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The Impact of a Great Webinar Program

Webinars are still a big part of the marketing mix, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

And by now, most of us know how to create content and webinars that serve a higher purpose than simply promoting products and services. After all, when someone is truly interested in what you’re selling, they’ll find a demo on your website.

A webinar program (and every other kind of content) is about thought leadership, sharing insights, and providing access to expert knowledge that can help people do their job better.

Inbound marketing (synonymous with content marketing in many ways) is not a new concept. Most mature organizations have learned that inbound leads from content promotion can be pretty “top of the funnel” and have a demand waterfall in place to separate the noise from the good stuff.

If you’re great at creating compelling content—promoted through a mix of channels—you’ll certainly stuff the top of your funnel with new contacts, but not necessarily your top prospects.

That’s where lead scoring should kick in, routing leads through your funnel depending on demographic data and behavior.

Demos and trials, for example, are high value activities that immediately trigger sales engagement, where content downloads, visits to your website, and webinar registrations are usually scored and routed differently.

So let’s talk about how to create a webinar program that does three important things:

  • Attracts New Contacts

  • Serves Every Stage of the Funnel

  • Creates Sales Opportunities

Start with a Three-Part Webinar Series

It doesn’t matter what you’re marketing—a cybersecurity product or healthcare services—you can create a three-part webinar series that casts a wide net at the top and works down to niche topics that indicate more serious interest in what you’re selling.

Let me clarify with a real-world example from a previous company.

They sold analytics software to companies who want to embed analytics in their own products. Their ideal prospect was a product manager—a decision-maker who was charged with product ownership.

Ironically, one of our key challenges was that literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD cares about data analytics. We could spin up tasty dataviz content, promote it with Outbrain, and get thousands of downloads.

The problem was conversion: tons of new names in the database but abysmal conversion to opportunities or even to MQLs.

The same was true of webinars. We could easily get 1200 people on a webinar about designing data dashboards, but many attendees were already using Tableau or other competitors’ solutions. They would never be our customer.

So we decided to do a Summer School series of three webinars:

  • The first was a “fan favorite” on dashboard design, meant to attract a large number of top of the funnel registrants.
  • The second was a little more in the weeds—still offering high level info—but getting closer to our message on the value of embedding analytics in a product.
  • The third was directly targeted to our ideal prospect, offering go-to-market strategy for an analytics software product. The only people who would care about this are the very people we wanted to talk to.

We knew that the number of registrants would drop dramatically from the first webinar to the third, but we welcomed that drop off.

The registrants of the second and third webinars were perfect for our SDRs to follow up with, and to track carefully through the funnel.

The registrants of the first webinar would drop into Marketo engagement programs for further nurturing.

The Set Up

Assuming you’re using a marketing automation platform integrated with a CRM system, this type of program is relatively easy to set up.

If you’re already running webinars, then this is super easy to set up.

In this example, we were using Unbounce for landing pages, along with Marketo and Salesforce (WebEx was our webinar platform, for better or worse).

Like most teams, we would send the first webinar invite two weeks before, a second invite the week before, and various reminders to folks who didn’t open and so on.

Hmmmmm

So the question is, do I create one landing page to promote the series, or separate landing pages for each webinar in the series?

The answer is, do all the things.

To get the most bang for your buck, create a landing page for the series (where folks can register for as many as they want), and create separate landing pages for each webinar. This way you have flexibility in how you promote, and you’re still able to send an email invite before each one.

This also gives you the ability to experiment with promotion and channels: maybe you’d promote the second and third (more in-the-weeds) webinars through channels where you can be more targeted (LinkedIn sponsored content and InMail, for example).

Since these webinars are designed to attract your ideal prospect, think about the watering holes where they’d likely consume content.

If you need ideas or practical guidance on how to set up a program like this, talk to us. Here at Sponge, we love to talk demand gen, campaigns, and marketing ops.

The Follow Up

OMG the follow up.

Like I mentioned, the drop off in registrants from the “fan favorite” webinar to the third—more highly targeted one—will probably be pretty big.

And that’s ok.

This program is meant to attract a lot of new names at the top of the funnel, and select out your ideal prospects at the bottom.

