ON24 Products: How ON24 Target Helps You Hit the Personalization Bullseye

Put your buyer hat on and ask yourself one question: what influences you to buy today? Likely, the content experience you have with a brand guide you more than anything else. Think of consumer-focused companies like Amazon, Netflix, Nike and ClassPass; brands who win by delivering personalized and captivating experiences.

Consumers feel connected because these brands cater to them at every turn, from showing “what you might also like” to quick and attentive customer support and opportunities to engage with the brand. B2B clients and prospects deserve the same experience.

According to Salesforce Research’s second annual State of the Connected Customer, 82 percent of business buyers want a consumer-esque experience when buying for business. When targeting prospects or connecting with current customers, you can’t forget about what drives their decisions.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and see what buyers demand.

B2B Buying By The Numbers

Seventy-three percent of business-to-business buyers expect more personalized experiences and want the same level of hyper-personalized service as they receive in business-to-consumer mediums (Accenture, 2017). Even further, nearly half of buyers are looking for personalized content portals (Showpad, 2018).

Content portals combine personalization with accessibility, simplifying the buying process and making the purchase decision quicker and easier. What’s clear is that hyper-personalization, where brands deploy content and campaigns tailored for each customer based on interest and behavioral data, drives successful audience engagement.

Consumer-focused brands are known for their ability to serve campaigns and content based on buyer interest and previous interaction. That same thinking and methodology can be applied when targeting business buyers. Understanding what your audience cares about can better inform the content you produce and provide them along their buyer journey.

The Personalization Problem

While marketers agree that personalized experiences are important and necessary, they also say personalization is one of their biggest challenges. Factors such as time to produce and difficulties with design prevents marketers from delivering the experience that they know their buyers expect. Understanding what your audience cares about can better inform the content you produce and provide to them along their buyer journey.

Building Better Experiences

To help marketers scale personalized experiences for their audiences, ON24 created ON24 Target. ON24 Target offers tools and capabilities that make it easy to create personalized experiences in a few simple steps:

  • Design/Layout: Build personalized content experiences within minutes. Select and customize content layouts and easily drag and drop content to get the experience page exactly how you want it.
  • Select the Right Content: ON24 Target offers Content Performance Metrics such as viewing time, unique visitors and top viewer job titles. These insights are brought directly into the experience builder so marketers choose the right pieces of content for their target audience, enabling them to effectively deliver the personalization that buyers expect.
  • Engage Audiences: Once a page is built, your target accounts and prospects can easily engage with you content by rating it, commenting, or clicking on customized CTAs, allowing them to seamlessly connect with your brand or sales teams.
  • Track Interactivity: Similar to how consumer-focused brands serve content based on interactions, ON24 Target enables you to see how audiences engage with your content experiences and use that data to continually improve and optimize the content and experiences you build.

ON24 Target not only delivers a customized and highly-personalized content experience, but also makes the entire process incredibly easy—enabling marketers to scale their personalization efforts, shorten sales cycles and generate better leads.

Want to learn more about how you can create and deliver personalized experiences? Watch the ON24 Target product demo now!

 

4 Marketing Mindsets That Don’t Cut It Anymore

According to content marketers, content marketing today is in bad shape. It should be no surprise as to why: more content is being created, shared and promoted than ever before, but with little to focus on what content audiences actually want.

According to a joint study between ON24 and Heinz Marketing, marketers have shown a significant decline in the confidence they have in their content marketing strategies.  The problem has gotten so bad, in fact, that most marketers don’t know if they’re delivering the right content to the right audience, don’t measure performance and don’t measure results.

More Content Marketing Tips

The uncertainty around content marketing and its performance is unfortunate, but it doesn’t have to be fatal. Marketers can pull themselves out of their rut by understanding the four marketing mindsets that don’t cut it anymore.

Bad Marketing Mindset One: Growth Hacking

Growth hacking is a popular marketing mindset that exploded in the past decade. There are many different growth hacking definitions, but, in principle, the strategy centers around “grow the company no matter what.” Often, it does so through rapid campaign iterations.

The problem with most growth hacking efforts today, however, is that it distracts from the important, foundational elements a marketing program needs. Foundational strategies are thrown out the window in favor of whatever works. Buyer personas are inaccurate, not done or are targeted as “anyone and everyone.” The buyer’s journey

Growth hacking may work for a short while and provide early-stage startups with some numbers to show investors. But these early-growth sprints deplete marketing reserves at the cost of long-term, consistent growth.

Bad Marketing Mindset Two: Guesswork

Too many marketing campaigns today operate on guesswork. Marketers will share content they perceive as relevant, or popular, for an audience without considering actual pain points, needs or objectives. The guessing problem is prevalent and stems from a variety of factors.

Instead, marketers should use what they know and build from there. The scientific method — where marketers hypothesize, experiment, measure and assess — can add certainty to any content program. For example, editorial calendars can be used to plot out iterations on popular blog posts or content. They can also be changed based off of measured results.

Bad Marketing Mindset Three: More Means Better

Adding more to the pile of blogs and white papers and e-books inundates and intimidates clients and prospects. It’s also emblematic of something worse: that you don’t actually know your audience all that well.

Take the time to understand what your customers and prospects actually care about when it comes to your content. And a better understanding includes more than just the substance of the content you’re creating. Know which formats and channels drive more interaction, engagement and interest and deliver content for those channels.

Bad Marketing Mindset Four: Follow the Leader

There are a lot of marketing success stories out there. In fact, sharing those stories is a mini-industry unto itself. It’s tempting to look at the success of others and copy what they do, but copying a tactic or strategy and applying it to your marketing situation ignores the needs of your audience.

