Did Microsoft Azure’s Approach to Marketing Help Its Company’s Quarter?

It’s rewarding to see a company succeed — especially when they’re considered an underdog in their respective industry. Microsoft, for example, is a quintessential comeback story in the tech industry. It was the tech industry leader for decades until being supplanted agile companies, like Google and Apple, that were more capable of adapting to a digital age.

Today, the organization is back near the top. It’s now the world’s fourth-most valuable company, nipping on Alphabet’s heels (in May it even surpassed the Google conglomerate) and just had an excellent earnings report.

What gives? Well, a lot of hard work from dedicated employees and key investments in critical areas, such as the company’s cloud platform, Microsoft Azure. Azure, in fact, is one of the prime drivers behind the company’s growth spurt. Its cloud platform is so successful that it’s growing faster than Amazon’s AWS. That’s serious pipeline.

To us, we can’t help but think that Microsoft Azure’s marketing efforts played a critical role in an organization’s overall success. While the tech giant possesses the funds to buy their way into a market, the company’s ethos — and practicality — demanded it takes a long-term, ground-up approach to marketing that informs customers, trains partners and provides sales with the insights they need — and do so quickly. It’s a traditional, well-oiled global demand generation machine refined for the modern era and it works. Trust us, we’ve seen it in action.

Microsoft’s successes — and other growth successes — should be a wake-up call to organizations chasing global growth. Its message: growth is a team effort, and putting everything in the right place first pays off in the long run. Curious about how Azure boosted its global marketing efforts? Check out our case study explaining how they re-invented their webinars for success and register for our upcoming episode of the Webinar Best Practices Series, “Taking Your Webinars Global.”

CMO Confessions Ep 11.: SAP’s Kevin Cochrane

Hi everyone and welcome to episode 11 of CMO Confessions. In this edition, I sit down and chat with Kevin Cochrane, CMO of SAP Customer Experience and C/4HANA. Kevin has an almost religious devotion to identifying customer pain points and delivering a great customer experience — and he does so in an almost unique way in today’s age: by sitting down and actually talking with customers.

Kevin’s CMO journey started when he joined Interwoven as the VP of Web Content Management. From there, he wound his way to Alfresco, Software AG and all the way to SAP.  In this episode of CMO Confessions, we dive into what Kevin thinks of today’s marketing landscape, what’s missing in our journey to become more customer-centric and it’s so critical to slow down and ask better questions.

If you’re curious about what Kevin has to say about the state of our industry, you can follow him on Twitter at @kevinc2003 and on LinkedIn here.

Finally, as usual, 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, and I want to welcome you to this week’s episode of CMO confessions the weekly B2B sales and marketing podcast that explores what it really means to be a marketing leader in today’s business world. I’m Joe Highland CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week from Miami, while I’m in San Francisco, is Kevin Cochrane, CMO of SAP Customer Experience. Kevin, how are you doing?

Kevin Cochrane:  I’m doing a great, Joe, great to speak with you today.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, thanks for doing this. I really appreciate it. Okay, Let’s dive right into digital marketing, marketing in general. What do you love about we what we do?

Kevin Cochrane: Well, there’s three things. I love about what we do. Number one, I love being able to make the human connection. At the end of the day, what we as marketers do is we uncover our customers intent; what are their hopes their dreams their aspirations, and how can we effectively engage them in order to help them understand how our companies and our products and our services can help them? So, I love making that human connection. The second thing is I love building teams of people to inspire them to, in turn, learn from customers and how to listen and how to engage.

There’s nothing so much more wonderful than actually seeing a whole team of marketers being able to speak about the customers, speak about their needs and, again, engage them in that one-to-one way so that they can best represent our brands and best deliver value to the customer. There’s nothing more exciting and much more pleasing than that.  The third thing is that intellectually speaking marketing the most fascinating place to be right now and it has been for quite a long period of time. The Innovation that’s happening around data, data science and around customer engagement fundamentally challenges each and every one of us in very unique and interesting ways each and every day. So that intellectual challenge, that intellectual rigor, you know, suddenly just makes marketing just so exciting for me personally and hopefully for everyone listening here to this podcast.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, and I love that answer because — and I’ll start with number three there — for me marketing’s about solving problems and for me that’s what makes it fun and challenging and interesting and it’s constantly changing. So yeah, the intellectual rigor for me is honestly one of the coolest things. You talk about human connections, and I love that because, as marketers, finding ways to engage with our audience — I mean that’s the Holy Grail, right? That’s what we should be fantastic at.

But I want to get your take on scale. So, scale is real, scale is very much a challenge that we all have and what I’m finding or what I’m seeing in the space, which is I think particularly interesting is. Marketers automating everything that is humanly possible, even down to the email copy that we write — could have robots write it and in many cases they are. So, I feel like we’re winning in the automation game which is which is great, don’t get me wrong. There are tremendous benefits there. But I feel like there’s a human connection that is lost with all this digital automation. I would love to get your take on that.

Kevin Cochrane: Yeah, I completely agree, and I’ll start off with, and hopefully you don’t mind me sharing our conversation that we started off even before we get began the podcast. You and I have a shared experience as we learned about — we both ran a marathon in Zermatt two months ago, and we had a great time speaking about that for 10 minutes.  We’re actually real people you’re a real person. I’m a real person. And outside the context of our work lives and this particular podcast, there are things that we share in common that our interests that can help us actually form a relationship with one another that can facilitate our professional dialogue and to facilitate growth and both of our businesses. And as marketers, we have actually to remember that.

I think we’ve got too far in the shift from brand marketing to demand marketing and we become inundated with data, we become inundated with automation, and we stop actually thinking about who was the actual end person at the end of the email — who is the actual end customer? Who are they really as a real person? And what are the unique things that make them a unique individual that are not just a segment? You know, I love the famous quote from Six Degrees of Separation, Stockard Channing, favorite of mine, of course saying, “I am not an anecdote.” Well, I’m not a segment, right? I’m actually a very unique person as are you. And I think as marketers we need to get back to understanding and relating to our real customers.  I tend to challenge people on my team in a very simple way. When was the last time you spoke with the customer? When was the last time you spoke with the customer? When we’re talking about this campaign, and we’re talking about automated, because automation is very important, you have to automate course, can you speak about it in the context of a real customer that you have met, that you have spoken to that you can envision in your mind when you’re building that next nurture program, when you’re building that next email copy? Because if you can’t envision the customer and you can’t think about a real human being then you could go awry and that’s where I like to challenge people on my own team and hopefully in the broader industry as well.  At the end of the day, we need to leverage the data. We need to leverage the science, and you need to use it to uncover each individual’s intent, and we need to automate the prescriptive delivery of content experience and services matched against that end to the best extent possible to scale. But never ever, ever should a marketer ever forget of what a real customer a real customer conversation looks like.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Amen. I couldn’t agree with you anymore. And it’s interesting, right? That mixture of human connection with the amazing breadth and depth of data — and you’re right, automation is not a bad thing in any marketer who tries to run away from it, I think, would risk be kind of becoming yesterday’s marketer, but it’s the mixture of those two things, right? Where you can do something really special.

Kevin Cochrane: That’s the one hundred percent right? I have seen in my career too many times someone who’s an absolute wizard in the martech stack put together beautiful theoretical nurture program against beautiful theoretical segments and then you just simply ask the question, “When was the last time you’ve met a customer?” And it’s never.  As marketers remember, we’re trying to form an emotional connection with people and the reason why we want that emotional connection is because the less people have that emotional connection they’re actually literally not going to act, they’re not going to purchase. Because all of the theoretical research shows the end of the day, you can do all of your online research, and you can use as much at your rational brain as possible.

But the moment that you click the buy, the moment that you actually sign up for that webinar, the moment that you actually agree to that meeting with that sales rep , the moment that you signed on the contract, all the rational side of your brain turns out, and it’s a complete emotional response and the emotional responses based on whatever feeling that you have about that brand based on how an individual made you feel, right? The sales rep. How do they make you feel? The inside sales person? Did they make you feel special? That marketer at the event? Did they make you feel special? If you didn’t do that that emotional side of the brain doesn’t kick in and people don’t actually really truly convert to revenue, and so, as a marketer, at the end of the day, never forget like the less, you know the customer and speak to the customer you won’t know what that emotional connection you’re trying to get — even when you’re automating things. It’s so critically important, and this is why, and it will probably get to this little bit later, some of the things that we need to start doing differently and B2B marketing.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, so I love the intersection of marketing and politics. I find the movement of the why and how you inspire people and how pulling at emotional heartstrings ultimately makes people make certain decisions. You don’t need to look that much further than the last presidential election to see that. The polls were off because people enter, regardless of how you feel politically, I could talk for hours on that just alone, but I won’t, but people went in, and for whatever reason they changed their mind they had this gut feeling — and in your right, we as we as marketers can learn from that.

