CMO Confessions Ep. 16: Gil Levonai, CMO of Zerto

How can you get more engagement from your webinars? Learn the tips, tricks and tactics that make webinars work at Webinar World 2019.

Hi folks and welcome to another episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly-ish podcast discussing all thing sales and marketing related. This week we have a special treat, a former rocket scientist turned marketer and probably one of the most insightful people I’ve met, Gil Levonai, CMO of Zerto — an IT backup and resilience organization.

Like I said, Gil has fascinating career starting in the Israeli Navy as a project manager for missile and rocket development. There, he found a love for software and making sure the right people are in the right places to get work done, an incredible skill he nurtured over his 20-year career.

Gil’s expectations for his teams should, frankly, be an industry standard. He expects customer-centricity, a close understanding of the product being marketed and a curiosity that inspires his team to achieve more.

In this episode, we go over his management style, how he got to where he is and why focusing on marketing fundamentals — a clear understanding of the audience, why you’re executing on a campaign, setting expectations — can set the foundations for scale and (I’m going to steal this term, by the way) business-to-human marketing. Plus, he’s a Patriots fan — so he’s pretty much perfect.

If you’re interested in diving into Gil’s career as a rocket scientist, you can find his LinkedIn profile here. If you’re interested in his insights and expertise, you can find his Twitter here.

I won’t hold you up anymore, but I highly recommend you give this episode a listen. If you’re interested in listening to our growing podcast series, you can find all of our episodes right here in podbean. Alternatively, you can also find us on both iTunes and Google Play stores.

Without further ado, welcome to CMO Confessions. Let’s chat.

Joe Hyland:    

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of CMO Confessions, a weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast where we explore what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business to business world. I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24. And joining me this week from Boston is Gil Levonai, CMO at Zerto. Gil, how are you doing?

Gil Levonai:     

Great. Thanks for having me here.

Joe Hyland: 

Gil and I share one thing in common, which we were talking about before we started, beyond being passionate marketers we’re both New England Patriots fans. So we’re getting, we’re getting geared up for the Super Bowl.

Gil Levonai:     

Yeah. And I’m sure you’re going to air this episode after the Super Bowl, so we’ll see how that plays out.

Joe Hyland:       

That’s funny and true. Okay, so perhaps once this airs we’ll be celebrating the Pats win. We’ll see if we have to edit that out. Okay, Gil, I’d love to hear and I think our listeners would love to hear a little more about your path and the reason I bring that up is I think a lot of marketers who are pretty ambitious in their careers and wanting to lead marketing departments one day a pretty frequently will ask me what was my formula, what was my path? And I think people come from it at different from different perspectives and different angles. I’d love to hear about, about your journey and how you wound up leading such a, such a cool marketing team.

Gil Levonai: 

My path definitely didn’t start with marketing or didn’t start thinking about marketing. I actually come from Israel and in Israel, military service is a mandatory thing. I actually took a different path there, also, which is you go to school first and then you serve in the military in your profession. And I’m actually an aeronautical engineer by profession, so I actually served in the navy, building missile things, so you can call me a rocket scientist if you want. From there I served, which I think you can characterize, my work there as somewhat of product management because I was representing the Navy, against or with contractors that build weapons systems. And I think that’s important because I’ll go back to that in a second. And then after that, I actually find myself in software and I really enjoy developing software.

Gil Levonai: 

But after a while I wanted to join the whole startup scene and I joined a startup and I moved to product management and since then I’ve been many years in one startup and then I had my own consulting firm and I come back from product management to marketing but kept myself in both worlds for quite a long while. And even in Zerto, here, I actually started as kind of like a funny enough a consultant when the company only had like three people and they hired me as a consultant to build the message and start building the product management piece. And since then I actually built the both of the product management team and the marketing team and then when we grew too big and we decided, hey, we need to separate them. I kind of said, hey, I find myself marketing more challenging for me and I want to evolve with marketing and I become only marketing. So, for the last 20 years, I’m doing both product management and marketing, kind of like together in many cases or have teams that are doing both. And I think those two things are very, very tightly integrated, especially in B2B.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. One, that’s a fascinating answer. You were definitely the first person I’ve had on who I could somewhat claim is a rocket scientist and comes from that background. So, that is definitely not a blueprint to a CMO. The other thing, a quick story from me and I tell it because of your product background, I did not originally come from the product side. Pretty early in my career, a company I was working for we had a two day offsite and in day one was all positioning and go to market and messaging. And so I participated in the whole day. Day two was just for the product team. Essentially it was, it was the actual product development. We know what we’re gonna build, et cetera. Pretty basic stuff.

Joe Hyland: 

And I planned on skipping it and I was talking to someone at the company who was in a different group and I said, “Oh, I’m not going to go tomorrow because it’s just product stuff.” And I was probably 25 at the time and this guy said to me, “It’s the biggest mistake you can make. So many marketers are just fluff and if you don’t understand the product and how it works, you’re going to miss the mark.” And for me, that forever shaped how I think about marketing because I think marketers need to go deeper. And I think many don’t.

