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New to B2B Webinars? Learn 6 steps for creating an effective webinar strategy

November 17th, 2010

Fellow marketing managers, commiserate with me for a moment. I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation. You’re given a new marketing initiative that you know little to nothing about. For some it might be Twitter. For others, maybe landing page optimization. My intimidating hill to climb, was the webinar.

While preparing for today’s MarketingSherpa webinar about email relevance and deliverability, and researching for the past couple of months on webinar creative practices, it became more evident to me that a clear marketing strategy was needed in order to produce better webinars in the future.

Highlighted below are the six tactics that I found successful for creating a clear webinar strategy and currently impact the way I plan, create, and promote MarketingSherpa webinars. And if you’re a MarketingSherpa member, we even have a complimentary Sample Webinar Plan that you can download.

Step #1: Know your deadlines and deliverables
Early communication with the sponsors, clients, and presenters is key. Email them and introduce yourself laying out a timetable for future meetings and deadlines. Once you know the key dates and information (webinar date, presenters, and topic), work backwards from the date of the webinar and set up target dates for completion. Important dates to remember include:

  • Landing page setup and review
  • Launch calls
  • Presentation deadlines
  • Dry runthrough

I highly recommend you set up a launch call to review these deadlines and discuss any concerns as well as present an overall webinar outline for a suggested topic.

Step #2: Map out an effective marketing plan
Once you have confirmed the target dates and deliverables, you can begin to create a marketing plan. This plan should include your plans on promoting the event (emails, banner ads, social marketing) along with key dates and deadlines. The difference between a good plan and much better plan is in the details. The more specific you can be with target audience, goals, and call to action, the more effective your plan will be. When this is completed, send it to all the parties involved (including your sponsors and presenters if applicable) so they can see the plan details and discuss plan specifics.

Step #3: Create relevant webinar copy for target audience
Relevancy is the key. If your audience feels that the webinar subject and email copy is relevant to their needs then you will be more successful in engaging prospects. As Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director (CEO), MECLABS always says, “Clarity always trumps persuasion.

Shy away from vague statements like “leading,” “best” and “most.” Be specific. For example, “Homepage Design: The five most common pitfalls and how to overcome them” Subject titles and copy that are specific may be enticing to a smaller audience, but most of the time this audience is highly interested and therefore a better lead. Always include a good call to action and use this line of thinking when creating copy, “If I am the ideal prospect, why should I attend your webinar?”

Step #4: Apply marketing promotions across all channels
Using a number of highly targeted email blasts from in-house and sponsors lists, along with banner ads, you can bring in a significant amount of attendees. However, when marketing for our last webinar 2011 Top B2B Marketing Practices: From Lead Generation to Marketing Automation, it was the social media activity (Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs) that drove an additional 200-250 attendees within a week of the webinar. When tweeting, make sure to begin to establish the Twitter hashtag you plan to use to live tweet during the webinar.

Many companies do a number of webinars a month and using every avenue possible to create buzz is crucial to a webinar’s success. I’ve found that the sweet spot for marketing is two weeks to the day before the event.

Step #5: Preparation precedes power – practice and execution of the webinar
No matter what webinar platform you use (GoToWebinar, WebEX, ON24) it is imperative to learn the basics of these programs before you begin using them. Spend some time watching the “best practices” training presentations, and reading the FAQs and how-to sections many of these platforms offer.

Knowing the tips and tricks of how each of these platforms function will be critical to avoiding “Uh oh” moments. Familiarize yourself with the important functions, like polls, registration questions, follow-up emails, and reminders.

Also, familiarize yourself with Twitter. Establishing a Twitter hashtag, and having at least one person from your company live tweeting during the webinar, is a great way to drive conversation and interaction and also gauge the sentiment of your audience in real-time.

Bottom Line: Your preparation will give you the power you need to execute the webinar and the practice will give you the peace of mind.

Tactic #6: Follow up and review – continuing the conversation
Once the webinar has concluded, it’s important to keep the conversation going. Sending a follow-up email containing the slide presentation and any special offer material you promised is only one part of the conversation. The second important part is keeping them engaged with other webinars, articles, books, classes, and events that apply to the topic of the webinar. Think of Amazon, “Those who attended a webinar like you also found this interesting…”

It’s also important to review how the webinar went. Spend an additional five to ten minutes getting feedback from the speakers and monitoring the Twitter hashtag after the webinar concludes. This feedback will help you in making improvements in future webinars.

Related resources

Marketing Webinar Optimization: Five questions to ask yourself about webinars

B2B Marketing: Take established tradeshow best practices and adapt them for an online audience with virtual events

Members Exclusive: Download your complimentary Sample Webinar Plan

Better Window Than Door – a Transparent Marketing primer

November 11th, 2010

If you’ve spent any time reading content here at MarketingSherpa, or at our sister company, MarketingExperments, I bet you are familiar with this mantra – “People don’t buy from companies. People buy from people.” That very intuitive idea is a big part of a concept – Transparent Marketing – that is the heartbeat driving everything we do. We even offer an article that explains in detail what we mean by Transparent Marketing.

