Anatomy of a Great Webinar Platform

Webinar platforms following the gold standard should direct more people to watch your webinars through automation and then report on user behavior intelligently. Anything less leaves money on the table.

In the fifth installment of Lessons from the Frontline, we examine how to make the most of your webinar platform’s features to create a data-driven marketing funnel.

In Our Fifth Episode We Discuss:

  1. Applications and Plugins: Platforms should never make the user download apps or plugins before joining webinars, as that creates multiple barriers to entry.
  2. Data Collection:  Collecting data is necessary to track specific individuals who signed up and who actually attended.
  3. Integration: Your webinar platform should integrate with your marketing automation tools, making follow-up campaigns easy and efficient.
  4. Beyond the Meeting Tools: Keeping an active archive allows your viewers to watch webinars on demand as well as interact and ask questions after going live.

The Complete Video Transcript

Mr. Pete Matthew Ley. Welcome back to the webinar, “Lessons from the Frontline.” Today’s episode is “Anatomy of a Great Webinar Platform.”

So, where would someone start with selecting a great webinar platform? Let’s get right into it.

Mr. Matt Ley: Well, this is the most self-serving podcast that you’ve done. But, this is–.

Mr. Pete: –It’s an important thing though. You can’t gloss over it–.

Mr. Matt Ley: –You can’t gloss over it. Alright? So, I’m going to do my best at not making this a pitch for what it is that we do, while, at the same time I think there are some very important elements that everyone should take into consideration.

Mr. Pete: Let’s only talk about your competition.

Mr. Matt Ley: Let’s only talk about our competition. Well, let’s talk–let’s start it there. Okay? So, the term webinar was–is–basically means web seminar.

If you look it up, it’s got an interesting origin in that the first company that copyrighted it, whether they invented it or not, was a meeting company. Intercall was the name of the company. They’re a billion dollar collaboration provider, in fact, someone I’ve worked with and continue to work with a fair deal.

So, this idea that the webinar was a web seminar, and it was–it was–it was a term that was used to basically amp up web conferencing applications. Okay? And so, the first webinars were all done usually by software companies showing their wares.

And they were on products that we all know like Placeware that became Microsoft Live Meeting, the precursor for Skype for Business, WebEx, as we all say–I still have people who send in order forms to our company asking for–to book a WebEx, even though we don’t use WebEx.

Mr. Pete: You should WebEx.

Mr. Matt Ley: We should WebEx that. And so, webinars are–so, these tools were the first tools that were being used because there was no other option. And, in this day and age with options, I have to say that every single one of them is a mistake.

And the reason that meeting tools are a mistake is that fundamentally, they were made so that we could collaborate really quickly, so we could work on the fly, so I could have control of your computer so that you could see mine, that we could video chat with one another. And they’re an integral part of how we do business today, especially with at home workforces and the way things have changed in a global economy. But, it doesn’t mean that they’re good for a webinar.

And the major reason why they’re not is that every single one of them requires a proprietary plugin to make them work the way they do. The reason they can do so many amazing things is because you download a little plugin that allows the two systems to talk to one another. And now, we can collaborate on phone, voice, video all at the same time.

It all works really–pretty good considering. And so, now, you’re going out for a webinar where you’re potentially not just speaking to people you know. You’re communicating en masse. They show up a minute before, and they have to download something to get in.

Imagine that you walked into the movies just as it was about to start and they wouldn’t let you in if you didn’t download an application. It’s even worse in the business world where maybe I’m not going to show up because I need an app to join.

Mr. Pete: Or get them–I’ve done them. It’s frustrating. Right? You’re sitting there. You think you’re literally there at the moment it’s starting, and then, you’ve got to wait five minutes. And you miss. You’re bound to miss, right?

Mr. Matt Ley: Exactly. And in some corporate environments, they can’t even do that.

Mr. Pete: Yeah.

Mr. Matt Ley: So, because we’re battling for people’s time, we’re battling to get them to show up, we’ve got to make it as easy as possible for them to answer. And apps and plugins are a barrier to that. For marketers, it should be a no-brainer, zero plug in experience is required.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: So, I would start by saying, if I’m serious about webinars, I want to look at an actual webinar platform that doesn’t try and double as a meeting tool.

Mr. Pete: Right, okay. So, as we move on–.

Mr. Matt Ley: –Yeah–.

