ServiceNow’s Approach to Webinar Program Innovation (Part I)

This is part one in a two-part series on how organizations can extract more results from their ServiceNow webinar programs. You can read part two here

Digital Transformation of the marketing function is rapidly changing how we invest, measure and manage work. As marketers, we are on a journey towards agile, data-driven, value-based demand generation.

In this 2-part series, I review our webinar program to demonstrate the impact of change and share some of the best practices ServiceNow’s EMEA Marketing team has generated since the webinar program’s inception in 2012.

For starters, here’s the list of KPI’s we track for our webinar program, with YoY trending:

                                                                                                            18H1 vs 17H1            

·      Number of webinars                                                              +22%

·      Number of registrations:                                                        +66%

·     Number of attendees:                                                            +52%

·     Number of on-demand attendees:                                        +62%

·     Pipeline influenced                                                                 +144%

As a result of ServiceNow’s focus on webinar excellence, the webinar program’s pipeline influence in 18H1 was 538 percent higher than the next most effective campaign type.

A well-run webinar program does a number of things for enterprise marketing teams. It will:

1. Drive quality audience engagement at low cost

At ServiceNow in EMEA, we host about 40 webinars per quarter, at an infrastructure cost of $20 – so about $500 per webinar, which is low in comparison to other activity types, like seminars, event sponsorships, and even paid media. CPC leads may be cheaper, but usually produce significantly lower conversation rates. Needless to say, it takes time from well-paid experts to deliver a good webinar – but that’s true for most other activities, too.

Figure 1 –ServiceNow-branded ON24 console

2. Create premium assets for content marketing programs

We run webinars in English, German, French, and from time to time in Spanish, Italian and Dutch. The content of the webinars is tightly aligned to our demand generation programs, including digital display, outbound email, roadshows, telemarketing et cetera. We use our best speakers, often have customers join to share their best practices, and spend ample time on quality presentation slides, technology demonstrations and pre-recorded videos.

By recording all broadcasts, we establish a library of on-demand webinars to go into local websites, online communities, as well as our outbound email and email nurturing programs.

At the end of 2017, we introduced the ON24 Content Gateway to better market on-demand webinars. Within the first 5 months of 2018 alone, on-demand webinar consumption went up 90 percent.

Figure 2 –  Long-tail engagement with our on-demand webinars

3. Support Account-Based Marketing initiatives

As an extension of the previous point, digital marketing and targeted marketing go hand-in-hand. The superior control of data and content that comes with a modern webinar program, allows marketers to tailor an engagement strategy into highly-targeted database segments based on industry, job level, or account grade or name. As part of an offline touch plan consisting of Direct Mail, Industry Events, Seminars and Outbound calling, the webinar program keeps the target audience engaged by offering relevant, highly-personalized content.

ServiceNow recently adopted ON24 Target, a way to populate a landing page with on-demand webinars and other video assets hosted on our content gateway, the digital asset management system at the heart of the ON24 platform. Although still early days, we have started experimenting with co-branded landing pages for target accounts in Financial Services – and first feedback and results are quite positive.

4. Provide strong behavioural analytics of the audience

The unique quality of webinars: they offer an extensive content experience and are digital from start to finish. Therefore, from the minute the target contact opens the email invite or engages a promotional tweet to the moment they download the slides from the follow-up message and all that’s in between; everything is recorded, tracked, scored, reported and followed up.

We integrated our webinar platform with our website – the ON24 content gateway displays in an iFrame, so that both upcoming and on-demand webinars automatically drive engagement online –, with our marketing automation platform (scoring, nurturing), which in turn is connected to our CRM platform, where marketing qualified leads are handed off to sales teams. So, any engagement with the webinar program, be it live or on-demand, via email, the website or forwarded by a colleague, we track in order to continually improve the program, tailor content to the audience’s expectations, and deliver ever better MQL’s to our outbound callers and sales teams.

