To many CEOs and corporate decision makers, PCs are
pretty much all alike. A box is a box is a box. Buying
decisions often come down to cost rather than brand, and software
purchasing decisions are often separate.
Michael Krieger, Manager Software Partners Programs for Compaq
(now a part of the new Hewlett-Packard), had to find a way to
convince decision makers at Fortune 500 companies that all brands
are not alike; that, in fact, Compaq was the best brand to buy in
conjunction with the latest version of Windows.
Compaq had experimented with webcasting since 1998. These first
trials had had huge impact, partly because they were often the
first web event visitors had ever attended.
Now that seemingly everyone is offering online events such
as webinars (an interactive Powerpoint presentation with voice
but no video) online events have lost their initial excitement.
Was it still a good idea?CAMPAIGN
Krieger asked Skip Balch, VP Business Development The
Production Companies, to come up with a proposal for a show
which Compaq and Microsoft would co-fund.
Balch admits that he was wary at first, "We talk clients out of
more webcasts than we actually talk them into." As a biz dev guy
himself, Balch believes in running the numbers before investing
in any campaign.
"You've got to look at what is the average unit sale, average
margin, average closing rate. That background tells you you've
got to be able to hit X number of people to have that convert to
a decent ROI. Often you won't do a webcast if you just work the
numbers first," he says.
"If my product typically sells for $25,000 and my gross margin is
40-50%, I may only need 10-15 to click through and three to four
to close a deal, at the very worst my odds of at least breaking
even are better than 50/50, so I'm willing to take the risk."
The risk is lower these days because the cost of piping out a
webcast has plummeted recently while at the same time new
compression technologies have improved viewing quality. Balch
notes, "The video quality available at a streaming broadband
speed of 300k is as good as a one meg feed was just a year ago."
However, marketing costs have remained about the same. Balch
suggested that to maximize its investment, Compaq produce a
series of webcasts, a regular monthly online TV show, rather
than just one single one. That way the cost of an initial launch
campaign to draw traffic to the first webcast could be leveraged
over time as viewers returned for new shows.
The first step, just as with Hollywood TV shows, was to produce a
pilot, and survey viewers for qualitative feedback.
Compaq would not be able to judge the potential ROI from the
pilot's success (Balch explains it generally takes 4-6 episodes
to impact decision makers seriously) but the Company would be
able to judge whether the particular format was appealing enough
to viewers that they would return to watch repeatedly and recommend
it to friends.
"Four years ago if you were reading the phone book on a webcast
for three hours, you would have gotten people to watch because it
was cool," says Balch. "Now you can't get anyone to watch unless
it's absolutely compelling to them. This is where storytelling
That is why Balch decided against producing a video with "typical
case studies with some rinky-dink background music and a headshot
with a cut away. We told a story."
Instead of shooting the video in a studio, he took his cameras on
the road to where the case study actually took place. For
example a case study on Starbucks began with a shot of a ferry
going in Seattle's bay. The crew flew to Ireland for location
shots for another case study.
Balch adds, "A lot of people will give this audience very dry
how-to technical content for 45 minutes. But we were trying to
reach decision makers and influencers, and they want to be
entertained. I used to be a sales rep for Gartner. I hung out
with corporate IT people in big companies. The reality is
they'll respond to the same stimuli as consumers."
This very visual approach had the added benefit that it was
obviously content that could not have been shown in another
format. Balch explains, "We didn't want anything that could be
easily read. People are not going to spend time dealing with a
webcast just to hear a regurgitation of the written word."
The final show was designed to appeal to each of the four
different corporate personality types:
Type 1. Take-a-Break Relaxers
The show was entertaining, yet informative, enough to become a
guilt-free break for executives who wanted to sit back and enjoy
a break from work. Balch's team constantly surveyed viewers to
find out exactly how long this viewer would hang on, and what was
too-long to hold them.
Type 2. Cut-to-the-Chase People
Some people hate to sit through a webcast twiddling their thumbs
waiting for the bit of content that directly pertains to them to
come up. The production crew cut each show into chunks and
allowed viewers their choice of watching from start to finish, or
just diving straight into the section they found most appealing.