Here are some tips to drive engagement and opportunities from your webinar series:

  1. Generate a list of people who register for all three webinars.
  2. Craft an email or call script for your sales development team. Since the people on this list are signalling a high level of interest, the goal should be to set a meeting. At the very least, provide an introduction, and more info about your products.
  3. Track the people who attend and craft a special follow up.
  4. Track the people who watch the recording and craft a special follow up.
  5. Send future webinar invites from the rep, making the invite feel more personal (this can be automated in any system).
  6. Remove these folks from any “standard” nurture program, and serve them middle of the funnel, more product-specific content.
  7. Consider a gift card incentive to drive demos after the webinars.
  8. Track carefully and watch sales opportunities roll in!

And before you launch the program, make sure your SDRs and sales reps know about it:

  • Send them the landing page and brief them on the topics.
  • Have them register so they experience the process as their prospect would.
  • Offer to set up notifications of registrations or attendees so they can work the leads more personally.
  • Stay on top of marketing and sales follow up during and after the series to ensure you’re not stepping on each other’s toes or that nothing is falling through the cracks.

Q4 is not so far away (I know, right?). Start planning your series before the holiday season and close the year strong!

In our upcoming blogs, we’ll share more demand gen ideas that create sales opps. Meanwhile, feast on this:

Three Things Revenue Marketers Do Differently

“Let’s see. What campaigns can I run to achieve as little as possible?”

Said no one ever.

From the smallest business in America to the largest enterprise on earth, the purpose of marketing is to increase awareness and grow the business.

But let’s assume we all agree on that and also that marketing has become a fiercely data-driven game.

Marketing with purpose is the law of the land: the democratization of data is transforming the marketer’s role from brand and PR, to data analyst and ops expert.

And not just marketing.

Today’s Fortune 500 CEO is more accountable than ever, largely because the entire organization is focused on data and outcomes.

In its annual report, the Conference Board found that among Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index companies that were at the bottom of performers, the CEO succession rate jumped five percentage points, from 12.2 percent in 2015 to 17.1 percent in 2016. That’s well above the rate over the past 16 years.

Of course it’s not just because of the availability of data, it’s also because the world is watching—and responding—when CEOs behave badly (Uber).

But I digress.

The fact is, no matter the size of the team or industry, the wind of change is here. Marketing is shifting to a revenue center—a role once reserved for Sales alone—and marketing leaders must create new business, expand existing business, and consistently drive growth.

So what do revenue-focused marketers do that’s so different? Let’s focus on three things.

 

  • They Align with Sales Every Quarter

    As much as we talk about sales & marketing alignment, how many of us actually dedicate the time and energy to it every quarter?

    Yep, end of quarter is crazy for sales. But regardless, you really do need to book a conference room and spend an afternoon reviewing the previous quarter’s performance and making sure you’re aligned on pipeline and revenue goals.

    Take the time to dig into the numbers—exploring quality of leads, engagement within key accounts, and tackling questions like:

    • Which campaigns moved the needle?
    • What activities drove the best inbound leads for sales follow up?
    • Are we targeting the right people or do we need a refresher on personas?
    • Were there any surprises?

    As marketers, if we don’t have that solid alignment, how can we realistically plan for the upcoming quarter and remainder of the year?

    Having been in some organizations where marketing avoided (literally) involving sales in planning, it doesn’t work and no one wins.

  • They Create Plans that Make Sense

    And by that I mean plans that tie closely to revenue goals.

    That’s why the first item is so important. Your quarterly and annual plans must work back from revenue goals, which are set by the business and understood by sales & marketing. From that key goal, you’re looking at historical data, conversion rates, and average deal size to figure out how to allocate budget.

    B O N U S
    Not super mathy? Download this Lead to Revenue Template to help you get started. And if that doesn’t quench your thirst, check out the Modern Marketer’s Guide to Planning for a deeper dive.

    A typical marketing org probably has demand gen, digital, content, and ops. Everyone on the team should own their piece of the plan, with individual goals and MBOs that map back to revenue targets.

    If Sales Development falls under marketing, review performance and brainstorm new ways to optimize and recharge. Do a sanity check to make sure SDR outreach is a complement to sales and marketing activities, and not drowning your prospects in over communication.

    As a team, there’s no better feeling than celebrating marketing’s impact on a great quarter. Cheers!

  • They Know Which Metrics Matter

    And have a way to get at the data without entering the 10th circle of Excel hell or waiting for ops to pull reports. (by the way, Sponge includes great dashboards made for marketers so you’ll never have to retrofit Salesforce again).