Remember that every business, yours included, is uniquely different. Your customers, selling environment and your industry add up to one requirement: content created from your organization’s unique perspective. To create this unique perspective, you need to have a strong understanding of your audience, their pain points and where and how they engage with your content.

How Marketers Are and Are Not Breaking Through the B2B Noise

Most of what constitutes content marketing today is noise. While papers are drafted, reports are written, social media is scheduled and ads are bought, the marketing needle sits still. That’s because noise doesn’t stand out, drive interest or engage audiences. But that doesn’t mean content marketing isn’t worth the effort.

A joint report between Heinz Marketing and ON24, “Cut Through the B2B Noise: Drive Engagement, Action, Conversion and Loyalty,” found that while content marketing today is suffering in general, there is a path to success.

Learn How Content Can Drive Engagement

The Bad News Around Content Marketing Today

The report found that most ineffectual content marketing programs aren’t organized around data, measurements and audiences. Without a proper content infrastructure in place, marketers, in the short-term, are taking a step back from where they should be.

First, the report found only one in four content marketing professionals are confident in their strategy. Up to 47 percent of respondents rate their strategy as “somewhat effective.” Another 20 percent say their strategy isn’t effective at all.

Second, marketers are having a hard time generating relevant content. The report found that more than 45 percent of respondents are somewhat or not confident at all that they’re creating relevant content. By contrast, only one in five respondents say they’re very or extremely confident they’re creating content relevant to target audiences.

Third, marketers aren’t confident in their ability to measure the impact of content. According to the report, more than 70 percent of surveyed marketers say they’re only somewhat or not at all confident in their ability to measure the impact of their content marketing efforts. Only 13 percent of respondents say they’re extremely or very confident in measuring content impact.

All this adds up to an ecosystem where marketers lack confidence in their content. According to the report, more than 65 percent of marketing professionals claim to be only somewhat confident or not confident that their content is driving desired revenue results.

What Is Working In Content Marketing

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The small percentage of B2B content marketing programs that are successful share remarkably similar patterns. These programs, according to the report, tend to prioritize engagement, personalize content and are aligned around a customer story.

The report found that, of the marketers who have high confidence in the ability of their programs, successful content is usually shared through certain formats and channels. These media clearly have a preference for two-way, interactive engagements with audiences — increasing the time spent with high-performing content.

But what makes for high-performing content? The report found that the most successful content programs focus intensely on personalizing the experiences. In fact, many of the marketers who report content marketing success say they focus more on the experience than they do for scale and efficiency — especially when it comes to high-target accounts.

Part of what makes this personalization possible, the report found, is the ability to empathize with the buyer’s story. For example, instead of sharing the company’s story, successful content marketers develop content focusing on the prospect’s story first. Doing so lengthens the buying cycle, but it builds interest and engagement in accounts that matter.

Finally, found that great content marketing programs are a team effort. Marketing, sales and customer departments tend to be heavily aligned and share a consistent story across channels. The added benefit of tightly-integrated teams, in fact, is the ability to use the same content and story from team to team, providing customers and prospects with a consistent experience.

Most content marketing efforts today are in a bad place. They’re disorganized, uncertain and need a foundational platform to build from. Over the next few weeks, ON24 will explore the basics of building a content marketing program that breaks through the B2B noise and connects with the audience. Keep an eye on this space to learn more.

Webinar Panel Discussion: What’s Right and Wrong With Content Marketing Today

Looking for better content guidance? Get the latest content marketing strategies and tactics at Webinar World 2019.

Marketers are producing more content than they were a year ago, but are still failing to drive better results. What’s going on with marketing’s approach to content?

To get a better understanding of where content marketing is heading — and to provide grounding for marketers looking for successful strategies — B2B Marketing asked a panel of three expert marketers for their perspectives on where the industry is going.

Hosted by Joel Harrison, Editor-in-Chief of B2B Marketing, the panel ranges in expertise — from in-house directors and content coordinators to a B2B marketing agency leader. Specifically, this panel features ON24’s own Tessa Barron, Senior Director of Brand and Communications; Doug Kessler, Creative Director at Velocity Partners; and Jason Miller, Content and Social Marketing Leader at Linkedin.

What follows is a Q&A between Joel (Q), Tessa (T), Jason (J) and Doug (D), heavily edited for clarity and brevity. If you would like to watch the webinar on demand, click here. If you’d like to see how ON24 can help your content to stand out in a competitive digital environment, click here.

Otherwise, enjoy:

Is Content Marketing Broken?

Q:

The premise of this event is a really provocative question, which is, “is content marketing actually broken?” I think I’ve certainly seen this in my time in the B2B marketing of the last 15 years — and particularly practiced approximately in the last five years or so — where we’ve seen the demand for content, B2B content, rising sharply year-on-year. I’m also seeing demands from content coming from other areas of the organization, creating a broader range of objectives for content.

So I’m going to pitch our first question at Doug because Doug has built his reputation around the question of quality and quantity. Doug, is there such a thing as too much content? Are we drowning under an avalanche of content in marketing or does more content equals more business?

D:

I think any market has got more content than it needs in a way. You’re competing with more and more. But within any given content marketing team and any given brand, it comes down to a strategic choice that needs to reflect your strategy. So, as long as you’re staying over the quality threshold — and that’s critical — as long as you are doing that, more is often more. People expect me to say “less is more” because we wrote that piece called “Crap: the Content Marketing Deluge,” but more really is often more. It’s just a cost and resources issue. If you have the budget and you can justify it, you can go really granular with your content. So if you’ve covered the big stuff, you can go create content for vertical industries or specific target audiences, job titles maybe accounts in ABM.

