June 18, 2008
Case Study

How to Use Fewer, More Relevant Webinars to Get Better Results: 6 Steps Lift Attendance 422%

SUMMARY: More is not always better when it comes to marketing activities. You have to make sure the content and timing of your campaigns match your buyers’ needs during a sales cycle.

See how one marketer revamped its lackluster weekly webinar series by creating fewer, but more relevant events. That content, combined with better database analytics and a new outbound marketing strategy increased attendance 422%.

Marketers at SciQuest, a strategic-procurement firm, relied on weekly webinars to generate leads for their software and services. But frequency had taken the place of relevance in their campaign strategy.

“We had one webinar a week, and it was all about SciQuest,” says Laura Grover, Director, Marketing Operations. “What we did to market it was just send out a schedule of upcoming events.”

To get out of that bind, Grover and her team wanted to focus on developing fewer events with a more relevant educational focus. And she wanted to sharpen their outbound marketing tactics and measurement tasks to demonstrate the effectiveness of fewer webinars.

Grover also had to overcome resistance from the sales team while refocusing the webinar strategy. Her plan was met with skepticism from sales reps who relied on the weekly events as key talking points for their calls to academic, healthcare and research organizations.

Grover and her team began their webinar overhaul by researching best practices and speaking with marketing peers. Then they took the following six steps to revamp their webinar content, schedule and marketing tactics:

-> Step #1. Create new webinar content & campaign plan

Grover reviewed all the content the company had been using in its webinars. The programs were oriented toward SciQuest’s products and services. They did not offer a strong educational component or commentary from external sources.

They created new content for two three-part webinar series to educate prospects about the role of “eprocurement.” Content was also aligned with the stages of a prospect’s buying cycle, and webinars included a third-party speaker – a customer or expert from outside the company.

The first series was a three-part introduction to the benefits of eprocurement. Topics:
- What is eprocurement?
- Supplier enablement
- Implementing eprocurement with your existing systems

The second series presented three advanced-eprocurement topics:
- How to bring more spending into an eprocurement system to achieve greater savings
- How to integrate with a third-party ERP system
- Advanced analytics

With the two series identified, Grover developed a webinar campaign plan that spelled out details for the sales and marketing teams, including:
o Objectives
o Target audience
o Key messages
o Speakers
o Presentation schedule
o Marketing plan

-> Step #2. Revamp webinar schedule

Grover altered the webinar schedule after finalizing the new content and strategy.

- Her team staggered the series over eight to 10 weeks, running individual programs roughly every other week. (Weekly events had not been a significant draw.)

- Webinar starting time was changed from 2 p.m. to 11 a.m. to attract prospects in Europe while also reaching West Coast attendees first thing in the morning.

- Webinar day became Thursday instead of Tuesday.

- No webinars were scheduled for July and August, when attendance was typically lowest.

“That was tough to sell,” says Grover. “[The sales team] wanted that fodder – they wanted to talk about those upcoming webinars with their prospects.”

Grover pointed out that the company holds monthly sales demonstrations. Reps could refer to the demos during the summer when making outbound sales calls.

-> Step #3. Clean up the marketing database

Grover’s team cleaned up their in-house marketing database. It included current leads and customers, as well as prospects who hadn’t yet engaged with their marketing materials.

The former system flagged every customer according to their industry, such as health care, life sciences and higher education. But her team discovered significant inconsistency in the way individual contact’s job descriptions were recorded.

Grover began standardizing the way contacts were identified. A dozen standard job description categories were created, such as:
o President
o Vice President
o Chancellor for higher education
o Director
o Manager
o Administrator
o Researcher

Grover hired a summer intern to manually examine each contact and assign them to one of the 12 standard categories.

-> Step #4. Adopt new email marketing plan

The team created a new email marketing campaign with three primary parts: invitations with more information, segmented mailing lists, promotional tactics.

o Invitations
New invitations described exactly what prospects could expect from each webinar. Previous weekly email blasts did not provide enough information about the value of the events to attendees.