If you just want Transparent Marketing boiled down to the base essentials, here are the five key principles:

  1. Tell (only) the (verifiable) Truth
  2. Purge all vague modifiers
  3. Let someone else do your bragging
  4. Substitute general descriptions with specific facts
  5. Admit your Weaknesses

All five concepts are simple, direct and make a ton of sense. And you know what else? They are harder to implement than you think. Much too often marketers talk to the target audience in the “marketer” voice, and not the “person” voice.

Do you enjoy being spoken down to from up on high by some corporate entity you may or may not even want to engage with in any fashion at all? I know I don’t. Now when that same corporate entity comes at me with little more human-sounding message, suddenly I’m a lot more receptive to donating a bit of my valuable time (and/or cash) to whatever proposition I’m being offered.

Hype is a door, the truth is a window

Here are some daunting figures taken from that article I linked to up there in the very first graf. The numbers are from 2003, but the lesson is timeless:

The average person is assaulted with a barrage of 577 new marketing messages per week.

If we could somehow wire the mind of the consumer as they sift through the conundrum of emails, snail mails, banners and commercials… we would probably hear a resounding response:

“I don’t have time to listen, and I don’t believe you anyway.”

Indeed, experts tell us that people sort their mail in order to find an excuse to trash it. And even if by chance a message somehow escapes this ruthless purge… it probably won’t be remembered.

Statistics indicate that we retain less than 1% of the marketing messages we encounter.

That means that this very week, your company’s pitch is just one of another 577 being hurled at the prospect. You may be #11 or you may be #450, but whatever number you are, it is imperative to win a place among the fortunate 1% that are actually “heard” and remembered.

And this is only half the battle… somehow you must be believed.

The lesson here? If you can avoid churning out the typical jargon and meaningless hype, you have an opportunity to create a very high level of credibility. And credibility leads to trust. Trust builds a bridge to a relationship and that relationship translates into sustained sales. This short thought sequence is also taken directly from our Transparent Marketing article. Did I mention it’d be a great idea to invest in a click and read the whole document?

Here is my editor, and Associate Director of Editorial Content, Daniel Burstein on this topic:

In an age of social media, all marketing is transparent

Flint McGlaughlin’s seminal article, Transparent Marketing: How to earn the trust of a skeptical consumer, was written seven long years ago, and it has never been more prescient. Think of all that has changed since 2003 in the world of digital marketing. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and other forms of social media has turned everyone with a device (you don’t even need a computer any more) and a connection into a publisher. So if you produce marketing that isn’t transparent, don’t worry, it soon will be.

From @BPGlobalPR to YouTube songs about broken guitars, you are no longer just up against your competition to grab mindshare about a product or service, you are essentially competing with your audience as well. They are also diligently working to shape perception of the brand. So let a little sunlight in … before someone breaks your window.

What does Transparent Marketing mean to you?

I posed this question at our MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments Optimization and B2B Lead Generation Roundtable LinkedIn groups.

Kirsi Dahl offered this response at the MarketingSherpa discussion:

In brief, to me, transparent marketing is a term we industry types have created to summarize a growing trend among consumers related to their skepticism of sales and advertising.

Consumers migrate towards brands that authentically engage in meaningful relationships with them. Brands can demonstrate this authenticity through listening and engaging in two-way conversations in places and spaces where their consumers are hanging out (online and in store).

First, I want to thank Kirsi for taking the time to share her thoughts with the group, and second, I want to invite everyone to join the conversation at one of the three LinkedIn groups, or in the comment section for this blog post. What does Transparent Marketing mean to you?

Related resources:

MarketingExperiments article on Transparent Marketing

Blog Case Study: Three Lessons Learned from a 232% Increase in Visits over Eight Months

Transparent Marketing and Social Media: Twitter and Facebook are the new Woodward and Bernstein

Lead generation: Real-time, data-driven B2B marketing and sales

November 10th, 2010

My first job was on a bond trading floor at a Wall Street investment bank. It’s impossible to overstate the impact of innovations in computing and telecommunications on the financial markets in the 1980s.

Within a decade finance was transformed from a clubby, old-boys’ network to a 24-hour global trading system.

With that revolutionary shift a new currency of success emerged: the ability to gather, interpret, and react to new information in fractions of a second – real time.

Today, no financial professional would ever consider making a transaction without understanding where the markets are trading right now and what’s happening in the news at that precise moment.

It has taken a quarter century. But in fields like marketing and public relations, the impact of the real-time revolution in finance is finally beginning to be viable for any organization.