    Assuming you’re using marketing automation and a CRM system, have these metrics in your back pocket:

    • Lead to opp conversion
      Sure, this metric relies on sales follow up and performance, but it also reflects lead quality. Track this conversion rate monthly but also go back a year or two and observe trends.
    • Campaign opportunity influence and ROI
      Whatever you do, have access to a dashboard that shows which campaigns and content are influencing opportunities during the quarter.
    • Email performance
      Opens and click-throughs are a great way to check the temperature of your nurture campaigns. Email is still the best way to engage leads once they’re in your database. Poor performance could be a sign of exhaustion, lack of compelling offers, or crummy content.
    • Funnel velocity
      Work with marketing ops to ensure you have a way to track lead flow from beginning to end. When the CEO asks, “How long does it take a lead to convert to an opportunity?” you should probably have the answer ready to go.
    • Happiness
      Remember what happiness and fulfillment feel like? Don’t lose sight of your team and your customers. Don’t get so caught up in data and hitting your numbers that you sacrifice quality and sanity.

Want more on metrics and revenue-driven marketing? Don’t miss this on-demand webinar:

how revenue marketers own their metrics

3 Marketing Programs to Kickstart Summer

Too early to talk Q3? Nope.

For many companies, Q3 is slow. Summer vacay is in full swing, and those of us back in the office are itching to pack it in early. And Europe? Literally the entire continent is eating gelato at the seaside until mid-August.

Yes, it’s summertime and the livin is easy (as Gershwin wrote and Billie Holiday turned into magic—you really should listen right here). It’s everyone’s favorite season but Q3 can be the toughest time of year for B2B. So why not plan ahead and take advantage of the lull?

Here’s three ideas to kick start your Q3 plan (or recharge marketing any time of the year).

1. The Summer of the Sprint

For those familiar with agile project management, scrums and sprints are a big deal. While the marketing team isn’t responsible for product development, which is usually the context for agile, you can still apply the idea to marketing.

Pick three sprint themes to tackle this summer. Maybe your customer onboarding needs a refresher, or nurture emails that have been running on autopilot need some love, or you’ve been meaning to connect with new influencers to expand your reach but haven’t had the time.

No matter what you have going on, I’m pretty sure you can find a few projects that dropped off the radar, and those will be your sprints. From there, it’s all about planning and execution.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how a sprint runs:

  1. Identify sprint theme
  2. Pinpoint goals and scope the work
  3. Select team members and responsibilities
  4. Schedule kickoff meeting and daily scrum
  5. Go
  6. Meet at the end for a project review
  7. Move on to the next sprint

Week-long sprints are great because they’re so fast. On Monday you kickoff, and by Friday you’ve achieved something. The momentum never has time to wane, and before you know it, you’re on to the next thing. If you have a bigger project, try two or three-week sprints.

By the end of the summer, the team will feel great about crushing a few big projects and you’ll have results to show for it.

2. The Summer of A/B Love

You only need to attend one conference a year to feel cosmically bad about the A/B tests you’re not running.

When it comes to email marketing, web presence, messaging, and pretty much everything else we do, A/B testing is the one thing we should be doing, yet tends to get kicked to the curb. A shame, since A/B testing can actually help identify valuable insights that can’t be found by other means.

Build a few important A/B tests into your Q3 plan. If that doesn’t sound like fun, divide into Team A and Team B and see who wins.

If you can find a way to gamify the tests, you’ll get the whole team writing better copy, tightening up messaging, and re-imagining landing pages for better conversion.

Regardless of what you’re testing this summer, take the time to do it right. Also take the time to listen to this podcast, where two wicked smart economists discuss data and causation.

And speaking of gamification, don’t forget to pick a nice outdoor patio for happy hour to celebrate the winning team!

3. The Summer of Trying Something New

Even if summer isn’t a slow time for your organization, it’s a great time to kick the tires on a new tool or platform. If you wait to start assessing vendors and doing demos until Q4, it could be too late to sign a deal and get up and running in time for the new year.

So think about the tools and initiatives you’ve been meaning to explore and get into it.

Here are a few solutions we love:

Engagio

Pretty sure we might have hit maximum overload on ABM about four months ago, but while many are familiar with the concept, most are far from implementing it or understanding how to measure ABM success.

Over the past few years, digital and inbound have matured and we’ve learned a few lessons. Namely, when you stuff the top of your funnel with folks who downloaded a piece of content, it might take an act of divinity to move those folks through the funnel.

Without exactly the right mix of content, campaigns, and sales outreach, you can forget about decent conversion rates or a healthy funnel.

Or, you can stop thinking solely in terms of leads and start thinking about engaging the right people at the right accounts. This is where ABM comes in, and Engagio is leading the pack. Because ABM requires tight alignment between sales and marketing, Engagio has built a great platform for marketers and an equally great Salesforce widget for your reps to track account activity.