How many times have we been in a room where you know, there’s a beautiful model and everything lines up perfectly on a spreadsheet for how we’re going to attack a new market in gain a certain percent adoption and is dozens or hundreds of millions of dollars and no one’s asked the question of why would someone actually do this? Like, what’s in it for the end user? Which is insane. But but that happens all too often.

Kevin Cochrane: But this is also the shift from inside-out thinking to outside in thinking. This is the shift and customer centricity and marketing which is get to the core pain that the individual fields and find a means and mechanism through your campaign efforts to surface that pain and help give voice to that pain and clarify what the implications of that pain are to the person so that they say, “God, you get me. You understand me, and you’re really hitting me where it hurts right now, and you can actually speak to my pain better than I can.” And then they trust you to do something about it.  And the intersection of marketing and politics is a fascinating one.

For many, many years I’ve actually believed good B2B campaigns need to be modeled like a political campaign. Because political campaign serves as a template for how you can do proper a B2B marketing. So, yeah, I couldn’t agree with more, and we definitely are going to have to go on a long run time sometime to talk about that egg.  Because there’s a profound implication and, much like yourself, I actually watched the last election season and prior election season as well and just look at it from the perspective of the marketing tactics, the language used, the way events are choreographed absolutely brilliant absolutely fascinating. There’s lessons and models to be learned for effective conveyance of emotions to get people to act for political campaigns — couldn’t agree more.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, so let’s dive into what you alluded to a moment ago. We’ve touched on some of the things, but what needs to change. So we talked about what we what we both love. Let’s move into the what disappoints us in our in our world these days.

Kevin Cochrane: Yeah, so I mean, I think there are three things in B2B marketing that kind of needs change. Number one, is I think in the shift to digital and the shift to become more, you know B2C centric, essentially, and how we drove our B2B marketing efforts, we’ve lost the inherent qualities of what made B2B different, which is a relationship affecting the human aspect and we’ve oversteered our investment in digital channels and we’re not making effective use of in-person meetings, in-person events and tying those two broader digital efforts — specifically around online communities.

Good B2B marketing still puts at its core, and its nucleus, the one-on-one physical engagement people look eye to eye with one another and having a real conversation. And I think that we have started to forget that. And events are always this thing over here, and then your campaigns are things over here, and more money is going over here because we can analyze it and report on it and we can actually document the attribution of it much more effectively than the random influence of we can do an event. We’ve got to be careful that we’re overcorrecting we can’t overcorrect.  The second thing is we’re not really thinking about the employee experience that powers that end customer experience. There are so many people that interact with the customer and that build upon and maintain the relationship that marketing may start. And as marketers, we need to take under our wing our sales professionals, our customer success professionals, our service professionals, our support professionals and we need to train them in the art of conversation. We need to train them how the how to continue the dialogue that we begin with the customer to make certain that at every point of interaction for the salesperson, the service person the support person that they are in effect growing and nurturing that relationship.

I think as marketers, we tend to stop our jobs after we hand over to our inside sales teams for we hand over to our AES and we don’t think holistically about how does that person in the customer success organization? Are they trained on how to speak customer do they actually know the difference between an Enterprise Architect and an IT Architect? They know what differences that those two individuals may have in their mind in terms of their career aspirations their professional aspirations, you name it, and can they speak to those? We have to help them so that they, in turn, can best help the customer. So that’s another thing that we as marketers change. And then the third thing that we as marketers need to change is our organizations — and we’ve talked about this before earlier. Too many marketers just hide behind the data right now, and as marketers, we need to be front and center, we need to be leading the charge. If a marketer cannot have a customer conversation that is a bad thing because how can that marketer then in turn support and train someone in sales, support and train someone in the support organization, support and train someone in the customer service organization? As marketers, we have to be the best at the art of the conversation with the customer. You have to know them personally, and we have to leverage that personal law of personal relationship in order to help fuel the conversations and relationships of others in the organization.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I so strongly agree. You said something really interesting in there you mentioned into this customer-centric mindset that really needs to permeate, hopefully, the entire organization, I firmly believe it should start in marketing with though there is a difference of opinions there. I’ll tell you a crazy story, which I think you’ll find alarming, but we’ll see, is a friend of mine works in customer marketing for a very large successful tech company here in here in the Bay Area and their number one metric for success that they came up with as an organization to determine how appropriately, how successfully there they’re communicating with their existing customers was number was number of touches. So how often do we touch the customer?

And so what happened is you saw an in this in this company a 500 percent increase in the number of emails they sent. So, rather than worrying about the quality, how they’re treating their customers. So, they just started blasting their own customer base. It was a horrendous customer experience, but everyone made their bonuses because they hit they hit their milestone.

Kevin Cochrane: You did you were totally right. I mean, this is the same thing that we also did in marketing as well when we shifted to taking responsibility for pipeline. We started flooding the system with MQLs. MQL this, MQL that, everything was an MQL — we got double our bonus because we double our MWL because we spent a whole bunch of money on content syndication and we gamed the system. I mean, we got to talk about quality conversations with the customer that result in a successful deployment and a happy, loyal advocate. And, you know, I do think the strategy of making certain that we regularly engage with customers is absolutely essential, and it’s a metric that should be tracked but to your point, you know, it’s how you do it that matters.

Now, I’ll give you an example from my earlier days. So, you know prior to SAP, and prior to my time in several other places, I started my career as a co-founder of a company called Interwoven, right? And was there for 10 years and one of the hallmarks Interwoven was that we literally just knew our customers by name and we would engage them at a minimum every three months like regular clockwork. So, you know, one of the things very early in the day since 1999. We established user groups all around the planet. And we made certain that every quarter we were at those user groups, and we shook everybody’s hands, and we greeted them by their first name, and we remember who they were — even when we had thousands of customers around the globe. Like, we all knew each other, it was so critically important. So yeah, the level of engagement was really important. If we didn’t see someone at a user group for like two quarters that was worrisome — that was worrisome. Like where are they? Like, what’s wrong?

Joe Hyland: Right things not right, right.

Kevin Cochrane: We want to see them like if I don’t see you eye-to-eye, but I don’t see it at the user group, or if I don’t see it the latest executive event, if I don’t see you at the user conference if I don’t shake your hand and say are you okay? How are you doing? Then maybe something’s wrong, right? So I think that we all need to pay attention to levels of engagement for customers, but to your point, let’s do it right, let’s not blood emails and try to game the system.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Well, I mean look at your role in your team. The fact that there’s a CMO in charge of customer experience —  five or ten years ago — I was I was never aware of such a title. I think so many marketers, you’re right, our jobs ended with hey, we got the MQLs over to the inside sales team, we’re done, and what happens when someone’s a customer, sorry, we’re responsible for getting new customers.  Talk about what that’s like because I think that shift alone can lead to the right types of behaviors that we all should encompass in our own marketing.

Kevin Cochrane: Yeah, know exactly. I mean, I actually liken customer experience to the third wave of digital transformation where the first wave of digital transformation was simply putting our presence online to support convenience of access to information about our products goods and services by the online consumer. That was all an era of brand marketing, you know, we wanted to protect our brand.

But in the second age of digital transformation where we rebuilt the entire enterprise web infrastructure stack, that was all about the shift to demand marketing, from brand marketing to demand marketing. And it was really catalyzed because you know, frankly, in the financial crisis the economic outlook was turbulent at best and with poor revenue outlook and potentially flat to declining margins because people needed to lower prices in order to get consumers to spend because consumers were reluctant to spend because their 401Ks tanked, their home values tanked and, you know, maybe they lost their job, suddenly, you know, stock prices were declining. And what happens in that particular case is then people want to boost growth, and the entire digital marketing industry was based on the premise that we need to accelerate customer acquisition because it was all of that spend two thousand nine ten, eleven twelve, all of the martech investments that were funded by VCs were all predicated on the notion of we need to boost revenue by accelerating customer acquisition because it was all driven during the recovery from the financial crisis.