Figure 3 – ON24 Engagement dashboard

5. Create an online platform for customer and ServiceNow speakers

Although not a primary goal of the webinar program, it did help establish a strong speaker pool for other ServiceNow events large and small. Because of the solid reputation and continuity of the program, our internal speakers are eager to contribute. It’s a high-quality podium on which to showcase their expertise. Customers usually join webinar panels before presenting at large ServiceNow events, like Now Forum or Knowledge.

In 2018, our webinar program is an indispensable part of ServiceNow’s growth engine and the single largest lead generating program in EMEA. In Part II, I will review our first experience adopting ON24’s Target module as part of our Account-Based Marketing Program.


Announcing Webinar World 2018 London

September is almost on us, which means it’s time for Webinar World London. The annual two-day conference, held from Sept. 11 to 12, is stuffed with the latest engagement-driving strategies and tactics sure to drive ROI — as well as some thorough discussions on GDPR and its continued impact on marketing.  

Taking place at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel, Webinar World London will bolster webinar practitioners with actionable insights from the world’s leading brands, ranging from AutoTrader and Oracle to Polycom and Ericsson and more.

The conference will feature Isabel Montesdeoca, Director of EMEA Research at SiriusDecisions, as the keynote speaker, where she will share her formula for a marketing mix that resonates with modern B2B buyers. Other tracks will highlight achieving ROI, how webinars enhance ABM programs how to realize pipeline heaven.

During this event, attendees can take advantage of:

  • Three learning tracks, including Webinar Best Practices, Webinar Execution and the Genius Theatre
  • Peer-to-peer networking with digital marketing leaders and webinar practitioners
  • Live case studies, sessions and panels from top brands

As the cap on 2018’s global Webinar World series, the London event will provide an excellent venue to bring 2018’s lessons into one place and prepare for the coming year. We can’t wait to see you there.

To learn more about Webinar World London, see the full agenda, and save your spot, please visit the Webinar World Site right here.



Account-based marketing is no fad: How and why CMOs should commit

This article was originally published on MarTech Today.

Less is more. It’s such a simple phrase, and yet it holds so much truth.

In the business world, we’ve all experienced how much things improve if we focus on fewer tasks at a time. It makes us better marketers and salespeople — more focused, effective, thoughtful and empathetic toward those we are selling or marketing to.

A lot of jargon is thrown around in sales and marketing. There are even more fads, so much so that it can be hard to keep up. But Account Based Marketing (ABM) is neither jargon nor a fad. It’s an important trend all marketing and sales teams should take note of. It’s based, after all, on the premise that less truly is more.

Why should you move to an ABM approach?

Part of the problem today is that we often operate in silos in business. We get caught up in numbers, quotas, leads and revenue. These benchmarks can create incentives to hoard individual credit and distinguish ourselves, rather than align strategically with others and make larger gains and get bigger wins together. These benchmarks also encourage a quantity-over-quality mindset, because employees are constantly trying to get more leads and more wins. This is to an organization’s collective detriment and hurts its bottom line.

In the past, many marketing and sales teams took a “spray and pray” approach to generating as many leads as possible. It was a volume play. Some organizations could get away with this, simply because their solution was best in class. But now there are too many startups and too many worthy competitors for any organization to take this antiquated approach — a company can’t distinguish themselves just by spamming potential buyers with generalized content.

Furthermore, buyers have access to unprecedented information. Just as a diner would check out Yelp to see a restaurant’s reviews before booking a reservation, a prospect today will do extensive research on potential solutions — often before they even make contact with a salesperson.

In fact, 78 percent of buyers now spend more time researching purchases in an effort to mitigate risks, with many spending up to three months researching vendors anonymously, according to the 2017 B2B Buyers Survey Report by Demand Gen  Report.  That means they won’t be receptive to vague sales pitches that don’t address their specific pain points.

Source: Demand Gen Report 2017 B2B Buyers Survey

An ABM approach, if executed correctly, solves these issues. It brings together teams and individuals to focus more deeply on what truly matters: your highest value customers and prospects. And it engages these high-value targets in a manner that’s truly meaningful.

What exactly is ABM?

The core premise behind ABM is that you treat each individual account as its own market — that means you tailor your outreach and go-to-market strategy and make it as customer-centric as possible. At the core of ABM is empathy — you have to truly understand your audience — what their goals and fears are — and you have to constantly put yourself in their shoes.