Gil Levonai:        

I would say two things about it. I think it’s less about — I’m not necessarily expecting my marketers to be as deep in the product as you know, product people or as engineers. But I do want him to understand why the product is doing what it’s doing and what is the customer needs its solving. And I think that’s the key, that’s the common denominator between product and marketing. You need to understand the difference in both cases. And if you don’t really understand the customer, you’re not going to be a successful product person or a successful marketer. So, you see a lot of movement between product and marketing. I have in my team on my technical marketing or product marketing and have lots of people have come from sales engineering, et cetera. It’s all about understanding the product. And that’s where everything starts and ends as far as I’m concerned.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think that’s very well said. Here on our team. We often, when we’ll edit documents or have discussions on programs or content, we’re building a common phrase is “Why?” “Why?” Like what are we saying to our prospect or our customer, what are they trying to accomplish? It’s easy to be a little “you-centric” and I think that’s a slippery slope. So you’re right, if you understand your audience and you can walk many, many miles in their shoes. So you can create some pretty compelling marketing

Gil Levonai:

And product. A quick note about the path. Some of my youngest employees say, “Talk to me about the path.” I give them an example. We have our annual conferences and we always have keynote speakers — just announced today this year our keynote speaker is going to be Peyton Manning, not Tom Brady but Peyton Manning. It’s a good start. But our first one actually was a guy by the name of Story Musgrave. And you may know him you may not know him. He was an astronaut. Actually, he holds the record for spacewalks. He’s an older guy, I think he’s in his eighties now. He’s a fascinating speaker and he tells the story of his life and he keeps going back to the same point again and again and again. He says, “I never planned to be an astronaut. It was never in my even dreams. It wasn’t even an opportunity.”

Gil Levonai: 

He was a farm boy, okay? And then kind of evolved and went to the air force and then et cetera, et cetera. And he says the only thing he was always concentrating in his career, he’s doing a great job. Okay, and that’s it. Do your job the best way you can, and then you will evolve wherever you want to evolve. And I think that’s kind of like — I actually had my teenage son come to listen to him and I keep going back to him and tell him that, remember that “Do a great job, whatever you do, and you will get to whatever you want to become.”

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I think you’re right. I think that’s well said. For me, what I love about people who have all walks in life who have been successful within their own careers is when they can bring incredible passion to whatever they’re doing — whether that is tending to crop in a field or putting on a marketing campaign. I just love it when people love what they’re doing. And I think you’re right. If you excel at whatever you’re doing at that moment things will probably work out pretty well for you.

Gil Levonai: 

Yeah. Passion is really easier when you come from my culture, from Israel, from the Mediterranean. We’re more passionate people than many people. And it’s contagious. I think we’re a very passionate company. People who come for our annual kick-off and, you know, we have some new execs that come from other companies and I asked one of them, “Hey, what do you see different here?” He said, “The passion. So everybody, every single person on stage or offstage was very passionate about what you guys are doing here.” And so, and I expect the same from my marketers and they get the same. They are very passionate. Passionate means just like in a family, people fighting and it’s okay, but as long as you’re passionate about the same thing, you’ll get it right. And when you do it with passion, it’s the secret sauce — that’s what you need.

Joe Hyland:

I love it. So, talk to me about how the company’s evolved. It sounds like you were on the ground-level as a consultant getting product marketing off of the ground. Things have changed a little bit since then. What’s the same, what’s different? What are the challenges you guys are facing in your go to market?

Gil Levonai:  

So I think that being a B2B enterprise software company, we’re one of the boring spaces. We call it resilience, backup, D.R., convergence — all of the above. Cloud. We’re kind of like in the back seat of all of these people that are changing the world. We’re enabling them to change the world. And we keep them up and running and available 24-seven. So, the company itself, its evolution was kind of a standard story for a startup — founders, but some unique things. The founders, the two brothers actually sold another company before and are still there. My boss, my CEO, is still the same guy that started the company. He, I’m giving him a lot of credit, because he hired me before he had one line of code because he wanted to talk to customers and understand what they need and run his idea by them to make sure he’s developing the right product.

Gil Levonai: 

And I think that’s kind of like the common for us today — we listen a lot to our customers and we have fanatical followers. Now, we’re like 750 employees, so it’s no longer kind of like that small four-person startup joint. Scaling is huge, a huge challenge. Scaling sales, scaling marketing, scaling engineering. On the marketing side, I see every day the challenges of how we are trying to do things better. You know, in your first blog with Matt Heinz, you talked a lot about alignment with sales. I think that’s crucial. If you want to progress, this whole kind of like — I love the quote, I keep using this, when he said, “You can’t buy a beer with MQL.” And so I think the challenges are a lot on how do you run a large marketing operation that is really impacting business and not only generating MQL or “Hey, we did a great event.” You need to figure it out.

Gil Levonai: 

And I can’t say there’s a simple solution. You have attribution modeling. We, tried one too [inaudible]. We’re going back and forth. Front-oriented, less front oriented, more ABM, less ABM, there’s nothing we were not doing. We’re doing a mix of all of them. And that’s a challenge because it’s not going to be easy at this scale when you’re talking to — we have more than 6,000 customers and we were planning on having many, many, many more. It’s the machine is a very complicated machine, but that’s the fun. That’s the fun because you get to try lots of things, you get to figure out what’s working, what’s not working and what’s not working? Stop doing it.