So we are here today because we are still in the overhang that fundamental shift to digital marketing which is all predicated on customer acquisition. But here now in this third wave, which I would argue is just starting right now, it’s we’re returning the art of marketing, we’re returning more to the side of brand marketing, and I like to refer to it as connecting communities, right?

So, from building the brand to driving demand to connecting communities, which is gathering people, right, our customers, our prospects and connecting with them in an authentic way around their personal hopes, dreams, needs, and aspirations, and helping them achieve that day in and day out in their daily lives. And this is fundamentally what’s re-inventing businesses, because suddenly, you know if you’re you know, my favorite coffee company, Starbucks, you can knock me on Starbucks, I am such an advocate — it’s crazy, I go there four times a day. They understand that what I’m looking to do every morning when I get up is I’m looking to have a great start to my day, so they make it super fast, super easy and super convenient for me to never miss a meeting, never miss my time to work because now they let me preorder on my mobile phone and simply walk in and pick up my coffee — it’s fricken fantastic. They’re reinventing their business model in new services to deliver value to me to live my daily life in a faster and more convenient way, right?  And so as marketers we’re redefining our brand promise, right? To connect with our communities and then, day in and day out as marketers, we’re basically showing how that we add more value to their lives. So, I do think that this new wave of digital transformation really puts markers at the forefront to be the ambassadors for the customers to be the voice of the customer and to help educate everyone in the organization to understand how does the brand promise improve people’s lives on a daily basis such that they want to come back again, and again, and again and again?

Joe Hyland: Yeah. I love that. There’s probably no better time, I think, I mean we have no choice were in marketing today, it is what it is, but I think there’s no better time to be to be a marketer. And you’re right, when you talked about the second wave of accelerating revenue, there were. I think beautiful things about it and the obvious slippery slopes. Well, what I thought was great is marketers really became core to growing the business in phase one where it was, I say just brand it’s not necessarily meant to be a negative thing, but you know marketers weren’t necessarily quarter driving growth in all scenarios. Phase two where you talked about, yes, I totally agree. I think it went too far, you know, the explosion of inside sales and SDR departments — a pet peeve of mine — and I’m not really sure if that’s the best customer experience have a 23-year-old just lighting up your prospective customers with ten calls in a week. But yeah, I agree, we’re now moving into this nice mix of a true art of marketing where you have the elements of branding. I think marketers are core to growth still, which is phenomenal and marketers are so strategic. But what you just said about Starbucks, back to the core tenets that you talked about at the start of the show is knowing why someone does what they what they do. I mean, knowing what inspires people — Starbucks does that better than better than most companies.

Kevin Cochrane: That’s right, exactly. As marketers, if you can’t figure out what inspires your customers at a very deep emotional level to react positively or brand — not just once but you know time and time again — go back and think harder and think harder by actually walking in the shoes of your customer and spending time with them.  And I couldn’t agree with you more, by the way, on the whole, SDR model, and, you know what, an SDR model, done correctly, you know, if you’re 23 years old, there’s nothing more fascinating than to get on the phone with the CIO and listen and learn and ask questions, you know, “What’s going on in your world?” And then just be upfront honest. If the CIO, the CMO starts telling you there are challenges, if you train the SDR properly, the SDR could say, you know, you know ma’am, sir, unfortunately, I can’t help you there. Or, potentially, they can.  Now I’ll tell you I start my career, when I was 23 years old, I was a Management Consultant before I did my Interwoven gig. I was a Management Consultant and the way I basically did financial models for mergers and acquisitions, and so, basically, I had to come up with all of the inputs on market size, market growth rates, competitive profiling and so and so forth.

Joe Hyland: That sounds fun work project.

Kevin Cochrane: Yes. Oh my God, they were crazy. They were called grenades because they would blow up in your face because they would take over your life 20 hours days. But what I did was — and these were like weird markets like centrifuges, you know industrial mixers, things that there was no research on, right? And so what you have to do is you have to build up a list of like 300 people you would need to call, like a product manager, CEOs of all the businesses and you just have to engage them. And then, you just have to ask yourself, “Well, how do you do that?” Well, you just show curiosity like, “I’m interested. Hey, I just want to know more about your business like tell me what you can, and in return, I’ll share with you all the insights I gained from my research.”  So, an SDR model done right leverages that unique curiosity as a team. Lean in with that curiosity and make sure that they can understand what the customer is saying and they can relate it to something that you can either do or not do and then train them to be up front and honest. Because, to your point, I think an SDR model done wrong is you give the SDR a script you flood ’em with MQLs, go through this script and then try to punch out as many first level meetings as possible. If they’re just trying to punch out first level meetings and they’re not trying, themselves understand listen and learn and try to relate to a customer problem and how we might solve it, then the model is broken. It doesn’t work.

Joe Hyland: Yeah. Now you are you’re totally right and it’s looking at the wrong metrics, right? Like if you’re if you’re looking if you’re so short-term focused that — and let’s face it, every business wants to grow — you got to have a long-term view and short-term metrics can kill you.

Kevin Cochrane:  That’s bingo out. Nothing more to say on that.

Joe Hyland: So we’ll end with the topic that I love, and I get asked a lot is what’s the best path? Like, how did you know? How did Joe how did you become a head of marketing Kevin? We know, how did you get here? You talked about management consulting, and then I think you had a decade-long run as an entrepreneur. You know, were you running marketing, where you were marketing report into you? How did how did you get this level of passion and knowledge? For your craft?

Kevin Cochrane:Yeah, I mean and if it’s going to sound like totally try it actually comes from deep customer knowledge and intimacy. So, in my management consulting days, basically, I wound up being the go-to person that everyone wanted to have on their team because within two to three weeks I would know the customer because I would literally call like 300 of them on the phone and interview them, right? And then when I went to Silicon Valley in 1996 like May of 1996, I didn’t know Tech at all. Like, I know nothing. The Apache web server had just been released, and two hundred engineers in a garage got some seed funding from local VC firm that wanted to invent a new category of software called web content management, and, you know, I literally just said, “Look, I don’t know anything and I have no qualifications to be a product manager, I said, but what I can do for you is you guys have this kind of goal to like, you know, help people build websites.” I said, “I’ll just go interview every single person in the Fortune 500, every single CIO, every single architect of this interview and then I’ll help write down what their requirements are and coalesce those into a document that maybe you can actually use to build a product.” And that’s what I did for 10 years is just I was always in front of a customer talking and listening and learning and then going back — that was my day job was to be out in front of the customer.

My night job was I would sit with engineers and pizza until midnight literally every single night saying here are the customer conversations I had today. And just over time what that translated into was just running … eventually, CMO is super easy because then you are just saying look, “I’m the customer advocate.” Like, you know, I just love talking to customers. I know what’s inspiring them.  So I would just encourage anyone the right path can be any one of several. You can start and pre-sales, you can start in inside sales, you can start in marketing, you can start in a customer success team. If you are the biggest champion of your customers if you are the person that has the most curiosity if you’re the person who really cares about the customer at such as deep level about you, know what emotionally ties into brand your CMO material. And it doesn’t matter where you start you can start from any place — it’s just you gotta be that customer evangelist at the end of the day.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, well, that’s a perfect way to end because you are 100 percent right. Great marketing is about knowing your end-user, knowing what keeps them up at night, what pains they have and hopefully delivering a message in the product that that will help address that. So, Kevin, this was this was fantastic. I really appreciate you doing this while you’re on the road and we’ll continue the conversation over a run.

Kevin Cochrane: Great, thank so much, Joe. It was great meeting you and thanks so much for allowing me to join the conversation today, I enjoyed it a lot.

Joe Hyland:  Awesome. Thanks.

How Three Fortune Future 50 Winners Innovate with ON24

Every year, Fortune publishes its Fortune Future 50 list, a compendium of the top companies destined to shape our future. For us at ON24, it’s an incredible honor to play a small part in the success stories of our customers on the list, ServiceNow, NVIDIA and SalesForce. A huge congratulations to them and all our fast-moving webinerds!