Mr. Pete: –What are sort of the must haves? What are sort of the essential parts of the–a well-functioning webinar platform?

Mr. Matt Ley: So, I would say that once you’ve found something that doesn’t have that plug in requirement, you’re opening yourself up to a smaller group of web presentation platforms. But, once you do, you want to look at something that’s got the ability for you to customize your data collection. And what I mean by that is kind of like the registration pages or registration form pages.

And you want that integrated into your platform, not sitting external because we see that sometimes too where you’ve got a registration page on your website or potentially utilizing a third party at like a Cvent or Eventbrite. And then, you link it to a web presentation tool. But, there’s no real link between the two.

You just use one to collect and then one to present. In doing that, you have no data integrity. So, you don’t know who of these people showed up, if they change anything when you log into the other. You’ve lost that.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: So, data collection is very, very important for marketers, in general, anyone communicating externally. And so, you want to make sure you’ve got an integrated data collection mechanism or registration element, at a minimum. The other thing that I think is often undervalued, although–although we see it being asked for more and more, is the ability to customize the viewer experience to both put your brand forward and to customize how they interact with the content.

And I say that that’s really important now because we are in a really busy world of content marketing. And you are constantly being invited to webinars. You’re constantly downloading eBooks and white papers.

You want to make sure that that audience, when they’re there–they know that it’s your firm that put it on. And then, when I look at marketers, every one of us has a unique–you know, we’re trying to do something unique in our webinar. We have our own call to action.

The thing we want to do next is unique to us. Oftentimes, get them on the phone with sales. But, there are other things that need to be going on.

And so, you want to have a platform that have help you drive what your interests are. So that customization and that branding, I think, is only going to become more important as you move forward, and it is really a must have as it relates to the platform.

Mr. Pete: So, let’s–let’s go back to data collection in a little bit.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah.

Mr. Pete: You make reference to that. What do you need to collect? Like what are sort of the minimums you need when you’re pulling in data that’s going to be of some value?

Mr. Matt Ley: I would hope the people who are looking to get into webinars have a way of profiling viewers based around certain data items. First name, last name, company, email address, maybe the start if you’re using a data service–maybe you want–maybe you want to survey other aspects of them. You know, I think it’s a waste to ask how they heard about the webinar but probably not a waste to ask them straightforward questions like, “Are you considering a platform right now,” you know, how–you know, anything about their purchasing choice or where they’re at within the organization, maybe company size.

Although, you can usually fill that in with a data service too. So, you’ve got to make sure that when you’re–when you–when you have someone come through your webinar program that you’ve asked for enough information about them that you can–you can easily score them as a quality lead or not. So, that’s on one side of it.

But, then, from there, you need to be able to measure more than who showed up and who didn’t. In a previous podcast, we talked about the methodology of behavioral analytics or engagement scoring. And, you know, at a bare minimum, you should be able to tell if someone came, how long they viewed, and at least what actions they took even if you can’t wrap that up into its own unique score to pass into your CRM.

You should know what actions that they took so that you can start prioritizing your viewers. Most webinar proper tools when–I would say even some of the meeting tools will give you that. You may have to crunch those numbers just a little bit.

But, the one track that I–I–I’m blown away by the fact that not everyone has this embedded in their process or within their system is how they track on demand. So, too often I talk to marketers and communicators who say that the on demand is worthless to them. They don’t look at those as leads.

And everything that’s going on in the interwebs today–you know, this is being pushed by the–I call it the real world–but, the world we live in outside of work, like Netflix and YouTube and all these places that we go to watch what we want to watch when we want to watch it are telling us that on demand is becoming more and more and more important. Last year stats suggested that on webinars on our platform across those 13,000 webinars that I talk about all the time, that the average view time was over 30 minutes for the first time. That’s pretty much a low presentation outside of the Q&A.

That’s your whole message. Why would the person who came to your website at 12 PM or clicked on the link that you sent your three weeks ago and spent 30 minutes with your time is less important than the guy who decided to show up? Are you penalizing prospects for tardiness?

No. People want to be able to consume content when they can, and we need to be as good at tracking their on demand behavior as we are their live behavior.

Mr. Pete: Right. So, that’s an important element in a good platform is–is–is that trackability. So, what else? You’ve got the data.

You’ve got these data points that you’re talking about. What else should you be looking for in a good platform? What are sort of the other bells and whistles?