We know that granular is what works. It’s really focused, so you get relevance, you get engagement for this smaller audience, but really the only question is should you pour so much into content? If your sales development reps and account people aren’t keeping up with what you’re generating already, well, don’t make more — that’s crazy. If they’re all sitting on their hands, well, you better make more or promote more of the content you’ve got. If you have no money to promote your content, so the pieces you’re making are not reaching their audience, why make more? Promote the ones you’ve got. And if no one’s engaging with it, then don’t keep blindly producing it. So quality is non-negotiable for me, that’s your brand name, but quantity is very, very negotiable and that strategic. It’s just a choice.

Q:

Good answer. Tessa, what do you think about this? Doug’s touched on resourcing — if you’ve got resources to produce more and you can produce more, will it deliver returns to you. But everyone’s resources are finite, right? ON24’s resources, those are finite. So there comes the point where you’ve got to go, “What’s delivering us the returns?” How does that work for you?

T:

I think what Doug says is very true. More is more as long as you know who it’s for and what questions you’re answering and I mean that not just for yourself. You content should be written and should be built in a way that you are looking for it to tell you something about the person who’s consuming it. And then it should help to fill in, to give an answer to the person who is reading it so it is valuable enough that they want to engage with it. I think that’s the measure that I put on when deciding do we do this piece of content or not.

The last piece, which Doug said, and I completely agree, is if you can’t promote it, you really shouldn’t do it. For big hero pieces of content, you have to have a promotion strategy and work back from who you want to read it and which channel you want them to consume it on and, again, what information gap you’re trying to fill both for you and them. That’s really the decision on whether or not you put resources toward a piece.

Q:

That’ll make sense. Jason, I’m going to twist the question a little bit. We all love doing big hero content, right? We all love doing the big on show-stopper pieces which have a real opinion and drives us further forwards, but often a lot of what marketers do is not that stuff. It’s the more mundane. It’s workman-like content, which there is still a need for as well. So, there’s a responsibility and onus on content marketing teams to be turning some of that stuff out. That’s difficult to say no to, right? How do you have that conversation with people?

J:

It’s interesting to me. I think that it used to be a game of numbers, but now it’s more a game of relevance, right? And I think the conversation starts with: is the content you have better than your competition? Is it exhaustive? Is it entertainment? Is it entertaining? Is it inspiring? All these things. And I don’t think the question becomes, “is there too much content?” I think it’s, “Do you have the right content and is it the best content that it can be?” And I split that between two parts. So the big rock content, the hero content, whatever you want to call it, are you extracting every ounce of value out of that? I see us making the mistake all the time of putting something out there and then running to the next thing. And that’s very frustrating.

And then I see the blog is being neglected. I think the big rock content is sort of the brand, lead-gen driver while the blog is more of the conversation starter to the sales team especially. But when you put the two together, you have an objective-based big rock content, and you have the blog running in one direction and a narrative, sort of the diary of the brand.

The blog is a great conversation starter, but it also obviously plays a great role in search and just having content to share out through your topic pages. I think the conversation has to become not about do we have too much content but do we have the right content? And is it exhaustive? Is the best? Is it beating our competition?

Are Marketers Too Focused on Top-of-Funnel Content?

Q:

A really clear message that it’s all about quality, not quantity. You all are on the money because our audience, in the poll question, is that 71 percent of our attendees are definitely focused on quality rather than quantity.

For our next question — and I think Tessa, I’ll shoot this one to you first — is that in B2B we’re focused on the top of the funnel, but what about nurturing and deal closing? How and are you seeing much success in content for that particular objective?

T:

Yeah, absolutely. So, top of the funnel, big rock content, hero content, has its place. But, as Jason said, you can take it and to pull it apart and iterate upon it to then nurture someone through awareness and ideally have a conversation with your sales team. That’s why we all do content, ultimately. At ON24 we like to have a third-party big piece and then use that as validation to drive content that’s more of a how-to and put it into practice before going into an example of how someone used that particular strategy. So, we go from strategy to then the tactics behind it to then the actual practical, real-life case study. What’s delivered doesn’t necessarily have just to be written, it could be shared in a variety of ways. And then we drive to the very direct information about a product and what ON24 does to enable that.

So we look at big rock content as something that — again, from the perspective that we shared from the beginning — is pulled all the way through the entire content journey. And as that content journey expands, the questions the content is answering gets narrower and narrower as develop it. So, right now, we’re actually working on a nurture campaign and we’re answering the questions “why marketing?” So by marketing to “why webinars” to then, “Why ON24” and have content pieces the entire way through. All of that is pulled back to the initial “why you should be doing marketing today.” It’s actually a pretty full structure, but it works, and it works really well for us.

Q:

It sounds like a very logical, methodical way of doing it. That’s a fascinating insight. So I’m going to switch that question. Jason, in your experience, do you do a lot of content for deal-closing and nurturing? Is that a facet of what you do and do you have a similar approach to Tessa or is it part of content further down the funnel? Is it a little more workman-like? Or is it pitching these concepts in a different way?

J:

That’s a very interesting question. It’s something I’ve struggled with over the past ten years or so of my content marketing life. If you were to ask me seven years ago about lead-gen versus brand awareness, I’d say lead-gen all day long — gate everything under the sun, no matter what it is, a one-sheet, whatever, gate it. But now I understand you have to have a nice mix. You have to have a brand strategy. You have to gain that trust. Everyone’s talking about storytelling and how important storytelling is, but what right do you have to tell a story to anybody, especially a grandiose story with a beginning, middle, a hero end? No one’s just going to pop over to your landing page or your website and listen to a full story. You’ve got to build that trust — and you do that through the top of the funnel.

