Scott Armstrong (00:00):
In the age of COVID-19, digital experiences have become the primary tactic for lead generation and marketing teams are adjusting. On top of that, you can bet that every time you hear the phrase “new normal”, there's another webinar popping up. So how can B2B marketers leverage the webinar format, engage with their audience, and nurture attendees? That's why I'm sitting down with Cheri Keith, Head of Strategy at ON24. Cheri’s terrific. She's a thought leader and an expert in digital marketing experiences and resilient marketing mixes that evolve with changing times. In celebration of Cheri we’ll be drinking a Grapefruit Cheri-tini. Refreshing and deep like Cheri, this drink is sure to add some zing to your marketing. This is B2B Marketers in Conversation Drinking Cocktails.
Scott Armstrong (00:48):
Hey Cheri. Great to have you here!
Cheri Keith (00:50):
Cheers! Great to be here.
Scott Armstrong (00:54):
If you'd like to join us for a drink, feel free to make the cocktail we're enjoying.
Scott Armstrong (01:01):
Cheri, before we get into actually talking about strategy and digital marketing, talk to me about your experience over the last few months! How have things changed for you moving from the analyst side with SiriusDecisions to client side, but not only client side, but client side in a cutting-edge digital experiences company?
Cheri Keith (01:20):
It has been a pretty crazy couple months here. You know, starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic has been an experience that I assume I'll tell my grandchildren about one day, definitely over cocktails, of course. But it's interesting, you know, I landed at ON24 because the research I had spent the past few years at SiriusDecisions and Forrester dealing with is all about bridging the divide between in-person events and digital experiences. We know how much money people were spending on in-person events, but especially with the rise of account-based marketing, people were realizing they had to give that same experience that you would get in-person to a broader group of people who all wouldn't show up at the same event. So I had spent the past about four years of my research, trying to push this rock uphill of why this was important: many research reviews, many times to petition for budget to do things and I didn't always win. So moving to ON24 was a really natural fit for me, but then of course, yes, the world changed and the market changed and they very quickly came to realize that in-person events weren't happening anymore. So digital experiences are very much on the rise and, you know, I don't like to say, I told you so, but it's good that we had at least a good foundation of research on what best practices are in this because people needed to change their marketing mixes overnight. So, you know, getting up to speed remotely has definitely been a challenge, I’ll say. And I have a lot of empathy for the people who might not be as extroverted as I. I will have no shame in going into people. But I feel for the people who have really struggled being remote who need that interaction, who might be more wallflowers.
Scott Armstrong (03:11):
Yeah, it's really been an amazing transition for everyone. It's glad to see that you're still smiling through it. What's been the most surprising difference between being on the analyst side to being on the client side. What did you not expect?
Cheri Keith (03:26):
Ooh, that's a good question. Because I mean, you know, I'm an agency girl by heart, we've spent many a cocktails talking about how client services is in both of our DNA. So that's what I liked about being on the analyst side was that client experience still, and even on, ON24 I'm on the client services side still. So I'm the strategic advisor for people as they're thinking about you know, they have this great technology, how can they use it in a more impactful way? So I ended up being more in that analyst role than really executing on our marketing on a day-to-day basis. Although our marketing team leverages me heavily for advice and I get invited into Slack channels all the time to like settle a dispute about something. So, you know, I still have that hat on, so that makes it feel more natural to me. And it's fun being a part of a marketing org again, but still getting to remain on that client side in a way.
Scott Armstrong (04:27):
Yeah, that's a great answer. Let's move into the area of expertise we’re talking about today. So with events in particular, shifting from physical to digital, that means on the positive side, you've got an expansion of reachable audiences, but there's also a larger scope of digital offerings, which means maybe less attention. So what do you think this means for the overall B2B marketing world, but what are we going to do? How do we deal with it?
Cheri Keith (04:55):
I think I haven't seen any data that shows that we've hit the point of fatigue yet. You know, when I look at, at least just across our network, the number of webinars that are running and the digital experiences that are airing either live or on-demand across our platform, they continue to go up exponentially. But the thing that is outpacing the number of experiences marketers are creating is how much content people are actually consuming on the platform. So that is what I think, once I start to see that level out, so I think the number of webinars it's like is over 200% where we were last year, month-over-month, and it's about 300% month-over-month related to audiences consuming that content. Once we start to see that level out, that's when I'll start to be like, we have fatigue. I haven't seen it yet.