I even like to imagine what my prospective customers’ personal lives look like. What kind of car do they drive; do they have kids and a family; are they liberal or conservative? What do they do outside of work for fun? You have to truly empathize with them to get inside their heads and be able to effectively market and appeal to them.

The results speak for themselves: 87 percent of companies using ABM report it offers higher ROI than other types of marketing: According to the Information Technology Services Marketing Association, 69 percent see improved annual revenue per account.

But why is that? The Pareto Principle (or 80/20 rule) states that 80 percent of a company’s revenue comes from 20 percent of its customers. This is particularly relevant in the context of ABM. Using this principle makes sense because it emphasizes why focusing and nurturing high-yield customers is so vital to marketers.

ABM programs are most effective for targets with complex, long and sometimes political buying processes. In contrast to lead-based programs requiring engagement with thousands of companies, ABM’s effective audience ranges from dozens to hundreds.

How do you move to ABM?

If it’s too difficult to entirely shift from a lead-based model to an ABM model right away, then do it slowly.

Identify the highest value prospects in your pipeline, and make sure your touch points are tailored to them. If there are certain industries you sell to that you know have more extensive buying cycles, prioritize an ABM approach with them. This gradual rollout may even be advantageous: You’ll learn how and where you need to be personalized throughout your sales funnel, and where you can get away with a more systematic method.

Additionally, I think it’s important to avoid limiting your ABM approach to just marketing and sales. Envision the other ways a personalized, customer-centric mindset can benefit your team. For example, when it comes to managing people, I used to take the same approach for all my direct reports: weekly one-on-one meetings, annual reviews, the potential for bonuses at the end of the fiscal year — you get the idea.

It wasn’t until I started incorporating ABM into my marketing approach that I realized it was a smart way to manage employees as well. I started treating each employee as an individual customer who might value more vacation or educational training over a monetary bonus, for example. Some needed more or less feedback than they received during a weekly one-on-one meeting.

After incorporating the ABM mindset into management, I found my marketing team to be more engaged in their work — and our prospective customers to be more engaged with our outreach as well. And that’s a true win-win for any business.

Want to learn more about AMB marketing? Discover the basics — and how webinars can enhance your ABM efforts — in “The Webinerd’s Guide to Account-Based Marketing.” 

How To Use Webinars To Drive Engagement and Increase Pipeline

This Questions and Answers interview was originally published on

What are the common mistakes businesses make with webinars?

Mark: Companies tend to think of webinars simply as a top of funnel, lead generation tool. Their goal is to get as many names as possible. Many marketers don’t even care what happens during the live webinar, once they’ve acquired the leads they simply send them to sales and claim victory. That’s just outdated thinking.

The modern webinar is all about engagement. They’re multi-media, interactive experiences, where the goal is to get your audience members to take as many actions as possible which then provides you with actionable information about your prospects.

And this engagement model works across the entire buying cycle. Today, we see companies replacing static content like white papers, case studies and demo videos with interactive webinars. Just imagine letting your prospects hear directly from your best customers on a webinar? Now that’s an effective case study. Or replacing that canned demo with an interactive tour of your product? There are so many ways that webinar engagement can supercharge your marketing.

Do you think people underestimate the power of webinars?

Oh absolutely! In a time when we measure engagement by the click or mere seconds spent on a landing page or in an email, we have very few opportunities to have real human moments with our prospects. That used to be the role of sales but the modern buyer doesn’t want to engage with a salesperson. So what replaces that experience? That’s where webinars come in. What other chance do you get to be in front of your prospects for up to an hour at a time? An hour where you can not only present content to them but where you can also interact with them in meaningful ways. And this interaction is going to give you the insights you need to find and convert your best leads.

What do webinars mean for sales teams’ engagement with prospects?

Well, I feel for salespeople these days, their job isn’t getting any easier. Buyers are inundated with sales and marketing emails and prospecting calls which has resulted in them being numb to most sales methodologies.

