The Right Thought Leadership for the Perfect Content Strategy

This is a guest post from Fred Isbell, Senior Marketing Director, SAP Digital Business Services and SAP HEC Marketing at SAP.

Thought leadership is a bold phrase. It conjures up ideas of a person or company whose ideas and understanding are so advanced that they truly stand out. And when it’s done correctly, that’s the impression it leaves on the audience. But behind the scenes, it’s really a collective team effort, requiring a wide range of skills to create your content strategy and drive increased awareness as well as marketing pipeline. As SiriusDecisions teaches us, you need:

  • Thinkers: People like senior executives, R&D engineers, product managers, and others who have big ideas to share
  • Orchestrators: Solution marketers, content strategists, corporate communications, and others who are skilled at connecting the different parts of the team together into a well- run, integrated program
  • External collaborators: Authors, industry leaders, and analysts who can help you relate to your industry or wider community with a relevant point of view
  • Program leadership: The corporate communication & strategy and solution marketing people who can supervise your thought leadership efforts as part of a strategy for your entire organization

When all those people come together in just the right way, it’s a miracle to behold. We call this the “perfect storm,” and happened with a thought leadership program for SAP run with ON24, our strategic webinar partner globally.

The thought leadership challenge: Digital transformation

In 2016, we did a webinar series on Digital Transformation featuring a webinar called, “Thought Leadership: IT Leadership for the Next Phase of Digital Transformation.” It was a very timely and relevant topic. Digital transformation has become part of virtually everything businesses do, and IT and business leaders need to grow beyond their traditional roles. They need to become strategic leaders to businesses, working with stakeholders from the ground floor to the C-suite to ensure their solution addresses the evolving needs of the entire business.

Our approach to building and promoting the thought leadership webinar series was based upon a solid tactical execution, featuring valuable content and speakers and heavy on social media promotion. I wrote a pre-event blog tied to the ON24 registration page, and we sent out targeted customer invites and used extensive social media promotions across multiple channels to increase our reach. That’s a great example of a 360º marketing approach leveraging multiple channels of communication and outreach to customers. We focused upon building a forum for an executive-level, conversational format with an interview format — and not a traditional PowerPoint-heavy format (“death by PowerPoint”).

We used consistent SAP branding throughout our program featuring quick and strong follow-up. That included a follow-up blog discussing the key things we learned from the webinar. It was a thorough summary and drew attention to our thought leaders own points of view, and also drove readers to the on-demand webinar replay.

What made the difference was our webinar panel — representing an internal, external, and customer-focused points of view:

  • Pete Russo: The Vice-President of SAP S/4HANA Marketing. He’s a former PAC analyst, who once ran the SAP Services Marketing field engagement and SAP RDS teams. Not only is he my good friend and one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with, but he’s also someone who brings insider expertise — key to thought leadership — and the ability to articulate the intrinsic value of the solution.
  • Geoff Scott: The CEO of America’s SAP user group, representing thousands of small, midsized and large SAP customer companies. He created a bridge between the company’s perspective and the needs and interests of the users and shared some recent ASUG customer research on the topic.
  • Pete Swaby: This Economist Intelligence Unit leader brought the perfect outside perspective as a Senior Editor, and EMEA and Global lead. His team did great work on one of our IT audience marketing campaigns to combine thought leadership and analyst insight into a series of campaign offerings, providing a great offer for this webinar.
  • Fred Isbell: That’s me — Senior Director & Head of Thought Leadership at SAP Digital Business Services Marketing. I brought in the leadership skills to coordinate all these brilliant thinkers, and the project management and event hosting skills to bring the whole project together and server as moderator.

With good thought leaders, our content strategy connected

This truly represented the “perfect storm” of speakers, subject matter experts, and marketing and promotion all coming together nicely. We supported our webinar series with a powerful content strategy leveraging the SAP Digitalist thought leadership platform to connect with our community. That meant publishing on this platform along with blogs from internal and external thought leaders that provides a rich set of executive quarterly tablet magazine, and white papers, infographics, and other research — all shared and promoted through social media marketing.

The results of the Digitalist speak for themselves:

  • Over 3.7 million page views YTD
  • 1.3 million unique visitors YTD and an audience drawing largely from C-level and senior executives
  • A conversion rate of up to 45%

It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of promotion and a true team effort to get so many eyes on our webinar series, and clever marketing to keep bringing in new viewers. But it wasn’t overtly hard either. With the right thought leadership team, the “perfect storm” of a solid approach based upon best practices, and a solid team of subject matter experts, anyone can drive increased awareness as well marketing pipeline via thought leadership.

Discovering Simulive, an Easier Way to Schedule Webinars

Webinar dates are locked in, speakers are on board, and timings are confirmed. Everything seems to be in working order — until an inevitable issue arises to interfere with the scheduled webinar flow. The best way to avoid these abrupt circumstances is a simulive webinar event. In a simulive webcast, all audio, video, and presentation materials are pre-recorded. The webinar is scheduled and delivered to a live audience at a designated date and time. This gives you the flexibility of creating an on-demand presentation, plus all the benefits of running a live webinar. It’s almost like hosting a fully automated webinar.