Real-time lead generation

Here is just one aspect – a data driven real-time website with an email component – of what the instant environment offers:

As a buyer visits your Web site and registers for a webinar, an alert is triggered on the salesperson’s real-time dashboard, providing details about the buyer based on the page that person is visiting. The alert notes that the person downloaded a white paper a few days ago.

In fact, the alert is flagged as high priority because that combination of actions (white paper download plus webinar registration) is highly indicative of a propensity to buy.

The alert automatically pulls up information on the buyer’s company. Are they already a client? Have others from this company visited the site before? What do third-party information providers say about the company? News stories from Dow Jones or Bloomberg appear along with a company snapshot from an information supplier like Hoovers.

Even the buyer’s LinkedIn and Twitter profiles appear. And all of this happens in real time.

The system then automatically creates an email that can either be sent automatically, or reviewed by the salesperson first and then sent right away.

In the emerging real-time business environment, where public discourse is no longer dictated by the mass media, size is no longer a decisive advantage.

Speed and agility win.

But you need an infrastructure, much like a Wall Street bond trader, to play in this new world.

Let’s look at a B2B example to see how this works. This is an example I’ve written about before on my own blog, but I want to delve into it deeper than I ever have before for the MarketingSherpa audience, and give some actionable advice you can use to improve your email marketing, and marketing in general.

Imagine a huge company announces it is to acquire one of your competitors. It hit the wires five minutes ago.

What would you do right now?

Not tomorrow. Now.

How about writing a blog post about it in real-time? And then how about sending an email right away to all of the contacts in your database who you know are customers of your competitor?

That’s what Joe Payne, CEO of Eloqua did when Oracle announced the acquisition of Market2Lead, a company that is also in the marketing automation arena.

I’m on the Eloqua advisory board and was having dinner with Joe, other advisory board members, and the Eloqua management team on May 24 in San Francisco when this went down.

Joe checked his BlackBerry and saw that the announcement had just been made.

The Oracle announcement contained only a North Korea style one-paragraph announcement. So Joe realized that there was a tremendous opportunity RIGHT NOW to write a blog post and define what the announcement meant.

In his post, “Oracle Joins The Party,” published a few hours later, Joe said (in part): “I expect Oracle’s entry to make a major difference in the attention paid to this sector. It’s going to open marketers’ eyes, and, as a result, expand the market. This is exactly the type of movement this industry needs. You see, the potential market for lead management systems is less than 10 percent penetrated.”

Eloqua’s CEO now owns the soundbite!

Can you see what Joe did? Oracle announces an acquisition but provides almost no details. The media is hungry for something to say and someone to quote. Bingo, a Google search pops up Joe’s post and now reporters, analysts, and bloggers have an authority to cite in their stories.

As a result of this real-time market commentary, Eloqua became an important part of the resulting stories in InfoWorld, Customer Experience Matrix, PC World, Customer Think, etc.

Now, when people want to learn about this transaction, they find Eloqua in the discussion. If you’re an analyst coving the market category or an existing customer of Market2Lead or are evaluating marketing automation platforms, Eloqua becomes someone you should consider.

Now is when the email kicks in. The marketing team at Eloqua queried their prospect database for any company in the sales cycle that was either an existing or potential customer of Market2Lead. Each of those people then received an email which was sent from the email address of their sales rep, pointing out the real-time blog post that Eloqua’s CEO Joe Payne wrote. These emails were customized by the sales rep:

Subject: Transition program

Hi Jim ,

I wanted to check in because I see you are using Market2Lead. It’s been quite an exciting week for Market2Lead and Oracle with the acquisition announcement. No doubt Oracle’s arrival at the party will bring increased attention to the sector. You see, as an early adopter of Marketing Automation, you’re one of the less than 10% of organizations who are recognizing the value it brings to your business.

Not surprisingly though, we’ve had a lot of calls over the last few days from many nervous clients as Oracle only acquired Market2Lead’s Intellectual Property (IP), not their customer contracts. As the leader in marketing automation, Eloqua is interested in helping you transition to a platform that will allow you to continue to do great marketing. We are offering Market2Lead clients a transition program consisting of a free SmartStart onboarding program and a six-month, money back guarantee on all subscription fees.

The Eloqua team is committed to helping you make a smooth transition.

Let me know when you have 10 mins to chat. You’re not alone!


Sales Rep Name Here


Amazingly, this Eloqua email was often the first that the customers of Market2Lead were hearing that their vendor had been acquired. Again, Eloqua owned the sound bite because they were first.

Many of those sales prospects then contacted their sales rep to learn more and soon deals started to close. The first signed customer as a result of this effort was Red Hat, a Market2Lead customer who chose to switch to Eloqua resulting in a $250,000 deal.

I’m constantly amazed at what real-time communications can do. Had Eloqua waited several hours to act, the moment would have been lost.

