Sharat Sharan on the Marketing Metrics That Matter

By: Sharat Sharan, CEO and Founder of ON24

This article was originally published on 

How can you get more engagement from your webinars? Learn the tips, tricks and tactics that make webinars work at Webinar World 2019.

Over the past 20 years as CEO of ON24, we’ve pivoted several times, successfully navigated two of the worst downturns in recent memory, and become a sustainable, high-growth business.

I’m often asked what aspect contributed most to our long-term success. There are so many factors, but my answer is always the same: we became a sustainable business when we stopped looking at our marketing team as ‘nice to have’ team, but rather, as its own separate business department, one that impacts our bottomline. While I had previously thought of marketing as a softer department — one that made materials look slick — our business transformed when we transformed our marketing team from a cost-center to a revenue driver.

We did this through a range of measures, including conducting quarterly business reviews, and ensuring we hit our goals for marketing metrics that actually impact our revenue and bottomline. As we were changing the focus and goals of our marketing team, one of the struggles we found in the early going was determining what these metrics are that truly matter to our business and produce the highest ROI.

Entrepreneurs are inevitably focused on the product and sales, of course. But for CEOs looking to supercharge their growth, start measuring marketing by the metrics that will matter most to your organization’s bottom line.


This one may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many marketers get this wrong. In fact, many get it wrong on purpose, in order to improve their numbers. If you’re undergoing a marketing team transformation, you should take the time to sit down with your sales team and understand which leads really are moving the needle for them and why.

With the help of your sales colleagues, you should create a more narrow description of a sales qualified lead (SQL), so your marketing team can focus on the right prospects and segments of the industry to go after. For example, if your business sells to VP-level roles primarily, and rarely closes a deal with those at the managerial level, a SQL should only include those at the VP-level or higher.

Yes, your pipeline will inevitably decline when you make this change. But if you have an honest conversation with your company about how this new description will help you engage the right prospects and produce more ROI, they’ll understand the dip and be on board with your long-term approach to pipeline.


In the same vein of pipeline, marketers should have a firm grasp of which touchpoints are working for their business. Sure, if certain platforms like LinkedIn or Google Ads are most effective at converting customers, that’s where more of your budget should go.

But beyond that – marketers should understand what I call the ‘digital body language’ of your customers. What are the actions or touchpoints that indicate a prospect will become a customer? What indications show that you’re about to lose them? You should know the most important indicators — both good and bad – that your prospects give you. Then, you should engage accordingly based off these signals.

Of course, there may be some campaigns you need to run from a brand standpoint no matter what the attribution looks like. But you should have a clear idea of the initiatives that are driving the most dollars to your organization. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t experiment with new marketing tactics, but those tactics should be informed and guided by past successes you’ve seen and the digital body language indicators.

Churn & Customer Lifetime Value

These are two separate metrics, but they’re so interwoven that marketers shouldn’t think of one without the other. Customer lifetime value is the net profit you can expect from acquiring a new customer – a number that increases whenever you reduce churn.

Seventy percent of companies say it’s easier to retain a customer than to acquire a new one. But many marketers aren’t necessarily thinking about marketing to existing customers, because they’re too focused on trying to acquire new ones and increase their pipeline. That’s a noble cause, but it might not be the most efficient way to see true ROI on your marketing. Read the digital body language of your existing customers, and see which ones are most likely to churn or which could be open to upselling to try to maximize your ROI.

As you transform your marketing metrics, be sure to come up with a way to measure retention and upselling. You may need to pull statistics to show your executive team how valuable retaining customers is, and why you should market not just to prospects but to existing customers as well.

Overall Engagement

Looking at impressions, website visitors, and reach is no longer enough for marketers. Heck, I don’t even care how many views you get on a video.

Smartphones and the ‘always on’ culture has changed things for marketers in several key ways: It’s easier to get clicks than ever before. But it’s also harder to keep viewers engaged. CNBC reported that ads have just 5 to 6 seconds to keep Millennials engaged. One way to combat these shrinking attention spans is to tailor your content on a personal level. McKinsey found that “personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.” Now that’s a metric we can all get behind.

Whether it’s a personalized email campaign, recommending relevant products or solutions, or engaging through chatbots, companies need to focus on how to engage with customers in a personalized fashion. And this will only become more important as Millennials and members of Generation Z join the workforce and make more purchase decisions.

Clearly, all of these numbers help marketers stand out not just as the people who make things look pretty, but as the ones who drive tangible value to their organization — and that makes marketers indispensable to any fast-growing business.

Summer Reading: How Webinars Help Drive Pipeline

For today’s marketers, generating leads is the name of the game. Make more leads, get more money. Sadly, identifying quality prospects — those sales can turn into revenue — isn’t easy. As marketers, we need to look beyond measuring the potential for pipeline and move towards measuring results for pipeline.

