April 13, 2011
Case Study

B2B Webinars: How HubSpot drew 25,000 sign-ups, almost 10,000 attendees, and more than 3,500 new leads

SUMMARY: B2B marketers use webinars for many purposes: To provide customer information and product pitches; as live events that don’t require travel; and even simply to present material that might interest current and prospective customers.

One inbound marketing company regularly utilizes webinars as an important part of its content marketing strategy. Read on to learn more about the marketing before, during and after a recent event that brought in nearly 25,000 registrants. Yes, you read that correctly -- just short of 25K sign-ups.
(As seen in the MarketingSherpa B2B Marketing newsletter. Click to subscribe)

by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


Webinars are an important tool for B2B marketers. They are used as content marketing, for product pitches, to provide customer information, as live events that don't require the expense or logistics of getting everyone in the same room, and they are even used just to present material that might be interesting to both customers and prospects.

In short, webinars serve to both aid Sales with qualified prospects currently in the pipeline and to generate new leads for nurturing.

And while most webinars are "free," actually they are not. They require a B2B audience to make an investment with perhaps their most precious resource -- time. And there’s no shortage of competition for this time. If you’re hosting a webinar, it’s very likely that your competitors are promoting webinars as well. So, getting -- and keeping -- an audience is a huge challenge for many B2B marketers.

HubSpot, a marketing software company, produces many webinars as part of an overall content strategy that includes:

o Blogs
o In-house email list
o Direct channel website content
o E-books and licensed content

Small webinars with 30 to 100 attendees serve as group demos, or might cover a very specific topic of interest to its customers, but the company also produces some very large webinars. One recent event, "The Science of Timing," garnered just shy of 25,000 sign-ups and included almost 10,000 attendees.

Jeanne Hopkins, Director of Marketing, HubSpot, explained the appeal of this event, "'The Science of Timing' kind of combined 'The Science of Twitter' and the science of social media, Facebook and blogging because it was all about timing. When is the right time to Tweet? When is the right time to send an email? When is the right time to blog? This webinar was an aggregate of some of the questions that people really had burning questions to."

Twenty-five thousand registrations is an incredible number for any event, much less a webinar, but the marketing efforts HubSpot applied to this event can be applied to much smaller events as well. Read on to learn how HubSpot chooses content for, drives registrants to, and profits from the buzz of its webinars.


Step #1: Develop the webinar topic and identify content

"The Science of Timing" was hosted by HubSpot's Social Media Scientist, Dan Zarrella, and included elements of previous webinars:

o Two years ago he presented "The Science of Twitter" with ClickZ and pulled in about 3,000 registrants

o In December 2009 he presented "The Science of Social Media" and received around 12,000 registrants

o Subsequent "The Science of..." events covered Facebook, blogging, presentations and other related topics

These events were promoted through HubSpot's in-house list, in 2009 the list stood at roughly 500,000 opt-ins, and Marketing put some paid media into the events as well.

The importance of "The Science of..." series is these previous events played into the marketing of "The Science of Timing." Through past attendance metrics, they also showed that this content had interest for HubSpot’s audience.

- Learn from previous efforts to determine what content your audience finds valuable

After the successful series of "The Science of..." webinars, HubSpot realized there was real interest in not only the "whys and hows" of all these different pieces, but also in the "when," as in, "When should I Tweet? When should I post a Facebook message?"

Hopkins said marketers were interested in this information because, "it gives them (marketers) some data to be able to go back to their Marketing department and to be able to say, 'Okay, HubSpot looked at the 10 million pieces of data and this is what they came up with.'"

She added the data mostly comes from third parties, such as the information on timing Tweets and re-Tweets from working with Twitter's API.

Step #2. Set a date and begin to build buzz

Several months before the event, HubSpot determined it was going to do "The Science of Timing" at the end of March, and also decided it would promote the event throughout the entire month of March.

The team began its promotions with some paid media and pushes through partners. These early efforts, such as the banner ads (see creative sample #4. "Blog clickthrough ad"), were more for building buzz around the event rather than to drive registrations. Hopkins stated the idea was to expose possible registrants to the event to the point, "everywhere you look you'd be able to see this particular webinar."