So I think a lot of people discount the top of the funnel when it’s more important than ever to get and build that trust and let people know who you are, what you stand for and you do through content marketing. Only when you get deeper into the funnel, depending on how deep your role is in the organization, how specific it is, does it truly becomes a demand gen role. Are you a content marketer or are you a demand gen marketer? Technically speaking, in content marketing, your job is to tell your brand’s story, create helpful content and drive as much traffic as you can. Then it becomes demand gen’s turn to actually convert traffic and nurture. So, it’s a double-edged sword. But I think the top of the funnel is more important than ever, brand awareness is more important than ever. But then you got to get down to the middle and create some objective based content.

An example of this is we’ve got bored with content marketing earlier this year and we wanted to know what would happen if we just said exactly what the content does on the cover. So, we created a series called “Read This If You Want to Advertise Better on Linkedin” And my theory was you will have a 100 percent conversion rate because no one’s going to click on that unless they want to do exactly what it says on the front. It became the most successful piece of content we’ve ever created. Literally, it was text on a black background and just said, “Read This If You Want to Advertise Better on Linkedin.” That’s objective based content in the middle of the funnel. Again, I think the blog is terribly underrated, terribly under-celebrated and that’s what keeps the top of funnel kind of churning — that’s my little theory.

Q:

Jason is definitely making a case for the blog in this call. Jason, thanks so much for that. Doug, how about you? As an agency director, I would conjecture you were more involved in big rock content. Are you, as an agency worker, just on a big rock content? Or are you also on the kind of stuff that’s further down the process?

D:

We hold programs all the way through, but because we’re an agency, we tend to find ourselves at the top of the funnel largely because clients are pretty good at the bottom of the funnel. They’re better at stuff when it’s all about talking about your products. Content marketing, by contrast, came along because that’s all they did. Generally, there’s good bottom of the funnel stuff for us to point to, but not a lot of top-level stuff to get people to want to care about the rest. So we, as an agency, spend time up there.

I do think it’s important. I mean, it feels something almost like a content apartheid: that pure content marketers feel like, “Wow, if you’re talking about your product, it’s not content marketing.” I think it is. Content marketing is using your expertise to help your prospect. If you believe that your products help your prospects, well, then telling them about your product helps them too. There’s no hard line between this dirty thing called “selling” and “marketing” and this pure thing called “content marketing.” It’s what the buyer wants to do at that moment, and you better have a good for them for that — wherever that is.

Q:

How Can B2B Marketers Use Storytelling for Generating Content?

Okay. For our next question. We understand why stories are important for attention, but can you give a practical B2B example of using storytelling for content origination?

D:

Well, I don’t mind diving in if it’s okay. I think the word “storytelling” has been romanticized, and there is a place for the kind of storytelling Jason mentioned — the hero’s journey and the beginning, middle and end — but there’s a simpler meaning of “story,” which is the arc of your argument. Generally, in B2B and tech, this story is, “World has changed, the way you’re doing things now is not matched to the world-change,” and “There’s a better way to respond to the change in the world and seize opportunities or solve problems than you’re doing right now.” And that’s a story, isn’t it? I mean, something happened, and you haven’t yet responded.

To me, we should think of a story more like an arc of an argument — one where you don’t go to the second step if you haven’t convinced them of the step before. If they don’t believe the world’s changed, then you’re not going to get ’em. So you got to make that case. And, once they do believe it’s changed, you have to then convince them that what they’re doing now is not really suited to the new world. So it’s built like an argument and if you want to call it a story, that’s great. But I find that we at Velocity are making more stories like that more than the “once upon a time” type stories.

J:

It’s interesting, Doug and I were discussing this once and the conversation turned to story versus anecdote. I didn’t know what the difference was between the two, but if you think of an anecdote, an anecdote as a part of the story and many times it’s a part of the story that happened to you and that is in line with your beliefs. So, it’s interesting to me we’re trying to tell these big grandiose stories — and B2B is a good example — and we put them out there and expect everyone to come running to hear some stories from us. Instead, we should focus on the anecdote parts, which actually aligns your beliefs and also get to the point much quicker. Don’t talk about the story arc, tell us the anecdote.

The anecdote is the most important part of the story, the part where your audience actually has the “ah-ha!” moment or changed the way they thought about something. That’s the most important part, but often we’re trying to buffer it into this giant story. It’s almost like we’re trying to make a major motion picture — a three and a half hour Avengers Infinity War — when probably a 10 minute documentary on why and how this aligns to my brand and my beliefs will do.

T:

I also think sometimes people get mesmerized by storytelling because they feel like they’ve pages to fill. When you move beyond the idea you have to create something that’s like a hard deliverable, then you just start talking and being real and tell your story. And that’s where a lot of the mediums — and again, I hate being like this, but podcasts are coming to the forefront and obviously it’s why we believe in webinars — where you can just say what you mean and not have to write a bunch of jargon and garbage that is this great, beautiful story, are taking off. Really, just like Jason said, no, people aren’t lining up to hear it. They want the facts, they want the authentic truth and to not have it all hidden in the writing by committee that often happens when you have pages to fill.

J:

I would say Google this, but I’ll say Bing this right now: stories versus anecdote. Just look at the articles that pop up. It will completely enlighten you and inspire you to think about storytelling in a different way. It’ll help you to stop oversimplifying the fact and get to the core of what a true anecdote means and how powerful it can be instead of focusing so much time and effort into a story.

What’s The Difference Between Content Marketing and Marketing Content?