So, how does this work? Well, we Mark Bornstein lays it out on track three of our Summer Playlist, but we can also summarize the main points here.

Conceptually, it’s straightforward. Take a look at all of your marketing tactics and analyze conversions by percentage of market-qualified leads. Then, focus your efforts and exploit the tactics that work.

Microsoft, for example, analyzed its methods and found webinars converted leads — attendees to buyers — at a high rate (7.2 percent). It doubled-down on its webinar efforts, going from 200 to more than 4,000 webinars per year — and netted SiruisDecisions’ 2016 ROI Award in the process.

So what are the basics of using webinars to drive pipeline?

First, webinars need to drive movement across the entire buying cycle — not just top. That means you’ll need to develop thought leadership webinars, company and product positioning webinars, case studies, validation and, of course, demonstration webinars to offer your prospects a full picture of what your organization has to offer.

Keep in mind the tone needed for each stage. Top-of-funnel events, like thought leadership webinars, should remain high-level and avoid being too “pitchy.” Similarly, bottom-of-funnel events should address specific pain points attendees are experiencing and demonstrate what your solution can accomplish for them.

The second step in getting webinars to drive pipeline is to increase the number of content touches in each webinar event. Creating these opportunities is advantageous in and of itself — it makes your webinars more interactive (by having your presenter point out where visitors can go for more information), and it gives you the opportunity to audit your content.

Still, you’ll want to make your content available in a webinar for one key reason: to let your audience members choose their own buyer’s journey experience. By enabling attendees to decide which steps they want to take, whether be it downloading content, registering for a demo, contacting a salesperson, or simply looking up the presenter’s biography, you provide your prospects with the subtle tools to indicate where they are on the buyer’s map, what stage and how likely they are to convert.

Just remember: more content means more opportunity for engagement and potentially more qualified leads.

The third step in using webinars to drive pipeline is to take a closer look at lead scoring. By examining how an attendee engages with a webinar — by asking questions, downloading content, answering polls and surveys and more — you can get a clearer understanding of where the attendee is on the buying cycle as well as the likelihood of future engagement and if they’re a good fit for a potential buyer.

Engagement scoring through webinars is a great way to break out leads across different tiers as well. For example, the most engaged leads can be matched with an account executive while the least engaged leads can be given nature material — saving your sales team time and effort. The point is, by measuring webinar engagement, you can better break out leads by quality and give them the appropriate amount of care and attention.

The final step for driving pipeline is handing off to sales. With right marketing systems in place, complete with engagement analysis, webinars can provide your sales teams with the critical contextual information they need to make a quality call with a lead. For example, if the lead asked a question during a webinar, a sales rep could provide them with additional content or offer a direct answer to their problem. They could also reference the content of the webinar to continue the conversation with a lead and, hopefully, bring in a close.

Webinars make it easy to drive pipeline. All you have to do create, provide, articulate and follow up on the content you’ve already created.

Speaking of which, we have some more material for you to peruse. It’s our Summer Reading list inspired by track three of our Summer Playlist. Take a look:

  1. Using Big Marketing Event Ideas to Drive Pipeline
  2. It’s Time for Marketing to take on Revenue Responsibility
  3. How Genesys scaled its global webinar program with ON24
  4. Lead Intelligence: A Better Model for Lead Gen
  5. How Microsoft creates world-class, ROI-driven webinar programs

CMOs: Don’t Lead a Cost Center, Be a Revenue Driver

This post was originally published on Shared with permission.

Gartner’s prediction that CMOs will outspend CIOs on technology is now a fact: CMOs will use 12% of their company’s revenue on marketing technologies in 2018.

It makes sense: Just as a consumer would look to Yelp before going to a restaurant, prospects today do research before talking to sales, meaning the marketing department owns more of the sales funnel than ever. Silicon Valley has jumped on this opportunity — over 5,000 companies are clamoring to help marketers meet this growing responsibility.

Armed with growing budgets and new technologies, you’d think CMOs would have lasting influence in the boardroom. But research suggests otherwise: CMO tenures now average only 42 months, and that number declines every year. Another study revealed that 2016 was a year of record turnover rates for marketing executives. It’s time for CMOs to either figure out why they’re not delivering the ROI that CEOs want or not bother to set up their office.

As the CEO of a martech company for the past 15 years, I’ve seen the role of marketing teams completely transform. I remember when I thought about our marketing spend much like I did about playing roulette — throwing money on the table hoping it would pay of. I assumed that like gambling our marketing budget was simply the cost of playing the game.

