Q&A with Cheri Keith, SiriusDecisions Senior Research Analyst
ON24 held Webinar World, its annual event, in early March of this year. It’s now early May and we’re gearing up for yet another conference. Two, in fact. The first conference the SiriusDecisions Summit in sunny Las Vegas. The second is our APAC variation of Webinar World 2018. (It’s taking place on May 31 in Sydney’s Hyde Park.)
Seeing as the SiriusDecisions Summit is less than a week away, we thought it’d be a great time to resurface one of Webinar World’s keynote discussions — articulated by SiriusDecisions’ own Senior Research Analyst, Cheri Keith.
As with Alex Blumberg, Laura Ramos and our ABM panel, I had the good fortune of sitting down to discuss ongoing trends in the B2B marketing space with Keith after her presentation (which you can watch a recording of here).
What follows is a brief Q&A, lightly edited for clarity, brevity and context.
So, the subject of your talk today was engaging modern B2B buyers and creating a marketing mix that resonates. What, in your opinion, is a good marketing mix that resonates?
So, I think what the data shows us is that it’s still the blend between human and non-human and still a healthy mix between self-service and actively engaged, and I think that’s really the core principle. There’s been a lot of market hype around the fact that people make up their decision about what they’re buying before they even engage you — so, like, you’re out a lot at the end of the day.
That’s not the case. People do want to be engaged with. They’re looking for opportunities for both human and non-human interaction, but human interaction is still ranking is the top way that people want to hear from us. So, I think it’s really about dispelling some of the myths that we’ve heard about the fact that people have made up their decisions before they even contact you so put out a bunch of white papers, and hope people read it. That’s just not the case. And I think that’s also why webinars are so important at the end of the day is because, sure, they can be condensed down made into a video. At the end of the day, people are still looking for it and that’s the top reason that buying processes are being stalled — because we’re not being responsive enough to people are looking to buy. Like, that’s crazy.
So, the main point is not to feel that it’s out of our control by using the construct and being measured and smart as listening to people. We’re still in control of the process. Of course, the buyers are more informed — there’re so many other new delivery mechanisms — but they don’t want to talk to a robot they want to talk to you still.
So, is there a particular ratio for human versus self-service, automated engagement?
So, human versus non-human is 50/50 split across the board. Buyers report it’s still 50/50 and then at how involved the vendor is — so, low is self-service, high is a human had to do something — and [with] human non-human — highest is a human being involved. And it’s an active participation — that’s what people said they like. That’s what they want.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the fact that we should feel powerless, but we shouldn’t we should actually feel more empowered. Now, all the technologies, especially webinar technologies, if you think about all the data that you can pull how active someone is throughout the webinar. That’s really important, if you see someone who’s totally locked into the whole thing, how much more information is now at our fingertips to understand? But then also to be able to engage more deeply with that person to say “So you were locked in throughout the whole session. Any questions?”
We can’t always rely on people to put a question to chat — we all know that — but you learned a lot [about the person]. Or, if you can see someone stopped paying attention during a portion of [the webinar], well is that an opportunity for us to acknowledge that life happened, and someone lost into their cube? Or can we go back to them and say “Do you need more information on that? We saw you missed that part of the webinar.”
So, I think it’s opened up so many more doors for us through technology to understand more. We just need to actually be responsive to what we learn at this point.
Interesting. I was chatting with Alex [Blumberg] earlier, and he basically said the same exact thing — they can watch where people drop off during the podcast and he’s like, you know, that’s something wrong with the story.
Yeah, well, it’s interesting because the study is what it was. I can’t make this up. Yeah, and at the end of the day webinars aren’t performing well — the buyers said they don’t consume them during two phases — but the fact that webinars are rated so high everywhere else throughout the data it’s showing us that the webinar is not the problem. It’s a story that we’re telling on the webinar for those two stages of the buyer’s journey.
We’re doing a great job on the education phases, as SiriusDecisions calls it, but [for] two other phases we’re just not listening to the feedback we’re hearing. I know people have access to the information to show that people might not be consuming all the webinars at the same rate, and you know you can take that and just be like, “A bunch of little perform while so oh well.” But that still leaves us with a waste of money and time that we spend on all these other webinars. Yeah, but [also] gaps in the fact that we’re not deploying webinars for the solution and selection phases that people care about. And they want to care about it, so why don’t we rethink the stories that we’re telling during those two stages to be more effective?