An immensely powerful competitive advantage flows to organizations with people who understand the power of real-time information.

Here are some things you can do right now to get started:

The most important thing is to develop a real-time mindset – an attitude that recognizes the importance of speed. It is an approach to business (and to life) that emphasizes moving quickly when the time is right. Developing a real-time mind-set is not an either/or proposition. I’m not saying that you should abandon your current business-planning process. Nor do I advocate allowing your team to run off barking at every car that drives by. Focus and collaboration are essential. The smart answer is to adopt a both/and approach, covering the spectrum from thorough to nimble. Recognize when you need to throw the playbook aside, and develop the capacity to react quickly.

The first priority to implement your mindset is to listen to bloggers, analysts, journalists, and others who talk frequently about you and your business. To find these voices, start by checking the search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and so on) for all the relevant keywords and phrases you can think of: your company, customers, competitors, prospects, product categories, buzzwords—whatever you can think of. Use specialized blog search engines like Google Blog Search, IceRocket, and Technorati to find bloggers interested in subjects related to your business.

Develop guidelines that permit people to communicate at speed. Develop an effective code of real-time communications and proactively embed it throughout your organization. Train it, demonstrate it, discuss it, and review it until this becomes second nature to everyone. Have your people internalize it as deeply as the instincts that tell them when it’s safe to turn left at a traffic light (or right if they’re Brits). This is fully possible. IBM’s code is called Social Computing Guidelines. The IBM guidelines include all manner of helpful instructions. Be who you are; be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks; respect copyright and fair use laws; protect confidential and proprietary information; add value; don’t pick fights; and don’t forget your day job. But the single most important guideline in the IBM document is this: Speak in the first-person singular. In fact, I think that speaking in the first-person singular is essential to understanding what we’re really talking about here.

To support real-time business, you need technology infrastructure every bit as sophisticated as a financial trading floor. When well-integrated into an appropriate technology backbone, real-time data work together to feed the dashboard that your marketers, PR professionals, salespeople, and executives use every day.

Fortunately for organizations like Eloqua that operate in real-time, not many people are using these technique yet.

When everyone else is pitching the media using traditional methods and sending plodding emails pitching product when it suits them, why not frame the discussion with your own well-placed commentary and alert prospects by email.

Editor’s Note: David Meerman Scott will be the featured keynote speaker, sponsored by ExactTarget, at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 + Awards & Expo in Las Vegas, January 24-26, and all attendees will receive a copy of his latest book, Real-Time Marketing & PR.

Related Resources

Email Marketing Manager: Look past campaigns to boost your career

B2B Marketing: Marketing automation helps with lead nurturing and management

Email Summit ’11: Tackling the Top Email Challenges with All-New Research, Case Studies and Training

Public Relations: The best press release is no press release

November 5th, 2010

Here’s a recent question I received via email that I’d like to address right here on the blog. This is a common question, and I think there is a lot of value in the answer for anyone seeking to gain earned impressions in the media for their brand…or even their personal brand.


Congratulations on your new post handling editorial concerns for Would you be so kind as to give a short primer on the best way PR folks, who represent marketing companies, can work with you moving forward? Do you like to be kept abreast with news releases and whatnot? We’ve done some work with MarketingSherpa in the past but it appears things have changed on your end and we certainly don’t want to waste your time. Thanks in advance for your help.

Best regards,

Kevin Johnson
Manger of Media Relations


Thanks for the question, Kevin. My short answer is – the best press release is no press release. Just tell me why your proposed case study or article will have value for MarketingSherpa’s 225,000 marketers specifically. You can do this by reading and understanding what we publish on MarketingSherpa, you can not do this by randomly inserting the term “MarketingSherpa” into a canned pitch. Let’s dive into this a little…

Man bites dog

At MarketingSherpa, we receive no shortage of canned pitches and press releases every day. And not to be too harsh, but much like spam, they are sorted appropriately.

Now, I’m sure working in PR is a tough job. And to be fair, I have limited experience in my career on the press-release-writing side of things, but the few times I have been involved, usually the client’s perception on the purpose of a press release was way out of whack with reality (one client didn’t even know what a press release was, just that they wanted one…no joke).

So what is a press release? Wikipedia’s description ends with the clause, “…for the purpose of announcing something claimed as having news value.” That’s right, even if you’re just making a “claim,” find the “news value.” In case you didn’t take Journalism 101, news value is “Man Bites Dog” and not “My client has an ad campaign.”

Talk to me like I’m your older brother, not your mother

Here’s the analogy I like to use. When you talk to your mother, she’s likely excited and proud about almost anything you have done. “Oh, Jimmy, you have a new ad campaign, how exciting!”

However, try the same pitch with your older brother and see how well that turns out. “Loser. You’re only in advertising because you couldn’t hack it in medicine.” To grab the attention of your older brother, you need something really newsworthy, “The ad campaign we launched six months ago increased revenue by 372% because I did these three innovative things. So I booked a charter flight to the Super Bowl. Want to come, big bro?”