Digital technologies changed that and it changed the role of CMOs. But CMOs haven’t adapted quite yet. They now need to act like the CEO of their own business – the marketing team. And that ultimately means CMOs must redefine success in the same way a CEO does, with an unrelenting focus on revenue. This revenue-or-die mindset isn’t easy to adapt, but here are three ways for CMOs to start thinking like a CEO and keep their eyes on the bottom line.

Say no.

One of the toughest choices we have to make everyday is the decision to not to do something. It’s easier to latch onto a fad than to stand against it. But the rationale for a campaign or new technology can’t be for the sake of trying something out. Numbers speak louder than words, and CMOs who have hard data to back up their strategy, approach, and results give themselves leverage in the C-Suite and make any campaign, whether it fails or succeeds, defensible.

My CMO has a quarterly revenue target to meet, and every dollar spent needs to have an equal return. Digital technologies have empowered us to analyze the entire performance of our marketing channels and use that intelligence to determine our future investments.

Social campaigns are great for awareness, for example, but for our business, they don’t drive revenue. This realization led us to scale back our investments in Facebook and Twitter. We used those resources to double down on our own website, webinars, and in-person events because our data showed these channels yielded the best results. We certainly feel some fear of missing out, but once you know what drives revenue, other channels become moot.

Prioritize relationships.

Even in the digital age, I still believe a one-on-one, in-person conversation is the best way to close a deal and build a relationship with a customer.

As far as technology has come, no automation software, algorithm or predictive analytics has the power of empathy. Consider H&R Block’s partnership announcement with IBM Watson. H&R Block could have heralded Watson as the end to human tax professionals, letting the computers do all the work faster. But who wants to just deal with a computer?

To their credit, IBM positioned Watson as a tool to further elevate services H&R reps already provide to customers. It was not about replacement, but letting computers and humans do what they do best, together. Marketers need to take a similar mindset, where you’re not having data dominate your approach, but using it in a manner that supplements your human understanding of your customer and their pain points.

There’s tremendous value in freeing up marketers’ time by using automated programs to tackle more tedious activities. This empowers marketers to build key personal relationships, learn from customers, and think critically about their biggest challenges. Marketers will maintain their relevance long into the future, but it won’t be solely because of data — it’ll be by understanding customers on a human level, while using data to enhance this understanding.

Be accountable.

In order to enhance this understanding, data cannot just be superficial The actual strength of the interactions you are measuring must go beyond clicks, views and downloads, and examine length of time spent on a piece of content, the strength of their intent, and level of interaction that your marketing tactics achieve.

A single click only provides a mere glimpse into customer interests, and gives little background on what motivated that click. Marketers must focus on the data points that are rich with insight about a customer’s behavior, intentions, and potential actions. You should ask yourself: for my business, what are the behavioral indicators that have driven past behavior? What’s my prospect’s digital body language telling me about the best way to engage with them? How do I  get them further down the funnel?

In today’s age, where everything is measured, CMOs should constantly look to drive revenue in order to show the value of their efforts to CEOs. If every marketing initiative and campaign is tied to revenue, the only CMOs who will be leaving their jobs will be the ones becoming CEOs themselves.

It’s Time to Wake Up Your Revenue

Webinars are a vanguard. For marketing, they lead the company’s messaging, ferrying actionable, engaging content to a sea of prospects. For sales, they signal qualified leads with the real, contextual data needed to earn a close. They capture attention. They educate audiences. They semaphore good and bad quarters for leads and push messages to a swath of listeners on a one-to-one level.

Ultimately, though, webinars. drive. revenue.

That’s because webinars act as a catalyst, enhancing your content and messaging and bringing actual qualified leads to the table with all the data dressings necessary — from what the lead has read, asked, and more — to make a close. The ON24 marketing platform makes this possible by collecting up to over 40 data points for every attendee — allowing your team to analyze content performance and lead quality from an aggregate perspective to a single attendee. With each webinar, your organization has the makings of a more effective scoring model and a better understanding of your best prospects.

Place thought leadership content in front of attendees curious about your solutions. Give demos to those seriously considering it. Provide product updates, industry panels and best practices guides to clients. The point is, for every stage, there’s a webinar use-case that’ll help you to accelerate your pipeline and enhance your messaging.

With ON24, you’re provided with a robust platform that adds dynamic, interactive layers to your content. With these layers in place, you can make a one-way conversation, two, and get a better understanding of the people behind the personas.

Deliver relevant, timely messages with live and on-demand events. Get your audience to lean into your content with interactive features like polling, chatting, surveying, and more. Turn those connections into actionable insights your whole operations team can use — from measuring campaign performance and benchmarking webinars to refining personas and accelerating pipeline. Make the move to smarter, deeper experiences. It’s time to wake up your webinars — and your revenue.

To learn more about how you can wake up your webinars and drive more revenue, head on over to or simply click this link.