Further, and I’m going to say something bold here, most salespeople are used to getting weak leads from their marketing teams. And I say that as a marketer. Let’s be honest, it’s true. Webinars however are the one marketing technology that can change that reality. Now you can capture every action that a prospect took in a webinar (questions asked, poll responses, survey data, content downloaded, etc.) and put that data into Salesforce, or other CRMs, for the salesperson to view before making contact. This enables them to continue a conversation as opposed to starting one. And that is a game changer.

How can you optimise interactivity in a webinar?

Well, I believe that webinar interactivity should be scripted right into your presentation. Just like you script your story and your slides, you should plan how you are going to interact with your audience. When I build a webinar, I always plan out a few polls to help fuel a good conversation with my audience. I will often script a few different spots in the webinar to take questions, not just wait till the end. Sometimes I build in gamification too. I also encourage the audience to live tweet, download content and click on CTAs. The point is, you should optimise your webinar to ensure your audience is involved and interacting with you and each other as much as possible. Increased engagement will lead to higher content retention and more importantly, it will provide you with more data for effective follow-up later.

Where is the ROI in webinars? What’s the business case?

Webinars have such a high ROI for such a small investment. The business case for webinars is that they enable you to quickly and cost-effectively engage with large numbers of your prospects in a real human way. Webinars are now where the selling happens. It’s where we find our best leads and how we convince them to become customers.

It kills me every time I talk to a company that is using a meeting or conferencing tool for their webinars because their IT department already had a contract in place. Don’t get me wrong, meeting tools are great… for meetings, but that are not optimised for webinars. The investment in true webinar marketing platform will likely have the highest return of anything in your marketing tech stack.

Webinars have clearly developed over the years. What do you think is the future of webinars?

There are two ways that I think webinars are evolving. The first is that the live experience is no longer the only goal. We’re now living in the on-demand economy, meaning people want to consume content on their own time, in their own way. Content needs to be always available and easily binge-able – and this goes for webinars too. We’re seeing many companies moving to the Netflix model, where they’re building on demand gateways or hubs where valuable webinars are made available for immediate viewing. These gateways are where you can archive webinars after the live event is over, to extend the life of that content. We also see companies building webinar content that’s produced straight for on demand without a live component. Webinar gateways are an effective way to get more people to the right content.

The other area I see the role of webinars changing is in personalisation. Account-based marketing programmes have become an incredibly important part of modern marketing strategies. We all want to be more targeted and we do that by offering a more personalised experience. But most ABM strategies focus on the targeting and not what happens once you make contact. We’re now seeing companies creating customised webinars that are created for specific accounts, industries or use cases, to add a higher level of engagement to their ABM programmes. That includes custom landing pages with targeted webinars as the primary content.

What do you think webinars do for brand image?

So much. In many cases, webinars are where your prospects first experience your brand – and not for a few seconds but for a long period of time. You have to think about your webinar console as if it’s a virtual lobby to your company. As I mentioned above, you should always customise your webinar consoles so when your prospects attend your events they feel enveloped by your brand. You can create a lot of stickiness to your brand imagery with such a long exposure if you do it right.

Can webinars allow you to understand your customers better?

Well, here lies the true magic of webinar engagement. The more you interact with your audience, the more you can learn about them. Webinars are where your prospects actually tell you what’s on their mind: their challenges, needs and interests. Their interactions with you (through polls, surveys, Q&A, chat, social, downloads etc) provide a much better picture of your prospects and customers than you can get with any other marketing technology. Marketers all want to be data driven and engagement is the only way to get the data that really matters. It’s simple maths: webinar engagement gives you the insights you need to convert prospects into customers.