Q:

Okay. This is interesting because it’s fascinating, but I’m going to try and lead you on because we’ve got other questions to answer. Our next question is, “How does the panel distinguish between content marketing and marketing content? I.e., everything that marketers create and put in the market or are they one and the same?” So is there a difference between content marketing and marketing content?

D:

Marketing content is a thing, it’s an object. Content marketing is an activity, and it’s a strategically led program. I think the question is more leading back to that comment about apartheid — that almost all content is content marketing. Most marketing content is what I would call the bigger picture content marketing, and it’s partly because I don’t feel there is this apartheid. I feel like if you’re helping someone do their job, you’re doing content marketing, if you believe in your product, then selling them to that person is helping them do their job. So I don’t find a massive Gulf there.

J:

And I think you have to have both of them together, too, because if you’re just content marketing — not paying to promote your content, or you don’t have a program if you’re not tightly aligned with demand gen — then I think you’re probably wasting your time. The flip side is the content or the digital marketer who’s on tour right now saying “organic is dead.” That’s just silly. Claiming any marketing discipline is dead in 2018 is passé. It’s silly to me that organic and paid together is essential, but if you’re not paying to promote your own good conduct, if you’re not plugging it into programs, if you’re not directly aligned with your demand gen team, seeing what they need more content of, what type of content’s in and then literally putting some money behind it and then I think you’re way behind.

Q:

Okay, Tessa, do you have a view on this one?

T:

I think it’s all content and it just depends upon the channels that you use to put it out there. I agree with what Doug initially said, that all marketing is content, really, and it’s about taking an integrated approach to have a consistent message — every email or advertisement should be the most synthesized version of your ultimate point of view, which should come from content marketing.

How Do Agencies Fit into the Content Marketing Picture?

Q:

Okay. Right, so I’m going to try and move onto the next question. This next question is specifically for Doug. Doug, as an agency worker, how do you manage the content creation process? Do you workshop ideas with clients? Or is it largely directed by them by philosophy? How much power or say do you get in the process?

I also want to get Tessa and Jason’s view on how they’ve worked with agencies.

D:

We, as agencies, start out when someone is less confident in their own abilities, and you end up having to think you’ve got to be the creative one, you got to be the one with all the answers. So, early on in our career as an agency, we tried to come down from the mountain with the answer more than we do now. I think we involve clients a lot more now — there’s more co-creation and getting in a room together. It’s a lot more fun and it’s more likely to generate something good. You also kind of tend to leave the room aligned, especially if you can get other stakeholders in the room, even early, you tend to leave with some agreement instead of having agreed on something and then bringing it to one stakeholder at a time and throwing it in the air like a clay pigeon for them to shoot down.

I liked the idea of trying to get alignment built in early. Having said it, we’ve done all kinds. So we also do an assembly-line style where the researcher gives something to a writer, who gives something to a designer, who gives something to a developer. It’s not ideal, but for simple things, it’s fast, efficient and good. We also like more scrum kind of things, and we love it more and more if we can get the client involved in that co-creation. Again, it’s more fun and you get better answers and more alignment when you leave the room.

Q:

Is that a reflection of wider trends — the fewer walls between clients and agencies — and more collaboration in general?

D:

Yes, definitely. I think part of that is in-house chops. Clients are getting better and better at this stuff, and people with content on their business card are getting good at this. Why would you exclude that expertise? They also know their own company, business and market so well. So the synergies can be fantastic. I think an out-of-house perspective is great — someone who’s got kind of an immunity to the Kool-Aid and can come in as the advocate of the target audience. I would argue, as an agency, that is one of the most important things we bring into the room. And yet, I love it when we can sit down with a client and riff together. I do think it’s the trend, yeah.

Q:

Okay. So, Jason, I’m going to take this one to you.  So, how does that work with you?

J:

I’m an idea guy, right? I like to push the envelope and make people a little bit uncomfortable, right? I think that’s what gets results, especially in crowded conversations such as B2B marketing. I call it the George Costanza Effect, right? So you do the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing and that’s how you breakthrough. But, to answer the question specifically, I usually bring up a fully baked idea to the agency.

We have a lot of agency departments we work with — I’ve worked with Doug. Doug, actually created the first big rock ever for Marketo — you and John might have invented the term, actually. And Doug said something to me that stuck out. He said, “My job is to get the client to want the right thing.”

And I thought that’s interesting because it used to be you just go to your agency with an idea — or not even an idea, just say this is what we’re trying to do — and they come back with three pitches. You pick one, you launch it and go onto the next thing. And that’s the old model. Now, I think creative shops, the raw creative and the content marketing teams are coming up with their own ideas and their vision. For example, I would come to my agency and say, “This is my vision.” And they would come back with something instead of presenting me with three options based on my objective.

I’ve had crazy ideas and I’ve had some terrible ideas. But it’s fun to be a content marketer and it’s fun to have these big ideas. But it’s even more fun to try to figure out how to do a Nike-style Colin Kaepernick campaign on a budget that’s about a 10th of what they spend on that. A scrappy little market, right? Something inspiring, something engaging, something different, something edgy. And I pull inspiration from everything. And so that’s just how I think. And I work with whatever — no idea is ever too crazy. In fact, we don’t even call brainstorming sessions brainstorming because during the brainstorming session you throw things out. We call them spitballing sessions because everything is on the table and nothing ever gets played behind the net. That one dumb idea, what one might be considered a terrible idea, might come back around and inspire something great later on.

Q:

Okay. Tessa, how’s it work at ON24? How do the scenarios present here compare? Do you have this kind of collaborative relationship with agencies or do you give them the problem and say, “Come up with a solution,” and walk away?