After all, helping companies accelerate their growth is what ON24 is all about. We’ve built the ON24 Engagement Platform to empower marketers to move at the speed of innovation, get to market fast and accelerate pipeline through data-rich webinars and interactive content. In fact, SiriusDecisions says that webinar marketing is the best way to start deals and keep them moving.

Here’s a shout-out to celebrate just a few of the Fortune Future 50 we’re thrilled to call members of our webinerd family:


ServiceNow is an industry leader in cloud-based IT service management with an outstanding 97 percent retention rate. Its webinar program is just as successful, with its webinars hosting 3,000 to 4,000 attendees at a time. The company also takes the long-view approach to its webinars, with an expert use of ON24 Gateway for on-demand, Netflix-stye viewing.


For the B2B world, there no other company like Salesforce. Focused on delivering superior customer relationship everything, Salesforce takes a strong unified approach in both its business and its webinars. Just check out its on-demand page, where it has countless webinars to watch or check out how they craft their webinar program with our on-demand webinar, “Building Killer Webinars at Salesforce.”


NVIDIA went from creating graphics processor units for video game consoles and computers to powering the artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicle and virtual reality booms in record time. NIVIDA’s webinars, too, have had their own boom, with one dedicated person scaling its webinar marketing program to meet global demand and boost pipeline. Later this month, we’re going to sit down with NIVIDA’s webinar guru, Cassandra Clark, to see how she organizes the growing company’s webinars. Register now and save your spot.

To get the webinerd skills you need to make the list next year, please join us and these winners at our annual user conference Webinar World.

CMO Confessions EP. 10: Scott Brinker of HubSpot

Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of CMO Confessions. This week, we sit down to talk with the one and only Scott Brinker, Vice President of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot and Editor in Chief at chiefmartec.com. As many of you may know, Scott is the mind behind the martech landscape supergraphic, which currently lists more than 6,800 different companies in the martech space (I still have trouble spotting my company, ON24, on the ever-growing sheet but that’s beside the point).

Scott’s history in the marketing technology space stretches back to 1986 when he was 15 years old and promoting games for The Major BBS, an early bulletin board server. A few short years later, he joined Galacticomm, purveyor of The Major BBS, as vice president of marketing. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

In this episode of CMO Confessions, we dive into Scott’s history, what martech is here for and explore how he thinks the landscape will change in the coming years. Spoiler: there’s talk of consolidation in the forecast.

You can find Scott on Twitter at @chiefmartec and check out his extensive resume through LinkedIn here. You can also check out his book, “Hacking Marketing,” right here.

Finally, 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, I’m Joe Hyland, CMO here at ON24 and joining me this week from the Greater Boston Area is Scott Brinker, VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot as well as a host of other companies that we’ll talk about in just a minute. So, Scott, welcome.

Scott Brinker: Joe great to be here with you.

Joe Hyland: That’s fantastic having you. I think you and your work are famous in marketing circles. So, the martech landscape that you publish I think I see twice a week in presentations with the background being that there’s a lot of stuff happening in the marketing space and it’s a crowded market.
I’d love for you to talk about that work, how you even envisioned it and how you researched it. Where did you even begin on that journey?

Scott Brinker: Yeah. I’m not sure if it’s famous so much is infamous at this point. But yeah, it was actually very humble beginnings. As, you know, cool projects are. So, for a few years, I’ve been advocating to marketing executives that they really needed to hire technology people to be a part of the marketing team — these marketing technologists. And so, I developed the first version of that landscape for a conference that had a bunch of you know, CMOs, in the audience. And it was my attempt to say, “Hey, look at the evidence. Look at all these different technologies that you’ve now become reliant on, whether it was your content management system or search engine optimization or social or mobile.”

You lay it all out, it’s like “oh my goodness!” There’s like actually a lot of different technologies that are driving modern marketing. And this was in 2011. And so, when I did that first slide, it was around 150 different companies and I largely assembled it from folks. You know been talking to marketers for years, “What tools do you use for this will tools are used for that.” And yeah, even that first version with only about 150. Half the time I was like, “Oh my God, that was a lot of marketing Technologies. This is insane!”

So, you know, I just kept going back year-over-year to update this mostly out of my own curiosity at first. But then, somewhere around 2014 when it crossed into you know thousand — like they were a thousand vendors all of a sudden on that landscape — it kind of took on a life of its own.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, when do you when do you think it hit an inflection point so to speak? What do you think? Do you think it was in 2014 when they’re over a thousand? Was it before that after that?

Scott Brinker: Yeah, so certainly the 2014 landscape was an inflection point. I think everyone realized at that point in time that, “Okay, this is this is a very different beast than what we have seen before.” And particularly for marketers who, again, we’re digital marketers. It’s not that where tech shy, but there was something about yeah, the scale of all these different technologies and the rate at which they were evolving and the new players who were entering all of a sudden.

Yeah, that was a tipping point where I think people realized. I mean, I certainly realized. This is this is crazy and the rules we had for managing technology as executives in marketing for the previous decade — we were going to have to start to rethink them in this new environment.

Joe Hyland: Were there did you broaden this topic? It’s just fascinating to me — you’ll have to force me off of it in a few moments. Did you broaden some of the definitions or was there was there actually a tenfold increase in companies? Was there a start-up proliferation in B2B marketing?

Scott Brinker: Yeah, it’s a great question. So, it was kind of three things all coming together. One, certainly, I was getting better at discovering them during those I was able to go out and I was learning year-over-year and say, “Hey, what are the pockets of these different, you know, companies.” And also, I was having more companies reach out to me proactively and say, “Hey, we saw your landscape from last year, why aren’t we here? We have, you know, 25 million in revenue a hundred great customers, you know, what’s up?”

So, there’s some of that discovery. Some of it that was an expansion of the categories from my perspective. For instance, I always sort-of included but expanded things around like sales enablement and sales intelligence incorporated — things such as very common project management tools that weren’t specific to marketing, like Trello, you know isn’t a quote-unquote marketing tool, but so many marketing organizations rely on those tools. In so many marketing organizations, the marketing ops person is collaborating with a sales ops person on how we’re delivering sales enablement, but I thought it was worthwhile to include that in people’s picture of “Hey, listen still as a marketing executive this is kind of the tech world that you have to have a say in — you have to have a vision for you know how this maps into your organization.”

So, there’s that and then on top of that you had just new companies entering the space and an incredible rate because this isn’t actually just marketing — this is happening in every department like HR, finance and accounting. I mean, you name it.

It’s just gotten so easy to create new software. The barriers to entry for taking a great idea and building it on top of AWS and getting it out into the world is a pretty low bar to be able to get out of.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, it’s exciting. I mean, I live in the right in the middle of it in San Francisco. I told you before, I’m from Boston one of my friends works for a venture capital firm in Boston. He’s so proud of Boston companies helps about being one of them. He’s always reminding me of the latest and greatest Boston company.

But you’re right, the barrier to entry has demonstrably changed in the last 10 years. Are you seeing, or do you predict a lot of consolidation? Because, what’s the list up to now? It’s is it 6,500? I knew I knew it was north of 5,000.

Scott Brinker: Yeah, it’s something like 6,300 different companies. Again, that list, the moment I publish it I am now awash with “Yeah, you know you forgot so-and-so and then some.”

But I mean it’s interesting. So, there is consolidation. This is always one of the things that people find so counterintuitive is because for years.

Consolidation has been going on. If you look at you know, the major companies in the space, you know, certainly like, you know Salesforce, Adobe Oracle — I mean these have been incredibly acquisitive companies in trying to pull together these solutions stacks. I mean, HubSpot’s gone on the acquisition game a bit it’s like so that’s definitely happening, but at the same time the new entrants into the space — well, one hasn’t overtaken the other so we’re seeing these forces of consolidation, but we still see this rejuvenation of new entrants in new categories trying new ideas. It’s just an incredibly frothy space and when we could debate whether that’s good, bad, ugly but the thing about the landscape I’ve always found is even if you set aside a value judgment on it, it’s like do I think this is a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just empirically what it is.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I find it fascinating. I think we’re lucky to be marketers. I think there are a few professions who are as enamored as marketers with new technologies new ideas. For me, nothing’s bolted to the ground and that’s part of what makes great marketing.