Well, media people are your older brother. I could care less about your new ad campaign. But if you got real results from a client that you’re willing to share that could benefit my audience…well, that’s as valuable to me as a 50-yard-line seat to watch the Jaguars play the Giants in the next Super Bowl.

So don’t even bother with the darn press release. Just send me a personal note and tell me why your specific story should be published on MarketingSherpa. I know, I know, it’s so much easier to do a big PR blast and get picked up somewhere and get some impressions and some SEO. But if you’re looking for quality earned impressions, just send me a note…the canned pitch goes straight in the trash anyway.

In writing this blog post, I’m a little worried I’m being a too harsh on PR people. And, really, I’m trying to help. So I sent my colleague, Andrea Johnson, the above paragraph and asked her opinion. She has more than two decades or public relations experience under her career belt, so her response surprised me. She was even more emphatic than I was. To quote directly from our Skype conversation, “YES!!! Absolutely.” Here’s what else Andrea had to say about news releases…

Publicity is nothing but sales

Your target market is the editor, blogger or reporter, your product is your news. Your goal is to make it very easy for them to say “yes” to whatever you’re selling; editors simply don’t have the time to figure out why they should care, especially in a marketplace that’s absolutely flooded with thousands of news releases every day.

If you want meaningful coverage, pay attention to what they’re writing about, what they care about, and the trends they’re tracking. With that in mind, start a personal conversation about what’s in it for them if they cover your news – that could be, for instance, a fresh, juicy angle on a topic they write about a lot.

News releases make reporters work way too hard to figure out what’s in it for them, but releases can support the conversation. Instead, begin with a simple, thoughtful email referencing what they care about most and how your news perfectly addresses it. You’ll be surprised by your success, especially with B2B trade publications; editors there are absolutely starving for relevant material.

– Andrea Johnson, Editorial Manager, MECLABS Applied Research

You can write it in a letter, babe

To summarize, press releases are not helpful. What is most helpful is a personal letter letting us know why the story you’re seeking to pitch has value for the MarketingSherpa audience. One thing we are always looking for is real case studies with real numbers that we can publish.

Also, here is some boilerplate from our site that might be helpful. But, again, a personal letter as to why this specifically would be a good article for MarketingSherpa is key. Most press releases just end up in the (virtual) trash…

However, be aware that we are *not* a news organization but rather a publisher of Case Studies, benchmark data and how-to instructions.

Our researchers would love your help in identifying client-side (aka brand-side) marketing executives who would make good subjects for our Case Studies. We’ll ask them specific questions about marketing tactics they have personally used, and we’ll expect them to be able to speak to results in some meaningful way.

Yes, agencies and vendors are invited to talk about campaigns they have completed for clients, as long as some sort of results information is included, and the client can be contacted for a quote.

You don’t have to write any case studies for us – we do all our own research and writing. Just suggest folks for us to interview.

Related resources

Landing Page Optimization: Takeaways from Entrepreneurship, PR, and Social Media

How to Get 350 Positive Media Mentions for a Business Services Firm in Six Months (Members’ Library)

How to Optimize Press Releases & Get Higher Search Ranking and 75% Clickthrough Rate (Members’ Library)

B2B Marketing: Are tradeshows on the way out?

October 28th, 2010

Bet that title got your attention. And the answer is, “Of course not.” Tradeshows, seminars, expositions and conferences have been a key way to connect with customers and colleagues for a long time (see the recently completed MarketingSherpa B2B Summit for just one example), but these events are facing some stiff competition from cyberspace.

The MarketingSherpa 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report just came out and I had the chance to review it a couple of weeks ago. The report covers B2B marketing tactics, budgeting, challenges for the coming year and more. The information was gathered through 935 marketer surveys and the report includes 167 charts and tables.

The Benchmark Report is full of great material, but one particular chart really caught my eye:

The effectiveness of webinars is significantly greater than tradeshows

Now you’re probably thinking, “What gives?” I grabbed your attention with a dramatic title and immediately calmed things down with a reassurance that tradeshows aren’t going away anytime soon. Now this bit about effectiveness? The strong numbers for the effectiveness of virtual events and webinars are very intriguing, but maybe because they are so much less expensive to execute, marketers are placing too much value in the online events.

I asked Jen Doyle, Senior Research Analyst at MarketingSherpa and Lead Author of the 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, if some of this effectiveness is related to savings over tradeshows. Here is Jen’s response, “Absolutely. In addition to the benefit of cost effectiveness, webinars also offer a balance between having one-on-one conversations with prospects as with tradeshows, and reaching a high volume of prospects which isn’t always easily accomplished at these events.

“Our 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Study of nearly 1,000 B2B marketers revealed that the effectiveness of webinars is significantly greater than tradeshows.”