Step #3. Execute the email campaign and test the sends

To promote the webinar, the team’s email campaign consisted of three basic sends -- the first to attendees of previous "The Science of..." webinars; the second to a combination of a targeted group, all leads and prospects and all "The Science of..." leads again; and the third, coming the day of the event, to all prospects and leads.

The email campaign involved different landing pages (see creative samples below) and varied subject lines.

o The email call-to-action was a clickthrough to a landing page with an 11-field form to sign-up for the webinar

o All landing pages included social sharing buttons on the "thank you" at the end of the of the registration process

o Sends to all leads and prospects went out to more than 300,000 addresses

- First send

The webinar occurred at the end of the month, and the first send went out in the middle of that month to five different groups of previous "Science of" webinar attendees. The message was along the lines of, "you've shown an interest in these particular webinars," and the new event garnered around 9,000 registrants from this initial email.

Each group received a different subject line for the mail. For example, one group received mail with a subject line of, "[New Webinar] What time should you blog, tweet, and email?," while another group received mail with a subject line of, "[New Data] The Science of Timing. When you should Tweet, blog, email and more"

The "New Data" subject produced the best results by a small margin, a result attributed to Zarrella being known for analyzing a wide variety of data. Because the send went to previous "Science of" webinar attendees, the prospect of learning about new data from Zarrella was likely more enticing than other subject lines.

- Second send

The second send went out the day after the first send. All leads and prospects were broken into two groups to test a particular attribute of the landing page -- the form field.
HubSpot's standard form field on these landing pages consisted of 11 elements:

1. First name

2. Last name

3. Email

4. Phone

5. Company

6. Company website

7. Number of employees

8. My company primarily sells to business (B2B) or consumers (B2C)

9. What is your role at the company?

10. Does your business provide marketing services such as PR, Web Design, SEO or other e-marketing?

11. What is your biggest marketing challenge? (this field is optional)

One group was sent to the standard 11-field form, and the second group was sent to a landing page with 12 fields. The tested field was "industry."

After the field test send, HubSpot realized there was a problem because the call-to-action test on the two treatment pages was slightly different, turning a basic A/B split test into a two-variable test (new call-to-action text and the additional form field.) Concerned this could skew the results, the data was thrown out.

A week later, HubSpot repeated the test with landing pages that were identical except for the extra form field, but the clickthrough was was too small to determine a statistically valid winner. HubSpot plans on running the "industry" field test again at a later date.

The email send to all "The Science of..." leads produced the best results of the entire campaign with an open rate of 28.82% and a clickthrough of 11.07%. One possibility for this result is that group had shown previous interest in similar webinars and this send was the second touch the group received asking for a clickthrough to registration. The entire second send brought in an additional 5,500 registrants.

- Third send

The third send was fairly straightforward and was distributed the day of the webinar as a, "last chance to sign up" email sent to all leads and prospects. This send pulled an additional few thousand registrants, but had the lowest open rate of any send in the campaign at 12.31% with a clickthrough rate of 1.19%.

Another aspect of managing the email around the event was developing an email template for Sales to send to prospects inviting them to the webinar.

Step #4. Encourage the webinar host to create event buzz

Even though Zarrella is a HubSpot employee, he also has a popular personal blog and Twitter feed. His blog has around 20,000 subscribers who receive an email every time the blog is updated. So when Zarrella blogged about his upcoming webinar, the information and invitation went out by email to his subscriber base. This effort created another thousand registrations. Sign-ups from Zarrella's personal blog posts and emails were tracked by sending them to the main webinar landing page, and not those used for the targeted email sends.

Another way Zarrella contributed to creating buzz for the webinar was by creating a Twitter widget -- a small Web tool that interfaces with Twitter's API -- called TweetWhen that could be used to find out the best time to tweet and when most people retweeted the user's messages.

HubSpot bought the domain TweetWhen.com. Zarrella created this widget about two weeks before the event, sent it out internally at HubSpot to fine tune the tool, and it went public a week before his webinar and had a sign-up of about 1,400 during that week.

Step #5. Manage the event in real time

Webinars of any size require planning, and of course, execution. When you start getting into large events, or in this case, very large events, as Hopkins put it, "It's all hands on deck."