In your opinion, you mentioned towards the tail-end there are dangers in engaging outside your buyer’s preferred channels, like social media. So, what kind of dangers? Have you ever seen a situation where a B2B marketer or firm or whatever invests in a particular channel their buyers aren’t engaged in without really realizing it?
Oh, yeah. We hear that question all the time. I had a call with someone a few weeks ago. And social media isn’t the problem actually, I don’t think. I think it’s the fact that people talk about the trends on social media, and then we, as marketers, because we’re all on social media see it, and we’re like, “Oh my gosh. I need to redo everything I’m doing even though I’m marketing to plant managers in Ohio.” Well is social media the right channel there? Maybe it is. I don’t know; I would have to interview those people to know better.
But, yes people often start to invest in what they hear is popular. Rather than listening to their buyers, they listen to the market hype — and I think that’s the disconnect. We see it all the time — people are spending money on stuff, and they’re like, “Why doesn’t work?” But that’s why we say if you’re not using it today, maybe you should pilot it. Don’t put so much money in it.
It’s like every time you think about your appropriate tactic mix. You have what’s tried-and-true. Let’s put webinars in that category — people are very familiar with how to do that, that’s not a new concept. Maybe doing a more modern type of webinar, where you actually show video of people — you don’t want to take all the webinars you’ve done in the past, if those have been working well, and shift them all to humans. Maybe that [webinar type] will work for your buyers; maybe it won’t. But you should start to pilot about to one or two and see how people react to it.
So, I think it’s more about smart experimentation rather than just be like, “we need to change because I heard I should change.”
Do you develop a hypothesis when you start doing a little smart experimentation first? Is there a process that you put into that?
Yes, when I was on the other end of the table I always would have my hypothesis that I would share very openly with my co-workers when we would do something because I’m okay being wrong and I also viewed it as a competition, so being able to put something out there on the whiteboard, and we all take a guess every at how we think it will work.
I would always say something like that is always important. It’s not about being right, but it’s about kind of using your brain a little bit more to think about what are the possibilities, and, if things go differently, than what five of me and my four members predicted, then why is that? Is there a learning there? Is it a gap in our knowledge? Is it a gap in our knowledge as marketers or a gap in our knowledge as understanding the buyers?
You mentioned earlier about getting sucked up in social trends. And I can imagine, from my own experience, it’s easy to re-engage in those trends when you’re trying to break that habit. Do how do you break that habit? Or do you know of any ways of identifying when you’re getting into that market hype?
I’m a very skeptical person. As a marketer, when I was on the other end of the table, I would see it on social, and then I would get this stuff forwarded to me and would be asked, “Why aren’t we doing this?” I get them today still because everyone will say, “Oh my gosh, SiriusDecisions, why haven’t you thought about this?” Well, it’s not going to be true for everyone. Even email campaigns like didn’t all work right away. There needs to be market adoption and acceptance of the use of that tactic before it’s going to work for other things.
We get it in our home [and] our non-work lives, and we’re starting to understand it in our work lives. I think that’s an important construct to consider as well.
The way I would navigate it is, like, “I just didn’t hear from our buyers yet.” That would be the pushback I would give to my boss. And that’d be the pushback I give today. When I’m on briefings of people and new vendors and new technologies, especially. When it’s a technology that has like a tactic very closely associated with it, and they’re like, “Everything else is dead and marketing this is it.” I’m like, well, pump the brakes because that’s not how it works.
Even if it is the silver bullet, not everyone’s gonna buy the silver bullet tomorrow. And that’s just the reality of the way that the world works more than anything else. I’m always of the mindset to be, “All right, let’s evaluate it think through it, and figure out our buyers showing that behavior yet.” And if they aren’t, maybe we just watch it. But if we’re starting to see an inkling that this tactic is very similar to this other tactic we deployed, maybe we should start to test it. I think that’s what a good approach might be.
Last question. Any books you’re reading?
Any books I’m reading? I’m reading a parenting book. The age of five has been hard for both my children. I think it’s called Parenting Without Screaming, and it’s about being more in touch with your child.
My children aren’t awful or anything, they’re great children, but most people talk about two and three being the hard ages because there’s a lot of it energy behind it. But when they’re at five, they’re so much more cognitively aware of what’s going on. And, sometimes, if they’re acting out, it’s not because they’re a bad child, that they’re spoiled or anything of that nature — they’re struggling to figure out the mechanism to communicate. And they might not understand that you need to like sit still and the teachers talking.
So, I’m reading about that.
Wonderful. Thank you for your time.