May 08, 2013
Case Study

Webinar Marketing: Adobe revamps strategy and achieves a 500% lift in conversion to sale

SUMMARY: Webinars can be effective, yet challenging, content marketing.

So, we were intrigued when we learned even a webinar platform company faced challenges with using webinars for marketing. Adobe wanted to use webinars as guided product tours, which would have been difficult to present in a "one sheet brief," as the senior product marketing manager described it.

Learn from the team's impressive turnaround -- a 500% increase in conversion to sale through its new webinar strategy -- to see how you can improve your own webinar marketing.

by David Kirkpatrick, Senior Reporter


Often, the best way to market a product is to give the prospect a chance to experience it through a demo or trial offer.

And, webinars are a very effective method of providing a demo including something of a "guided tour" for that prospect.

Shelby Britton, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Adobe Systems, realized there was a dual opportunity in utilizing a webinar-heavy marketing strategy to market the Adobe Connect webinar platform.

She knew webinars were an effective way to provide a product demo, and in this case, not only was the product being demoed, it was also showcased as the actual technology providing the demo.

One marketing challenge the team faced was Adobe Connect was not as well-known in the marketplace.

This case study looks at the evolution of webinar marketing at Adobe. This was a process that created a 500% increase in conversion to sale within the webinar funnel and placed webinars as the second largest generator of sales behind only product trials.


About Adobe Connect, Britton said, "You have to experience it in order to really appreciate it. We found it was hard to put into a one-sheet solution brief, or something like that. It was better to get people actually experiencing it, [and] touching it hands-on."

Step #1. Identify problems with current strategy

The most pressing problem with Adobe's webinar "strategy" was … there was no strategy.

Britton explained, "It was a mix of various topics that we were running one-off."

There was no particular timing for the webinars, and they covered a variety of topics:
  • Best practice focus

  • Product demo focus

The webinars were not connected, and each had individual promotion plans.

The basic strategy was "have the webinar, send the lead to the sales team and you are done. Now, do the next one," Britton said.

And worse, because Adobe had no way to collect a database of past webinar registrants, that data was going into what Britton described as an "Adobe black hole."

Because there was no data collected on previous prospect activity, those people could possibly receive messaging out of order, such as an offer to view a product demo and then later hit with a best practice message better suited to someone closer to the beginning of the sales funnel.

Step #2. Create order in the strategy

"So, the first order of business was to put in some order around the program," Britton said.

One area Adobe was tracking was the email promotions for each one-off webinar. The team knew the open and clickthrough rates for different types of webinars, such as a product demo. At the same time, those programs were what Britton described as "a pretty cold touch."

By "cold touch," Britton meant Adobe didn't know anything about the person opening and clicking on the promotional email. The overall marketing around the webinar product targeted several different end users, including people planning on using the platform for:
  • Web conferencing

  • eLearning

  • Webinars

Knowing this, the team decided to organize the one-off webinar strategy in two ways. The first was to promote best practices-themed webinars to particular audiences. For example, offering a best practices webinar for eLearning in a virtual classroom, or a webinar on using the product for marketing webinars.

From there, the team understood anyone responding to that email was probably intending to use the platform for eLearning, and not for Web conferencing or webinars.

These webinars were called "solution webinars" at Adobe.

After splitting the best practices introductory webinar audiences, the team kept up with people who attended those virtual events and then invited them to a product demo webinar to drive them further down the sales funnel.

These webinars were called "product webinars" at Adobe.

The new webinar strategy helped Adobe segment its different audiences, and also provided the webinar content in a logical path through the sales process.

Britton said the best practices webinars were used to determine if Marketing was "talking to the right people" in each target audience, and that the product demo webinars were used to create Sales-ready leads.

The final webinar in the "webinar funnel" was a competitive comparison webinar.

Step #3. Refine the new strategy

One result of offering webinar "tracks" to different segments was the team was offering a wide range of webinar tracks, all dedicated to discrete segments within the larger target audiences, such as:
  • For using Web conferencing for sales demos

  • Targeted to IT for security messaging

At the end of the first year of implementing the new strategy, the team realized there were just too many tracks happening at once.

"We looked back [and said] 'this is too much going on and we are not getting as much bang for our buck,'" Britton said. "So, we had to figure out, based on our products and our strengths, how we can narrow the program down and really focus on our strengths."

The result was refining the webinar strategy down to just two tracks: eLearning and marketing.

Britton explained, "We ended up at the two tracks because these two solutions are the strengths of our product."

Another refinement was offering a short five- to ten-minute breakout session after the solution webinars with a sneak peek at a product demo.

Britton said the idea came from the team understanding that solution webinars were finding prospects at different points in the sales cycle.

She added it might be appropriate for prospects who were further along to see a demo right then as opposed to waiting for an invitation to a product webinar.

Step #4. Build prospect lists through partnerships

One way Adobe built its prospect list was through offering its best practice content to different partners' audiences. Adobe would pay a sponsorship fee, and in return, receive the registration list from the webinar presenting that content.

Britton said with these lists, the team wouldn't spend any additional time or money promoting the webinars beyond the best practices webinar.

She said, "They are just going to flow down from the solution webinar level [through the webinar sequence]."

