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B2B Marketing, Joel Harrison – ‘Geeking-out’ with the cult of webinars in San Francisco

B2B Marketing, Joel Harrison – ‘Geeking-out’ with the cult of webinars in San Francisco

What is there to say about webinars that hasn’t already been said? Until a couple of days ago, my response to this question would have been ‘nothing’. But having sat through an unexpectedly compelling day and a half of impassioned presentations from webinar zealots from all over the B2B marketing space, it looks as if I was wrong.

I have Joe Hyland, CMO of ON24, to blame/thank for this abrupt about-face in my opinion. About six weeks ago, he invited me attend its first ever conference – a ‘webinar geek-out’, as he called it. I must confess that at least part of the draw was that it was taking place in San Francisco, one of my favourite cities in the world, which also just happened to be the home of the martech industry, therefore giving me a great opportunity to get a flavour of what’s going on the ground, and what’s coming next.

If that were not enough, I was also interested in getting some insights into how we might get more value out of our own webinar channel, and make it a more valuable part of our content offering. So all in all, it seemed like a bit of a no-brainer.

Jetlag notwithstanding, the event absolutely delivered. I’ve been to a few customer conferences run by tech brands before, but never in as dedicated or committed way as this (generally I can’t wait to get out the door). More particularly, I’ve never been as an actual user of the tech being discussed, which took my engagement to an entirely new level.

I was literally overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and borderline obsessiveness which speakers and attendees alike showed for both the delivery channel in general, and the ON24 platform itself – at times, it felt more like the meeting of a religious cult than a (slightly geeky) tech platform. And that resonated with me because reinforces the finding in our recent ‘High Growth’ report that hugely successful companies must sell a mission not a product. There was definitely a shared mission at Webinar World, and I think had chief content officer (and apparent cult leader) Mark Bornstein asked the audience to dive into the San Francisco Bay and swim to Alcatraz, they probably would have done just that.

I’ve left the event with a host of great ideas to improve our webinar activities, making them both more compelling from a customer perspective, and more relevant from a business one. But perhaps more importantly, I’ve also left with a head full of wider content and business ideas – I find conferences are the best way of stimulating new thinking.

Far from confirming webinars as a slightly tired marketing channel which has had its day, I’m eager to get cracking implementing these ideas, and challenging marketers to maximise their returns from this channel. Of all the things I learned, the following stand out in particular:

  • A good webinar must aim to remove the friction from every stage of the buyer journey. It’s about creating answers, not assets.
  • Don’t get bogged down in the detail – recognise the short attention span of buyers, and keep webinars short and simple.  Respond with detail later.
  • Don’t define webinar success as a completed form – it’s engagement that counts, in terms of driving action and/or conversion.
  • Great engagement with a webinar is more important than a word-perfect presentation – resist your control-freak tendencies.
  • Give viewers the option to binge on content following the webinar, by providing prominent links to all relevant assets on the landing page – social sites, videos, downloads, etc.
  • The goal of sales must be intelligent outreach – not just ‘can I sent you a whitepaper’ more like, ‘I can see you’ve looked at our pricing strategy – how do we measure up?’
  • Why wait until the webinar has happened before you follow up? You can get great engagement with registered people before it even happens.

…and so on. These tips and points are really just the tip of the iceberg – check out #webinarworld17 for more insights.

All in all, a thoroughly useful couple of days spent ‘geeking out’ – it’s absolutely confirmed my suspicion that we’re only scratching the surface in terms of the potential of our own webinar programme, and I’m determined to do something about that. And yes I am aware that I may have been slightly brainwashed.

My congratulations to Joe Hyland and the team at ON24 – it’s clear that they surprised themselves in terms of how successful this event was, so well done to all concerned for having the courage to try it and determination to make it a success. See you at the next one.

keith