How Marketers Can Break Through The Automation Noise

Today’s marketers are all about automation. And why wouldn’t they be? It empowers marketers to do more with less, helps campaigns reach a global scale and provides us with the time we need to come up with The Next Big Thing. But the problem with marketing automation today is that everyone is doing it — and almost everyone is doing it poorly.

For example, how many times have you seen an email in your inbox address you with the good old fashioned “Hi [ENTER NAME],”? Or how many times did you get a follow-up email explaining that, oops, the previous email wasn’t meant for you? Automation can make marketing so easy that we literally forget about the human at the other end.

Buyers Want Personal

Let me throw some numbers at you to ensure this point hits home. According to an ON24-sponsored report from Harvard Business Review, four out of five marketers say they value human and personalized interactions over automated interactions. But those same marketers say the digital tools they use make it difficult to build genuine human interactions. In essence, we love personalization, but the everyday tools we rely on get in the way of building genuine connections.

And there are other reasons why marketers need to prioritize personalization. One great reason: personalization pays. According to a 2018 MarketingProfs study, marketers found a 19 percent increase in sales when businesses personalized web experience for a target account. In addition, a 2016 McKinsey study found personalization actually helped to cut acquisition costs in half.

So where does automation fit into all of this? Digital marketers are starting to understand how to make the most out of the marketing automation technologies they have and use them for a singular purpose. That purpose, from what I’ve seen at countless conferences and have discussed in just about as many conversations, is a better overall marketing experience. When used in service of a higher purpose, and combined with the right digital tools, automation can become the engine behind great, engaging, and genuine, experiences.

Marketing Automation Where It Counts

Take, for example, landing pages, the beating heart of many digital events. Under the right conditions, marketers can use automation to eliminate form-fills, one of the most tedious and registrant-repealing parts of signing up for digital events. We did this recently at ON24 and by getting rid of that small tedium — putting in names, numbers and email addresses — we crafted a better experience for return attendees and collected more accurate data in the process. This little experiment-in-automation was so successful, in fact, that we managed to see a significant jump in the number of registrants for a webinar series than we normally see.

The real way to harness the power of marketing automation is to pair it with interactive marketing tools, like webinars, that help you to build experiences and give you the ability to capture every action a prospect takes, assess that activity and share it with the sales team. There are two main reasons why recording and assessing activity is so great. First, it helps marketers hone in on their best leads and better understand audience behavior — creating the foundation for better deals and better content. Second, and best of all, feeding these qualified leads straight to sales provides a seamless conversation.

From Noise to Engagement

Webinar platforms can capture every click, question, download and more. This type of behavioral data will give you a much better picture of who your best leads and what their primary interests are. But that’s not all! By combining this webinar data with marketing automation and CRM systems, we can place these leads with this powerful conversational context into the hands of salespeople. Instead of following up on a webinar, salespeople are following up on a question, a download – even a theme if a prospect is watching a series of particular webinars — they’re continuing a conversation instead of trying to start one.

If you take a look from a 30,000-foot perspective you can see the big picture: that marketers and salespeople are starting to shift away from technology just for the sake of scale and towards technology for the sake of building an experience that converts. That’s something great. That’s something tangible. And that’s something that has to happen if we’re to get the most out of automation today.

5 Common Webinar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

There are a lot of opportunities to make webinar mistakes during production. The wrong link gets shared to an audience, a power outage takes place, a speaker has to drop out for some unforeseen reason or — and this does happen — the host locks themselves out of their studio or office.

Whatever the reason, webinar mistakes happen. Knowing how to respond to them when they transpire is important. That’s why, last week, our own Chief Webinerd, Mark Bornstein, took to the studio to lay out 2019’s top 10 webinar mistakes and how to avoid them.

We’ve collected five of those common mistakes — in no particular order — for you to review. Let’s take a look now:

1. Repeating Yourself, Repeating Yourself, Repeating Yourself

Webinars need promoting and that means emails — a lot of emails. Unfortunately, a lot of organizations believe email copy is an exercise in repetition and will send you the same email several times while expecting a different result. Einstein had something to say about that.