T:

I’m very hands on. We have a very integrated relationship with our agency. And that actually starts with — as corny as this sounds — a brand manifesto, which is something I define with my CMO and CEO. And ON24 is a company that’s still the size where we can do that and have that hands-on control of our brand — and I love that.

With my agency, I take the perspective that we’re a team and, almost, like a service provider to our demand gen and business counterparts. So, I’m very hands-on with them. We come up with ideas. We come up with presentations. And then we bring them together to the powers that be and pitch it jointly.

And I think that that works really well because one of the biggest misses — and I come from the agency side, so I’m biased — I think is that when you’re a client and you don’t actually know how things work and you’re not hands-on, it can be really difficult to give good, solid briefs and end up with a quality product. So, I take that one step further, go beyond the brief and am actually there side by side as ideas, even products, are being developed.

Social Advocacy and How It Matters

Q:

Okay. I’m going to move onto the next question, which is: “Do you have any advice on gaining advocates internally to how we distribute and share?” Tessa, what is advocacy like within, ON24 and to what extent is that factor in your content activities?

T:

Well, your customers are your biggest source of fans and advocates, so we start there. The way we’ve turned our customers to mini-distribution channels for us is when it comes to our customer content. We’ve renamed it, and it’s essentially customer stories, but we call it “webinerds.” It’s the webinerd community, it’s the webinerd network, it’s the webinerd channel. So, while all of these stories are featured customers saying how great, ideally, ON24 is and how it’s helped them market better, advocacy is now a channel and a property that customers own because the webinerd name actually came organically from them.

And now we’re seeing this great following. If you type in the webinerd hashtag in Twitter, you’ll see some customers proudly calling themselves that. So, we’ve taken that and ran with it and applied it to our content and that naturally, then, encourages our customers to share it because they feel like they’re a part of that community.

Q:

I think that’s a really great answer — the whole selling a movement, not a product. And, the webinerd things, while I was at the ON24 European summit, I acquired one of the webinerd t-shirts — and I love it, the kind of unknowing irony around it, which is, which is fantastic.

So, Jason, how about you? Any thoughts around advocacy at LinkedIn or any other organizations you might have worked with in the past?

J:

That’s a good question. I think everyone talks about “influencer marketing” and how it’s still the biggest opportunity for B2B. I think that’s ridiculous. The low hanging fruit is employee advocacy. Just empowering your employees to share your own content. Why would they not want to share it? Unless it’s terrible or unless they don’t know how or they don’t know what’s in it for them. But I do have some numbers to share.

LinkedIn has its own employee advocacy platform called “Elevate.” We found from our own research that employees combined connections on social networks are, on average, ten times larger than the company’s followers. Only three percent of employees share content, yet they generate 30 percent of all content engagement for typical business. And employees get two times higher click-through rates from their shares compared to company shares on the same content. And it makes sense because we trust people more than we trust brands. So the question then becomes, “Well, what’s in it for me? Why would I want to do this?” And I will tell you that for every six pieces of content on LinkedIn, every six pieces of content an employee shares on LinkedIn influences six job views, great for HR; three company page-views, great for the marketing team; one company page followers, again marketing team; six profile views, which is great for both the personal branding for the individual marketer and the sales team to become more trusted and more visible; and, finally, overall, two new connections established. So the question becomes what’s in it for me? There’s something in it for everyone and you just needed to pitch it the right way.

You need to let employees know what it’s like to share, what the rules are, what the rules of engagement are. I think it’s the biggest missed opportunity in B2B marketing right now.

Q:

So, Doug, this possibly falls outside the realm of the agency, but do you kind of factor advocacy into your plans?

D:

Oh, we definitely do. I think people always talk about earned, owned and paid media. We always insist on a fourth: employee media — people who work for you. It’s a big channel. I do think there are times when you think, “You know what, the followers, so-and-so’s following are their personal friends and family social following.” They don’t want to be sharing their work stuff there. If there are people who aren’t engaged in the market you’re in, then asking them to share is awkward, but also the results of it won’t be so great. So, I think if you focus on the people who are actively engaged in the market you’re in, you’re obviously going to be better off.

I’m not demanding everybody get out there and share. Most of them are sharing with friends and family and doing personal things. Those who do share work stuff are happy to and they’re the ones who get the great numbers that Jason’s talking about.

The Importance of Good Content Mix

Q:

So there’s a very clear message there. Again, internal advocacy is very, very important, but if you can have this movement sense, then fantastic.

So our next question is: “What have you found to be the right mix of print slash digital versus video versus interactive content?” That’s quite a tough one. I’m not quite sure I’d want to answer that one myself. Anyone got a view on that?

D:

Like so many answers in marketing, “depends” is usually the answer and it certainly depends on your strategy completely and your audience. I like to hear print in the mix here because we often talk about the mix. We’re big on the mix, but of course, it has to be a mix that is where your audience is — and print is a new surprise. Jason, actually, does a new magazine, and it hits desks and people pass it around and talk about it. Print’s back! The other day got a piece of junk mail and I went around showing our team because, “Look, I got junk mail! It’s badly targeted because it’s for lawyers and they sent it to me, but look how funny this is.” It used to be we were buried in that shit. Mail is back if print is back. And I like seeing that.

What Jason said about going counterintuitive is always good — the George Costanza strategy. I would never leave print out. One big problem is if are people collecting addresses, postal addresses anymore to be able to send people print for instance. That’s one issue. But it’s a “depends” answer and it’s a “yes” for the mix — big time.

Q:

One of the other components of this question is videos and interaction. Well, we are on an interactive platform. So, Tessa, your platform is both interactive and video-centric as well. You can do both aspects. As a vendor that provides this stuff, do you also do some of this retro cold-print stuff?