Joe Hyland: 

I think what you just said is something that marketers don’t talk enough about. And I think actually a brave thing to say I hate this notion that we, particularly you and I — heads of groups — that we need to know it all. That there is a certain playbook that we will implement because we’ve done it before and all these great things will come. This is complicated shit. Growing a company — so you were there at the start from no customers where a line of code wasn’t even written and you said you have thousands now — this is complicated. And I think what makes a common element between great marketers is testing admitting that you don’t know everything. Trying a lot of things, making sure you’re using data to determine what works and then it’s basic A/B testing and then doing less of the stuff that doesn’t and more of the things that do.

Gil Levonai:

Yeah, 100 percent. And going back to the point of the layman. We are very transparent about what you’re testing and what you know because sometimes you will push back and say “Hey, I know I’m doing the right thing here.” And many times, you actually don’t know. So, be transparent. What is that you actually know you’re doing and what it is? Hey, let’s try it together. Let’s figure it out. Maybe it will work, maybe not. And you know, we run across many things mean you and every marketer out there — hey, it worked great last year, but for some reason, it doesn’t work this year. Something changed. I don’t know, maybe some parameter changed. We don’t know why, but do you need to be aware that not necessarily everything that’s worked, we’ll keep working. And also, it’s a moving target because as a company, your messaging and your product is broadening your customers, your approach to the customer. You go to market strategy or your go to market tactics are all evolving as you grow. And you need a different tool sets, you need different ways of getting to the goal posts and it’s not necessarily the same as you did last year. So that adds to the complexity.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. I couldn’t agree with that anymore. I get asked a lot, particularly by CEOs who want marketing advice or friends of mine who are starting companies. What’s my marketing philosophy? I, personally, don’t actually have one. And I’ll explain because I think great marketing is problem-solving and, yes, there are certain basic fundamentals like always know your market and who your customer is, of course. But the challenge that I have — there’s commonality — but I serve a different market than you do, so my marketing plan at ON24 probably wouldn’t work so well at Zerto and vice versa. So I think you’re right. We have to be pretty damn adaptive.

Gil Levonai: 

I think the other piece is that just like every other complex, large organization — or even large campaign, in a sense it can be marketing, it can be anywhere else in engineering — you need to always remember what your focus areas and focus on your focus areas. Otherwise, it can get lost if you don’t always go back up and say, “Hey, why am I doing this? Is this part of what I’m deciding I’m focusing on?” For us, it can be a certain segment of customers we want to get in. So, let’s remember our focus or it’s a pipeline influence type of metric or it’s generating specific geography from awareness. Whatever it is, each at each level you might have different focus areas but remember where they are and keep going back to them. Don’t neglect your focus areas because otherwise you will get lost. We can really do, every day, something different and we’ll just get lost. So you need to remember the north star at every point in time during the year and go back to it all the time.

Joe Hyland:

Yeah. I liked that you said north star, that’s what we call it on our team. It’s kind of like our guiding principles, the three things that we never take our eye off. At ON24, we work really closely with our sales team, which is I think a good thing. It’s also a little bit of a slippery slope because they’re, you know, it can at times feel like there are hundreds of priorities and if we’re not careful we just feel like we’re chasing today’s task — and before long you just are running in the wrong direction. So yeah, focus is a beautiful thing.

Gil Levonai:  

Yeah. I 100 percent agree.

Joe Hyland: 

I want to talk about the notion of being customer obsessed. So, from your background and just talking to you for half an hour, it seems like you very much want to stay close to the customer and what’s best for the persona, which is kind of great marketing. And you talked about your CEO wanting to talk to customers in the market before any code was written. But you guys have grown a lot, which is great. But sometimes that can be challenging to stay really close to the customer. How do you ensure that remains a north star, so to speak?

Gil Levonai:  

I think it’s in DNA. It’s a DNA thing in the company. Either you have it or you don’t. Yeah, we have it in our corporate values, we have “customer first.” But tons of companies have that, that’s not news. But really how accessible everybody is to the customer and how we’re pushing, really pushing, people to go interact with the customer. Don’t be shy. And we’re bringing people from all walks of the company — can be engineering, IT doesn’t matter where they are — to try and engage with customers if we’re having an event or whatever. And really taking an approach that it’s not that the customer is right, the customer is probably never right, but the customer has a voice. And just like you know, everybody in product management can tell you that you have to balance between what the customer is asking you and what you’re trying to educate them that that’s the better way to do it. Because your product is not in their mind and they don’t know that they can do things this way, so you need to educate them, but it’s, it’s a tango.

Gil Levonai:

You have to dance the tango with the customer and always listen to what they want. I think, you know, there’s this old saying that marketing is a combination of art and science. I think today’s marketers, I might be too much on the science side and forgetting about the art a little bit and the art is all about the customer. It’s the customer language, the customer and the way he thinks — we’re all customers. I keep giving my team examples from campaigns I see on tv. “Hey, this was a great campaign because why did I relate to that? Or why did I care about it? Why are these products made me think about something?” Whatever, you know, I’m stealing something which I wish I can have the right credit because I’ve forgotten — I heard it at a conference many years ago. Someone said it and then I keep using that since then, so apologies to ever said that back then — I don’t remember who said that.