Instead of sending the same email over and over again, vary its message and vary where the reader is in the sign-up cycle. For example, you can give a high-level overview of an upcoming webinar during your first email send and a personal message from your presenter for the second send. Your third and fourth emails should address audiences who are “on the fence” — those who’ve clicked through an email but haven’t registered yet — shortly before a webinar takes place.

2. Plain Consoles

It’s not the 1990s anymore, so basic grey backgrounds and dated-looking webinar consoles aren’t going to cut it. Plain webinar consoles are just that: dull looking, basic and about as interesting to interact with as a damp cloth. Change it up and make your consoles something your audience looks forward to.

Designing a good console isn’t as hard as it sounds. If your organization has brand guidelines (and it should) a simple solution would be to grab your brand logo, grab your brand colors and create a console based on those two elements. Another simple technique would be to grab any company imagery — so long as it’s not distracting — and use that as your webinar console. Whatever you do, just don’t make it boring.

3. Toxic Slides

Speaking of design. If you’re using slides during your webinar — and the vast majority of you are — make sure they, like your console, aren’t boring or toxic. What do we mean? Well, we mean slides that have too much text, slides that have fonts that are far too small and slides that more design elements in it than a reasonable person can process.

What’s the secret to detoxifying your webinar slides? Simple. Use fewer. In fact, the main element of any webinar should be the presenter and what they have to say — not the slides. If you use slides, they should be easy to read or contain a single image for the presenter to talk to. Remember: attendees want to hear what you have to say — not interpret your slides.

4. No Strategy for On-Demand Webinars

Okay, so you’ve run your webinar and you’re sharing your results with sales. It’s over now right? Wrong. Webinars don’t end after a live production. If anything, on-demand webinars are just as important element in your program as the live event.

With on-demand webinars you can broaden your audience (up to a third, according to the ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report 2019) and cement your company as a proactive thought leader. How? Well, you can build out a webinar series, organize on-demand events by topic and even use them to provide a continuing education course. Really, it’s up to you.

5. Panic

Tripping over a few words in front a crowd isn’t great. But not being able to recenter yourself and move on is worse.  You get a shot of adrenaline and things spiral out of control from there. Panic is a common mistake when it comes to presenting a webinar and, really, any type of public speaking. It’s so common it even has a name: cognitive tunneling.

Cognitive tunneling is a common phenomenon where our attention, as a speaker or presenter, is funneled away from where it should be and towards whatever our brain fixates on. As Charles Duhigg describes it in his 2016 book, “Better Faster Smarter: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity,” cognitive tunneling is “a mental glitch that sometimes occurs when our brains are forced to transition abruptly from relaxed automation to panicked attention.”

The key to avoiding a panic-induced breakdown is simple: recognizing it when it happens, taking a breath and moving on. But that’s not always easy to do. Don’t try to hide it if you find yourself in a moment of panic or get locked up during a presentation. Instead, address the issue and move on. Your audience will understand. After all, they’re human too.

We all make mistakes. Even experts. But being aware of the most common mistakes and how to combat them is crucial to running a program of any kind. If you’d like to learn more about the most common webinar mistakes in  2019, check out our Webinar Best Practices Series episode, “The 10 Common Webinar Mistakes in 2019…And How To Avoid Them.” And remember: relax and practice, practice, practice.

Rising Above the Noise at Sirius Decisions

 

ON24 has been a sponsor at the Sirius Decisions Summit for many years. It’s a great conference and a bellwether for the latest marketing trends. Every year, there are new buzzwords, “hot takes” and an onslaught of emerging technologies that are supposed to make us better marketers.

We seem to be plunging towards a future where all of our marketing will become completely automated and powered by intelligences far greater than our own. And this new world of marketing is all about digital signals. Tiny increments of data that tell us whether a set of ones and zeros would be more likely to buy something. What has gotten lost in this futuristic story? Our prospects and customers.