Mark’s tips to achieving best practice in webinars

  1. When promoting your webinars, don’t keep sending the same email repeatedly. Mix up the message and mix up the email type. The same goes with social media, don’t tweet the same thing over and over again. If it didn’t work the first time, it probably won’t the second or third.
  2. Make sure your webinar console looks and feels like your brand. You have people staring at a fixed location for up to an hour, give them something to look at. Integrate your logo, top-line messaging, corporate imagery and colours. Make sure your webinars are a great reflection of your company.
  3. Dial up the engagement. As I said earlier, the more interactive your webinars are, the more actionable data you’ll get to qualify your leads and convert them into pipeline. Literally script engagement into your presentations by integrated polls, Q&A, gamification, etc. Your audience will appreciate it too.
  4. Play with the formats. Don’t treat all webinars as talking powerpoint presentations. Some of the best webinars I’ve seen lately didn’t even have slides, they were simply great discussions with interesting people. Try panels, interviews, chat shows, and other formats to change the tone of your events. It will also take the pressure of your presenters. Instead of giving a ‘formal’ presentation, they can have conversations with each other and the audience, which is a better experience for everybody.
  5. Have an on-demand strategy. According to our recent Webinar Benchmarks Report, 35% of people who view webinars will watch on demand – not live. If your webinars only exist as a moment in time, then you’re losing up to a third or more of your potential audience.


Announcing Webinar World: Engage for Action

At some point, your audience stopped caring. They tuned out your communications and skipped over your content. It’s what happens when people are reduced to data points.

We know you get it. We also know that the pressure of keeping the business running is so overwhelming that you have no choice but to produce more. More content, in more channels, with more fleeting touches delivering superficial data and diminishing returns. The more you interrupt, the less it feels like a genuine conversation. So, when the conversation ends, so does any real connection to your audience, along with an opportunity to gain meaningful insights about the real person on the other end.

That’s why it’s imperative for every brand to rethink engagement. At ON24, we know there’s a better way—a more compelling, human approach. It starts with dynamic, relevant, multimedia content, delivered both live and on-demand, connecting with your audience when they want to through interactive features like polling, chatting, surveying, and more. And, finally, turning connections into insights that you can act on and share seamlessly across your operations.

Join us at Webinar World 2019 and to learn how to Engage for Action. Because if you redefine the way you engage with your audience, you can redefine your success.

Summer Reading: The Five Elements of Webinar Storytelling

For the next summer series playlist track, we’re going to put on the ritz. Jazz it up a little. Add some flair to the webinar air. We’re going to talk, of course, about generating great webinar stories.

So, how can you add some glitz to your webinar story glamor? Simple: organize. Plot, plan and then push your content. Getting the elements of your story right is critical because, as Mark Bornstein notes in “10 Secrets for Creating Great Webinar Content,” webinars are getting longer — up to 56 minutes on average in 2017. That added length means you have an exceptional opportunity to draw your audience in and push great content out.

So, where to start? Well, right here:

1. Have a goal in mind.

First, you need to have a goal for your specific webinar. This is where having detailed ideal customer profiles, personas and buying cycles in place helps. By knowing where your proposed webinar is going to fall across those three elements, you can select, craft or recycle highly relevant content that benefits the audience your aiming to address. Consider this the plotting stage of your webinar story.

2. Find inspiration in content that works

Your organization has stories. It has content. It has material you can take and turn into a webinar. For example, it has content for top, bottom, and middle-of-funnel buyers. Find the material that performs best — whether it’s a white paper, ebook, case study, research or just a blog post — and use it as inspiration for your webinars. Break your selected content down into topic areas and build out webinars based on those topics.

3. Refine

Once you have a topic selected — one that solves a problem for your audience — it’s time to refine. By refining, we mean focusing your webinar entirely on one subject and one subject only. Refrain from asides. Don’t try to connect one subject to another. Just focus on the topic you chose. By going deep into one issue, you’ll provide your audience with tangible benefits and prove your expertise.

4. Build your story

Finally, it’s time to build your story. This is where you get to add the neat little details. It’s hard, sure, but the good news is most of the heavy lifting is already done. You have an audience in mind, a topic and a specific pain point you’re trying to address. Now, all you have to do is decide how you’ll address your topic.

You’ve got a few options. You can showcase a new concept, compare strategies and tactics, demonstrate your solution (if you’re talking to bottom-of-funnel attendees) or give news-like updates on new industry developments. Whatever you chose, make sure the event sticks to your agenda, speaks on what you’ve advertised in your webinar abstract and is paced so your audience can follow along.