The last space I was in was financial supply chain and at the time it felt like there was an explosion of technology, looking back. It’s laughable, there were 20 or 30 companies and that felt crowded. Yeah, I’m proud that there’s all these new technologies. For me, what’s interesting is what’s a nice to have a piece of technology versus what’s built to last. And I think your last statement is right: it will be what it will in fact be. I think a lot of these a lot of these techs will probably — you know — a pretty high-percentage of them will either get folded into larger players — the HubSpot’s of the world — big fan of HubSpot. Truthfully, they’ll go their own way and they’ll parish it will be interesting to see how many of them are standalone companies. What percentage — do you even have an opinion on that or do you not hypothesize on future?

Scott Brinker: Well, it’s with that caveat that predicting the future is hard, but I actually have some data on this. I went back to the very first, proto-landscape I created right before 2011, and I don’t know I want to say there was like 70 some-odd companies that I had on that. And, without looking at the sheet — I can’t get the exact number — I would say something like 60 out of the 70 had gone away. They’d either been acquired and merged into something or they’d simply gone out of business.

And if you think about between 2010, and I think I did that at the end of 2017, you know about 17 years is usually right — particularly in tech. There’s kind of a business cycle there: you’ve either hit escape velocity or something — you become one of the permanent members of the community or you’ve been merged or acquired or something. Or, it’s played its course and if you didn’t end up winning, it’s not so much necessarily that the big guys are going to push you out. It’s probably that they’ll just be a new generation of new entrepreneurs who tried in a different way in a better way and because you don’t have a large enough scale, it’s actually harder to fend off those new entrants.

So, I do think it’s still going to be a fairly frothy market for a lot of those companies on the landscape today.

Joe Hyland: Okay, that’s interesting. So, 60 out of the out of the 70 went there went their own way.

Scott Brinker: Yep, and in fact, actually we’ve been tracking this now year over year on the big landscape — last from 2007 to 2018 4.7 percent of the companies that were on 2017 landscape we’re no longer around in 2018 — again, either acquired or just out of business. And, so, it’s interesting because if you talk about a 5 percent churn rate, in the scheme of things, that’s a pretty high churn rate – we’re talking hundreds of companies every year. But again, it gets lost in the thunder of all these other participants and entrants into the space and because software is not just cheap to build, frankly it’s also pretty darn cheap to maintain on an operational basis. Then I think it’s interesting. You see companies that have gone the VC route, and they’re burning money to hit a scalable escape velocity and that’s a very much you either win or you lose the game. It’s hard to just like carry on around there.

But you know, I want to say something like about half or more of the companies on the martech landscape don’t have VC funding. They’re organically grown, and those things are a lot more interesting because I think it’s more challenging them for them to ultimately achieve a huge scale. But boy, they can find a niche of a particular set of customers that they serve well, and those customers love them, and they love what they’re doing and they’re profitable there might not be a billion-dollar public company, but they’re there and I don’t think those guys are necessarily going to go away that quickly.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, that’s interesting. So, the 4.7 who left that ends up being dwarfed though by the 15 or 20 percent that entered the landscape, right? So. Yeah.

Scott Brinker: And we’ll see if that continues, right? I mean, you know that there is clearly, at some level, like the laws of physics — an upper limit on how many modern tech companies there can be in the world.

Joe Hyland: It’d be a good piece, “The Martech Laws of Physics.”

Scott Brinker: We’ve been we’ve been denying gravity about as long as we can, I think.

Joe Hyland: For me, it’s interesting. You know when I see the list one, I think it’s really impressive. It’s great work. I can’t imagine the amount of cycles and time that goes into it. It’s very thoughtful. So, hats off to you and your team. For me, what it says — and I think there’s a lot of different interpretations — if you just look at a snapshot, it’s that as a purchaser of technology, and I this has changed a lot in the last 10 years, I wanted to all work together. I demand that it does.

One of the cool things about my job is I’m just constantly talking to marketers. I talk to a lot of marketers who are like, “That’s the failing.” Like, that’s where they’re so frustrated: you buy into this bigger vision and dream of what your marketing tech stack can look like and then it ends up being a clunker car where things just don’t run properly.

So, to me, that’s where beautiful things can happen: when you find the right pieces of technology to support your strategy and shit actually works. How often are you seeing that dream actually realized?

 Scott Brinker: So, I think it’s interesting: they’re two challenges to technology adoption and one is the technical integration challenge. And I have to say like three years ago, man, it was a total mess. I mean, you had to have a Ph.D. in enterprise architecture make this stuff happen.

Two things have happened in the past few years here that have made it better. I won’t say it’s solved yet — this is still work in progress — but two things that made it better is. First of all, the major companies, again, Salesforce always had this in its DNA, but also, Oracle and Adobe — and a plug for what I’m doing here at HubSpot. HubSpot embraces this idea that the major companies, rather than focusing on just a closed system of, “Okay, this is our suite; you by the suite of everything from us; there’s nothing outside the suite.” Really embracing more of a platform mentality say, “Okay, here’s the foundational systems that we will offer, these common systems of record, the ability to like orchestrate how these different things work together.” And between the platform companies and then the companies that plug into these platforms, they can do the technical work to make that integration a lot more out-of-the-box, a lot more seamless. And every major martech company is headed in this way. I mean again, it’s a journey there’s a long way for them to go but that’s getting better.

The second thing is, while a lot of these companies were taking their time and becoming platforms, this whole field of integration platform as a service, ipass companies, folks like Zapier is always the easiest example. They sprung up and they said, “Listen, okay, well if it’s taking a while for these other companies to platformize, hey, listen, we can just solve this as a third party and we’ll make it easy for you to plug all your different stack elements together and pass data between them. Again, we’ve got a way to go but I feel like we’re making a lot of progress on the technical integration.

I think the bigger challenge I see now with most organizations is — it’s like the dog that catches the car. It’s like, “Okay, actually, we bought the technology and, okay, we actually got it integrated; they’re now like sharing the right data — what the hell do we do with this?”

I mean, so much of this technology — this is new stuff. I mean the playbooks for this have not been written yet. They’re being written, they’re being pioneered and a lot of them, it’s not just about trying to figure out new ways to use the tool, it’s really more about “How do we change the way our marketing organization thinks and operates to take advantage of even just the way these tools change the nature of business, the nature of the relationship with customers.” And I think that’s actually a much harder problem that we’re all going to be collectively working on here for the next decade.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I think you’re right. In some ways collecting these technologies, well, there’s tons of potential and you need to be careful that today’s technology doesn’t just become yesterday’s tactics. We’ve all had that strategy meeting where you think it’s something bigger and more strategic and before you know it you listed 10 tactics that you’re going to do, and you say “Shit, this doesn’t seem like a strategy, it’s more list of tactics.” I think that’s happened with a lot of marketers now with technology — ABM is an easy to poke fun — at and I’m a huge believer in personalized marketing — but that’s a strategy versus just saying, “Oh we’re going to deploy ABM this year.” Like, okay, cool, what does that look like? I don’t just want to hear technology. I’m a big believer of demandbase and a handful of the other technologists who are leading the way here, but it is not simply a plug and play technology.

It requires deep thought into segmentation — who your audiences are, a lot of content, right? So, I think you’re right. If we’re not if we’re not careful, it just becomes a list of technologies which is not really a marketing strategy.

Scott Brinker: Yeah, ABM is a great example for that and like one of the challenges we hear from so many marketers now. It’s the boundaries of marketing are becoming very porous. And ABM is one of those things. If you really want to do account based, not just marketing, but really account based business, this level of integration you need between your marketing team, your sales organization and, quite frankly, even your customer success organization, because very often it’s about starting with a foothold in one place and then expanding it from there —that’s, yeah, tricky cross-departmental collaboration.

Joe Hyland: It’s a shift in how you go to market. It’s not about serving up an ad with a cookie that says, “Hi, Scott.” Like, that’s not an ABM strategy, right? This is this is a shift in how your company operates. And yeah, just because you have it integrated in doesn’t actually mean you know what to do with it.

Scott Brinker: Well said.

Joe Hyland: So, okay. Well, so how do you split… So, I said at the start that you have a lot going on in a lot of titles at a lot of different organizations. What’s your world look like? How do you divide your time between HubSpot and Chief Martech? Do you? Do they all just merge together? Like what’s a day in the life of Scott Brinker like?