The emphasis on her final sentence is mine. So virtual events and webinars are seen as effective, but that view comes from a lot more than simple savings over tradeshows.

What makes live events and webinars effective?

Just how effective do marketers find virtual events and webinars? Here is Jen once again, “When executed properly, virtual events or webinars can be highly effective methods in both lead generation and lead nurturing. With the execution of webinars, organizations are able to generate interest, build brand credibility and gain thought-leadership recognition – all of which will lead to results that impact a B2B organization’s bottom line.

“In this year’s B2B study, we learned that 43% of B2B organizations found virtual events or webinars to be highly effective, and another 48% to find them somewhat effective. When we compared these ratings of effectiveness to other B2B marketing tactics such as email marketing, search, telemarketing, direct mail, etc., webinars came in as the second most effective B2B marketing tactic overall, just behind website design, management and optimization.”

At MarketingSherpa, we host both live events (like the upcoming Email Summit) and webinars (like the upcoming B2B Marketing Summit Wrap-up which, ironically, is “virtual” yet based on a live event).

Webinars are a great way to maintain a regular conversation and provide consistent information to our audience throughout the year. Live events offer the opportunity to really have some deep interaction with our audience, and allows them to share knowledge peer-to-peer, marketer-to-marketer.

So both live and virtual events work for us. It’s about finding the right place and time for each, and ensuring we have a steady stream of information for our audience through the year. What about your company? What have you found works best for you?

Related resources

2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

Free Executive Summary: 2011 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report

Marketing Webinar Optimization: Five questions to ask yourself about webinars

Internet Marketing Research: A behind-the scenes look at MarketingExperiments Web clinics

Break Barriers to Understand Customers

October 26th, 2010

Sales, marketing and customer services teams can each have slightly different views of customers. In large organizations, differences in perception can coexist within the same department.

For example, a search marketing team can perceive customers’ interests differently than an email marketing team. A customer service team can perceive customers’ needs differently than the sales team. In both cases, the two teams connect with customers through different platforms and analyze their behavior through different data.

“Siloed” departments that have teams separated from one another can prevent organizations from understanding and communicating with customers effectively, says Dave Lewis, CMO, Message Systems, a messaging management solutions vendor.

As the number of marketing channels continues to expand with the growth of mobile and social media marketing, Lewis sees opportunities, but also the potential for additional channels to deepen the problem.

“You’re only furthering the fragmentation that gets in the way of understanding your customers on a holistic basis and being able to communicate with them on that basis,” Lewis says

That’s why Lewis says more teams need to pursue marketing integration (Lisa Arthur, CMO, Aprimo, expressed a similar sentiment in our post last week). By having a central platform from which to communicate with customers and monitor their behavior, teams can get a more well-rounded understanding of their customers and how best to reach them.

Several months ago, Lewis’ team launched a new solution called Mobile Momentum, to help marketers avoid further fragmenting their customer data and messaging. The software combines email and SMS messaging into a single platform that can track customers’ delivery preferences and provide reports on the channels’ performance jointly and separately.

Lewis anticipates incorporating more messaging services into the platform, such as MMS and social media. His team started by combining email and SMS because of the tremendous volume of SMS messages consumers send per day, and because more marketers can benefit from SMS than are currently, he says.

“My view is that the overlooked opportunity associated with text (messaging) is in using it to strengthen the customer relationship over time,” Lewis says.

By offering a platform that combines email and SMS, Lewis’ team is helping marketers better understand their audiences, better meet their needs and provide a better experience. Marketers who feel pulled in too many directions should take note that combining several marketing channels into a single platform may provide more insight into how best to reach customers.

Integrate Online Marketing Channels

October 19th, 2010

Marketers have many software vendors to choose from. There are laundry lists of companies willing to upgrade your website analytics, email marketing, display ads and almost any other part of your online business.

The growing list of platforms is making the job more complex. Work is done through several dashboards, and data comes from several directions. You have to spend time with each platform to achieve a single goal.

That is why Lisa Arthur, CMO, Aprimo, argues for marketing integration. Aprimo is an integrated marketing software provider. Arthur says integration can help marketers get back to focusing on driving higher ROI.

“The goal and promise of marketing integration is to simplify the complexity of marketing and allow marketers to spend more time on the strategy, the messages and the content, instead of chasing data and ad hoc processes,” she says.

Integration essentially pulls fragmented marketing processes under a single, centralized platform. The approach can free up some of your time, as well as:
o Streamline a multi-channel ROI calculation
o Cut campaign launch time
o Align disparate marketing goals
o Give executives and managers a quick view of overall marketing performance
o Give multiple marketing teams a central platform to work from

A key to starting the integration process is to align business strategy and marketing objectives with the goals of the effort. Consider how aligning marketing data and technology under a central platform help your company achieve its goals.