Key components of the new invitations included:
- Webinar title, such as “Eprocurement ABCs: Automate, Benchmark, Comply.”
- Date and time of the webinar at the top of the page.
- Description of the expert speaker.
- List of three to five bullet points outlining the major benefits for attendees
- Two calls-to-action, at the top and bottom of the email message, with hotlinks to a registration page.

o Segmented lists
Invitations for the basic series were sent to all leads and prospects within key target industries. Previously, the team had focused only on higher-level prospects, which limited the potential audience.

“We were segmenting so discreetly we were missing people.”

For the advanced webinar series, they segmented by industry and included existing customers as a way to up-sell for additional services and software modules.

o Promotional tactics
The team used a three-email strategy to promote each webinar. The three emails:

- First email invitation went out one week before the webinar.

- Reminder email sent out two days before the event.
It featured an eye-catching “Reminder” graphic and a link to the registration page at the top of the message. The body copy reiterated the session description and expert speaker.

- Automated email with log-in information sent to registered users on the day of the event by the company’s webinar platform.

-> Step #5. Email and telephone follow-up with attendees

The team adopted a two-stage follow-up strategy for webinar attendees:

- First stage:
They emailed webinar attendees supporting materials from the event within 24 hours. That email included:
o Copy of the presentation
o Complete list of questions asked during the session, with answers provided by the company or its expert speaker, or a commitment to send those answers directly to the attendee at a later date.
o Contact information for the event’s presenters.

(The same follow-up email was sent to everyone who registered for the event but did not attend. The email message included copy that said, “We’re sorry to have missed you at today’s webinar…” )

- Second stage:
The inside sales team used a list of webinar attendees to place follow-up telephone calls. They got those lists a couple of days after the webinar.

Sales reps made calls to learn if attendees needed any more information, and to promote future webinars that built on information they already had.

They also began asking qualifying questions about prospects’ system needs or purchasing process.

-> Step #6. Focus on new metrics to improve performance

Grover adopted a new policy of measuring and tracking several important metrics, including:
o Email open rates
o Hard bounces
o Clickthrough rates
o Registrations
o Cost per attendee
o Cost per lead

Previously, the team had focused on only one metric: number of leads (attendees) at each event. But that practice didn’t gauge the real impact of their marketing efforts.

Considering any attendee as a lead wasn’t accurate, for instance, because post-event analysis found many attendees came from industries outside the company’s target base.

“We can’t just throw a quantity of names at [the sales team],” says Grover. “We’re so focused on particular industry verticals.”

Ignoring other communication and event metrics, such as email open rates or the percentage of registered attendees who didn’t attend, also meant the team was missing areas for improvement.
The results helped Grover’s team win over skeptics who feared that cutting back on the quantity of webinars would hurt their lead generation efforts. Webinar attendance increased 422% in six months. Also, the number of registered attendees grew to between 45% and 60% from about 30% of those who accepted an invitation to a webinar.

“The hardest group was the inside sales group. They were so used to the confidence and comfort level of knowing that weekly schedule was there,” says Grover. “What helped was when they saw how fast it made a difference. Within the first webinar, the results were so staggering.”

Grover’s team is well on their way to meeting specific goals for their webinar program, such as generating 200 new contacts for the inside sales team. By April, they had generated 177 new contacts. “We could never have imagined that.”

The team continues to modify its strategy. For instance, they’ve already replaced the three-part advanced series with two webinars a month on topics relevant to specific industries. (The challenge of finding an expert speaker for the three-part advanced series was too difficult.)

Better segmentation capabilities from their new database also allow them to create higher-quality lists for webinar invites. An invitation on an advanced webinar for the healthcare industry, for example, achieved a 4% acceptance rate – quadrupling the 1% acceptance rate for the company’s basic webinar invitation. “That does show you the importance of the quality of your database,” Grover says.

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from SciQuest's webinar:

GoToWebinar - SciQuest’s webinar host:


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