Scott Brinker: Yeah, you know, it varies over the year. For the most part what I do at HubSpot here is what you would think of is like my real job. This is how I make a living before I joined HubSpot. I was the co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive SaaS platform for interactive content. And, to be honest, it’s always where I found the joy is, actually. You know, being in the game like, you know working with technology, working with marketers to help change this. And Chief Martech, I’ve tried to keep it as a labor of love. Part of that works in the mode where it’s like, because I don’t do that for a living I don’t ever feel pressured to say, “Oh my goodness, it’s Wednesday I need to get a post-up because I always publish on Wednesday.” It’s more like, listen, if I’ve got something useful to say or I’m interested in — awesome I’ll find the time. Whether it’s an evening or the weekend or whenever I’ll write it up.

I’ll get out if I don’t have anything interesting to say I’m like [intelligible]. But I have the luxury of doing that because I’m not trying to run like an ad-supported website.

The conference that we work on, the martech conference, I do in collaboration with Third Door Media who produce things like The Search Marketing conference. They were on the Marketing Land site.

And so, they do an amazing job with that and they do, as far as I’m concerned, all the hard work associated with that conference. And yeah, it really gave me the freedom to then just focus on the content, which, again, for me, it doesn’t feel like a job.  I’m just fascinated to hear marketers are doing what’s working for them, what’s not and getting those folks to be able to come and share their stories. It’s just it’s a thrill for me. So, trying and keep that side of things in the labor of love bucket and HubSpot’s been very supportive of letting me travel to speak and do what I do with Martech and stuff like that without interfering in that.

Joe Hyland: Very cool. Very, very cool. I think there were a lot of — I’ll personalize this — I think there was a lot of marketers who, when they saw the news of you landing at HubSpot, said, “Shit, that was a really good idea — why didn’t we think of that?” It was a very smart hire. So, I’m curious to know — you run you run platform ecosystem — what’s that like? What does that even mean? And how does your background and your expertise on this entire marketing landscape fits into to the relative spot?

Scott Brinker: Sure, so HubSpot is pretty transparent that it’s in a journey to become a platform company. We’d be hesitant to — you know, there’s a lot we need to do to be a really great platform. I think we’ve been making great progress, but I am one of two people who is working on this transformation of the company. My counterpart is a woman named Nancy Riley who is in our product organization and so she’s really taking the leadership of how the product itself is evolving to be a better platform and more extensible platform.

And then I work more on the business side of, “okay what sort of programs can we put together so that as we have partners who come into the HubSpot ecosystem, how can we help them reach the right customers? How can we make them successful? And then how do we start to evolve the messaging of HubSpot to be — okay, it’s not just about the software that HubSpot creates — it’s about this larger whole the foundations that HubSpot creates then all these amazing more specialized solutions that plug-in to that environment. So yeah, most of my day is some combination across that entire spectrum.

Joe Hyland: That’s very cool. It will be interesting to see — and I see HubSpot, just my own personal opinion, I see HubSpot thriving in this new world order that we’re seeing coming to play — so I think the company’s going to do quite well. It will be interesting to see how the messaging and positioning evolves because you created this movement around inbound, but at some point, you will become more than that and it will be interesting to see how the company messaging evolves. You know, CRM as an example. I don’t think of as a classic inbound piece of technology, but that’s something you guys have explored, right? So, I think a lot of marketers who were envious of the marketing and positioning of your company or curious to see what happens in the next couple of years. So, more of a statement than a question, but I think it’s I think it’s discussed a lot in a lot of other marketing departments.

Scott Brinker: Yeah, no, and I think it’s discussed a lot here at HubSpot. I mean, all it’s a combination of both companies evolve right as companies grow, but it’s also the marketing and the broader digital business landscape is evolving too. I mean what the world needed 10 years ago is different than what it’s gonna need in the next 10 years here. So, I don’t think it’s just a matter of HubSpot wanting to evolve on this.

I think it’s just being every platform connected in the digital front-office world these days has to think about how do we continue to evolve with the way the world is changing?

I mean even the thing we were talking about earlier here about these bridges between the marketing or and the sales org and the customer success org, how do you start to from a platform worldview connect these functions and get them to actually get greater synergy together? There’s something happening there that isn’t inbound, but I think it’s a very exciting future if you know where HubSpot and other companies in the space and go.

Joe Hyland: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you anymore. All right, well, I’ll end with a question that I get a lot from for many marketers. What’s the perfect path? So, I’ll talk to young, aspiring markers and they say, “How did you get to where you are?” And you know, I want to follow that journey and I think everyone’s journey is unique.

Walk us through yours because I find it particularly interesting and I think the order was a little mismatched but in a manner that produced a pretty damn good result. So, if you wouldn’t mind, take us through your journey.

Scott Brinker: All right. Well, I’ll do the abbreviated one.

Joe Hyland: You can be as detailed as you see fit.

Scott Brinker: Yeah, so the short version is I started at a very young age as a software entrepreneur. I’d say I was driven by the technology. My background was as a developer. But, early on, it was that intersection of not just developing something — I was, as a teenager — is multiplayer games was also like, “Okay, well, how do you sell these? How do you turn this into a business? How do you make money out of that?” Years ago, that was a novel thing nowadays, right? Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg. Like I mean, if you’re not making your first billion by the time you’re 20, I mean, what’s wrong? But I think it started me down this path of always looking at how Innovations in technology could change what was possible for companies and customers and then how do you actually sell that? How do you help companies adopt this stuff and transform it?

And so, I went through some early days before the web in the generation of technology before online systems, dial-up systems, bulletin board systems. With the web, I then moved into doing work with a boutique web development shop, web agency for a while. We built solutions for companies like Citrix and Siemens and Yahoo, and, fascinating thing because, again, that was place where this idea of the marketing technologist really got seeded for me because we get hired by the marketing organization to make their web visions come true, and then my technology team would be the ones who had to go talk to their IT organization to figure out, “Okay, how are we going to integrate this into the back office… It’s really interesting, it’s shuttle diplomacy, the early days of integrations. And then after a while, we were very successful with that but, you know, I kind of went back to my software product roots.

And that was where Ion Interactive came and launched what was initially the sort of a landing page microsite platform that evolved into an interactive content platform. And again, that’s kind of it was interesting. So that was actually where there was a split where my vocation, my job when CTO of Ion was forging the technology version of that and really thinking about okay, how do how do we tell that story? How do we help companies take advantage of this new technology?

But that was when yeah, on the side, the nights and weekends of when I was working on the Chief Mark Tech site. Yeah, just this fascination of the challenges I was seeing with ion’s customers and when you get these pieces to work together, and then also once you’ve got this technology inside your organization, how do you do really harness its real value?

I mean these were problems people have in across the entire spectrum of marketing and marketing tech.

Joe Hyland: Sorry, you started Chief MarTech while you were still CTO of ion, is that right?

Scott Brinker: Yes.

Joe Hyland: Okay, okay.

Scott Brinker: And again, there’s something about having a little labor of love on the side that I would encourage everyone — I mean and probably, for most people, it’s not in the same profession that you’re in. But, you know, what can I say? I love Mar Tech. And so both took their own path. I’d say that turning point for Chief Martech was that 2014 landscape when I think everyone realized, me including, that there really was a pretty fundamental transformation in the nature of technology in the marketing department and we were going to have to get a lot more serious as an industry and as a profession about how we manage this both strategically, but also operationally.

Joe Hyland: Super-cool and now you’re here.

Scott Brinker: And now I’m here. All right.

Joe Hyland: Well, listen, Scott, this has been fantastic. We’re at the bottom of the hour. I will leave you all with a quote from a quote from Scott from about 15 minutes ago, “The boundaries of marketing are becoming very porous.” And I think with that we’ll close out.
Thanks, so much man.

Scott Brinker: Thank you, Joe.

Business growth, webinars and the Netflix effect

This guest post was originally featured on bcms.com. Shared with permission. What Webinar World 2019 all about? Click here to find out. 

Does a successful business really need a good marketing strategy? Interestingly, many of our clients tell us that sales and marketing is a weakness in their companies. But it’s only a weakness because they don’t do much of it. To win new business, many simply rely on the three Rs – repeat business, referral and recommendations. Which means their work comes to them, so putting any sort of budget behind a sophisticated marketing programme doesn’t make commercial sense.