Second, marketing integration is more of an on-going journey than a short project. The process can continue for years and will require an executive sponsor. If you’re interested in integration and you’re not an executive yourself, find an executive to champion the project and point to how it will improve business goals.

Third, you should track and benchmark operational and strategic metrics. For example, on an operational level, will your team get campaigns planned and launched faster after integration? Strategically, will your team improve campaign performance?

Not all of your marketing needs to be integrated at once. Your team can start small by centralizing a disparate and manual process — such as creative review. Emails, ads and landing pages can be viewed and approved from a single, central location, rather than through an endless chain of emails.

Your team may not have a conversation around integration tomorrow, but if your number of marketing channels continues to grow, you might want to consider having the conversation soon.

Marketing Webinar Optimization: Five questions to ask yourself about webinars

October 6th, 2010

What’s the difference between a webinar and a website? The last four letters.

At first, this seems like a bad joke out of the “1,001 Wacky Jokes for Children of Marketers” (which I believe is out in paperback now). But take a step back from your website and webinar, look at the big picture, and you’ll quickly find that they both have the same goal – a conversion.

At MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa, not only do we research and publish information about the most effective marketing practices – the “what really works” – we also conduct webinars ourselves.

With that in mind, here are five questions we ask ourselves when staring in the mirror on the morning of a webinar…

Are you providing value?

According to MarketingExperiments research, the most important positive element to conversion is motivation. A negative element that hurts conversion is friction. Not to be overly simplistic, but given this paradigm, the ideal situation to use a webinar is when you have customers motivated enough to overcome the friction of having to take an hour or so out of their day and spend it with you.

Of course, this is why so many B2B companies conduct webinars. They have complex knowledge and products that customers are, at some level, motivated to find out more about. But let’s drill a little deeper into that thought, and perhaps address that second question as well. For any conversion to happen there must be a value exchange, and webinar attendance, while not a final sale, is a mini-conversion. So the best kind of customer to reach is the one you can truly provide value for.

Your knee-jerk reaction might be, “I provide value to every possible customer.” However, it will better serve your efforts if you take an honest self-assessment of your possible content, and decide who (if anyone) would give something for this content. Because attendees are paying with their time.

Are you communicating that value?

Every activity that happens before the webinar is your chance to make this sale. Remember, this is essentially a sale and the price is your audience’s time.

Your title, the description of your webinar, promotion blog posts, tweets, social media conversation – these all must be focused on a challenge or objective the customer has, not on your product’s features and functions.

All of your pre-webinar activity must create a solution to that challenge on three levels.

  • It must be relevant. If your audience is mid-level warehouse managers, telling them how to recreate an entire manufacturing process over which they have no control is not relevant to their challenge of meeting their production goals within the current process.
  • It must be urgent. Your customers will not spend an hour with you to solve a problem that is 15 months away. They have to meet this quarter’s goals and numbers and that is where their greatest motivation lies. In the long run there is no long run if they don’t fix short-term problems. Or, as noted economist John Maynard Keynes has said, “In the long run we are all dead.”
  • It must be important. Your audience likely has many challenges in their job. But if you are only addressing something minor, why should they spend an hour with you? Put another way, would you try to sell better tires for an airplane that has no wings?

Take an unbiased look at your efforts and make sure you truly are addressing your customer’s most pressing issues, and not just, like many companies, putting new wrapping on the same sales pitch.

Are you constantly engaging your audience?

For the host, the key is value, value, value. Why start the webinar with an ad for yourself, as so many do? What is the value for the customer? Every minute they remain on the webinar is a micro-sale to get them to stay on for the next minute.

As Flint McGlaughlin, the Director of MECLABS Group, teaches, “Dazzle me gradually.” Continuously provide value to your audience, to overcome the inherent friction of staying on any webinar.

From a technology standpoint, have a conversation with them using polls and answering submitted questions throughout. Have staff on hand to conduct Q&A through your platform since you won’t likely have the time to address every question on the call. Encourage them to have a conversation with each other by using a Twitter hashtag.

Again, your focus is not the sale, its helping and providing value to your audience.

Are you listening to your audience?

Once you have dazzled your audience, give them a way to learn more about how your company can help them. Over time, you can start to measure the value of these leads with your sales team and then discern how many leads you get per webinar and how much these leads are worth. Are they more likely to close than a bought list or other cold lead? Do they end up being higher-value deals since they are from more motivated, more engaged customers? Answers to these questions will help you determine ROI.

Beyond ROI and independent of leads, make sure you keep a finger on the pulse of your webinars themselves by making sure your audience has a way to provide you feedback and let you know how much value and help you provide through them. By keeping an eye on this soft metric, you can use your webinars to help educate a community instead of alienating potential customers.

Are you building a community?