I expect at the end of August maybe to see a dip, just hopefully people are taking some sort of break, marketers and buyers alike, through everything that's going on. But I think that's the major change is that overnight, it went from a tactic that quite honestly, all the research always showed that buyers enjoy webinars. They consume them. They're one of the top-rated interaction types as they move through their buying journey. So we always knew that, but it kind of had a bad rep. I mean, I don't say that I worked for a webinar technology. Of course, I don't say that because we have a lot of other offerings, but people think about webinars as boring, but in reality they don't have to be. So I think that's really what I'm trying to advocate for is like the not boring webinar because we're spending a lot of time in front of our cameras now and people are doing some really cool things. So, it changed overnight, yes, but I think we're not seeing that point of fatigue yet, but it'll be interesting for us to keep an eye on that.
Scott Armstrong (06:51):
So, that's heartening to know that in fact, the consumption of content is still going up and certainly there’s pressure on all of us to do better content, not just more engaging, but maybe more useful in that process as we leave live events where it was more conversational. What other pivots are you seeing as people move from physical events to the digital sphere?
Cheri Keith (07:15):
So I think some of the other pivots end up being that people are actually just doing what I would have called best practice and whereas they didn't before. So people would still, I mean, do webinars where it was just slides and people talking now it's pretty much standard that you should have your video on. I would say that to people, but no one really would always believe it. They're like, “Well, why do I need to do that? I see people on a day-to-day basis”. But now it becomes an imperative because we're not seeing each other day-to-day anymore. And then I think also the engagement techniques that you can use throughout a digital experience, like the polling, the surveys, that goes a long way, or just doing something like this, where there's a conversation it's free-flowing, people will feel like they're watching a panel discussion or things like that.
So I think those are the things that have had to change. But I also think it's probably going to be a lot more re-imagining of what things can look like as we move forward. I really think we spent the months of March, April, and May in panic and reactionary mode. And it was really more of the press, I think, if I look back at the headlines, it was first of all collaboration tools, they got so much play because all of a sudden, you know, the Slacks, the Zooms, everyone had to figure out how to work remote, but then it was trade shows that really got the press and like virtual events were used synonymously with trade shows. And while that's really important, and there are events teams that have been dramatically impacted by that, that's not really where most of the attributable revenue from events came from from a marketer. It comes through those field events, those repeatable events that are done in multiple cities or user groups, things like that.
That's really where I think, if you think about the pipeline promises that we all have to make, that's the impact that events have, I mean, you know, trade shows are certainly a different beast and I have so much respect for anyone in the events industry because I lack that attention to detail in a pretty dramatic way to do all that work. But I really think it's those field events that sales is so involved with, that's where we're now seeing people saying, “All right, we have five months ‘til the end of the year, how are we going to replace that pipeline?”. Not so much the trade show side.
Scott Armstrong (09:40):
Yeah. That's a great insight. And I think we're definitely hearing that as well. How are, what strategies are companies using to scale up that field execution then? How are they shifting the resources or how are they doing things differently to create more tailored experiences that are digital?
Cheri Keith (10:01):
I think there's been a lot of skilling up going on. So just from my kind of personal life and friends that I have in the events industry, I've seen them go out and get the digital marketing certifications that they need to pair up with what they already knew how to do. So I think the event teams have had to just learn a new skill set. They weren't as adept or understanding of the marketing technology stack. Their technology focus would really be focused on reg pages and working with marketing ops to send out emails. Now there's a lot more that can be done and their work ended when the event ended in a lot of ways, especially from a martech perspective. So I've seen a lot of people go do trainings through institutions. And I think that's amazing. I think from the field marketer perspective, they're thinking about what they can do with what they already have.
So it's about the reuse of content, the repurposing of video that they already have into new formats, and then thinking about how they can air them in a way that is more akin to a field event. So how can I show something in the East Coast and on the West Coast and based on someone registering and what I know about their company, or maybe you're just saying, “What timezone do I live in?” right? They'll get pushed to the appropriate experience. And I think that's where we're starting to see the innovation come in and people starting to think about, all right, how do I actually do a field event virtually? How do I, you know...one of the big things people talk about also is swag. Like: “I miss this swag”, like people like ON24 make these like really nice T-shirts and I had a few before I joined, so did my kids actually, people we heard from them loud and clear, they're like, “Yeah, we're missing out seeing you in-person, but we really miss those T-shirts”. We have a button embedded in our webinars now, like: order the t-shirt, you know you want it, like give the people what they want, like marketing closets would just be sitting there, filled. So, you know, direct mail has been having a moment for a while. And you thought about that of course, from the account-based perspective and just being able to do a high-value engagement tool with someone now, it's driving up even more because if you think about what you can do, that's part of the experience that we missed being in-person was getting access to swag and things like that. But what about you? What are you seeing as on the rise?