LinkedIn for Lead Gen and Retargeting

Okay so LinkedIn just rolled out native forms. If you run sponsored content programs already, you can now point to a LinkedIn form instead of your own.

I like being an early adopter so I’ve been giving it a try for one of my clients. I’m recommending it here because I’ve seen a boost in conversion: forms are pre-filled with the person’s LinkedIn data, thus removing friction, and the experience is seamless because they’re not leaving LinkedIn and bouncing to your landing page (you could also argue there’s less connection with your brand).

That said, the new lead gen forms are not without bugs (you can’t download leads in Chrome—only works in IE or Firefox), and the UX is not at all intuitive: you need an account manager to walk you through it once or twice.

Another huge offering from LinkedIn is retargeting through Matched Audiences. You can engage key accounts, prospects, and audiences with three new capabilities: website retargeting, account targeting, and contact targeting.

If your database is loaded with contacts who’ve gone cold and email isn’t cutting it, this is an effective way to reach them through targeted ads and content. And for visits to your website that haven’t converted, you’ll expand your reach on LinkedIn, which has the potential to be much more targeted than Google Display.

Plus LinkedIn is up to 500 million members, so.

Sponge

Welp, if I didn’t believe in this product I wouldn’t be working here. Sponge is the only solution that ties planning with performance and analytics, and really helps even the most non-mathy marketer become revenue-focused and quantitative.

After a simple integration with Salesforce, login to Sponge and start playing with revenue targets and model budget scenarios to see marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

Sponge also provides reporting made for demand gen marketers, so you won’t have to rely on Salesforce reports and waiting around for the ops team to get you the data you need. Since Sponge gives you one place for plans, campaigns, and analytics, the whole team will be addicted before you know it.

If you’re a semi-neurotic serial refresher (no judgment here)—tracking campaign performance by the minute, running conversion rates, and contemplating the health and velocity of your funnel—Sponge is your new nerdy best friend.

Rybbon

If you use gift cards or other incentives to drive webinar registrants, survey completion, or any other point of engagement, I bet whatever you’re doing is pretty manual and not easy to track.

Rybbon changes all that. You can order through the Rybbon portal, set up your campaign, grab a token for Marketo, and you’re done. You can track when a gift is redeemed and schedule a sales follow up. The ease of use is one thing, but the lack of risk is also huge: if your allotted giftcards aren’t used, you can return them for a refund or order new gifts in any increment you need.

Try a survey that helps you get a better read on your customers and prospects, then offer the anonymous results in a follow up campaign. It’s a great way to boost engagement and get valuable insights at the same time.

So there you go, a few ideas to rally the team and try new initiatives that can move the needle in meaningful ways. Whether your summers are slow or not, a smart Q3 plan can set you up to crush Q4 and end the year strong.

Happy Hour Will Resume After Q2 Planning

FML it’s end of quarter again.

It’s late. I have so many tabs open I’ve lost track of where I am. This would be waaay better with wine (yanks laptop off docking station, runs for door).

I’m pretty sure you can relate to late nights during end-of-quarter planning. Of course we track throughout the quarter, but the EOQ round up is a big deal—and rightfully so. Your plan for the upcoming quarter is only as good as your audit of the past.

It helps to focus on a few key questions, like:

  • Did the company achieve its revenue target? What was marketing’s contribution?
  • Which campaigns generated the most leads? The fewest?
  • Which campaigns had the highest impact on pipeline?
  • How did the funnel perform compared to your assumptions?
  • Did anything unexpected happen? What and why?

Whether your team adheres to a lead target, an opp target, or an ABM strategy that focuses on engagement within key accounts, ask the right questions, get the answers, and document that data in your quarterly plan. When you gather the team for a marathon planning sesh, the “Look Back” slide should be your starting point—inviting the team to unpack what worked and what didn’t.

In this on-demand webinar, three CMOs discuss how they set the marketing vision, inspire their team, and create plans that drive growth. Watch Planning for Growth in 2017 now.

Stop. Start. Adjust.

Stop, Start, Adjust is an annual and quarterly exercise that forces brevity and clarity around where you’ve been and where you want to go. Assuming your lead and opp targets don’t fluctuate wildly from quarter to quarter and you know your goals, dedicate a session to outline the practices that need to go away completely, that need to begin in earnest, and that need to be optimized for better performance.