Before, during and after a webinar, social media and other content marketing is an excellent fit to building a community around your solution (and, as the name suggests, your solution is not your product but rather the value you provide to customers).

Before a webinar, solicit feedback through LinkedIn to understand what topics your customers want more information about. Then, perhaps release a juicy whitepaper that you can dissect live on the webinar. During the webinar, use a Twitter hashtag to facilitate conversation with (and between) attendees. After the webinar, write follow-up blog posts (with audio and video replays) to share information with those who couldn’t attend, and interest them in attending your next webinar and further feeding the virtuous value cycle.

Remember, a webinar – just like social media – is a channel. It has no inherent value. Your job is to provide that value.

Related Resources

“Double the Value of Your Online Testing: Don’t just get a result, get the maximum customer insights” Web clinic

Top Five B2B Marketing Practices For 2011” webinar

How to Promote Your Webinar Via Google News

The Art of Inventing Must-Attend Webinar Topics: Real-life Inspiration

Marketing with white papers and/or webinars

Photo attribution: royblumenthal

Always Integrate Social Marketing?

September 2nd, 2010

A new report from ExactTarget and CoTweet reveals interesting differences in consumers’ motivations and habits when connecting with brands via email and social media. Take a look to find out more about why your customers are listening to you.

The report (you’ll be asked for an email address and phone number) is the result of three types of focus groups conducted with 44 people, and a 1,506-person survey (see methodology). It is loaded with interesting stats, such as:
o 38% of U.S. online consumers are fans of a brand on Facebook
o 5% follow at least one brand on Twitter
o 93% receive at least one permission-based email per day

The report offers plenty of other great metrics, and touches on useful topics, such as the motivational differences between consumers who first check email in the morning and consumers who first check Facebook. Check out the report for more.

The report also offers great best-practice advice for communicating with customers via social channels. However, there was one piece of advice I want to offer a different opinion on.

The report suggests that marketers avoid promoting exclusive, channel-specific offers in social media, and that “tone and content should be the primary differentiators in our channel strategies, not promotions.”

In general, this is sound advice. Integrating campaigns through multiple channels always drives stronger performance. And you do not want to condition followers to receiving special deals.

However, I feel like marketers should throw their social media followers an occasional treat. They are often truly fans of your brand. I do not think it could hurt to make them feel special, say, once every six months.

The “treat” does not have to be a discount or offer, either. For example, it could be a hint of a product launch sent to the audience two days before a press release is issued. And if it is a deal, it does not have to be exclusive to social media followers. Maybe, just once, they receive a coupon code a few days before your email subscribers.

How do you feel about occasionally giving social followers and fans special treatment? Waste of time? Vital display of gratitude? Let us know…

Take the Hint from Unresponsive Subscribers

August 20th, 2010

For several years now we’ve seen marketers report that a bigger email list isn’t necessarily a better email list. There’s often more value in a smaller list of engaged, responsive subscribers than in a huge list with a significant portion of addresses that never open, click, or convert from your messages.

But a new study from Return Path shows that many email marketers are still hammering unresponsive subscribers with undifferentiated, sales-focused emails — rather than providing more relevant messages intended to re-engage those subscribers, or removing them from their lists.

To observe marketers’ email practices, the researchers at Return Path purchased one item from 40 online retailers and opted-in to their email marketing programs. They kept that email account active for 19 months after the purchase, but did not open or click a single message they received and never purchased another item.

In short, they were totally unresponsive subscribers. But during those 19 months, the researchers observed:
• Retailers sent on average between nine and 11 emails per month during the course of the study
• Only 27% of retailers stopped sending messages during the study period
• Only 12.5% of retailers sent a “win-back” message that attempted to reengage the subscriber

We agree with Return Path’s conclusion: Marketers that don’t pay attention to unresponsive subscribers are missing opportunities and potentially harming their sender reputations.

Instead, identify those non-responders and approach them differently than you do your engaged customers. Here are three steps to take to begin the process:

1. Segment database by recent activity

Monitor subscriber actions to identify those who are engaged, and those who are not. Then, create a special segment for subscribers who have not responded to an email (clicked or purchased) in a specific period of time — say, the past six months, nine months, one year, etc.

2. Send unresponsive segment special offers or win-back campaigns

Once you’ve found your “unresponsive” segment, work to re-engage them with more relevant messages, such as:
o Special offers for win-back campaigns
o Requests for them to specify their email frequency and other preferences
o Requests for them to confirm whether they still want to receive email from you

3. Clean your list

Unresponsive subscribers that don’t reengage after win-back campaigns or re-permissioning emails should be purged from your list. Otherwise, your deliverability can suffer.

As Return Path and other deliverability experts have noted, some ISPs are increasingly using subscriber response rate as a factor in a sender’s reputation. If they see low or no-response from a big portion of your database over time, they may reduce your sender score to the point that your messages are sent to spam folders — or blocked entirely.