Gil Levonai: 

But he said that there’s nothing B2C or B2B anymore. It’s all B2H. It’s all business-to-human. Okay. Because we all marketing just an individual at the end of the day. Someone needs to read a blog post, or needs to watch our video, or needs to make a decision on buying a product or needs to convince their boss to buy the product. It doesn’t matter. It’s a person. And that’s kind of the art of marketing that always was the marketing — and all of these — you talked about in this series about a little about the explosion of martech. All of this explosion of technologies, we shouldn’t forget that it’s only as good as what you put in it — and that is all about the customer.

Joe Hyland:

Yes. We call that people-to-people marketing like. I know it might sound a little hokey, but I couldn’t agree with you anymore. Like, you’re a person. I’m a person. There is an emotional element to even very rational business decision making, right? Who is, it? Indeed has a job search site has a really powerful advertising campaign right now. And of course they’re competing with LinkedIn and I think Monster, or if they’re still a Massachusetts company. So, it’s a competitive space and they have this great ad on people needing to find jobs so they can be close to loved ones. There’s nothing data-oriented about it. And I watched the ad and I said that they were going to see that for the next six months because like, that’s a winner. Like I, I felt warm when I saw it. And that’s not a science — that’s art.

Gil Levonai:

Yes. And, and I think that’s kind of like what I see, when I talk to team members or colleagues, et cetera, and it’s always about — you can see who’s talking from a position of understanding their customers and who’s talking from a position like, “Oh, let’s run this campaign, et Cetera.” And anybody that is really understanding the customer more and taking the extra mile to read notes in Salesforce from the customer meetings, or whatever, or gets back to you on engagements on, “Hey, that’s how the customer talked about this or about that.” It’s, deeper, they will be more successful because of that.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. I think great marketing is — and it’s very easy to slip on this slippery slope — is always about your audience and it’s never about you. And it’s so easy to get that backwards. One of my first marketing jobs, I was working with a business development director who’s great at many things — and we were going to do an email to prospects. And long story short, it was, like, 2,000 words. I mean, it was like laughable. And I said to him, “I think this isn’t enough about our prospect.” And he said, “There’s so many great things we have to say about our product and I need this audience to understand it.” And I was like, “I think we’re missing the point. It’s not about us. What gets about their challenges?” And I think a lot of marketers miss that.

Gil Levonai:

Are you saying it’s hard? It’s hard because it’s not easy. It’s a message. It’s, you know, it’s much easier to speak about is hearing this kind of like a discussion with I’m here and then actually implementing that in the real world because you are trying to, in the market on your product, you are competing with all of these things happen. So it’s a constant thing that they need to be aware of.

Joe Hyland:   

Yeah, and it’s knowing your personas internally, right? You’re right, it’s easy for us to have this intellectual, macro discussion on great marketing. It’s, hard when the CEO comes to you and says pipelines down, like run five campaigns. You might not want to talk about the art of marketing right then. So, I even think internally there’s a skill set for marketers to make sure key constituents feel heard without necessarily letting other people run their programs for them.

Gil Levonai:

Yeah, totally agree.

Joe Hyland: 

So, we talked a lot about being customer obsessed. I’m curious to get your take on customer life cycle marketing or marketing more of the full customer experience. We of course, obviously, own the website and early stage prospecting. So the first message to a prospect or a prospective customer should be coming from marketing, but I think a lot of marketing departments, historically, once a deal was signed or someone moved from being a prospect to a customer, said, “Okay, we’re done. We’ll hand that over to the services group.” And I’m seeing more and more marketing groups and marketing leaders step up and own the customer relationship. How does that work at, at Zerto and what’s your take on marketers owning more of the customer journey?

Gil Levonai:  

So, at Zerto, we own the more traditional things with the inclusion of SDRs, we call them SDRs and ADRs, one for more targeted accounts, AMB 100 percent and the others are kind of like a mix of inbound and outbound. And we have a strong customer marketing team, which has a lot of the customer reference program and all that stuff. But we both know that’s not what you were asking about. So, we own all of that kind of demand Gen and all of that. But I think ABM is already kind of like a step towards what you’re talking about, because in ABM, especially in existing customers, you keep owning the engagement again and again with the customer. It’s basically a coordinated dance between your customer marketing people, your ADRs, in our case, and the account team because sometimes the account team is already kind of like getting some headways and they want to control the ratio or something or they are more removed and they say “Hey, you guys, go warm up the customer.”

So that’s in that sense. I think, overall, the key is going back to the partnership in this case. And also, of course, with support in this case, because we’re not a SaaS company, we’re an enterprise software company, so it’s not like the customers are — we don’t have a strong customer success team that is doing renewals and things like that when you happen to be very, very high, almost hundred percent, for us anyway. It’s more about maintaining the customer relationship and being there for the customer at the time of need, which is mostly our support and being partners with them and understanding what they need from us. But I would say, more so, with the safe is being there with the account teams understanding what do they need, what are they looking forward to educate the customer to get the customer up to the next level of usage of the product or to make the customer aware of new products or new offerings. Literally, a couple months ago we realized, as a team, both us and sales, that there’s one functionality that customers aren’t really using almost at all because they’re probably not aware of that.