What if you’re looking at the next stage: to grow and scale your business, maybe with a company sale later down the line? You need to get the word out, and then a “multi-channel” marketing strategy becomes a key weapon, raising your brand in the wider marketplace, targeting potential new clients online, at events, in print, via social media.

If you’re engaged in any kind of marketing currently, you’ll be aware that the landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years, driven by technology. It’s no longer enough to have one brochure, or a few flyers. Today, you need a full marketing mix, a blend of different resources, driven by content that ‘speaks’ to your customers. In short: stuff that is of use to them, rather than just talks about you.


This is where the webinar fits in – the subject of this week’s fascinating, informative two-day Webinar World conference at London’s Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, and hosted by leading platform provider ON24. The webinar is, in the words of one presenter, “the intersection of engagement and scale”. In non-marketing speak, that means it can be both personable and personal (like a friendly chat) but it can go out to as many people as possible, wherever they are in the world, and be watched again and again.

In the words of ON24 Content Marketing VP Mark Bornstein, “webinars transform your content”. He would of course say that, but the statistics are powerful. According to ON24’s benchmark report, the average viewing time for a webinar is a lengthy 56 minutes. The Netflix effect on viewing habits (whereby consumers ‘binge-watch” multiple episodes at one sitting) is also impacting here. You don’t have to watch webinars live, but can instead watch them on your terms, in your own time. On-demand viewings are rising dramatically, now accounting for 35% of all views.

Cost is often an issue with marketing strategies, but you don’t need to spend mega-bucks to get started. In one presentation, Autotrader’s Insight Director Nick King revealed his early efforts were made with a £35 camera bought from Amazon. If, like Nick, you need to start reaching out to customers in Aberdeen, Aldershot and Aberdare in the same week, then an informative, helpful webinar represents a hefty saving on time, not to mention petrol.

It was gratifying to see a snippet from one of BCMS’ past efforts used in ON24’s promotional video, and the Webinar World conference offered hints, tips and pointers on best practice, elements that we’ll certainly be putting into practice to improve our future webinars. Forgive the plug, but for the binge-watchers among you, there are now 13 episodes of the BCMS webinar now available on demand. They typically feature past clients, experts from partner organisations and across BCMS in the UK and North America, and seek to cover key topics in detail, from negotiation and motives for sale to earn-outs and business valuation.

In short: stuff that is of use to you, rather than just shouts about us!

It’s a Webinerd World

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

I am sitting on a plane from London to San Francisco, on the way home from the final Webinar World of 2018 — and what a year it’s been. This is the second year of Webinar World and the eighth event globally. There were Webinar World conferences in San Francisco, London, Sydney and Singapore. When our CMO, Joe Hyland, first had the idea for this event, we all thought he was crazy. A conference about webinars? Will anyone even come? Our inaugural event in San Francisco two years ago shocked us all. Hundreds of people showed up from all over the world. There were people from Europe, Asia and even a woman from Africa, for again, a conference about…webinars. Why?

I go to a lot of marketing conferences, some are better than others, but if there is one thing they all have in common is that they are very general in their purpose. There are conferences about inbound marketing, marketing automation, content marketing and just plain marketing-marketing. My biggest frustration about these conferences is that you never go very deep on any subject. Instead, you spend a few days hearing high-level generalities like “tell a story” or “know your customer.” Not exactly the kind of guidance that is going to take your programs to the next level.

I think that’s what made Webinar World different. It’s an event that is focused on a very specific skill set, and a critical part of most companies marketing success. Instead of lofty abstractions, people were learning best practices and practical guidance on how to create awesome webinars — and frankly awesome marketing. But what we didn’t realize was that webinars were not just an important part of these people’s jobs, webinars were also something they were really passionate about.

To capture this passion, we came up with the term “Webinerds.” At first, it was just a funny idea for some t-shirts and a hashtag, but something happened: people went crazy for the term, and soon, marketers around the globe were proudly identifying themselves as “webinerds,” sharing their own best practices and showing off their latest webinars. It took on a life of its own and became a real community.

With each Webinar World conference this year, Webinerd fever grew. It was so inspiring to hear stories from marketers proudly talking about their latest event or some new element they added to their webinars. I heard stories about new presentation formats, creative uses of video and gamification. Many companies were moving from one-off webinars to branded series with hosts and stage sets — really cool stuff. Last year, companies were mostly focused on fundamentals like driving registration and console building. This year, the focus has shifted to creating really immersive, engaging audience experiences. It’s been fun to watch this evolution.

As I think about this, I realize that Webinar World is really serving two purposes. Webinar marketing has become an incredibly valuable skill set. Anyone who is really good at it will always be desirable to their current and future employers. Companies love people who have the skills to build such impactful marketing. But there is something else…

Webinars are something you can really be proud of. Most of us got into marketing to be creative people that build cool shit. But as marketing has gone digital, a lot of the cool factor has gone away. It’s hard to get a lot of personal satisfaction from a good SEO result or an email campaign, but delivering an awesome webinar is such a great feeling. It’s something that you can be really proud of. Webinerds are increasingly becoming the rock stars of their marketing departments.

So you see, it’s a Webinerd World. A hashtag has turned into a community and a movement. And I, for one, can’t wait to see where we go from here.

I guess we will find out at Webinar World 2019.

Interested in what Webinar World has to offer? Check out Webinar World on demand here and register for Webinar World 2019

Get your #webinerd on – All Hail the Rise of the Webinar!

By Paula Morris, Senior Director, Pi Marketing Solutions

This article was originally published on pi-marketingsolutions.com. Syndicated with permission.

Picture the scene … on a surprisingly warm and pleasant autumnal day in central London a room full of almost 400 B2B marketers were spending the day talking about webinars! ‘Surely it isn’t possible to fill a full day just talking about webinars!’ I hear you cry but as ON24’s global #WebinarWorld event came to London last week that’s exactly what happened!

And as Mark Bornstein, ON24’s Chief Webinerd (more on #webinerd later) mentioned in the opening address it really is time that we aren’t shocked about this anymore as the rise of ‘The Webinar’ in the B2B marketing space is truly upon us.

We are all trying to grab people’s attention in a very noisy and crowded space but, if used creatively and effectively, webinars can become a critical part of your marketing outreach allowing you to drive significant engagement not only within your account-based marketing activity but also within a larger target audience or segment.

As we continue to learn and analyse our prospects and customers digital body language the more we understand that these days the buyer journey isn’t necessarily linear, and that we can’t control at what stage of the buyer journey certain types of content are consumed. And this is where webinars come in to play…..buyers now want to receive content on their terms, on their time and in any order. People want to view easy to digest material when and where they want.

During the opening session at #WebinarWorld London the audience were asked: ‘How many of you have downloaded a whitepaper in the last 6 months?’ – the result, a few half-raised hands, however we are all pre-disposed into thinking that this is the type of content that we should be producing. Yes static white papers have their place but a webinar can bring them to life by turning traditionally passive content into rich media interactive experiences. For example a quick 10 minute webinar on the ‘Top 3 Findings’ of said industry white paper is a perfect webinar for a C-level audience to consume whilst at an airport lounge, or a more in depth 3 part series could be created for those subject matter experts – the key point is that ‘the webinar’ is now an essential part of our marketing mix and a fundamental medium that should be leveraged across all marketing activity and not used as a tactic in isolation. Therefore, if done well, it really is a case of ‘build it and they will come’ – but only if relevancy and authenticity are achieved.

And so on to the notion of the #webinerd (Web-i-nerd web-e-nərd noun: a person who loves webinars so much they made an urban dictionary definition). An official rallying cry was sent out to all the attendees of WebinarWorld to join the #webinerd movement and by judging by the length of the queue for the complimentary #webinerd branded t-shirts (which incidentally were printed with your choice of colour before your very eyes leaving Joel Harrison, Editor-in-chief at B2B Marketing almost lost for words) social media was awash with pictures of attendees donning their new attire declaring that they ‘have now got their #webinerd on’ – it is safe to say that the modern #webinerd is not shy about stepping forward to declare their inner marketing geek.

With great content presented, shared and discussed in the Genius, Best Practices and Execution theatres it was more than apparent that this is an area of marketing that deserves the focus of a dedicated event. The future leaning, thought provoking and insightful content really highlighted how impactful a well-executed webinar programme can be in delivering a wealth of customer insights and actionable data.

