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  • August 15, 2014

The Role of Webinars in the Sales and Marketing Process

Editor's Note: Today's post comes courtesy of Tom Masotto, VP Product Marketing & Business Development at ON24, a cloud-based webinar platform. 

Webinars have become a primary marketing tool to "help drive the buying cycle," according to market research firm SiriusDecisions. As illustrated below, the effectiveness of webinars spans the entire sales and marketing process, from driving awareness to lead generation and nurturing to cross-selling and upselling. 

Webinars’ influence on the buying cycle is driven by their ability to:

  • Engage prospective buyers
  • Move prospects and opportunities faster in the purchase process
  • Identify sales-ready leads
  • Enhance marketers’ lead scoring and nurturing process. 

Engaging Buyers
One of the main reasons that webinars successfully influence prospects in the buying cycle is their ability to capture a viewer’s attention for significant periods of time. Sending prospects an email or having them view your website may capture their attention for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes. In contrast, an average viewer spends 56 minutes in a live, interactive ON24 webinar, according to our benchmark data.

The key to providing more engaging, interactive webinars is to allow attendees to “personalize” their user experience.  From within the webcast, viewers should be able to open and close information panels, access social media, respond to polls/surveys, view complementary resources, and network with other participants.  Webinars needs to provide engaging content and interactive features to keep viewers’ attention and discourage their tendency to multitask.

Accelerating the Buying Cycle
To be most effective, webinar content must be tailored to the specific objectives of each stage of the buying cycle. Marketers’ primary goal is straightforward: identify new prospects and progress them from one stage of the buying process to the next, ultimately moving them to the purchase stage.

The key is to deliver the right type of webinar content at the right time (see illustration below).  For example, while demonstration webinars are appropriate for bottom-of-funnel stages, they do not work well for top-of-funnel lead generation programs. If designed with the buying cycle in mind, webinars can be an extremely effective method for moving prospects from one stage to the next.

The ability to include related content and social media in a webinar also accelerates movement in the buying cycle, according to The 2013 Customer Engagement survey conducted by IDG Enterprise. The study shows:

  • An average of 8 assets are downloaded and used in the decision-making process. 
  • Prospects are only receptive to related content over a relatively short period of time.
  • Decision-makers use social media to discover, share and discuss information.

By including white papers, data sheets, industry blogs, articles or other content, webinars can deliver multiple decision-making assets at one time.  And the addition of social media, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, allows prospective buyers to share insights or invite others to join their network from with the webinar.

Integrating with Marketing Automation
While webinar analytics are incredibly valuable in and of themselves, they become significantly more valuable if they can be delivered to a company’s marketing automation platform (MAP).  Marketing automation tools track every interaction your business has ever had with a specific customer – web site, emails, webinars, etc.  This visibility allows you to tailor your communications considering every individual’s experience with your company, which makes them feel more valued and leads to more sales opportunities.

For marketing automation, bigger data leads to greater visibility.  With this in mind, ON24 transfers more than 30 types of metrics to MAP solutions, including campaign information, viewing duration, user engagement, polls, questions, and user responses.  With this increased visibility, marketers can optimize their demand generation programs and accelerate opportunities in their sales pipeline – as well as deliver their most qualified leads to the sales team a few hours after their webinars.

Webinars are a significant tool for marketers to drive demand and generate new leads. As prospects increasingly self-educate through the buying cycle, webinars have become a primary source of information that buyers turn to before making a purchase decision.

To be most effective, your webinar content must be tailored to each stage of the buying cycle. If designed with the buying cycle in mind, webinars can be an extremely effective method for moving prospects from one stage to the next.

While the webinar’s content influences, the equally important webinar analytics can measure user engagement, stage progression, and trends.  Webinar analytics can also allow you to identify sales-ready leads in real-time, and follow up with the most-qualified leads immediately.  And webinar analytics become much more valuable when integrated with your CRM and marketing automation platforms and incorporated into your lead scoring and nurturing process. 

For more best practice insight on how to maximize your webinar strategy, please join Oracle, ON24 and Certain for an interactive webcast, August 20th at 10:00am PT / 1:00pm ET.

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