T:

Yes, again, if it aligns with our objective and our audience. So, for account-based marketing campaigns, we think of direct mail as sometimes an effective door opener. And that can be everything from sending a pizza — kind of kidding but kind of not – and that’s really not content marketing, but we like to integrate it with our campaigns.

So, we’re running a primarily digital campaign that’s about waking up your old webinars and there’s a direct mail component for targeted accounts where we send them a coffee cup. And it’s just a nice compliment and it’s not something you go crazy on, but when it fits in and integrates with an existing campaign, absolutely, all tactics are on the table if your audience is there to receive them. And I think that’s the most important part.

So the mix isn’t about having all the channels. It’s about figuring out where your audience is that you want to reach and then addressing the channels accordingly. And I would say that that’s where panels that are less static and more interactive— they become a really agile way to adjust in real to your audience.

We do videos too, of course, but the issue is once they’re done, then they’re pretty much done. It’s really hard to be agile with video. But we can take our webinars and shape-shift them based on the audience through the interactivity. And I think that’s where interactivity allows, as a marketer, you to slide up and down the scale from personalized to generic really, really quickly without actually having to generate another piece of content because the way you interact with your audience through Q&A, the polls that you push, help to transform a generic piece of content into something that is literally defined by that audience. A video could never do that. So, that’s my answer two questions there.

Q:

Jason, is this notion of interactivity, and the ability to respond, an important part of recalibrating your marketing?

J:

Yes, of course. I think the challenge is how you scale that. For example, interactive content at the top of the funnel is generally not the best experience. I think it’s much more effective in the middle of the funnel because it can be expensive. If you have an ROI calculator or some middle-of-the-funnel pieces, I think interactivity is essential. You can get a lot of information with interactivity, but it’s really tough to scale and I think a lot of content marketers are stuck struggling with good video right now.

So, going that next step and personalizing or getting the interactive feedback and acting upon it in a smart, scalable way I think is something that everyone struggles with. I’m not sure anyone’s doing that as well as they could.

Why Do B2B Marketers Ignore Behavioral Psychology

Q:

That’s a really good point: a lot of capacity not being used, we need to understand how to use it.

Okay, our next question is as follows: “There is well-documented cognitive research which illustrates that layout and format play a major role in how the human brain processes and stores information. Why is it that marketing knows little about this research? If we are truly focused on relevance and quality, then surely understanding this is fundamental anyone working in content marketing.”

Doug, I’m going to pitch this one to you first because I think this has got you written all over.

D:

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s true. It’s one of those things where we all have learned a lot about how people make decisions and marketing is slow to catch up. We’re still battering people with rational arguments and a lot more is going on. I do think that part of the problem is that behavioral psychology doesn’t give us a formula and we have to apply this kind of thinking to what we are doing. That means testing stuff.

It’s not like behavioral psychology will dictate a format for you or a layout. It may tell you there are these cognitive biases you need to keep in mind as you make your choices and test some assumptions about them. And that’s important and I think some marketers are ahead on that. For example, you’ll get e-commerce marketers who are great when they present their pricing options and who are using a lot more behavioral psychology these days to set the things off and anchor people at the right price points — but a lot of this is just we don’t have the answers.

What behavioral psychology did is give us better questions and we’re all in the act of grappling with it. Often, it comes down to the page and us trying different things to find out what works. I don’t think not responding to research a willful thing, I think it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

Q:

Very good. Tessa, what were you going to say?

T:

I have a non-scientific answer purely from my own experience, but I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that people really don’t read — they skim and that’s just something that we have become accustomed to with smartphones. So, you can launch a whole website and have it be full of customer stories, but I’ve realized that if the logo isn’t there, the people don’t think it’s a customer story.

There are some simple things you can do. For example, if you take a step back and you don’t pay so much attention to the words — as much as I hate saying that — you can shift your thinking about how you could bring about a story. How could you visually represent that story? I find that it’s been a much better way of getting people to pay attention than actually reading the story that’s behind the symbol or a graphic illustration that we’re using to represent it.

J:

Very, very good point, Tessa. I will add one thing to it. I can’t tell you how many seminars I’ve sat through, where it’s the psychology of marketing and colors and everything and how to influence and persuade. Everyone is really excited about it all and they leave the room and they never put any of it into play because we’re all too busy. So, I don’t think about it at all. In B2B, I don’t think you really need to. I think Doug a good point about e-commerce — B2C and quick transactions, yeah, that’s all about psychology persuasion at the moment — but a long sales cycle in B2B, I think the biggest thing is: do you have interesting copywriters? Do you have people who are interested in doing your marketing? I think there needs to be a study that says people like to be around interesting people and read content from people who inspire them or draw insights that make them think differently.

So, I don’t think about it at all. I don’t think there’s time to think about behavioral psychology in B2B. I think that’s more of a B2C conversation, but I think you really have to ask yourself: is your content interesting? Would you read your own content? We lost the art of good copywriting. We’re saying, “Check out my blog or check out this resource,” ordering people around when you need to go back to the days of David Ogilvy when he wrote some of the best copy in the world. That stuff never changed. The language never changed, but we just got lazy as marketers and started ordering people around. I don’t think you have to think about that as much as we would all like to — we need to get back to good copywriting and being a remarkable, interesting, an exhaustive, inspiring marketer.

Copy, Content and Their Malcontents

Q:

Okay, somewhat serendipitously, here is our last question: “What does the panel think of the debate between the difference of copy and content? Isn’t it just confusing and shall we kill one of them off?”

So, is there a difference copy and content? Jason, what do you think?