So if you are looking at how to drive customer engagement with scale, come join the #webinerd movement……the only decision you now need to make is whether you want a blue, green, red or purple #webinerd logo on your t-shirt!

About the Author

With over 20 years B2B marketing experience Paula has a proven track record of leading successful strategic marketing campaigns in the enterprise ICT space. With a focus on delivering ROI her experience includes developing and aligning marketing strategy, full persona and solution based programme delivery, behavioural based nurture programmes and leading successful teams across a broad range of projects.

Twitter: @pmorris_99

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paula-morris/

Four tips to detox your webinar slides

Let’s say you’re presenting a webinar and everything is going smoothly. You’re charming (of course you are! No, really, you’re more charming than you know), making great points about your solution and your attendees are asking questions. Except, their questions are “Can anyone else read those slides?” and “What’s going on with those colors?”

Sadly, you’ve fallen into a familiar trap. In all likelihood, you brought your PowerPoint presentation habits into your webinar deck.

Slides in webinars are different from those in a PowerPoint presentation. The text in a webinar’s slides needs to be bigger. Their bullet points need to be fewer. They need to be instantly readable and understandable without distracting from your presenter’s overall points. They need to accentuate you, the presenter, and your story, rather than acting as a white paper in slide format.

Toxic slides can kill a great webinar. But don’t worry — here are four quick and dirty tips to help you detoxify your webinar slides:

Tip One: Declutter your slides

The first webinar tip is making a better webinar slide deck is to declutter. Strip your slides of unnecessary text, pictures, graphs — any element that either doesn’t add to your story or — and this is an important bit — tries to tell your story for you.

This is a busy, busy slide! In fact, it’s too busy to provide any meaningful takeaways on its own and would be terribly distracting if the presenter needed to highlight a single item. Not only that, but the text is far too small for any attendees to read (more on this in a moment). Your first of 4 webinar tips is to simplify your webinar life with simplified slides.

Tip Two: Boost your font size

Take a look at this:

Oh, boy. That picture says and contains about a thousand words, doesn’t it? This is an extreme example, sure, but if you were to present such a word-dense slide during a webinar, you would be able to hear your attendees collectively squint to make any sense of it.

Here is how to clean-up a text-heavy slide. First, makes sure your font sizes are at least size 24 or over. Why? Because when you’re giving a webinar presentation, your slides will appear smaller than you’d anticipate — especially if you’re used to speaking to in-person and projected slides — which means you need to boost your font’s size to make it legible.

Second, make sure you have a readable font. Avoid the goofy fonts like Comic Sans and Papyrus that are distracting and hard to read in a small window. Personally, I prefer the easy-to-read Franklin Gothic Medium.

Third, and this loops back to tip one, avoid over-saturating your slides with text. Slides need to enhance the story you’re telling first and foremost and be readable at-a-glance, second. Bold your key points to make them readable and have them speak to your story. If you’re relying on your slides to tell a story you’re delivering webinars all wrong.

Tip Three: Get your colors right

Colors are weird. And I don’t mean that in an existential sort of way. I mean using the wrong colors in your presentation can make your webinar look weird and distracting to attendees — even if they look perfectly fine to you as you prepare your webinar slides.

There are a few rules-of-thumb to go by when it comes to colors in your webinars. First, avoid pastel colors. I know they look pretty, but they don’t translate well to webinar presentations.

Second, avoid slides with too many colors. Having more than two or three prominent colors in your slides — especially in the background — will make your presentation busy and distracting.

Third, when you do use color on a slide — or on your console — make sure there’s a predominant color (typically just one) that provides a reliable contrast to your slides, text, and windows.

Tip Four: Use pretty pictures to tell a story

Finally, if appropriate for your event, add some slides that are just some simple images. Pictures, if you will. Simple pictures are a great way to slow down your event and highlight an important point you want to make.

Have nice analogy involving ships? Well, simply push an image-based slide and talk to it. You don’t even need to include any text! You could spend a good minute or two discussing the direction your organization or profession is going with an image as simple as this:

Image-only slides are great for webinars because it both provides you with the opportunity to give a subject-appropriate analogy or metaphor while gently guiding your audience’s ears to what you have to say — not what you’re showing. Image-only slides add focus and structure to your presentations without you having to pause on a slide that’s not wholly relevant to the story you’re telling.

They can also add some much-needed breaks in long webinar sessions. Need a moment of relief? Want to send out good vibes? Then consider adding a picture of a furry little kitten to your presentation.

After all, who doesn’t like kittens?

Your slides are one of the most important parts of a webinar. By taking the time to detoxify your slide, you’ll ensure your attendees can easily follow along with you, understand your story and help you produce even better events. Happy webinaring!

Want more webinar tips and tricks? No worries. Head on over to our Webinar Best Practices Series section here. If you’d like to see the episode this post is based on, just click here.

Your Checklist for a Successful Webinar Program – For Newbies!

Webinars are a great tool for modern-day marketers and can offer a variety of ways for companies to engage with different audiences. You can connect with your customers by communicating new and exciting product information; you can give live demos to prospects; the possibilities are endless!

Before executing a webinar program, however, it’s important first to examine the goal of the webinar and where it fits into your organization’s marketing plan. Often times, program managers think too micro-level. It’s important to remember that organizational alignment is key.

Take the time to ask yourself a few questions to get a better idea of where your webinar program is heading. You need to be aware of your target audience. For example, is the goal of the webinar to inform top-level leads? Or is it to engage mid-funnel leads with a more targeted message to evoke some type of action? After answering these main questions, choose a topic (and speaker) who can engage those leads thoroughly. Finally, think through lead-flow and what you want to happen when certain conditions are met. For example, what happens when a guest is sent an invitation to the webinar but doesn’t register? What if they register for the webinar but don’t attend? What will you do after they attend the webinar? What about attendees who ask a question (how will you follow up?).

Also,  be sure to formalize a plan for post-promotion of the on-demand version your event. You should have a clear understanding of how you can leverage on-demand webinars to engage inactive leads and push them down the funnel.

Once you have created your webinar marketing plan, you can formalize the details for your webinar. Here is a checklist for you to get started:

  1. Create your program in ON24. It’s easier if you have a ‘fake program’ you can use as a  template to clone from when you create your program. Remember to select your specific time zone and customize the console to fit your brand identity.
  2. Decide if you want emails coming from ON24 or your marketing automation platform. I have always used Marketo, as it provides an easy integration of lead status and more customization of emails and landing pages.
  3. Set up your campaign in your CRM (e.g., Salesforce) so you can track lead status and sync all of your marketing automation.
  4. Integrate your marketing automation platform with ON24 and then sync your program with the event ID from the ON24 program you created.
  5. Send a calendar invite to your speakers with the dial-in info for the webinar (found in the links section of your main programs page in ON24).
  6. Set up your dry run in ON24 and send a calendar invite to your speakers. Don’t forget to book your webinar room at your organization!
  7. Work with your marketing operations team to build the email and landing page assets, and schedule accordingly. I like to send two invitations — a day-before reminder and a day-of reminder — as well as a follow-up email to attendees and one to no-shows.
  8. Work closely with your speakers on content and give them a branded company PowerPoint (PPT) template to work with.
  9. Hold your dry run by going through the webinar completely with the speakers and to test the platform.
  10. Upload the final PPT template to ON24 and do any last-minute customization such as adding a poll to the webinar.
  11. Hold the webinar!
  12. Download the PPT and conclude post-promotion, including adding it to your website resource section.
  13. Brief your team on how the webinar went and arm your sales team with the recording to send to prospects who may find the content useful.

Some tips for success:

  • Ask the audience to submit questions before the webinar to have a backup list of questions in case no one asks any during the live recording.
  • Provide the PPT and webinar recording to all of the webinar registrants in the follow-up emails.
  • Make the PPT and speaker information, as well as relevant company assets, available in the console for attendees to download while they are watching the live webinar.
  • Answer any questions asked during the webinar and train your sales team on following up on those questions.
  • Ensure everything externally facing has a cohesive message and branding identity.

I know what you’re thinking: this is a lot to think through, especially when you couple this with all of the nitty-gritty details of program management and set-up. Don’t worry, though! All programs take time to perfect. All you have to do is start.