The day of the webinar, Marketing sent out an email to everyone in the company about an hour and a half before the start of the event to let everyone know it was happening, and to give everyone answers to the problems that are likely to come in from registrants:

o I can't get in
o I can't register
o I don't know what the telephone number is

Because HubSpot produces so many webinars, they actually have a soundproof webinar room on-site for producing the event.

For this event, HubSpot had four or five marketing team members monitoring tweets, and attendee questions coming in through the webinar platform. These marketers worked to answer questions in real time, but because of the very large number of attendees it was not possible to answer every question asked.

To fully address the attendee questions, once the event was complete, all the questions were put into a spreadsheet to find the overall themes of attendee questions. This crowdsourced information was then distilled into a blog post that went live the day after the event providing the key takeaways from the webinar as defined by the users' questions.

To continue marketing the event, and driving leads, the webinar is available on a permanent landing page (see Useful links at the end of the article) and can be viewed after filling out the 11-field lead form.

Step #6. Throw a Twitter "after party"

During another large webinar from February, HubSpot noticed there were enough tweets to get the event trending on Twitter, and they wanted to find a way to keep that buzz going. The result was a Twitter "after party" for 30 minutes following the webinar where people could ask questions. To help promote this event, HubSpot offered a free one-hour telephone consultation with Zarrella for the best tweet. This promotion has been previously used by HubSpot for several contests.

- Handling negative feedback

Interestingly, Hopkins found during the Twitter party people began complaining that the company was only re-Tweeting positive messages, so she began actively re-Tweeting complaints. She attributed the complaints to people just not understanding the scale of Tweeting during the event to, and with, HubSpot's more than 105,000 followers.

Step #7. Turn attendees into leads

Marketing at HubSpot is responsible for generating a large number of leads. For example, 35,000 in March and 40,000 in April. HubSpot’s sales team has about 55 representatives covering different territories -- from geographies (like an international team) to partners (like value-added resellers). Its target is companies with less than 200 employees looking to transform their marketing by considering inbound marketing as a platform.

Webinars, such as "The Science of Timing," are part of an overall content strategy, and new leads generated by webinars are funneled into a lead nurturing program.

Not all webinar registrants are considered leads. Previous webinar attendees who sign up are considered "reconverts," and are highly prized by HubSpot because of the interest they are showing in HubSpot's content. Registrants who have never filled out a HubSpot form are considered new leads.

These leads get converted to opportunities by a decision from the sales rep who reached out to the new lead. To become an opportunity the lead must qualify for BANT -- Budget, Authority (is the lead a decision maker), Need and Timeline -- and meet internal criteria that the lead would be a good fit for HubSpot's software.

About the final results, Hopkins said HubSpot was very pleased. The internal goal was 25,000 registrants, and the final numbers came only 39 short of the goal. HubSpot's goal for a webinar from February was 20,000 so these already impressive numbers are actually trending upward.

o 24,961 registrants for the webinar

o 9,386 attendees, 37.6% of registrants

o Five landing pages for event ranged from 38.12 to 56.43% conversion rate (a conversion was a registration)

o Event Twitter hashtag, #timesci, trended as high as #2 worldwide

o The event created 3,529 new leads, the remainder of registrants were reconversions

o Within two days of the event:
- 37 leads were converted into opportunities
- 2 leads were converted into customers

o The day after the event, the presentation was featured on the homepage of SlideShare, thanks to a higher number of views and social media activity. When the webinar hit the SlideShare homepage, Marketing received this message: "'The Science of Timing' is being Tweeted more than anything else on SlideShare right now. So we've put it on the homepage of SlideShare.net [in the "Hot on Twitter" section]. Well done! - SlideShare Team"

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples:
1. Email
2. Landing page #1
3. Landing page #2
4. Blog clickthrough ad


Permanent webinar landing page

Blog post with top questions

Mixtapes created for the event


Vcall -- Webinar platform

Members Library -- Webinar Promotion that Delivers: Use Email, Social, Viral Referrals and Video to Boost Attendance, Drive Lead Gen

Internet Marketing Research: A behind-the scenes look at MarketingExperiments Web Clinics

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

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