• March 1, 2009
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

The Virtual Welcome Mat

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For the rest of the March 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

In an age of infinite information, education can’t wait, not even in a lousy economy. That’s why, in April 2008, Eloqua launched the Marketing Mastery Series in an effort to promote marketing education to marketers—free of charge. By providing this service, says Brian Kardon, the company’s chief marketing officer, Eloqua hopes to benefit from a halo effect.

The 10-part series covers hot topics based on Eloqua’s search for what marketers are most concerned about, whether it’s social media, automated campaigns, or lead generation. But the real beauty is that the content’s all online.

As part of the series, Eloqua invites experts from various practices to speak on a variety of B2B marketing strategies. “We’re bringing the best marketing brains in the world,” Kardon says. “[They’re] the marketing masters for each of these webinars.” As of print time, the Marketing Mastery Series has attracted 6,695 registered attendees, and has generated over 120 marketing-qualified leads, making webinars one of Eloqua’s least expensive, yet strongest, lead-generating channels. “Someone who responds to an email is a lead as well,” Kardon says. “But if they sit through 90 minutes of webinar, they are a highly qualified lead for us.”

On July 24, Eloqua hit record-high levels of attendance as participants clamored to listen in on “MarketingSherpa’s Lead Qualification and Nurturing in 2008.” The event garnered 3,292 registrants and over 1,000 attendees. Previous platforms, Kardon recalls, couldn’t handle the scale—registrants (potential customers!) were blocked once an event reached capacity at 200, 500, or (at most) 700 people.

That, Kardon says, is why Eloqua’s partnership with On24, a provider of webcasting and virtual events solutions, has been so successful. On24, he explains, has the platform to accommodate not only a large number of participants, but sudden surges of registrations as well.

Kardon compares those surges to “a concert Web site when everyone’s trying to get tickets at the exact same minute.” A beleaguered Web site suffers technical difficulties and blocks consumers. “It’s very frustrating,” Kardon says. “There is this moment of truth when a prospect wants to sign up and if you put any speed bump in the way…[or] don’t make it easy for them, they don’t sign up and you’ve lost the opportunity forever.”

According to Kardon, the solution itself can be summed up in two words—ease and quality. On24 offers simple registration, clear instructions, and the ability to handle not just simple PowerPoint presentations but also robust question-and-answer sessions. Moreover, On24 is deeply involved in coordinating the pre-event marketing and notifications, as well as the surveys and follow-up emails after.

On24 also provides analytics and reporting, a burden that Eloqua is happy to no longer bear, Kardon says. Attendee interest is gauged based on the length of stay and participation (i.e., were questions asked?). Those who exit after 15 minutes receive a much lower score than those who stay the full 90 minutes.

These reports helped pinpoint a problem particular to Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), where participants were either dropping off or had low attendance. It turned out, not surprisingly, that timing was key. “We’d hit a 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. window in Europe and people would fall off,” Kardon says. The company now holds two webinars, one for its North American audience and another for EMEA.

Further examination and follow-up surveys revealed that Eloqua’s European attendees found more relevance in hearing from European experts, moderators, and customers; now, Eloqua caters to those preferences.

And efforts now have a shelf life. With On24, Eloqua has been able to turn its webinars into permanent marketing vehicles that can be reused for future initiatives, which had not been possible given the poor quality of previous webinars.

The three most critical aspects of a successful webinar, Kardon explains, are: a strong topic; a targeted list; and an emphasis on education, not advertisement. Eloqua brought the first two to the table, but in its partnership with On24, it was able to truly fine-tune its best practices in webinar engagement.

“[Participants] are giving you 60 to 90 minutes. You have to give them information they haven’t heard before. They’re saying, ‘Give me insight, a nugget of something,’ and that matters a great deal,” Kardon says. “You never want to be in sell mode. You want to be a teacher and deliver value all the time.” 

With On24, Eloqua was able to:

  • reach record levels of webinar attendance with 3,292 registrants;
  • gain more than 120 leads from webinars;
  • confidently rely on a platform that scales to accommodate high numbers of registrants;
  • score the quality of leads among webinar participants;
  • use reports and analytics to determine causes for participant drop-off; and
  • store and reuse webinars for future marketing.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

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