Mr. Matth Ley: So, assuming that you’ve got all of that, the next step and where you should be going is trying to ensure that your platform integrates with the rest of your marketing stack.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: And integrations can happen in many different ways. I’ve gone out and seen customers who have done a great deal of work within their marketing automation tool to basically glues together an integration with their webinar platform that gets them everything they need. Some platforms have hooks into marketing automation or CRM, and some people like our platform really focuses on it to ensure we’re able to have really seamless integration between the two.

The reason that that’s important is because–let’s go back to–you made a decision to have an on demand tracking mechanism. Without integration there, for me to know that you went to my webinar at twelve o’clock last night and watched it for 30 minutes and that you’re a prospect that I should have someone call, I would need to check my webinar platform to get that information.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: How often am I going to be checking every link in my webinar? And all–little problems like that get–they really mushroom as your program grows and it expands and you’ve got more content assets out there and you’re running more webinars. Is that–you simply cannot manually pull all the data that you need.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: So, you want that data flowing into these systems. The other thing about these systems is that they’re, in some cases, certainly more objective than humans, and, in some cases, for efficient. So, you can set a series of criteria about every person.

But, with you who are as a buyer as well as what you’ve done–to trigger actions to occur. So, the more integrated you are, the better you’re going to be at follow up no matter what. And then, finally, integration creates efficiency in rolling out webinars.

So, you can create a campaign in your market automation platform for all of the email drops, the invite, that reminder, that second reminder, the one that happens during the week, the one that happens afterwards. You can set that all up so that every time you do a webinar, you can have a level of consistency with your campaign that you can easily get going because you don’t have to worry about who’s registering where or lists.

And then, you can benchmark to see how that’s performing to see, “Hey, is Matt’s data right? Is the way his program right, or should we be changing it up slightly ourselves?”

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: So, you should we always thinking this. And it’s interesting to me that, as marketers in this day and age, our stacks are evolving and growing every day. We’re adding little pieces here and Zapier this to here and this to that.

But, so often, you might have seven, eight, nine, 25 different pieces of technology in your marketing stack. And it’s okay to have your webinar program sit out here. You say it’s important.

But, you would never buy a CRM that didn’t integrate with your marketing automation tool. Why are you buying a webinar tool that doesn’t? So, that should be on top of mind as you’re going forward.

Mr. Pete: Right, okay. You talk about on demand as a thing. I get the sense that maybe not all web platforms record webinars. Is that true?

Mr. Matt Ley: No. They all record.

Mr. Pete: Yeah.

Mr. Matt Ley: Well, I think they do. Maybe there are some free ones that don’t. But, for the most part–.

Mr. Pete: –But, this is part of any–.

Mr. Matt Ley: –Yeah–.

Mr. Pete: –Any decent platform–.

Mr. Matt Ley: –Yeah. Press record, and you should be able to record anything that happens.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: But, I think I’ve already referenced this once. It’s something called–I call it an active archive or an archive that has engagement options. So, in a lot of platforms, you’ll record it.

This is one of the reasons, to be honest, marketers don’t take advantage of the on demand. You’ll record and get a video file. And you take that video file and you upload it to a hosting service.

Maybe it’s Wistia, Vidyard, YouTube. And you put it on a new link on your webpage, and then, you promote that new link out to people and you track it yourself whether or not they showed up or they didn’t show up or decide not to an offer it for free, whatever it is.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: So, there’s a lot of steps in doing all of that. And, in the end, what are you giving them? An hour long video file they can listen to.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: They basically have to see the slides. So, when you move beyond the meeting tool, when you move beyond those–those tools that were not built for webinars but built for you and me to interact, you generally get an archive that is active in that the user can still maybe even submit questions, can download resources, can answer polls, can interact with the content, which keeps them there generally longer, allows you, once again, to track better what it is that they’re doing, and have a better quality of lead score coming out of viewing it on demand than if they just clicked on a link and watched a bit of video kind of thing.

Mr. Pete: Right, right. Okay. The gold standard–what are–what is the best platform do? You’ve talked about it acts–it helps you act as a sales tool. It does on demand. What’s kind of the top of the top? What do the best do?