There are two things you should avoid, however. First, don’t make filler content. Your event should only be as long as it takes to address your topic (plus questions). Second, don’t pitch until it’s time to pitch. Audiences are coming to you for advice and help — help them first, then, when a prospect is at the bottom of the funnel, you can start talking about your company.

5. Outline and build your slides

Right, you have your narrative built out. Everything’s practically done except for the actual event content. Often, this means slides. Don’t worry — building slides to your content is easy.

First, outline what you’re going to go through during your event. This outline will serve as the basis for your slides. Second, know who’s speaking to your slides (heck, it could be you) and build your deck to their speaking cadence. This could range anywhere between 20 to 40 slides.

Does that sound like a lot? It not as intimidating as it sounds. That’s because when you build your slides, you should use a lot of white space, very little text (typically no more than three to four bullet points) and use pictures that either build a connection to your audience or help you to tell your story. The slides will fly by.

And that’s it! The basis of your webinar story is built out. All that’s left is for you to practice, adjust and present.

What else can you do to build out excellent webinar content? You can check out our entire Webinerd Summer Playlist right here. You can also check out our summer reading list for track three:

1. Webinars As a Content-Delivery Machine

2. How to Build a Killer Webinar Presentation

3. Q&A with Alex Blumberg, CEO of Gimlet Media

4. Four tips to detox your webinar slides

5. The Role of Webinars in the Buying Cycle

Are MQLs Relevant Anymore?

This article was first published on

The concept of relying only on marketing qualified leads (MQLs) to measure effectiveness might be going the way of platform shoes and disco balls.

MQLs are losing favor as a one-size-fits-all measure of marketing’s ability to push sales leads down the pipeline, say B2B industry leaders.

Although marketing automation gave rise to the prospect of MQLs becoming the standard marketing metric for organisations, many believe they are too open to misinterpretation and deception. Some see them as nothing more than a marketing vanity metric.

The MQL measure is certainly unable to take into account the circuitous journey B2B customers make on their way to making a buying decision. Businesses that bombard poorly targeted MQLs with sales and marketing collateral are unlikely to deliver exceptional experiences to potential customers, either. Then there’s the common complaint that so few MQLs convert into actual sales leads.

Joe Hyland, CMO of webinar software company ON24, says MQLs are misleading and not a useful gauge of marketing effectiveness within many B2B businesses.

“You can manipulate MQLs very easily,” Hyland says. “If my boss said ‘Joe, I need to see a 50 per cent increase in MQLs over the next quarter’ I can go into Marketo and change what qualifies as an MQL and immediately double the number.”

Hyland says because marketers can move the threshold of what qualifies as an MQL, it’s open for abuse … especially when incentives are attached to its importance. He thinks marketers should concentrate on what is right for the business and their customers.

“I’m less interested in having 10,000 MQLs a quarter than I am in having 2000 meaningful interactions where I’m helping persuade someone,” Hyland says.

ON24 has now changed its approach to lead generation. In the past, the ON24 marketing team had such a low MQL threshold that its sales team complained about receiving too many leads. The sales team was so awash with opportunities, it could only make one follow-up contact on each lead.

“We redefined our addressable market – what we call our ‘ideal customer profile,’” Hyland says. “Unless a company asked to be contacted by sales, it wouldn’t qualify [as an MQL] if it didn’t match those qualifications.” Hyland says ON24 also decreased its overall level of marketing activity, concentrating instead on making quality connections with prospects.

“We actually saw a massive decrease in MQLs … but we also saw pipeline [activity] go up 75 per cent,” he says. “A sales rep may only get two leads in a week but they are high-quality leads. We’ve decreased the noise and allowed salespeople to really focus.”

The Mercer Experience

MQLs certainly have their limitations in B2B companies with relatively low lead volumes.

Mercer, for instance, is a global consultancy in superannuation, HR and financial services. Its Australian operation gets 30 to 40 leads a month, sales contracts range from $25,000 to $5 million, and sales cycles can be from one week to two years.

Natalie Truong, who is Mercer’s Head of B2B Marketing, Pacific, spoke at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum about how she has thrown away the traditional lead-scoring model.