Well, this year something has changed. Maybe all of the talk about personalization and ABM has marketers finally taking a more customer-centric view of the world. Or maybe marketers are realizing all of this automation is starting to turn audiences off. I actually overheard one woman at the conference say “people are really starting to hate my marketing because there is just too damn much of it.” Yikes! Regardless of its origin, this year people were thinking a LOT about their audience’s experience. It’s this mindset, that could very well save marketing from itself.

More on building better audience experiences:

I felt this shift profoundly during the two break-out sessions I gave and the many conversations I had at our booth. Usually, all marketers ever want to talk about, with regard to webinars, are topics like how to drive higher registration or how to find better leads. This year, the focus was on how to deliver a better audience experience. And it’s about time.

To rise above the noise, marketers need to start thinking about how to build experiences that their prospects and customers will WANT to opt-in for, not run away from. All of these amazing marketing tools, and all of this great automation, were made to get us to our marketing, and lately, it has become our marketing. That’s where webinars are taking on a completely new role.

At SiriusDecisions, I talked about the “modern webinar”, an engagement-driven experience where audience members are interacting with your presenters, immersed in your content and fully experiencing your brand. The modern webinar is becoming more like TV programming than the PowerPoints many of us deliver. Instead of one-off webinars, I am seeing companies creating serialized programming, with established hosts, talking about topical issues with their guests. In many cases, these webinars don’t even have slides, just great conversation — and the audience is a part of that conversation. In these webinars, audience members are responding to polls, asking questions, downloading content, clicking on CTAs, tweeting and much more. It really is an experience. And these experiences are increasingly the tip of the spear for many marketing functions, including ABM, customer marketing and programs at every stage of the buying cycle. Wherever there is marketing, there are engaging webinar experiences connecting people to brands.

The true magic of the modern webinar is that if you build this model, something extraordinary happens: all of that engagement turns into data. Real data. Actionable data. Now instead of measuring clicks and opens, you are getting actual insights into the minds of your prospects and customers. In a recent report from Sirius Decisions, they called webinars the highest rated “human touchpoint.” This is how we put human engagement into our digital marketing.

At this year’s SiriusDecisions Summit, I could see the light bulb going on. Marketers from companies everywhere are beginning to figure out that to truly rise above the noise, you have to build immersive audiences experiences. And through these experiences, we will get much better at turning those ones and zeros into happy customers.

Want to know how you can break through the noise and connect with your audience? Download our joint report, “Break Through the Digital Noise: Drive Engagement, Action, Conversion and Loyalty.”

Next Week On Webinar Best Practices Series: How to Drive On-Demand Results

Appointments are a pain. You gotta find a date, time and location and make your way to the appointed place at the appointed time — and pray traffic cooperates. Fortunately, today, we can make on-demand appointments, making it easier for audiences to attend.

But what if we could make an appointment or meeting take place at any time, anywhere? Well, with an on-demand webinar program, you can. On-demand webinars — or always-on webinars as we like to call them — allow attendees to consume webinar content on their own time and to whatever capacity they wish. It’s “Netflix-style” approach to webinars and we’re going to show you how you can make your own program next week on May 14 during our next Webinar Best Practice Series event.

Discover the on-demand webinar basics with these links:

Always-on webinars are a critical element in any webinar program. In fact, according to the ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report for 2019, more than a third of all attendees did so as on-demand attendees. For demand generation marketers, that alone should be a clear signal that their always-on house needs to be in order.

But always-on webinars demand a different approach to their live counterparts. Polls need configuring, clips need to be made and the webinars themselves need to be easy to find and access. So can you manage it all?

Well, first, you should register for next Tuesday’s event, “On-Demand Strategies.” Why? Well, Mark Bornstein, Chief Webinerd at ON24, will discuss the elements of always-on — including hubs, always-on promotion and how to integrate with demand generation — at length. But in the meantime, there are three tips you should know:

Tip 1: Have a post-webinar plan in place

Every great webinar has a plan. There’s a speaker (or speakers), a promotional strategy and talking points. But the always-on aspect always seems to be forgotten. Don’t forget it. Write out your current webinar process as accurately as you can, right up to when the event goes live. Then, jot down how you’d execute a post-live event strategy — from promotion to updated polls and more.