Here’s an example of how the exercise can take shape:

Once you’ve nailed Stop, Start, Adjust, move on to budget. Do you have the budget to support new initiatives or fine-tune what you already have? Can you reallocate anything from the Stop column? Here’s a few practical tips that’ll help you stay on track:

3 Guidelines to Throw on Your Whiteboard Right Now

1. Be bold enough to kill anything that isn’t working

Seriously. Do not be afraid of losing leads. If you have campaigns or channels that generate leads with abysmal conversion, take them out back and shoot them. Free up that budget to try something new. You have nothing to lose.

2. Revisit your target personas

Funny how we lose sight of who we’re actually marketing to in the midst of all the number crunching. Make sure everyone is clear on who your target personas are and aren’t—and evaluate whether your programs do a good job of reaching them. Be prepared to abandon generic offers that cater to everyone and no one.

3. Budget with agility

Start with the big buckets and assign budgets accordingly, then follow through with a budget review every two weeks and adjust as necessary. Give your team the freedom to spend smarter on campaigns that move the needle.

 

Planning doesn’t have to be painful. Read The Modern Marketer’s Guide to 2017 Planning and learn how to create effective plans, inspire your team, and put some damn fun back into B2B marketing.

 

An 18-Month Playbook for Building Your Lead Generation Machine

“These leads suck. We need 100 qualified opportunities with the right people who are ready to buy this quarter or else we won’t hit the number. What are you going to do about it?”

Sigh.

Whether you’re new to marketing or an industry veteran, chances are you’ve had this conversation before. I remember the first time it happened to me, and I immediately went into panic mode: Have we just wasted a ton of time and money? What can we pull off in the next week to turn things around? The second time, I admit I was indignant. Since when did marketing become sales? I wondered. Why isn’t anyone asking what they’re going to do about it? And the third time, I laughed. Okay, let’s dig in – where are things going wrong, and what can we do to fix it?

Because like it or not, marketing drives growth. And unless you work at a company that has superhero salespeople who love prospecting and want to know what they can do for you (in which case please email me so I can send you my resume), a big part of your job as a marketer is lead generation.

To generate leads consistently – month over month, quarter over quarter – you need to have a plan. But a good marketing plan is more than a collection of slides, documents, and spreadsheets that describe a long list of things you’re planning to do. In sales, the playbook is a common framework to help account execs follow a repeatable selling process, but in marketing, we have no such guide. I’ve talked to hundreds of marketers over the years about what it takes to “build the machine,” and I can tell you that many of us are piecing things together and making it up as we go along. While there are aspects of marketing that are an art, building your lead generation machine is not one of them.

After leaving the company where I ran demand gen for six years (while supporting 92% of the sales pipeline and growing revenue 4X), I decided to document a process through which marketers can systematically build a lead generation machine to drive growth at any company. I’ve taken my experience and combined it with everything I’ve read and learned from others to create The Marketing Machine Playbook, a step-by-step guide to predictable revenue over the course of 18 months.

Why 18 months, and not 6 or 12 months? Because this stuff takes time – time to launch, time to learn, time to refine. This is not about dabbling in blogs and social media, or sending out a couple newsletters per month. This is about defining your marketing strategy, and setting up the systems and people you need to make it happen. It’s hard work, and it takes discipline, creativity, and a certain level of scrappiness to “build the machine,” but over the next few months, I’ll show you how it’s done.

Each week we’ll cover one month in an 18-month action plan to build your marketing machine from scratch. By the end of the summer, you’ll learn how to:

  • Set the right goals and build a marketing plan to support sales
  • Expand your marketing mix and develop new capabilities across different channels, including email, online advertising, telemarketing, social media, events, and more
  • Choose the right tools and set up your marketing system so that everything works and you can track what’s working and what’s not
  • Improve your relationship with sales by setting clear expectations and consistently delivering what you say you will

Sound fun? It totally is, but let me warn you that it’s also a lot of work. It’ll be messy, chaotic, and disorganized long before it’s functional, organized, and awesome. There will be times when you want to quit, or worse – settle for the status quo. But if you stick with it and focus on incremental improvements, you’ll be able to look back at the end of 18 months and see how far you’ve come. And as I learned from The Bachelor, it’s all about the journey. Are you here for the right reasons, and are you ready to make your marketing awesome?

Join me in an epic journey to build a marketing machine and drive growth at your company. By the end of the summer, you’ll have everything you need to level up your marketing and support sales through 2016 and beyond.

Sign up here: The Marketing Machine Playbook series