Getting more out of webinars as a sales tool

Analytics/ Analysis

on24 logo 475756When Laurie Speaks took over Marketing and Communications for Retail Solutions Inc., (RSi) one of the first things she noticed when

doing her budgeting was that the demand for travel from sales and marketing was significantly higher than she could support.

Mountain View, Calif.-based RSi tracks point of sale data in real time and provides actionable demand data and predictive analytics for the Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods industries and Speaks needed to find a way to deliver the value the organization would get from investing in all those trade shows and conferences focussed on IT for the retail sector without actually spending the money required to attend them all.

The solution she came up with was to use webinars to deliver the messaging and drive sales. The only problem was, as those of us in the IT industry know, webinars need to be done just right or they are a waste of time.

Webinars have become almost ubiquitous in the IT industry. They have become a primary method of disseminating information, training, lead generation and qualification. They are far from perfect though. Many are little more than static, overly lengthy and boring. How do you get people to sit still and pay attention while you pitch them for an hour? Moreover, how do you make your webinar one that people will want to attend instead of the other guy’s?

One company I used to work for ran two such webinars each week, and several more focussed on training. A significant part of the junior sales team’s job was simply to get people to show up. Characterised by unidirectional barrages of rapid fire value messages that would – hopefully – stick and resonate with the prospect, those webinars were in a constant state of revision as we worked to come up with new things that would get people to stay until the end. (“We’ll give you a free gift, but you’ll have to email us a code we’ll give you at the end to collect.”) A lot of follow up was required to make sure we got our message across and determine the quality of the lead before hopefully closing business.

Like I said, far from perfect. If Speaks was going to deliver the value demanded of her she needed to find a way to make her webinars do a lot more than simply give people data. They needed to collect data too. Fortunately for Speaks, webinars have become more sophisticated over the past few years. Current approaches include numerous approaches to maintain engagement and connect directly to third-party applications like Marketo that help capture and use lead qualification data.

“A lot of our focus is around demand generation and customer engagement,” says Tom Masotto, VP Product Marketing & Business Development for ON24. San Francisco-based ON24 develops and markets webcasting and virtual event and environmentsolutions.

“A lot of organizations are using webinars to identify new opportunities for the company. Typically they use it at the top of the funnel, doing the lead gen but we’ve seen a trend of late in the use of webinars throughout the process, right through to the closing processes.

ON24 captures about 30 different data points, says Masotto. Did someone register? Did they attend? How long were they on for? Did they attend a live presentation or a recorded one? Did they actively participate (respond to polls, ask questions, etc.)? All these elements and many more combine to give a much more reliable measure of attendee engagement than previous presentation models.

According to Speaks, RSi has seen measurable results from using the tool.

When comparing webinar reach in 2013 and 2014 we’ve “seen an uplift in both registration conversion rate and attendee conversion rate. Our current registration conversion rate averages 98.12% and our attendee conversion rate averages 53 percent.” Prior to adopting On24 and integrating it with Marketo those numbers were around 90% registration conversion and closer to 45% attendee conversion.

As noteworthy as those stats are, Speaks says she is most impressed with the engagement results – something that is critical to RSi. “We’ve done a number of different things with our webinars to keep them engaged; to keep them in the environment. We do polling, give points, award prizes. We have an average of keeping them in there for 54 minutes out of a 56-60 minute webinar. Usually people stay as long as the Q&A at least.

There has also been a significant increase in the number of questions being asked by attendees, suggesting more engagement and attention. “That information is a perfect lead-in for our Sales team and really gives them the additional insight on whether or not they have a qualified lead.”