“In 2016, when I started at Mercer, we had an MQL target of 1060,” Truong said. “The business wasn’t fussed about what was going through the pipeline, or conversions or why leads were rejected, just as long as we were getting MQLs into the pipeline.”

Truong said that despite only achieving an MQL score of 270 that year, the team generated $1 million in marketing-related revenue with a 7 per cent conversion rate.

“So, what would be the logical thing to do in 2017?” Truong asked. “Up the MQL target.” The business set her team a new MQL target of 1364.

Truong decided she wanted to find another way to measure marketing effectiveness. “I said to the global team: ‘How about instead of worrying about the MQLs in the pipeline, I take a slightly different approach and I’ll guarantee you double conversion and double revenue?’ I wasn’t sure if we could do it, but what we were doing wasn’t working anyway so I had nothing to lose.”

Mercer began to filter its 30-40 leads per month manually and stopped its spam engine, which had sent 180,000 emails to about 5000 contacts in the previous 12 months.

“In 2017, we achieved 343 MQLs – nowhere near the 1364 we were set anyway,” Truong said. “But our conversion was 37 per cent and we generated $2.5 million in revenue.”

Truong said Mercer’s change in direction was unlikely to work for every business, especially those with high lead volumes.

How Webinars are Reshaping Continuing Education

According to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, 92 million adults in the United States are enrolled in some type of educational program and nearly two-thirds of them are taking a work-related course.  As so many things are in today’s society, many of these courses are available online, which means attending lessons and meeting the demands of your career without leaving the comfort of your home.

And that is a good thing — continuing education is a requirement and a necessity for professional development as well as to remain at the top of the field.

As an Early Learning Multimedia Manager for the Southwestern Child Development Commission Inc., I’m tasked with facilitating high-quality learning experiences in a variety of formats to the men and women who aspire to teach and renew credits. Thanks to webinars, the majority of our courses alleviate the need to be in a specific place at a set time and date.

Utilization of webinars in our continuing education program has removed many of the traditional barriers seen in the past, such as challenging work schedules, traffic and difficulty traveling, family obligations and other commitments. Webinars also may be more economical for some learners because they do not incur any travel, meal, babysitting or other expenses on the day of the class. They also help us offset the travel costs for our instructors, such as mileage and any overnight accommodations, if necessary, as well as providing copies and other materials used during face-to-face learning events.

We strive to keep our webinars engaging for our customers as we would a face-to-face event through a variety of different activities embedded into the event and utilization of adult learning techniques.  We strongly believe customers should be active participants in the learning process. We aim to create events that fully engage all types of learning styles through the use of audio, visual, kinesthetic, and social interactions.

For distance learning, we follow a particular process. Each distance learning event is peer-reviewed and offers continuing education credit.  We complete a series of forms and each has a syllabus and outline that is kept on file.  We also document the relevance of each topic for the field through a needs assessment — this is based on request — survey results, end of course evaluations, or through local/state/federal requirements.  All of our learning events are designed to meet best practices, impart practical, useful knowledge which can be applied immediately.

If your organization uses webinars for continuing education, or even internal training, it helps to follow a proven formula. To that end, here is a brief checklist to keep in mind when establishing and maintaining a continuing education curriculum:

  • Specify an overarching goal for your lessons (e.g., earned credits or certificates) and break down what professionals will need to know to earn that goal
  • Draft each of your lessons
  • Send your lessons for peer-review (this can be a peer or superior from your company or a consultant)
  • Refine based on feedback and publish your series
  • Within your series, incorporate polls and surveys on topic relevancy
  • Include an end-of-course evaluation
  • Assess feedback and incorporate for your next course iteration

Understand your virtual audience through their digital body language

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As marketers, we’re in the business of understanding behavior and what makes people buy things. But in the age of technology, when we can communicate seamlessly with anyone, anywhere with an internet connection, crucial elements still get lost in translation.

It’s somewhat absurd that with the rise of digital, we’ve actually masked a lot of the behavioral signals that help us piece together the person behind the action.

