• The DIY Dilemma of Marketing Webinars

    How To Manual 8222579In my previous post, I bemoaned (some might say), or pointed out (as I would say) the disparity between the few number of companies that effectively use lead generation webinars and the much greater number that do not – what I call the “B2B Marketing Webinar Gulf”.

    During years of using, producing and consulting on marketing webinars, I’ve experienced and observed some common organizational and individual behaviors that contribute to creating that Gulf. While this is certainly only anecdotal information, I want to share my observations on what I believe are some of the root causes of the B2B Marketing Webinar Gulf. Consider this article a possible first step to more formal research in the future.

    To illustrate one of those common organizational behaviors I’ve witnessed, let’s imagine a sampling of about 300 B2B companies, including some from the S&P 500, some mid size and small companies and let’s also add in some start-ups. We’ll also be diligent and include in our sample a good range of industry sectors, say financial, healthcare, technology, manufacturing and consulting. One common characteristic of all the companies in our sampling is that their market is nation-wide, either in the US, or other countries/regions.

    I’ll now pose the following question: How many of the individuals responsible for developing the marketing strategy for any of those 300 companies would be likely to propose the following to their CEO, CMO, or VP: “We need a television and radio campaign to reach our target audience and help our lead generation and brand marketing efforts, and I plan to direct our internal marketing team to create, produce and market a series of such commercials to be broadcast during the next year.”

    I’ll hazard to guess that most will agree it’s not very likely any marketer who wants to keep their job would make such a proposition unless they happen to work for an advertising agency with considerable media and advertising resources. It’s also very unlikely that the CEO, CMO or VP of any of the companies on our list that are not ad agencies would direct their marketing team to take on such an effort with only internal resources. Perhaps a few car dealers would be willing to step in as the “talent” and may play a creative role for their commercials, but even they would likely bring in expertise to help with the audio and video production and media buys.

    On the other hand, my experience has shown it to be much more likely that the same individuals on our list of companies would be willing to propose, or accept the proposition that their company’s internal marketing team should take on the responsibility for creating, producing and marketing a lead generation webinar/webcast program, and would do so without too much hesitation.

    At this point, some may object that contrasting the production of television or radio commercials with marketing webinars is an unfair comparison because webinars are much easier to create and certainly not as expensive to produce, thus less risky. Some might also point out that “Webinars are just another means of content marketing, which is already the responsibility of many internal marketing teams so why not let them do it?”

    My experience has been that the assumptions “webinars are easy” and “webinars are just another means of content marketing”, combined with the proliferation of do-it-yourself webinar technologies have contributed to creating a significant population of marketers who have had a poor webinar experience and even larger population of audience members who have had a poor webinar experience at some point.

    I should state here that I’m a big fan of DIY software technologies, especially DIY webinar platforms, which I use all the time. But therein is the difference. Unless our hypothetical marketer has the benefit of working with a given webinar technology fairly frequently, as well as producing webinars on a regular basis, they are likely to have a less than optimal experience with producing their own marketing webinar. Just because tools are marketed as “do-it-yourself “doesn’t necessarily mean they are easy to use without training or experience.

    After all, Home Depot provides the floor plans and all the materials I would need to add-on to my house, and I know my way around a hammer and saw fairly well, but I don’t plan to take on a home addition any time soon. It would take too long, the quality would suffer and so would I – not to mention my wife! So, the challenge is not one of marketers being incapable of using DIY webinar platforms, which certainly isn’t rocket science, but does require a certain level of familiarity and experience. The challenge is in producing a successful, but infrequent webinars as just one of many other conflicting responsibilities facing busy internal marketing teams.

    A common problem for infrequent webinar marketers is that they become so focused on mastering unfamiliar webinar platform technology that the other important production aspects (content/creative development, speaker recruitment, promotion) can suffer. A broadcast date for a webinar is typically scheduled at least 45 to 60 days in advance, so when our busy marketer who is responsible for it begins to run out of time, it’s difficult to know which activities to cut without putting the event at risk.

    There are certainly internal marketing shops that have developed the resources and capability to support a successful web event marketing program, either internally through trial and error, or by obtaining the skills and resources needed as employees or contract suppliers. My guess is it that those in the later category make up most of the population that is succeeding with web event marketing. I don’t know of many companies that are willing to put up with much trial and error.

    Fortunately, there are some ways for busy marketers to overcome the challenges of producing a successful webinar program and benefit from the advantages webinars offer as a cost-effective media channel for dynamic content marketing. We just touched on a few of them, but there’s more to it, which I’ll discuss in future posts.

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