September 15, 2006
Case Study

Marketing Collateral Adored by Reps & Prospects Alike -- PowerPoint-Style Libraries With Audio

SUMMARY: If you're in charge of marketing collateral for your company, consider this your must-read Case Study of the year.

Turns out 30% of prospects in the scientific community prefer audio-enhanced PowerPoint-style decks to white papers, brochures, Web pages and webinars. We suspect prospects in other industries will adore these slides, too (they just haven't seen them yet).

Here are details from a B-to-B marketer's extensive tests:


"We're generally the most expensive guy on the block," Malvern Instruments' VP Marketing Randy Byrne admits. So marketing was critical to educate and sell the scientists and chemists of the world on the true value of Malvern's offerings.

Luckily, Malvern's prospects are "very much knowledge-based people. They crave knowledge." Unluckily, 90% of the prospects and customers were in locations on every continent far from Malvern's British headquarters.

"We needed to find a way, other than putting a scientist on a plane, to take tech info from our own scientists and deliver it directly to the growing global marketplace."

While the marketing team relied in part on direct postal mail, email, and later webinars, each also had limitations (time zones, printing and mailing costs, short attention spans, broadband requirements, etc.) as a marcom channel for extremely complex information ... and lots of it.

The sales force also needed help. "Our product lines were exploding. It put quite a bit of pressure on the sales organization -- they had to be a jack of all matters in all countries."

Byrne began to wonder -- was there a type of marketing collateral that sales reps and prospects would both enjoy learning from in every country Malvern served?


The marketing team decided to test a new format -- an audio + PowerPoint-style presentation they called 'On Demand Training.' (Link to creative samples below.)

The idea was fairly simple. They'd put together a set of slides, perhaps 10 or so, and post these on the site along with an audio feed to talk viewers through the presentation. The tech required less bandwidth for a typical webinar (which some prospects in China and Eastern Europe may still have problems with.) Prospects could click to listen and view any particular slide or sit back and hear the entire presentation in order.

After extensive tests, Byrne's team came up with seven rules to make these audio slides extremely effective marcom:

#1. Keep it short

Three to five minutes seems to be the sweet spot, for Malvern's market at least. Brevity is tough though for marketers and presenters more used to webinars and in-person presentations. Bryne notes, "We still sometimes fail miserably."

#2. Put the good stuff first

Visitors have control over the presentation experience. They can click around and leave in a heartbeat. Unlike live webinars, where you have a bit of leeway for a few slightly dull intro slides, folks using audio slides won't wait passively for the good stuff. Either begin with the most valuable information you can on your very first slide -- to convince them to stay -- or don't bother.

As with the art of great article writing, cut the boring intro and hook them with your lead at the very start.

If you have far too much content to cram into a 5-minute time constriction, consider cutting it into chunks and doing a multipart series. "We try to make it modular," notes Byrne. "Someone more advanced might not want to view parts 1-2, they may just want parts 3-5."

#3. Consider voice coaching (at least informally)

Often for prospects your most valuable presenters will be techies, researchers and product managers from your company (not salespeople). However, these usually are not pros with lots of presentation experience.

Coach new presenters so they don't speak too quickly or mumble (especially if your prospects are native speakers of other languages). "I've definitely done some voice coaching," Byrne notes. 'Scientists can be monotone. A voice needs intonations, especially if you're presenting on the Web."

#4. Keep the text on the slide light

As with all other presentations, don't put the text of the speech on the slides. Your slides are not teleprompters for the speaker or a transcript for the viewer. They should instead function as illustrations of the points you're making. Great slide content includes charts, diagrams, relevant graphics and short bullet points.

#5. Stick to corporate template

Byrne's team created a template and posted it on the intranet so marketers, product managers, sales managers and scientists in other offices could easily create their own presentations. This was especially important as the company has offices and reps in many countries, and Byrne wanted to encourage locals to create presentations that in their own marketplace's language.

The operational key was to make the content management and audio recording extremely easy for dozens of users while keeping the Malvern brand messaging on target.

#6. Give viewers a selection of response devices

Different prospects might have different favored means of communication, so the team included a variety of options on the very last slide -- email, phone and a voice-over call to action.

Plus, after the last slide was over, the viewer was automatically forwarded to a highly relevant page on Malvern's site for far more details on the topic.

#7. Measure results and react to them

"We're analyzing the heck out of the data," says Byrne. Key data points include what percent of viewers watch an entire presentation, which get about 50% through and which abandon almost immediately.

The system is tied into Malvern's CRM database and registration or login is required for most presentations (unless it's a product message Byrne wants to reach the biggest possible audience). That way the sales team can see who views what, especially who views many presentations and who forwards a presentation to others in his or her organization.


"The response has been phenomenal," says Bryne. In fact, after the initial test, Malvern expanded the program to now offering an online library of nearly 200 presentations in six languages. "We've even got people in the far reaches of China viewing them! The penetration has been incredible for us."

Malvern has been offering the presentations for three years now, so you might expect response rates to have drifted down after the initial excitement wore off. Not so. "We know once people view their first one, they tend to come back and view others and they tend to tell other people about them."

As an example, Byrne cites a campaign his team recently completed where they sent prospects and customers an email invite to view a new presentation of fairly general interest. "48% of the people clicked through. 25% watched the first slide, about half watched half the slides and 25% watched all the way through a 5 1/2 minute presentation."

In addition to the presentations, the team also do a full range of webinars that are first presented live and then available in a canned version on the same site library page the audio slides are on. The team began to wonder if they really had to use both formats ...

"We surveyed the market. We asked if they wanted both tools. We naively thought we could do one or the other." The response was overwhelming -- keep doing both.

In fact, the team discovered, prospects tended to break into one of four camps. Some people like information on the Web site, some like downloadable tech notes and white papers, some like webinars and some like audio slides.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Malvern:

View a typical live presentation without registering:

Brainshark - the tech that powers and tracks Malvern's audio slide presentations (a.k.a. 'On-Demand Training')

Malvern Instruments

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