Sure, someone clicked, but do you know why? And how should you engage them next, since customer engagement drives purchase decisions?

Your prospective customers aren’t necessarily saying anything to you verbally like you’d hear a loved one or a boss. So, we’re left to sift through click-through rates, time spent on web pages and drop-off times on videos. But, it’s vital that we decipher what our customers are trying to tell us online, just as we would in an in-person conversation.

Despite their seeming silence, customers are continually giving off signals about their mindset through their behavior during their engagement with your assets — powerful signals I like to call “digital body language.”

How Best Buy is using its insights

In recent months, for example, Best Buy realized their special sauce was the in-person conversation — the interaction people have in-store with the “blue shirts,” the employees wearing the well-known bright blue polo shirts. So Best Buy exploited this point of differentiation in its most recent ad campaign.

Recently, Best Buy Chief Marketing Officer Whit Alexander said:

Telling the story of our people — and how we make a meaningful impact on customers’ lives — is at the heart of this work,”  “The core of what differentiates Best Buy vs. everyone else — and makes us awesome for customers — is that we understand your unique needs and how tech can enhance your life.

There are nuances to the process of buying electronics, especially big-ticket items, and an online description frequently doesn’t meet shoppers’ needs. That’s why Best Buy has shifted its focus to make its business model all about reading and engaging their customers.

One 30 second spot, for example, shows an employee helping a customer choose a refrigerator — a purchase decision based specifically on fingerprint-resistance.

This is a powerful lesson for B2B companies to apply to our own marketing — we need to create an environment online that mirrors the showroom experience, where we can take cues from prospective customers.

Reading buyer’s digital body language

So you’ve got all these metrics on your prospective buyers, but the difficulty lies in deciphering what their actions actually mean. Your data should provide intelligence into how to approach each customer.

Here are some general guidelines about how to interpret and act on your prospect’s online behavior:

Multiple visits to your website or content
This is the equivalent of bumping into someone a few times and making small talk. You’re not quite friends, but you are acquaintances and know a few things about each other. These buyers are aware of your product and offerings, but may not know much about them.

It’s best to engage them with introductory content, and not get too into the weeds too fast. If you have a sense of what industry they work in, you should tailor your content based on those insights. Keep these pieces of content on the short side, so you don’t lose their attention.

Above average time spent on your website or content
You’ve captured someone’s attention, for whatever reason. This is a person leaning into a conversation. While they may still be unfamiliar with your product and offerings, a person who is spending longer than average perusing your content is engaged.

These prospects are deeper into the evaluation process, and, while they may not fully understand your offerings, they’re more willing to commit to longer forms of content because they are engaged. You should market to them accordingly.

Answering your surveys or questions embedded on your web pages or in your content
These are prospects who are actively engaging with you and carrying on a conversation. They likely understand your offerings more than most, and ant specific information on how they can apply your solutions to their specific industry or role.

These people want to buy your solution, but are doing their due diligence and need that final reassurance they’re making the right decision. It’s your job as a marketer to provide information that’s tailored to taking them across the finish line, from prospect to customer.

Understanding why people are engaged

We’re all looking to try to find prospects and capture their attention. And no metric is foolproof.

Someone might have visited your content and started a video, and then left it running on another tab without paying any attention to it. Or they may have watched for a while, but spent the majority of the time rolling their eyes. That’s why it’s vital to engage with your prospects throughout — whether by conducting surveys or asking questions when they arrive on web pages through platforms that offer such functionality.

Identifying engagement involve a lot more trial and error than most marketers like to admit, and we can accept that. What we shouldn’t accept is a failure to do the analysis after the fact to understand how and why we captured a buyer’s attention. The signals are out there, even in the digital world. It’s up to us to find them, learn from them and replicate our successes for future marketing campaigns.

No matter your approach, it’s vital to respect your audience at every step of the sales process. Today’s noisy and competitive marketing landscape makes it virtually impossible to go without an outbound marketing strategy. But you must take care to avoid simply adding to the noise.

The way you’ll truly resonate with your potential customers by being in tune with their digital body language, reading their digital cues and responding accordingly, just as you would face to face.