Type 3. Detail Seekers
While Balch did not want to interrupt the flow of each section
within a show with links to go elsewhere, the speakers in each
section reassured viewers that there was a list of "powerlinks"
at the very end that they could use for more detailed
However, Balch hastens to add that driving viewers to this highly
detailed data was not the ultimate goal of the show, and indeed
only a small segment of viewers would have the personality type
to want to do it.
"Our purpose was to move people to take a closer look at Compaq
as a total solution player, as opposed to just a maker of boxes.
The production value had to be very emotive, very compelling. It
was 'I had a good feeling about Compaq', not "Did I learn enough
to make a decision?' because you're not going to teach anyone
enough to make a sale in a 6-8 minute Case Study."
Type 4. Game Players
Balch catered to the crowd who love to enter contests and take
quizzes by giving viewers the opportunity to enter to win a
pocket PC by registering at the site and answering a trivia
question at the end of each show that was based on its content.
This contest had the added benefit of helping Compaq grow an opt-
in database of show viewers who requested to be notified whenever
there was a new episode. However, Compaq has very strict
emailing standards, so no name was added to the list unless they
personally checked a special box requesting to be added to the
list. (Note: Compaq's opt-in box is not pre-checked.)
Four months after the initial pilot show aired in October 2000,
Compaq gave the go-ahead to begin producing more shows on a
To drive traffic to the show site at Win2TV.com, Compaq tested
broadcast email campaigns to rented lists, ads in targeted email
newsletters, ads in its own quarterly print magazine, and
intranet links so sales employees knew it was out there and would
hopefully refer clients to it.
63% of Win2TV show viewers said they were "inclined to buy Compaq/HP products in the next six months due to Win2TV."
In fact, the Win2TV series has been so successful at helping
Compaq educate and excite sales prospects that its budget has
grown in a year when most high tech companies' marketing programs
have been cut.
Based on viewer survey responses, Compaq may end up making sales
in the nine-digits that were directly influenced by the show.
- More than 16,000 viewers have registered to see at least one
episode and most return repeatedly to view more shows. In fact
more than 70,000 visitors have viewed at least part of a show,
which means the average registered viewer has returned more than
- Initial traffic driving campaign results were mixed. The
broadcast email campaign did not do very well. The email
newsletter ads definitely outperformed it. Sales rep referrals
helped, as did the ad in Compaq's magazine. However the true
traffic driver was not Compaq's marketing at all; it was visitor
Compaq has now cut back on expensive outbound marketing efforts
and concentrates on making the most of current visitors, and
- Although the show pilot was just 30 minutes long, viewer
surveys revealed that while they loved the content (rating it
4.43 out of a possible 5 stars for excellence) shorter is better.
Balch says, "Based on survey results, we went from 30 minutes, to
22 minutes, and now it's at 20 minutes. We may ultimately make
the show even shorter."
- About 40% of viewers watch a show all the way through, while
60% use the cut-to-the-chase links to watch just the segment they
want. The average view length 8.5 minutes, although this varies
from show to show depending on how hot the topic is.
- 81% of total viewers are decision makers or influencers.
While Compaq definitely met its viewership goal of decision
makers in the Fortune 500, the viewing audience expanded of its
own accord to include 18% viewers outside the US and 23% viewers
at mid-sized companies with fewer than 500 employees. These
viewers proved to be equally motivated to add Compaq to their
short list of IT purchasing plans.
How much did all this cost? Balch could not reveal exact costs
for Compaq, but he was able to tell us that production costs for
a single show episode start at a baseline of about $20,000 and go
up front there depending on what bells and whistles you want.
Marketing costs are up to you; and naturally are lower for folks
who already have gathered an opt-in list of sales prospects.
Balch notes you can save on production costs if you rent a studio
for an entire day and do several shows in a row during that time.
You can also maximize your investment by using the content for a
sales demo CD-ROM, a program to play at your trade show booth, or
other purposes beyond a simple webcast.