Gil Levonai: 

And so, we’ve launched a campaign specifically with blog posts, et cetera and those people to raise awareness to that functionality in the product because we want them to use that. So I don’t think we own that, but I think you need to be in partnership with all the entities, which is normally customer success, support and the sales team to own that as a company. Making sure the customer gets what they need as a life cycle from everybody.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah. And that goes back to the kind of core DNA element that you had talk about where you guys do, in fact, put the customer first, right? So, sounds like a coordinated effort between groups to ensure that that actually happens.

Gil Levonai:

Yeah, definitely. There’s, everybody’s always available for the customer and we all are there for that. So I think it’s easier in Zerto than maybe in other companies. I haven’t worked in other companies, necessarily, I have worked in a few but in Zerto you need to be customer-oriented because everybody’s customer-focused.

Joe Hyland: 

Yeah, I think it’s pretty easy in life to complicate pretty simple things and that’s where I want to end today. None of this exists without the customer. So, I hope Zerto is not wholly unique in that mindset. I think you’re right, though, there’s a lot of companies that are so worried about growth of their own internal metrics and it’s easy to lose sight of the reason the company exists, which is solving a problem for someone.

Gil Levonai: 

Gil, thank you so much for the time. From rocket scientist to CMO. Pretty fascinating journey and thanks for sharing it with us.

Gil Levonai:  

Thank you very much for having me and let’s make sure that when we actually air this, we already have a 6th ring on Brady’s finger.

Joe Hyland: 

Okay. I love it. All right, thanks, Gil, have a great day.

Gil Levonai:  

Thanks man.

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• Close deals and upsell customers with hands-on demos

From Basic Training to Masterclass: CompTIA’s Approach to Virtual Learning

Virtualizing in-classroom training has more to offer than just convenience, it can supercharge the value of your audience’s learning experience by offering group interactivity, chapterization for self-paced content consumption and the ability to measure course effectiveness. Join CompTIA’s Tazneen Kasem, Director of Product Management & Instructor Network and Stephen Schneiter, Program Manager, to learn how to run impactful training programs, whether that’s increasing participation of association memberships or driving more awareness for your brand. This session is based on the industry-driven standards included in the trainer certification, CompTIA CTT+.

You’ll learn how to:

• Plan for webinar course instruction

• Deliver engaging, interactive training experiences

• Evaluate program impact

From Ad Hoc to Centralized: PTC’s Method for Creating a Webinar Center of Excellence

Webinars are an important channel in a multitouch campaign, and it’s just as important to build an infrastructure to efficiently turn that channel’s volume up or down in a turnkey way. Join PTC’s Mike Marshall, Digital Experience Optimization team for a walk-through of their centralized method for dialing up the webinars, and the leads, for hundreds of marketers worldwide.

You’ll learn how to:

• Centralize the execution and integration of webinars

• Support large marketing and sales teams worldwide

• Institute global best practices for using webinars to drive demand

Three Lead Gen and Pipeline Trends To Look Out For in 2019

Next week, ON24 will run its latest Insight50 session – where we provide you with 50 minutes of expert insight and answer the questions that are important to you.

As it’s the start of the year, January’s session will focus on lead generation and pipeline success and feature experts from SiriusDecisions, Oracle and Genesys, so register for the session here.

2018 was a busy year for marketers and the ON24 team. Privacy regulations such as GDPR have changed the way we have to market – for the better – and the number of technology solutions on the market has continued to soar.

That being said, businesses still have to keep their eyes firmly on generating revenue, which means optimising their lead generation efforts and strengthening their pipeline. So what do we think will be important in the months to come? Here are a few trends we’ve seen emerge.

Lead generation focuses on quality over quantity

Marketers have continued to list lead generation and traffic as one of their top priorities, with 63% citing it as such in a recent HubSpot study.

But buyers are increasingly switching off from automated spam and endless emails asking for a “15-minute call”.

On top of that, privacy regulations means that only engaged prospects that have given consent for marketing should be the ones receiving communications. The good news for marketers is that these are the prospects that will be more likely to convert.

Account-based approaches become more important as buying decisions become more complex

Research from CEB has shown that the average number of people involved in buying decision has grown from an average of 5.4 people to 6.8 in just the space of two years.

Increasingly, this means that generating opportunities requires more than just one contact. Instead, marketing will have to generate multiple leads and engagement from a single account in order to support consensus-driven buying.

Predictive insights and artificial intelligence take a role across the entire pipeline

It’s always been best practice for marketing and sales to work closely together, but new technologies will place an increased emphasis on such an approach.

Signals captured from marketing automation will proactively inform sales reps into what messages might resonate with their active opportunities. Cognitive technology will provide marketers with the ability to send new communications to prospects while they are researching solutions, while buyers have the most relevant information surfaced automatically.

What will you be doing for lead generation and pipeline success in 2019?

Come and ask our experts your questions and share your views at the next Insight50 webinar on January 30. We would love to hear your views.