With the basics of an always-on strategy in place, you can quickly modify and iterate on your webinar process until the on-demand aspect becomes a natural part of your webinar workflow.

Tip 2: Centralize your content

Always-on webinars should be easy to find and easy to navigate. Often, this means having an on-demand hub. Hubs bring all of your webinars into a central location and allow your audience to binge on the webinars that interest them for as long as they want.

Keep in mind that different audiences need to find content relevant to them. Sometimes, having a targeted page can help expedite their search, boost your content and make quality engagements happen faster.  ON24 Target, for example, lets you create personalized webinar hubs that are highly-relevant to an industry or, even, an account.

Tip 3: Analyze On-Demand Results Regularly

Now for the fun part: analysis. On-demand webinars can provide you with a wealth of data that can you refine your program, boost engaging content and create even more engagement opportunities. Build out some time, maybe once a month or quarter, to go through your always-on results to see where your audiences are engaging and why.

Doing so can also help you understand who’s interacting with your on-demand program — giving you the data you need to refine and re-target as needed. For example, Twilio found its on-demand webinars are a top driver for Marketing Qualified Leads, allowing them to use MQLs as a benchmark for always-on webinar effectiveness and engagement.

There’s a lot to learn about always-on webinars. Tune in next Tuesday, May 14, at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) as Mark Bornstein teaches you how to build, analyze and promote an on-demand webinar program from scratch.

Your Webinars Are Really Not That Interactive

What makes webinars one of the most valuable marketing tools we have today is the ability to directly engage an audience in ways that most marketing tools simply can’t. But most webinars today still fall into the “we present and you listen” model. At this point, you are probably saying to yourself, “Not us! We do Q&A at the end of every webinar.” Well, that’s great, but it’s not enough.

According to the 2017 ON24 Webinar Benchmarks Report, 82% of webinars have Q&A during the webinar, most of the time at the very end of the presentation. The problem is that if you save Q&A for the end of your presentations, your audience is in passive listen-only mode for a majority of the webinar. But this is easy to change.

There are many interactive tools available, including Q&A, to make your webinars more engaging. And how you use these tools is just as important as using them in the first place. Here are some ideas to quickly add energy and engagement to your webinars:

Polling

Polling is one of my favorite engagement tools. I love to add at least 2–3 polls to every webinar. They keep the audience active and involved, and they get to have a voice in the conversation. Polls are great because the force the listener to take an action, which keeps them mentally dialed-in to the presentation. I usually start every webinar with a poll, just to get the interact

Group chat

Group chat can be a fun way of keeping your audience connected to the content and the webinar. Your audience has an opinion and would love the chance to comment on what is happening in the webinar. The key is to make sure that you have someone (not the presenter) managing the discussion to keep the discussion positive and on track.

Social Media

Getting your audience engaged socially is another great way to connect and interact with your audience. Twitter can be a really effective way of extending the conversation beyond the webinar. With a pre-set hashtag, your audience can comment on your content and highlight what they think are the most important parts. After the webinar is over, you can favorite and retweet those comments to continue the conversation.

Gamification

Why not have some fun with your audience? Use polls or the Q&A feature to quiz your audience or do raffles or give-aways. It’s another way to let the audience get involved and feel more connected to the webinar. Also, when they know there is going to be a give-away, they will pay more attention.

More Q&A!

But even if you are just doing Q&A, why not consider taking questions throughout the webinar instead of just at the end? If your presentation is broken into a few different topic areas, pause after each section to take a few questions. It’s a great way to keep your audience engaged.

The modern webinar is much more of a conversation than a presentation. Don’t talk at your audience, talk with them. Increased interactivity and engagement will lead to longer attendance times, more content retention, and ultimately, better leads. So don’t make your audience wait for their chance to speak, get interactive right from the start.