Step #5. Formalize and track the registration process

Before implementing the new process, webinar registration was a problem for the team at Adobe.

"When people registered, it went into a black hole and we never saw [those prospects] again," Britton said. "There was no way to do a drip program because we couldn't get those contacts back. We couldn't do analysis, we couldn't see who was attending [the webinars]."

Previously, the webinars were promoted by email and the team was able to track open and clickthrough rates, but that tracking did not extend down to the actual registration.

To fix this issue, the team went through a process of evaluating registration systems, with certain criteria in mind:
  • The ability to track registrants through any marketing promotion

  • The ability to pull reports from the system

  • The ability to analyze data such as who attended the webinar, and who didn't attend the webinar

Britton explained tracking and analysis was important for Marketing to be able to determine what promotions were working and not working.

After implementing the new system, registration was handled on a dedicated landing page and all registrants were collected for tracking purposes.

Step #6. Score the tracked leads

With data collection and analysis going back to the original webinar registration, the team was then able to begin scoring leads to uncover Sales-ready prospects.

Lead scoring included several elements.

"Number one, if [prospects] move on to the product webinar [the second webinar in the series] and see a demo, it’s going to go to Sales regardless [of any other scoring]," Britton said.

She added the CRM software scores leads on demographic data such as size of company and title.

Britton described leads scored by demographics as going into "buckets."

For example, Adobe's target company size is over 1,000 employees. Those leads go into a bucket direct to the sales rep. Smaller companies go to the inside sales team. A third bucket goes to Adobe's channel partners.

Channel partners were utilized in a number ways in the webinar strategy.

"Some partners speak on our webinars — mostly the product demo webinars — as we typically use luminary speakers for the best practice webinars," Britton said.

She said "luminary" speakers include industry experts, authors and analysts.

Britton added, "And, we encourage all of our partners to promote the program. Any registrations they drive are given directly back to the partner that drives [those leads], and do not go into the general bucket for routing to the channel."

A recent addition to lead scoring is behavior scoring inside Adobe's webinar platform. Those leads are tracked by actions they take, such as downloading a file while attending a product webinar through an "engagement tracker" built into the platform.

Based on behaviors, these leads are placed in "warm" or "hot" buckets to provide Sales with additional insight before making phone calls.

"[Sales reps] get the whole list from the product demo webinars, and then from that list they could prioritize [calls based on behavior scoring]," Britton explained.


One key result of the webinar strategy is webinars are one of the most important channels for Marketing in driving sales, second only to prospects who go ahead and take advantage of the free trial offer. Webinars becoming the second strongest driver of sales was a direct result of the new strategy.

Here are some metrics on the entire campaign:

Comparing promotional email results

2008 (when Adobe was still running one-off webinars)
  • 17% average open rate

  • 5% average clickthrough rate

2010 (after Adobe went to the webinar "funnel" model)
  • 30% average open rate

  • 11% average clickthrough rate

This represents an increase of 76.5% in open rate and 120% in clickthrough.

Program volume (excluding daily training webinars)

  • 2008 20 webinars and 7,000 registrants each quarter

  • 2009: 36 webinars and 13,000 registrants each quarter (frequency due to multiple solution tracks)

  • 2010: 15 webinars and 6,000 registrants each quarter

  • 2011: 18 webinars and 8,000 registrants each quarter

  • 2012: 17 webinars and 6,000 registrants each quarter

Conversion rates to closed sales from the webinar funnel

  • Solution webinars — 2%-3% (stopped sending to sales reps due to the low conversion rate)

  • Product Webinars — 20%

  • Competitive Comparison webinars — 30%

  • Trails — 30% (supported by daily training)

These conversion rates compare to 5% conversion for the previous one-off webinar strategy. The conversion increase was as high as 500% in the case of the competitive comparison and "trails" webinars.

Britton noted in Q1 and Q2 2012, the live daily webinars were turned into on-demand recordings. Those webinars went back to live events in Q3 2012.

The on-demand recordings were applied to the training program since the content remained static from week-to-week. The result was a large reduction in training program webinar registrations.

Britton explained, "It turns out that being able to interact and ask questions is very important, and interest was reduced dramatically when we changed from live [webinars] to on-demand."

Britton said she has found a webinar strategy to be effective in two particular cases.

"You have a new product and you need to educate people about the product, and the easiest way to do that is to get them into a webinar and educate them," she said.

Britton continued, "Or, you've got a product that's easier to show for demo purposes and you want them to experience it live. [Our webinars] have really helped us connect with people because if they have immediate questions we can answer them on the spot so that they don't have to wait for a sales call or sit on our sales line."

She concluded, "They are sitting in the webinar, they are looking at our product, and they are listening to the content that our speaker is presenting and it’s top-of-mind. You may as well answer those questions immediately."

Creative Samples

  1. Webinar promotion email

  2. Illustration of two webinar tracks (used by permission from Adobe)

  3. Registration landing page



Related Resources

Content Marketing: Webinar strategy increases registration, lead capture 91%

Lead Generation: 3 basic tips for webinar newbies

New to B2B Webinars? Learn 6 steps for creating an effective webinar strategy

Webinar How To: The 8 roles you need to fill to make your virtual event a success

Marketing Webinar Optimization: Five questions to ask yourself about webinars

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions