Tuesday, January 03, 2012

B2B Webinar Best Practices from VMware

As you’re gearing up for a great new year, I wanted to highlight some webinar/event best practices from the marketing team over at VMware. VMware has found that this marketing channel is one of their most successful when it comes to ROI so taking a few pointers and optimizing your own efforts could pay off big time this year. They achieved an ROI of 1324% in 2010 - not too bad! They were kind enough to share these  best practices via a webinar and I’ve summarized the items that I thought you may be interested in.

Evolution of Webinars

Webinars have changed over the years at VMware. Previously, webinars were controlled by product marketing. VMware have now integrated webinars with marketing as a whole and have included them across various campaigns. Marketing has also aligned the topics with sales goals. This tells me that VMware has worked on eliminating silos that exist within its own marketing organization as well as those that exist between marketing and sales.

A few other interesting tidbits – VMware now prerecord all webinars rather than doing them live. This still do a live Q/A though which allows attendees to post questions and have them answered in real time. This cuts down on potential issues that I’m sure many marketers have been plagued by (“Can anyone hear me?”, “Our speaker will be a few minutes late”, “I’m firing my webinar provider today!”) and makes the recorded version instantly available.

VMware has also successfully experimented with virtual events which are now a mainstay in its event roster.

Social Media and Webinars

Here are a few of the best practices that VMware uses: 
  • VMware broadcasts upcoming events to the VMware Twitter handle and Facebook page. The number of registrants from Twitter has consistently grown over the years.
  • The marketing team sends reminder tweets 24 hours before the event and an hour before the event.
  • The post an event reminder on Facebook 2 days before the event.
Some of these are obvious but I like how they stagger their event reminders using different social media platforms. I was also surprised not to see the use of LinkedIn (I'm sure it's used but it wasn't mentioned). Of course, LinkedIn is more contact focused at the moment (while you can follow a company). I would recommend using your own employees to highlight upcoming events to their LinkedIn friends and posting to various LinkedIn groups. I also expect Google+ to be more prominent this year with the launch of branded pages.

Maximizing Email for Webinars

Here are some best practices on using email to promote your webinars and remind registrants:
  • VMware sends the first email invite two weeks before the event  and a second (final) email invite a week before the event.
  • VMware has found from testing that sending an email invite one week before the event for their Latin America webinars works best.
  • The email subject line for webinar invites should be kept short and simple - highlight why the email recipient should attend.
  • VMware has restrictions on how many emails it sends per month to a contact so they summarize all events per segment in a monthly email.
  • Targeting (the email list) is extremely important – better to have 100 people that are interested in the event then 1000 that aren’t and may unsubscribe. VMware segments based on title, size of company, product interest to name a few of the criteria.
Again, most of this is straightforward but VMware has done a good job of reviewing what has worked best for certain campaigns based on testing and improved its performance over time.

To take this a step further, here is an example of one of their email invites:
There are a few items to point out. The call to action (Register Now) is very apparent and is above the fold so it can be easily and quickly seen by the email recipient. The details of the webinar are also very clear and to the point. The subject line is simple and very straightforward but doesn’t tell us the content of the webinar. VMware has a strong enough following so additional detail may not be needed. I’ve also noticed that the header image is part image and part text. This allows the text to be seen by the email recipient even if images are turned off (which mostly occurs by default these days) and makes it easier for the marketer to reuse an email template and deploy emails (designers aren't needed to create header images for each email). Finally, VMware has included extra events in the emails to reduce the number of event invites they send and also include a link to access all of their recorded webinars (not a bad tip to get more bang for your webinar buck).

Optimizing Your Website for Webinars

VMware recommends the following:
  • Promote events on your home page
  • Create a dedicated events page that you can refer people to. See the following example.
  • Promote events on specific product pages. As an example, VMware highlights an associated webinar in the bottom right on this page.
  • Previously recorded webinars provided leads every month. Make recorded webinars available to different teams in your marketing organization so that they reuse this content and generate even more leads.

Aligning Webinar Campaigns with Sales

Besides working with sales on the content for your webinars, here is how you can get sales to help you generate more leads:
  • Create emails that sales can use to send to their prospects that highlight webinar details. Again, having a central area for all events on your website makes it easy for everyone across the organization to see which events are coming up.
  • Update the sales team via internal newsletters and the sales portal on upcoming webinars/events and explain how they can inform their customers. Also let sales know how their help has generated more leads. Share the success.

Increasing Event Attendance

This is something that all marketers want. Here is what VMware recommends:
  • VMware found that having a live Q/A is the number one draw of live events. Ensure that your webinars/virtual events are interactive using Q/A, surveys and other interactive tactics.
  • Video webcasts (where you can see the person speaking) have a higher attendance then audio webcasts
  • Use an Outlook calendar reminder (.ICS File) in your reminder emails. This ensures that registrants books off time in their calendars and make the webinar information easily accessible. For more details, see this post: Increase Attendence for Webinars and Webcasts

Lead Management

Once leads are generated from your webinar campaigns, the job of the marketer is not over - it's just the beginning. VMware follows these processes: 
  • Leads are downloaded within two business days from the event database and provided to the sales database.
  • Most leads are then followed up with by a telequalification team and those that are possible opportunities are sent on to sales.
  • Follow up emails are sent to attendees and those that registered but didn't attend.
To speed up the process of getting leads to sales, marketers are now linking marketing automation tools to webinar providers seamlessly via the cloud. For an example, check out Eloqua's Appcloud. This eliminates much of the manual upload processes needed for closed loop reporting and follow up communication.

Measure Webinar Success

Marketing can't be just about executing. There should be goals that have been established ahead of time to define what success means to the marketing team and the entire organization. VMware measures the following:
  • Marketing sourced vs marketing influenced pipeline. Marketing sourced pipeline is when a new opportunity tied to an individual is created due to the marketing campaign where one didn’t exist previously. Marketing wants to understand which opportunities it helped generate and specifically to this type of marketing channel, which webinars are generating potential revenue for the business.

    Marketing influenced pipeline is when an opportunity that is less then 6 months old already exists for the individual that is tied to the current marketing campaign. In this case, marketing wants to understand the campaigns that are influencing the pipeline and hopefully converting prospects to closed deals.
  • VMware also track event registrants, attendees, attendee rate etc… The normal metrics you would expect to determine if a webinar campaign was successful.
I hope you found these useful and at least justified your current efforts. Please share any additional best practices that you have that have helped boost your webinar campaigns.

With a new year comes a time of reflection. This past year has been a great one for me personally. I have a new son, Judah, and my oldest is growing up quickly. I am very grateful for all that I have for what is to come. All the best to you and your family this year.

Chad H.



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