How Infopro Digital Rocks its Webinars

Some companies work in industries that require a polished, professional presentation every time they talk to a client or potential customer. The insurance industry, not one for taking risks, is one of them. For Infopro Digital, keeping its audience informed means crafting a professional experience every time. So the publisher, through its UK-based magazine, Insurance Age, took the time to craft a better webinar. And did they ever rock it.

The Why Behind the Webinar

Insurance practices change fast. So to keep its audience up-to-speed on the latest developments, Insurance Age needs its experts to update and inform its audience as soon as news break. In 2018, that news pretty much revolved around Europe’s new privacy law, the General Data Privacy Regulation, or GDPR.

To keep its audience up-to-date on the latest interpretations of the law, and to let its broker-centric audience know what they need to do, Infopro Digital, in association with Applied Systems, produced the webinar, “GDPR — What Brokers Need to Know.

The Expert Panel

But Infopro Digital’s audience is looking for expert content, not good console layout. At first glance, the publisher’s webinar seems shockingly devoid of typical webinar content. There’s no resource list, no direct links to Insurance Age’s website and no slides to speak of. In short, the webinar is perfect for what it needs to do: draw attention to its five panelists and Insurance Age’s expertise.

Less, for this webinar, is a lot more.

Here’s why. Adding additional content to its panel — which featured experts from several brokers firms and associations — would’ve detracted from the overall presentation by offering its audience the opportunity to distract themselves, tune the panel out and avoid participating in the webinar through its Q&A panel. By removing the temptation for distraction — at least through the webinar console — Infopro Digital did its audience a service by providing focus.

What Infopro Digital did — restraint in service of its subject and audience — is hard. The publisher could’ve easily put in a dozen resources or given viewers a massive slide deck to download. And you should offer educational content — but only if the event calls for it and doesn’t distract from your main message.

The Presentation

First, and this is a recurring theme across all of 2018’s Webinars That Rocked, Infopro Digital uses a clean, well-designed console. Insurance Age’s brand colors and name are prominent and consistent across its background image, engagement tool screens and buttons. Infopro Digital’s attention to detail here pays dividends in presenting a unified professional brand.

Its console layout, too, is worth noting. From left to right, it offers its Speaker bios, the media player and the Q&A console, its subject (more on this later) and a refer-a-colleague form, a survey and a social “share this” engagement tool. Why does this matter? Because the essential content windows — the Media Player and the Q&A engagement tool — take the center of the console — where it belongs.

But these mission-critical windows are also surrounded by contextual information. Audience members can take a look to the left and find Speaker Bios, where they can find information on the webinar’s panelists. To the right, is one slide stating the title and subject of the webinar and the Refer a Colleague engagement tool. Extraneous windows, like its survey and social share engagement tool, are to the far right, tucked away from the webinar’s main content.

Quick, Easy Sharing

Infopro Digital published its webinar in early April, a month before GDPR took effect. Professionals were crunched for time to comply with the law and not everyone knew of the Insurance Age  So, to promote expert-led panel as it was going on, Infopro Digital offered two ways to share the webinar.

The first method Infopro Digital offered to share the webinar is through the Refer a Colleague engagement tool, located right below its title slide. It’s a handy means of direct messaging someone individually to put the event on their radar. For Infopro Digital, it’s also a convenient way of promoting its event to its target audience through a trusted source — a fellow broker.

Next, it gave its audience the opportunity to share the webinar with a broader audience through the Share This engagement tool. The engagement tool allows attendees to share the event over social channels, allowing Infopro Digital to reach a wider audience that may have a general interest in how GDPR impacts insurance.

By providing both options, the publisher can easily expand the event’s reach give it a longer life cycle — allowing brokers to reference it during the days and weeks before GDPR took effect.

And that’s it. Infopro Digital did a great job of crafting a restrained, informative webinar on one of 2018’s hottest topics of the year. It gave a clean presentation, knew when to hold back on content and made it easy to share with like-minded attendees.

Keep an eye on the ON24 blog for more insights and inspiration from the Webinars That Rocked 2018. Curious to see what a great webinar can do for you? Check out Webinars That Rocked on demand.

How Plante Moran Rocks Webinars

Plante Moran knows its taxes. After all, it is one of the largest certified public accounting and professional services in the United States with more than 3,100 staff members. As a leader in the accounting industry, Plante Moran is under constant pressure to prove its expertise and insights, expand its client roster and inform its audience of the near-constant changes and adjustments to American tax codes.

To cement itself as a leader in the accounting industry, engage its accounting audience and educate at scale, Plante Moran makes expert use of the ON24 Platform for its webinars. The firm is so skillful in its webinar use, that it submitted a webinar to the 2018 Webinars That Rocked contest. And we have to say — Plante Moran knows how to put together a tightly-crafted event.

The Why Behind the Webinar

Plante Moran’s typical webinars needed to serve the dual purpose of impressing attendees while educating them at the same time. So, the company created a webinar, “Tax Reform: 2018 Year-end Tax Planning for Businesses” in the hope it would help craft a great brand experience highlighting the organization’s professionalism, its breadth of knowledge — through both its presenters and its resources — and recruit attendees to future webinars. The company also offered certifications through ON24’s certification widget, allowing finance professionals to acquire continuing professional education credits should they need them to maintain a license.