Scott Armstrong (12:22):
The well, first of all, I love that answer and I'll really layer on it. You just briefly touched on around account-based thinking, you know, it's a question sometimes of being able to scale and, and upskilling the event team is a great way to do it. We have at Brainrider, a number of our team members who work with clients on their physical events. You're right, they're incredibly detail-oriented, executional, perfectionists, really. And so the first thing they did when the pandemic hit was panic, because they could see the writing on the wall that their jobs are going away, not just their jobs, but really their careers were on pause because, you know, the event industry as a whole just immediately laid everyone off. But we were able to pivot almost all of those people and upskill them, give them a bit of time to adjust because they understood the brands they were working on, they understood the targets they were working with, they just needed to learn some new skills, which actually happened to be very detail-oriented in execution anyways. And so, that's a big success and it's created actually a ton of team loyalty for us, that we were able to shift people within those roles without furloughing them or letting them go. So I think, I think that that's a really great observation. The second is, you know, the at-scale doesn't mean that you need more bodies through the door. You don't actually need to reach everyone in North America. You know, my mom has no interest in buying B2B products or services, right? You need to be more effective at your targeting and be more relevant so when you finally do reach an audience that you can be more effective. So you talked about East Coast or West Coast, but you also talked about an ABM approach of understanding which companies you're inviting to those events and typically, you know, your sales team would have been doing that for a field event. And so I think, you know, as we move it on ...and digital was often a bit less targeted than that, you know, we just wanted to reach number of attendees in a webinar as opposed to the number of targeted attendees at a webinar or the number of targeted attendees at a discussion or at a live event or at a product showcase or at a demo. And so, I think ABM at this moment, hopefully the buzz around ABM and the buzz-wordiness of ABM drops, but the actual use of ABM in terms of better targeting with digital experiences continues to increase and that now, now I'm going on, so let's have a sip before I keep... Cheers to you and your thinking!
Scott Armstrong (14:58):
What I was going to say is hopefully the whole digital ecosystems really start to converge as we focus on them more as the main tactic for driving pipeline. And so how do we make all the different pieces of our ecosystem work better together from targeting to engagement, to measurement, to conversion? What are some of the...I love the button idea for swag. Are there any other quick tips on what people are doing to really make their digital events more impactful?
Cheri Keith (15:27):
I would say one of the things is to not make it one size fits all as much, and actually think about the calls-to-action through the lens of which stage of the buyer's journey or the customer journey that that digital experience is looking to target. So if you're doing a more of an awareness style webinar, that doesn't mean necessarily that, you know, if you know your buyers tend to schedule a demo further along in their journey, you know, that might be a call-to-action you include because it might be harmless, but maybe there's other calls-to-action that you actually should be including there about, you know, reading this white paper or accessing this infographic or watching another webinar or going to a content hub to consume more videos on that idea. So I think understanding more about where people are in their journey. Of course, you want to give them the option of someone wants to buy to, like, by all means! It's hard to say it's only targeted there, but I think being more thoughtful and thinking about how we want to engage buyers in that moment can go a long way. But also the flip side of that is you shouldn't be doing polls and surveying and using those engagement techniques throughout the course of a digital experience if you're not going to treat people differently afterwards. So I'll talk to customers and they're like, “We're doing great! We're doing three polling questions a day and each webinar, and it's going great”. I'm like, “Awesome. What do you do afterwards?”. They're like, “Oh, well, nothing. I don't even know, like the responses flash up on screen”. And there's a whole content journey of that. Of course, it's like, how can you repurpose what you hear from a polling question into, you know, tweets or things you post on LinkedIn or blog posts, but the more impactful thing is what does that tell us about that account and that person and what are those signals and how can we actually react to them in a way that is personalized, but also, you know, someone is, has a sense of urgency that they're declaring, or they're telling you more about what their purchase is. I mean, most companies have a complex set of products and you can ask polling questions that help you understand which of them they're most interested in. You need your sales development reps to have that information and follow up on it in a smart way. So I would say really the place where I think not ...people aren't there yet, and that's kind of the area that I'm researching right now and trying to build out a framework for people to understand. It's like, what data do you need out of a digital experience and what engagement tools do you need to actually use in order to get those?
