by David Kirkpatrick
, Senior Reporter
Webinars are a great tool in the content marketing kit, but they throw a number of issues at marketers: What content does the audience want? How do you turn registrants into attendees? And, maybe most important, when should you schedule the webinar to reach the largest audience?
Dataversity, a provider of data management resources for IT professionals, launched April 2011. To drive awareness about its conferences and to provide education on data management, the company began a webinar strategy.
Shannon Kempe, Executive Editor, Dataversity, described the initial foray into webinars as "ad hoc."
"We didn’t have a regular rhythm of business around our webinars," she explained. "We just built them, set them up, and did advertising."
As the team started to learn what worked — and what didn’t work — with the webinar strategy, the program became more formalized. Dataversity now has a schedule featuring monthly webinar series with set timing on certain days of the week and at the same time of day.
This article covers the webinar process at Dataversity, from scheduling and promoting its webinars, through securing sponsors and partnerships for the online events. Find out how Dataversity was able to increase its webinar registration 91% from January to October 2012.
Kempe said the webinar campaign makes up the largest part of Dataversity’s website strategy, accounting for around 50% of the online business, followed by whitepapers and then by other website content.
Step #1. Determine the webinar schedule
When Dataversity began its webinar strategy, Kempe said determining the day of the week and time of day for each online event was "a lot of trial and error."
She explained, "Before we got to the standard rhythm of business, we just picked a date and time that worked with the speaker. But, my background is business analytics, and I am a firm believer in a strong rhythm of business."
Dataversity was conducting multiple webinars each week. Through the trial-and-error process based on the availability of third-party presenters, the team found its audience responded to a set schedule of webinars each week on Tuesday and Thursday, almost always at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.
Kempe said that time worked best for the Dataversity audience because it reached U.S. customers, yet still accommodated attendees from Europe and India.
Along with the set timing of webinars, at the beginning of 2012, Dataversity also implemented a three-track webinar series that occurred monthly, along with additional webinars that were not part of the formal monthly series.
Kempe attributed the continuity of the webinar series and the consistency of the schedule for proving the effectiveness of the theory of having a set rhythm of business. Each monthly webinar in the three-track series featured the same third-party consultant, providing ongoing content on a particular topic.
"If you have a regular schedule — a regular time and date when your webinars occur — people count on it," she stated. "They know when it’s going to be. They can adjust their calendars. We have people who block their calendars, Tuesdays and Thursdays, for our webinars."
Step #2. Determine the webinar content
For Dataversity, all of its webinar content is specific to data management with topics including:
- Big data
- Business intelligence
- Data modeling
- Data governance
Kempe said it was important to offer a wide variety of webinar topics.
"Somebody who attends a SQL webinar isn’t necessarily going to attend a business intelligence webinar," she stated. "The variety of topics helps us tremendously, and we try to hit all of them each month to give our attendees a good selection to choose from."
The goal of the webinar strategy is "education first," according to Kempe.
"The attendees have to walk away with more knowledge than they walked in with," she explained.
Dataversity has sponsors for its webinars, and Kempe said her team informs sponsors the goal of the webinar is education, not a marketing pitch.
For webinar speakers, Dataversity always engages a third-party industry expert.
Kempe said, "We have a strong peer-to-peer mentality, so it is always somebody who has been an information architect, or been in the field for a considerable time and can speak on that topic."
Featuring one speaker over several months in an ongoing webinar series has proved successful for Dataversity. As an example, Kempe cites one webinar series that occurred on the second Tuesday of every month. By April, that series had 50 people already registered for the December webinar.
Kempe said the team has a few methods for uncovering webinar topic ideas:
- Webinar attendees are encouraged to communicate what they like and don’t like through Dataversity’s online community.
- The team receives requests for topics that attendees can’t find elsewhere.
- At the in-person Dataversity conferences, the team mines surveys on the presentations to find popular topics.
Step #3. Promote the webinar
Dataversity promotes its webinars in a number of ways:
Dataversity’s entire email subscriber list receives the newsletter email. A more targeted list receives email promoting individual webinars, and Kempe said those emails are sent to a more broad audience if the team is looking for a larger registration number for a particular webinar.