J:

Absolutely not, no, I think it’s one and the same.

Q:

That’s the shortest answers for the afternoon, or the morning rather.

T:

I totally agree. I don’t know how they could be different.

Q:

I think copy is a functional aspect of content, which is broader and includes design. If I talk about copy, copy is the words, but I’m not going to argue with an agency about this.

T:

I think the words define then how you represent it, right? The story you’re trying to tell should define then the context in which you tell it.

Q:

Absolutely, Doug what do you think?

D:

Well, the argument seems to have come up when I saw it in the copywriting community, people were talking about “Am I a copywriter or a content writer and what’s the difference?” In that context, there’s a meaningful discussion to be had. I don’t think it’s all that interesting, but we have noticed that we have met copywriters, and used copywriters, who are much more like wordsmiths. They’re not really about to roll up your sleeves, get into this and create a deeper thing.

Also, you may find some copywriters who don’t adapt that well to content writing, like tech content writing B2B that we do. But I don’t know if that’s about the labels, really, that’s about the individuals. Some copywriters are used to coming out with slogans like Darren from Bewitched, you know, “Nothing crisps like Krispie’s Crisps.” And I wouldn’t necessarily ask him to write me a content ebook about supply chain management. But other than that, I’m pretty much of the opinion that they’re the same discipline.

J:

One quick little note: our content marketers are calling themselves copywriters when they don’t understand the copywriting process. I think that’s happened to the point of over-confusion there. There are content writers who are certainly not good copywriters, but copywriters have been doing this much longer. And the other point is that every single touch point we put out there could be the first touch point on a journey to a big deal, right? And I think we’ve gotten lazy with just putting a tweet out there or a LinkedIn post without really thinking about how a copywriter, a master copywriter, would re-frame that message to connect. That’s the biggest opportunity.

D:

Hear, hear.

Q:

Okay, well, we are out of time. I hope the message coming across from this is that content marketing is very joined up and there are all kinds of interrelated aspects which are very, very important. Content marketing remains a fascinating discipline and you can’t understand its importance and B2B at the moment. There are many, many aspects to it and the challenge will only become you get greater and greater over time.

So, I’d like to thank our wonderful panel for their time today. I’ve really enjoyed getting their insights. I’m very grateful they made the time join in on the call and I also like to thank you all out there who’ve been listening to.

Thank you very much for your time and I hope you’ll join us again for another webinar very soon. And so, good morning, good afternoon and good evening — wherever you are.

Summer Reading: The Five Elements of Webinar Storytelling

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

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

So, where to start? Well, right here:

1. Have a goal in mind.

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

2. Find inspiration in content that works

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

3. Refine

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

4. Build your story

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

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

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

5. Outline and build your slides

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

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

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

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

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

1. Webinars As a Content-Delivery Machine

2. How to Build a Killer Webinar Presentation

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

4. Four tips to detox your webinar slides

5. The Role of Webinars in the Buying Cycle

Great Webinar Ideas Are All Around You

I talk about webinars for a living. Every month, and usually several times a month, I serve up a fresh hour of live conversation on the same topic: webinars. And I’m not alone. In recent years we’ve seen a strong trend to more and more companies delivering regular quarterly, monthly, or even weekly webinars. But how many ways are there to talk about the same subject, week after week, year after year? You’d be surprised.

Where am I going to find all this content?

As marketers, we live with constant pressure to come up with new webinar ideas, fresh campaigns, more content. That’s a lot of pressure. But don’t let that get you down. If there is a secret to content marketing, it’s that there are great ideas everywhere you look. You just have to know how to look.

Follow the funnel

Start with a survey of the webinars you’ve already done. Are you doing a lot of product-focused events? Then maybe it’s time to throw in a thought leadership webinar. Have you created hours of content on best practices? Consider delivering a webinar on your key benefits or differentiators. Once you take a good, long look at the webinars you’ve been creating, it’s easier to see the holes in your content strategy — and every hole in your content strategy is a new idea for a webinar.

And there’s nothing wrong with putting on the same webinar more than once. Here at ON24, we deliver a bottom-of-the-funnel product demo webinar every week. Every week. It’s the same content and the same deck, and it gives us 52 chances a year to reach our customers and prospects.

Phone a friend

If you were creating a TV show instead of a webinar series, you’d have a team of dozens of writers, producers, actors, and other talented people to draw on. Why would you try to run a webinar program all by yourself? Reach out to your sales and customer service teams and ask them what topics they are getting asked about a lot.

Of course, if it’s the audience perspective you want, why not go straight to the source? Survey past webinar attendees to find out what future topics they’d be interested in seeing. Or spend some time on customer forums, influencer blogs, and social media to see what topics and trends are top-of-mind for your target market.

Look inside yourself

Think about all the great content you’ve already created: white papers, customer case studies. blog posts, videos, and more. That’s a ton of killer content, and chances are you already know which pieces are performing the best for you. Take a look at your analytics and pick out the best-performing assets, and then use them as inspiration for your next webinar. Even content that you might not traditionally think of as a core piece of content, like an email drip campaign, could be packed with interesting and compelling ideas.

If you produce any research or data reports, those are some of the best sources for webinar content. People love data, and audiences really appreciate deep-color commentary on the bare-bones facts and figures in your published report. Any sort of benchmarking data that you can provide will be invaluable to your audience and would make a great webinar.

Great ideas are everywhere

And I mean everywhere. Once you learn how to look for them, you’ll find that you have more webinar content ideas than you know what to do with. And now I’m off to come up with some more ideas to give webinars…about webinars.

If you need even more inspiration, check out our on-demand webinar, “10 Secrets for Creating Great Webinar Content.”