And I think it's to your point about how do we prevent fatigue, but also how do we make it so that people want to engage with us? They want to attend our digital experiences ‘cause they know they're going to get a lot of information. And then afterwards, you're not going to get a lame email that either says, yeah, I showed up or I didn't show up. We know so much more. Someone spends 45 minutes with you, you better well do better than like, “Thanks for joining today”. Like that's like a really lame text after a bad date, right? Like, “Hey, thanks for dinner today”. Okay. We spent how long talking and that's the best you have?
Scott Armstrong (18:41):
Right. We started the whole conversation up on this as a major change for how everyone's going to market. And so by definition, in major change and new things, you're not going to get everything right from the very start. And so, that attitude of continuous improvement, which is really take some risks, make some mistakes, but make sure you're learning from those mistakes is kind of where people need to be. I love that you're measuring engagement with content, right? So people are still consuming more content than really is available out to them. So you're not seeing content engagement numbers drop yet. I think it's fair to say as more and more people are, you know, look at lots of major companies that just started announcing that they're not going to go back into the offices until July, 2021. So now as marketers we're really gearing in for this is not a short term-emergency, this is a year-long or more change in business environment. And so over that period of time as marketing plans shift you know, they’ll definitely shift annually for those marketers that are on a calendar year, but they're going to start shifting as people are releasing first quarter and second quarter results, and they're saying, “Hey, we're off track for this year”. There’s going to be a lot more push on straight execution. What are you getting people to watch in their own numbers or data or activities to think further than just next quarter? So what should they be thinking about in the next year to improve their digital experiences?
Cheri Keith (20:20):
Well, most people, if you acquire a new contact today, are they going to close by the end of the year? A little bit of it is just understanding where you're going to get your revenue from. And if your buying cycle is, you know, over a five month process, you need to focus on who you know is in the process now, not just trying to focus on net-new acquisition. And I think that's some of the challenge, and I know there's like fancy quotes out there that I can't recite by heart about like retention is the new upsell and just making sure customers don't churn is what people are just praying for essentially. So I think any efforts you can have on your own customers, if you're in a recurring revenue business is paramount and then focus on what you can do as far as pipeline acceleration programs with your digital experiences.
I think those are going to go a long way because just know that the webinar that you might run in two weeks, is that really geared to someone who would sign a deal by the end of the year, or sign a deal after January? And I think it's that level of understanding that people need to have in order to actually set up those digital experiences in a different way. But also for the people who you're looking to either get revenue from over the next five or four months, how can you make it as frictionless as possible for them? I mean, I know some of like the SiriusDecisions data shows that one of the biggest reasons people don't buy is we're not responsive enough to our buyers. And then I was reading something from, I think it was Prose the other day, some recent buying insight, the biggest reason why people have issues with vendors through the purchasing process is they're not responsive to us, to the buyers enough. Like we need to listen to people like there's no ifs, ands or buts about it. Like salespeople need to prioritize those actions over other things at the end of the day. So that's how I would, I guess, look about what you need to get done now versus planning for the future.
Scott Armstrong (22:28):
You know, every time I talk to you, I get really great insights and, you know, humans are adaptable. We will adapt. Marketers are some of the best humans in my books. And so they should be the most adaptable. You're clearly there. You know, you opened up with really the effect of the pandemic and the effect of a global recession is forcing us to innovate in ways we maybe should have been innovating before, anyways, that's an inspirational message for sure. The sad part for me is that we're drinking virtually as opposed to hanging out together as an event. So a big thank you today for joining us in our digital experience and for sharing all that information that's in that fantastic brain of yours. I strongly really urge anybody who is thinking about digital experiences and platforms to really reach out to ON24 and Cheri. I think you can't go wrong with both the platform and, with the quality of content that they share openly into the market. So a really big thank you to you, a big thank you to Britt from Porters in Scottsdale, Arizona, ‘cause I wish that I was there today as well, and a big cheers to our audience for joining this episode of B2B Marketers in Conversation...drinking Cheri-tini cocktails today, they're fantastic. If you want to create better webinars and digital events for your B2B audience, well, get started with our Digital Experience Content Bundle. So with Cheri's help and in partnership with ON24, we put together a pretty useful bundle of information, and we'd be happy to send it to you, but if you've got questions or you really want more information, reach out as well. So with your burning questions about digital experience best practice, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with us on any of our social channels with #B2Bmarketersdrinking. Cheers and thanks for joining us.