A follow-up email
is also sent to all registrants. A key difference in the promotional email and the follow-up email was the "From:" field. The promotional email comes from Dataversity, "DATAVERSITY Webinars" in the case of email promoting individual webinars, and "DATAVERSITY Digest info" for the newsletter email. The follow-up email comes from Kempe herself, with a "From:" field of "Shannon Kempe."
She explained, "These come from me — and I think that’s very important that they do not come from a generic email address. It helps to encourage the community participation."
The follow-up email includes links to the webinar content, such as slides and the recording. Kempe said once registrants became used to receiving this content, actual webinar attendance lowered. She added that although that outcome wasn’t ideal, Marketing was still achieving its main goal because registration was not affected. The lead capture for Marketing came from registration for a webinar, not actual attendance.
Dataversity’s webinars are also promoted on social media through Twitter
, Facebook and LinkedIn.
The company has a LinkedIn Group, as well as groups for each of its conferences. This gives the team the opportunity to promote different webinars to specific audiences within its conference groups.
Kempe said the team does A/B testing on email send subject lines and on the design of the email.
"We found that simple is best," Kempe stated. "[The email] is simply a graphic with a webinar title and ‘register now.’ And, the titles need to have what topic they are focusing on to be really effective."
Step #4. Make sponsorships and partnerships a part of the webinar strategy
Sponsorship of Dataversity’s webinars wasn’t in the initial plans, but Kempe said having sponsors for the webinars became an important part of the process.
She said the sponsors typically come from companies Dataversity works with at its conferences, and that the team hasn’t needed to solicit for webinar sponsorships.
"They actually started coming to us, which is fantastic," said Kempe.
She added the sponsorship process is very flexible, includes a lead guarantee, and the company offers a full media kit for potential sponsors with information on subscriber demographics
, content contributors
, promotional campaigns, and pricing
Dataversity also offers partnerships to sponsors with discounts when the partner agrees to cross-promote the webinar.
Sponsor partners help promote the webinar, as well as build the promotion list.
Kempe said the leads are separated, so the lead guarantee that is part of the sponsorship is only on the leads that Dataversity generates for the partner, and does not include the leads the partner is generating on its own.
She said, "[Partnerships] really help build our list, help build our community and really get them engaged, and of course, our sponsors are happy to receive the discount."
After launching an aggressive webinar schedule in a very ad hoc manner, over a little more than a year and a half, the marketing team developed what Kempe called a "set rhythm of business." That included a consistent schedule of weekly webinars occurring on the same days of the week at the same time.
The key result of this strategic organization is from January 2012 to October 2012, webinar registration — the key goal of the campaign for lead generation — increased 91%.
Other metrics include:
- 42% average attendance for the free webinars
- Sending a reminder email one hour in advance of the webinar increased attendance 10%
- Up to 60% open rate on webinar follow-up email
"The regular monthly series has been instrumental in building the community. I can’t express enough how much those have done for us and for the consultants who are doing them," Kempe said. "They have generated business for them, and there are people who attend every single month just to hear the next step in the series, and engage, and learn as much as they can about that particular topic."
She added the key takeaway from the webinar strategy was have a regular rhythm of business, and make information on new webinars available as early as possible so attendees have the ability to immediately sign up for another upcoming webinar.
Kempe stated, "Get that list (of upcoming webinars) in front of all the attendees to say, ‘Okay, here are some more (webinars) that you can attend. You like this one?’ That has been something that we just continue to work on."
- Webinar list on homepage
- Email for individual webinar ("From:" field: DATAVERSITY Webinars email@example.com; Subject line: NOV 15 WEBINAR: Tools of Data Governance — Purchased and Developed — Part 1 Purchased)
- Monthly webinar email newsletter ("From:" field: DATAVERSITY Digest firstname.lastname@example.org; Subject line: NOV WEBINARS: Data Governance, Data Architecture, Data Tools, NoSQL, Data Modeling)
- Follow-up email ("From:" field: Shannon Kempe email@example.com; Subject line: WEBINAR FOLLOW-UP: Data Architecture for Data Governance)
- Promotional tweets
- Sponsor media kit subscriber demographics
- Sponsor media kit contributors
- Sponsor media kit webinar pricing
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