiring professionals all around the world.

Want to transform your marketing in a digital-first world? Register today.