As a Demand Gen Marketer at ON24, I execute a variety of marketing programs and, with the help of simulive webinars, I am always prepared for sudden changes with my programs. Here are some ways simulive webinars can help:

Global webinars

A webinerd and her community dancing happily in a virtual circle

One problem I have faced when working across global teams is trying to find the best time that can fit the schedules of all parties involved (including those overseas). It is technically possible to find a time to air a live webinar in EMEA or APAC from North America, but only if someone is sacrificing their sleep!

Marketing programs are a global effort. EMEA and APAC timings are drastically different than in North America. Running our webinars simulive has been a life-saver! Now, our EMEA webinar hosts jump right into the ON24 platform and record their slides during the time that fits best with their schedule. This relieves the stress of late-night or early morning phone calls and juggling a million schedules at once. Simulive webinars are also a great way to repurpose content that was created in North America as an EMEA or APAC resource. With simulive, we can simply copy over an existing event and select for it to air “live” in an EMEA or APAC specific time zone. Pretty cool!

Speaker unavailability, PTO, and OOO

Simulive webinars are a GREAT way to keep your webinar on track. More often than not, I receive email notifications from a speaker mentioning that they are unavailable to commit for a live date proposed on the marketing calendar. With simulive webinars, I have the option of letting my speaker know that they can always pre-record the event at their convenience and we can still run it on the date that best fits in our calendar. It’s a win-win situation!

By setting up an event as simulive, we can pre-record the entire webinar before the scheduled “live” air date. Speakers can go into the recording platform and record audio on their own time in the comfort of their homes, hotel rooms — literally anywhere (with a working wifi connection, of course)!

Simulive webinars take the stress out of running around attempting to lock down guest speakers. During the “live” air date, the producer and/or presenter(s) will just be monitoring live questions that come in during the Q&A session of the webinar.

Speaking nerves

Webinerd holding a webinar.

I work with a variety of speakers daily. Some speakers are extremely outgoing and able to do live webinars in a breeze, while others are a bit timid and prefer to not be put in the spotlight. Simulive webinars are a GREAT way to calm your speaker’s nerves. Simulive webinars allow speakers to log in to the event on their own time and comfort, without feeling the stress of a live event. If the speaker makes a mistake, he or she can simply go back into the event and re-record over any slides.

Simu-live also gives speakers an opportunity to hear their recorded presentation from start to finish. If they don’t like what they hear, speakers can go back into the event and make edits or re-record. Having control over what can be changed in the presentation relieves speakers and calms their nerves.

Live event emergencies

Webinerd looks out for hazards

 

All marketers running webinars have experienced a couple of live webinar event emergencies: The speaker can’t dial into the event, the phone bridge doesn’t seem to be working, the slides aren’t progressing, screenshare isn’t sharing to the audience, etc. Simu-live webinars help avoid any live event emergencies. You have the ability to pre-record your entire presentation, so if something does come up, it’s easily fixed and redone! Especially when speakers decide to screenshare and present a live demo, it is extremely convenient to leverage simulive. You can take the time to make sure the functionality is working correctly and pre-record rather than project an empty screenshare to an impatient audience during a live event. Simulive relieves all the stress of a live event, so all you have to do on the air date is sit back, answer questions, and enjoy the show.

Multiple webinar events

Webinerd social media

Webinars are important for our business, therefore we do A LOT of webinars every month. There have been times where we book two or three webinars on the same date because that’s what makes sense on our marketing calendar. Simulive webinars make it easy for the producer to be in multiple webinar events at once. Personally, I have managed multiple webinar events that happen on the same day because they run on simulive. I have everything set up for the webinar events before the air date and can monitor the Q&A for both events without a hassle. It’s that easy!

On a final note, it’s important to be equipped to face any webinar scheduling troubles/live day hassles and provide your speakers (and yourself) with seamless alternatives and sanity. Most of the time, simulive webinar events are the answer to all my webinar worries. On the day of the scheduled “live” event, there is minimal effort to be done by the producer and presenters; they can sit back and enjoy the show — literally. Bring out the popcorn!

A Webinar Marketing Tale as Old as Time

It’s a webinar marketing tale as old as time: people buy from those that they like. Who would you rather spend a year-long (with potential for renewal!) contractual relationship with: someone who is flexible, dependable, and you admire; or someone who is rigid, prone to breakdowns, likely to flake when you need them the most. Thanks to the rise of social media, companies big and small are being humanized as they interact with customers and fans on a 1:1, personalized basis. As such, marketing and sales have moved from being more transactional to more relationship-driven.

How well we work with others is key to long-term success – both as professionals and in our personal lives. In our Q1 storybook, Beauty and the Beastly Webinar, we’ve illustrated this concept to show you what happens when you take the lessons learned from a popular children’s story and apply it to relationship marketing. Communication platforms, specifically webinars that work, are an integral part of a modern marketer’s tech stack. Kick back with this workplace story to see why – we dare you not to sing along at the end!

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