• Vendor-sponsored webcasts featuring industry analysts are frequently deployed to bring independent thought leadership into the overall go-to-market strategy
  • Webcasts must be managed as carefully as any other marketing event
  • This blog post includes best practices that will optimize your webcast effectiveness

In an effort to enhance their marketing arsenal, B2B organizations often invite an industry analyst to join webcast events. Typically executed by technology or service providers seeking to leverage the gravitas of analysts and their employers, these presentations vary dramatically in one primary performance measure – how many potential buyers register for the event and eventually consume the content. Having delivered more than 100 of these webcasts during the last decade, I’m happy to share a few best practices here that drive stronger audience engagement.

Focus on Learning

WebcastAs we all know, today’s B2B buyers buy on their terms, and they are not soft targets who unwittingly join a thought leadership event only to be baited and switched into a focus on the sponsor’s offering. Trust me, all webcast registrants are keenly aware they are entering your sales funnel. If they want a hard sell or demo, however, they don’t want to experience it in a one-way broadcast environment. Save that for a one-on-one conversation further into their journey, when they have your team’s complete attention.

For webcasts, focus instead on why your buyers should passively consume content for 45 minutes, even if it’s during their lunch break. How will the topic add to their professional abilities? The webcast should deliver something the audience will benefit from learning, even if the subject is unrelated to your offering. In fact, you’ll come across as more consultative and less pushy if you improve their general knowledge via an analyst presentation, without making a blatant product pitch.

Don’t Sell Your Webcast Short

Too many marketers think of an analyst webcast as self-sustaining event, overestimating (to my own personal shame) the cache of the analyst guest speaker in the service of attracting registrants, and underestimating the potential of Murphy’s Law to wreck the event. Rather, start with the rigorous mindset you take with a user conference, considering all potential negative scenarios (e.g. not enough registrants, technology failures) and planning for contingencies. This means launching a legitimate marketing campaign featuring multiple media, multiple touchpoints, event reminders, email signatures and social media – the works. It also means not neglecting the tech platform.

Optimize the Customer Experience

As with any interaction your organization has with prospects or customers, no webcast detail is too small to ignore:

  • Event flow. Carefully plan what the audience will see and hear for all 50 minutes (that’s right, not 60 minutes) of your webcast. Is everyone – even the housekeeping host – a strong speaker? Does the slide deck properly introduce the topic, speakers, agenda and action items? Is every transition effectively planned?
  • Variety. We’re often asked, “What is the ideal speaker arrangement?” Here you go: Two minutes of intro, 35 minutes of the analyst, five minutes of a customer case study, six minutes of Q&A, two minutes of closing statements.
  • Witty repartee. It’s fine to script out some interchange among speakers – the analyst, the sponsor, the sponsor’s customer case study – but be warned, your audience will quickly identify a setup. These exchanges are the most important part of your practice sessions.
  • Polling. Webcasts are, by nature, not interactive. Launch an audience poll early in the webcast to engage the audience. Try to not to make it boring – have some fun, perhaps with something lighthearted that’s currently in the news (on a 1-5 scale, how tired are you of “The Bachelor?”) – and for goodness’ sake, don’t poll any audience made up of fewer than 35 attendees. No one benefits from a bunch of 33 percent and 50 percent respondent results.
  • Seed questions. Don’t assume your audience will be responsive. Plan a few provocative seed questions that keep the energy of the presentation alive – and don’t just sell your product.
  • Social. Generally, we don’t see social media nearly as active for a webcast as for a user conference, but it costs nothing to develop an event-specific hashtag and build it into your webcast marketing campaign.
  • Followup. Be sure to mention during the webcast – and deliver afterward – a takeaway deliverable featuring a downsized PDF version of the presentation, a link to the recording, and, of course, an invitation to the next step in the SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall®.

Don’t Pull an Allen Iverson

Practice, practice, practice. It’s not necessary to physically deliver the entire webcast content in a rehearsal setting, but the transitions, timing and technology are crucial preparatory elements worthy of a dedicated meeting. Typically, I’ll participate in one or two webcast planning meetings, followed by a discussion dedicated solely to content, and then a short final practice session focused on the customer experience.

Featuring an industry analyst on your webcast is a great way to bring thought leadership to your buyers. But remember that such an event is not a standalone marketing tactic. Webcasts are one touchpoint in the buyer’s journey, and the campaigns supporting them need to fit into the larger, long-term messaging you deploy to optimize your pipeline-building efforts. When the topic adds value for the buyer, and fits into the greater strategic narrative you deploy to support your offering, that’s when your analyst webcast is most likely to succeed.