How It Rocked

Clean Console and Consistent Branding

First thing’s first: just take a look at its console! The main image is an even grey/black combo and is featured in its media player, its slide widget and its main background. This consistency allows the color to pop where it counts; take a look at Plante Moran’s brand name, its squiggle logo and the widget bar at the bottom of the console — each share the company’s logo and a similar color scheme. Even the Q&A button matches the firm’s style.

Next, take a quick look at the top. Plante Moran’s official logo and motto are featured prominently, tying the brand’s imagery to the event. One quick look at Plante Moran’s logo and you’ll begin to see it everywhere. We already mentioned its slides and media player, but the firm went the extra step and inserted its logo in its resource list (next to relevant tax guides) and a widget button. Its rare to see such a well thought-out and consistent style and you can see the subtle, but significant, differences when you compare this new console to their previous one:

To be fair, this is not a bad console. It’s clean-cut and has good branding itself. But it lacks the unified presentation of its new console and doesn’t let the webinar’s interactive features, like its widgets, pop out to the audience.

Continuing Professional Education for its Audience

Accountants need to know of new developments within their field and are often required to maintain a certain number of CPE credits to maintain a license to practice. For Plante Moran, this one-two combination of needs means the firm can identify accountants, see where their concerns are (via CPE-earning polls) and better cater content to address the needs of its audience.

Plante Moran places its CPEs offer front and center, highlighting the “Certification” widget and clearly detailing the requirements for accreditation in a slide and during its live broadcast. For example, the company clearly states that participants must respond to 75 percent of all questions and accrue a viewing time of 50 minutes. The firm also gives clear breaks allowing attendees to respond to polls. Plante Moran also takes the time at the end of the webinar to remind attendees to collect their certificate by clicking on the “Certification” widget.

Built-in Interactivity

Finally, Plante Moran ensured attendees could interact with the webinar and its panel. In addition to CPE credits, encouraged attendees to ask questions of its four-person panel via the Q&A widget, connect with panelists via email through the Speaker Bio widget and to download its many available resources. The panel also took breaks to answer questions from the Q&A chat, highlight polls and, at the very end, to ask its audience to fill out a survey assessing the webinar’s usefulness as an educational tool.

Overall, Plante Moran produced an excellent webinar and a great webinar console template it can use going forward. A fantastic example of a webinar that rocks.

Keep an eye on the ON24 blog for more insights and inspiration from the Webinars That Rocked 2018. Curious to see what a great webinar can do for you? Check out Webinars That Rocked on demand.

5 Tips for Better Panel Webinars

This article was originally published on JD Supra. Shared with permission.

Done right, panel discussions bringing together several experts are an excellent way to make your webinars stand out: they provide your audience with multiple perspectives on a single problem, they generate lively, in-depth dialog amongst peers and, with leading business and industry speakers on the slate, they enhance your credibility and authority.

But panels come with their own set of challenges. Here are five do’s and don’ts for ensuring the success of your panel discussion webinar.

1. Do: Organize a Practice Run

It’s always a good idea to do a dry run when you’re leading a panel discussion. With webinars it’s critical.

…participants should know each other and what to expect from the discussion

Of course participants should know each other and what to expect from the discussion: questions, answers, timing, speaking order, etc. But they also need to become comfortable with the webinar technology – like speaking to an invisible audience, identifying and eliminating noise issues, and changing slides.

Organize a practice run ahead of the event to make sure everyone’s up to speed and ready to go once the webinar starts.

2. Don’t: Ignore Diversity

Putting together the right panel can be at times more art than science. You want skills, experience, and personalities that complement each other, not cancel each other out.

You want skills, experience, and personalities that complement each other…

A panel that’s diverse – crossing gender, culture, race, or age lines, for example – makes for a better webinar, with richer discussions highlighting a wider range of experience and appealing to a broader audience. It may require you to cast a wider net when you’re looking for speakers, but your audience – and your speakers – will be glad you made the extra effort.

3. Do: Focus on Expertise

The most successful – and the most memorable – webinars are built around true experts who share their knowledge and experience with participants.

Your audience relies on you to bring them valid insight, credible expertise, and a meaningful perspective on the topics being discussed. And to ensure their satisfaction, as well as the success of future webinars, you need to deliver.

…include speakers with backgrounds that resonate with your intended audience.

Spend time getting speakers with backgrounds that resonate with your intended audience. If your webinar targets corporate counsel, for example, include an in-house lawyer who’s resolved the issues you’re discussing. If you’re aiming for attendees in a specific industry, bring in a thought leader from that sector. If you’re discussing government oversight, a federal or state regulator adds valuable authority.

4. Don’t: Offer Panelists a “Speaking Opportunity”

You may have experienced this yourself (I know I have): a conference organizer or discussion leader reaches out to you with a “great opportunity” to present at his event.

Don’t be that person. You’re asking an expert to participate on your panel. You’re asking them to share their knowledge with your audience. You’re not doing them a favor: they’re doing you one, and your request should make that clear.

There are several ways to say that – “we hope to bring together a group of leading experts, and hope that you can join us,” and “it would be an incredible honor if you were to speak on our webinar” come to mind – and none of them include the words “speaking opportunity.”

