January 16, 2018 Jeremy Collins
In marketing, we talk a lot about customer engagement. Why? Because we inherently recognize the importance of engagement to the perceived value of our companies and products.
It’s not something we have to create complex algorithms to understand: We like Bob because when we talk to Bob we actually have a conversation—not a one-sided spiel. Our favorite teachers are ones who create a learning environment where assumptions are challenged and ideas are tossed back and forth like a ping pong ball.
That’s engagement: when we realize value from our interaction. But often we’re so busy trying to show value in our webinars that we’re not engaging customers or prospects and allowing them to extract value from a conversation.
We create amazing content, but then we basically just present a slide show for an hour. We’re not creating a digital discussion around value.
When it comes to renewals, it’s evident that customers who see value in our products are exponentially more likely to renew. So when I took over the BrightEdge webinar program about seven months ago, I wanted to shift our focus to community building, to becoming the go-to source of actionable information on SEO and content performance.
My hypothesis was that if we could become that thought partner for our customers, we would help them attain better adoption of our platform, boost brand loyalty, and ultimately, see an increase in our renewal rates.
Take just a second and re-read that last sentence. See what came first? Value to our webinar attendees—not results. One-sided slide show presentations and sales pitches disguised as webinars are self-serving. By replacing results with value as our number one objective, we can create the engagement necessary to actually achieve results. It’s a little counterintuitive, but let’s dive into our process and see what happened.
Step 1: Filling the Digital Seats
It doesn’t matter how amazing your webinar content is if people don’t see it. At BrightEdge, we were struggling with low webinar attendance. It wasn’t that we didn’t have valuable information; we just didn’t have a good vehicle to get people to attend.
When we looked into the numbers, we saw we were only getting about an 80 percent deliverability rate on our emails. The problem was in our email strategy. We were sending out mass emails to a large pool of customers and prospects. This wide-net approach can burn folks out on your communication, and more than that, it doesn’t take into consideration the value your recipients want.
We did some work in our marketing automation strategy and narrowed our target for each webinar. Now, our emails are relevant to the audience and delivered at specific times when the webinar content is most useful: onboarding, middle of the funnel, etc.
With just a few simple tweaks, we went from low email engagement and webinars with only 40 attendees to a 99.2 percent email deliverability rate and engagement marketing webinars packed with thousands of people. These numbers aren’t just for show, though. Because if your focus is on value, the attendees influence the direction of the webinars.
Step 2: Make It Relevant
One of the best webinars we’ve ever hosted, in terms of engagement, was from an agency speaker who walked through a case study of one of their customers. They had the customer on the webinar as well to provide additional insights and confirm results. It was an in-depth look behind the scenes of how the customer achieved success, and the audience absolutely loved it.
Why? Because it helped attendees learn how to be successful themselves. They got to hear a real use case rather than some generic sales pitch touting X% returns. Those types of webinars aren’t relevant, and the audience can’t extract any real value they can use to make their own organization successful.
By walking through the process, step by step, prospects can learn techniques, regardless of the method, and current customers gain a working knowledge of the product that they can then turn into tangible results.
Step 3: Listen
This is the most important step in a successful webinar engagement strategy. To be able to facilitate real-time engagement, a powerful, nimble webinar platform is a must. At BrightEdge, we use ON24 for all our webinars.
ON24 lets us derive an understanding of the customer needs—and market needs— with two invaluable in-webinar engagement features:
- Q&A: This is where webinars turn into a true digital discussion. Attendees can submit questions at any time during the live webinar, and because we craft our content to be a conversation, these questions aren’t an interruption. They’re an opportunity to add value.
- Polls: Every five to ten minutes, we poll attendees on the webinar topic. This allows us to get an understanding of the audience’s sophistication and knowledge of the topic. This information then drives the direction of the webinar in real time.
Step 4: Follow Up
Engagement doesn’t stop once the webinar ends. That’s why it’s important to have a solid follow-up strategy in place. If you’re listening and engaging attendees during the webinar, you’re also collecting tons of useful information: what questions were asked, what were the poll responses, and who attended the webinar.
If you’re using ON24, you also gain additional insights from the attendee’s ON24 Engagement Score. This goes several steps further than traditional lead gen tracking—who registered versus who attended. ON24 tallies each participant’s engagement related to their level of activity within the webinar.
Through integration with SalesForce, our CS and Sales teams have that information and can tailor their messages to add even more value to the prospect or customer. Then, we’re not just pushing our agenda through customer communication; instead, engagement in our webinars is enabling 1:1 value-add conversations.
So… Does It Work?
Short answer: absolutely. We have seen that the higher engagement we have in webinars, the higher likelihood for a renewal. By combining webinars into an overall engagement model built around giving value to our prospects and customers—including live events, user groups, and CS outreach—our existing customers are more informed, engaged, and deriving more value from our product.
While I can’t share the exact renewal numbers publically, suffice it to say they are well above the industry standard. And all the credit goes to the value we’re providing the community through our omnichannel customer engagement strategy. So, if you’re tired of one-sided slide share webinars, low attendance, lackluster engagement, and high churn rates, perhaps it’s time to stop looking inward, and start looking out—to your customer community—for answers. By simply listening, you’ll have a better understanding of what they want, and with ON24, you’ll be ready to give it to them.