5. Do: Have a Contingency Plan

The best way to ensure that your webinars go off without a hitch? Expect the unexpected.

I encourage all of my clients to have a contingency plan that works in place before every webinar. This is particularly important when you’re leading a panel discussion with multiple presenters.

Expect the unexpected.

What could go wrong? Dropped calls, lost internet connections, power outages, computer crashes, missing panelists, etc. Chances are you’ll never need it, but if you do, a contingency plan will help you avoid an awkward and unpleasant webinar if anything should go wrong.

Why Sage Intacct Turns to ON24 for Webinars

Nick Ezzo, Vice President of Demand Generation at Sage Intacct, brings ON24 wherever he goes. And we’re not kidding — Nick has, so far, brought ON24 to four different companies in his role as a demand generation expert. That’s four different products, countless audiences and a whole lot of webinars.

What makes ON24 stand apart?

For Sage Intacct, ON24 helps drive messages to every stage of the buying cycle while maintaining an engaging webinar presence for prospects. From top to bottom-of-funnel, Sage Intacct’s ON24-powered webinars provide interactive, engaging events where attendees can ask questions, download resources and see what Sage Intacct’s financial cloud can do for them.

Sage Intacct’s sales team also capitalizes on webinars, providing them with in-depth data on attendee engagement for seamless, impactful discussions and identify genuinely interested prospects and what their specific pain points are. ON24 webinars are so central to Sage Intacct’s marketing mix that Nick credits its webinar program with influencing “tens of millions of dollars of pipeline to date.”

“I would unequivocally recommend ON24,” Nick said. ”To other people like myself who are looking for a purpose-built webcasting platform that gives you deep engagement with your prospects and allows you to scale your webinar program to whatever you want it to be.”

He’s not kidding. Nick has perfected the art of scaling webinars so well that he’s led a class on account-based marketing with webinars called, “How Sage Intacct Makes Webinars the Secret Sauce at their ABM BBQ.” He’s also provided fellow webinerds with his tips and tricks at Webinar World 2018 — showing attendees how webinars can add to their overall marketing capabilities.

To learn more about why Sage Intacct trusts ON24 with its webinars, watch this video. To learn more about how the ON24 Platform can boost your marketing efforts, click here.

Why Dickinson Wright Turns to ON24 for webinars

Dickinson Wright is a national law firm providing businesses with the legal guidance needed to navigate international property, litigation and more than 40 other practice areas. To educate its clients and prospects on the wealth of legal expertise at its fingertips, Dickinson Wright uses ON24 webinars.

With ON24, Dickinson Wright has a powerful tool that educates its audience on a variety of issues ranging from proposed legislation to new trends in the law. The ON24 Platform also helps the firm’s 400-plus attorneys by guiding them to highly-engaged attendees interested in the service Dickinson Wright has to offer.

For Christine Kloka, Senior Manager, Business Development at Dickinson Wright, ON24 ease of use is crucial, as almost every attorney at the firm uses the platform to connect with and expand the firm’s client portfolio. With ON24, Dickinson Wright’s attorneys have the tools to both deliver a clean, informative and engaging webinar and follow up with interested prospects thanks to the ON24 Platform’s deep analytics and actionable insights.

For Christine, ON24’s “bulletproof” platform makes her job much easier and provide a powerful way to keep attendees coming back for more. The firm regularly sees repeat attendees coming back to Dickinson Wright webinars for the latest information, resources and expert opinion and the latest trends in the law.

Watch this video to learn why Dickinson Wright fell in love with the ON24 Platform. To learn how ON24 can boost your brand and thought leadership efforts, click here.

How can you get more engagement from your webinars? Learn the tips, tricks and tactics that make webinars work at Webinar World 2019.

Why Ogletree Deakins Turns to ON24 for Webinars

Ogletree Deakins is a leading labor and employment firm supporting in-house counsel, Human Resource professionals and small to medium business owners. Its range of clientele means Ogletree Deakins must be able to talk to a variety of audiences while maintaining a personable, one-on-one style of communication.

The law firm needed a digital solution that didn’t impinge on its relationships with clients. So, Ogletree Deakins turned to the ON24 Platform. With ON24, Ogletree Deakins can produce high-quality webinars that connect with clients,  push the firm’s content into attendee’s hands and affirms Ogletree Deakins’s thought leadership perspectives with webinar participants.

Best of all, for Ogletree Deakins, ON24 runs silently and reliably in the background, making it easy for attendees to download resource materials, ask questions, post to social media, review presenter profile and more — and do it all while running live webinars.  For Ryan King, Director of Communications at Ogletree Deakins, ON24’s easy-to-integrate platform and easy-to-use interface makes its the go-to scalable solution for informing and keeping clients up to date on the latest trends in labor and employment law.

Thanks to the success of its immersive webinars, Ogletree Deakins expanded its webinar footprint to more than 50 webinars in 2018 so it can cover every topic in the labor and law landscape.

To learn more about why Ogletree Deakins trusts ON24 with its webinars, watch this video. To learn more about how you can take advantage of the powerful ON24 Platform, click here.

What can a superior webinar platform do for you? Discover how webinars can boost your content marketing efforts and get the insider tips and tricks you need to succeed at Webinar World 2019.