Mr. Matt Ley: I think what the best do is make your life easier, help you get more people out to watch your webinars through the automations, and offer intelligence in how they report on user behavior. And when I say that, it’s like–it’s one thing for–we all have to create our own–our own–call it our own metrics for what’s a qualified viewer, what’s a good viewer. That’s going to be all based around our history and performance.

But, there are certain things that, you know, your platform can do for you. It can show you how you’re performing against maybe others like benchmarking. We do some benchmarking.

It can try and get inside funnels, right, through the webinar. We start getting insight, seeing if someone’s attended three webinars in the last week. They’re not valuable to you than someone who’s attended one webinar last week. Argument generally is yes.

The more content they consume of yours the more interested they are in you as a company. So, giving you some sort of cross event reporting of some capacity, some ability to track by that user who’s coming through your program, and offer you basically some webinar specific data points that maybe don’t end up in your marketing automation or your CRM, but allow you to go and get a view of your program to understand how you’re performing.

I think that when you’ve found a tool that gives you that, what you’ll start to see or what you’ll start to do is you’ll start to think, “How can I use this more often, more frequently and differently?” You’ll get away from the webinar.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: You’ll think about doing in person events and broadcasting some of those events–a hybrid event, if you will–to get your secondary audience. You’ll think about creating on demand only content.

You’ll be thinking about a lot of different things because you are respecting the data so much that it’s coming through on them. So, I think that, if you’re–if you get to that point where you’re like, “Well, they all do the same thing,” line them up and see which one is offering you the most intelligence and which one is making your life easier.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: Those should be, I think, your final decision points on the Rolls Royce, if you will.

Mr. Pete: Right. Excellent. Alright. Time for our challenge.

Mr. Matt Ley: Okay.

Mr. Pete: You sell platforms.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah.

Mr. Pete: It does all these things, I’m sure, that you’ve talked about here. What’s your biggest challenge when you actually face selling it to experienced webinar producers?

Mr. Matt Ley: So, one of the reasons–there’s two reasons why these meeting tools have such market share. Some of them are their names. Citrix, Cisco–they’ve been around for a long time. But, the fact of the matter is they’re cheap or shall I say inexpensive.

Mr. Pete: Affordable.

Mr. Matt Ley: Affordable. So, like we all do–right–when we live our personal lives, we have a budget for things, and when something in our life goes up five times more in cost, let’s just say all of the sudden gas is five times what it is. This affects people greatly.

They’re unable to afford the same rent they had. They’re unable to get to work. All the economics get–get blown out of the water. And so, one of the things that happens when you move from a meeting tool to a proper webinar tool is you don’t get all of that stuff for–for free.

The truth of the matter is people like myself and my competitors at that level–the guys using the meeting tools would always want to use our tool. It’s not a question of that when it gets–if we looked at the process and we get to the end, no one’s like, “You know what? I like what I got better. I like my–you know, my Honda Accord. I don’t think I–I can’t see myself driving the BMW.”

That’s not the way that it works. What it comes down to is, “Wow. It costs more. That throws my whole budgeting around things out of whack.” And then, they don’t see the opportunity loss by finding the money to make that happen.

So, maybe it’s a belief. Maybe they don’t believe that it’s going to make their life that much easier. Maybe it’s selling it up that’s a challenge.

Maybe it’s just that webinars have been such a cost-effective tool for so very, very long that spending any more on them no one understands what it is. So, we struggle with that and we deal with that on a day to day basis. And I think that it’s my job in doing interviews like this–some of the personal outreach that I do with prospects and customers on behalf of my sales force and just constantly letting people know that their lives can be better.

They can get more ROI. They can have a lot more automation in their life that makes them be able to be more prolific with their content. And long-term, when they make that step from a meeting tool to a proper webinar platform, all of their metrics by which they measure themselves will increase.

Mr. Pete: Right.

Mr. Matt Ley: And that’s–you know, I guess that’s my job to do. But, in the long run, it can be a hard pill to swallow when it comes to quote time if they’re expecting something that costs 50 bucks a month–.

Mr. Pete: –Right–.

Mr. Matt Ley: –Because it doesn’t.

Mr. Pete: Just sticker shock.

Mr. Matt Ley: Exactly.

Mr. Pete: Sticker shock is the thing. Matthew Way, thank you very much. We’ll be back again, one more podcast.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yeah. We’re going to talk about the future, I think.

Mr. Pete: The future.

Mr. Matt Ley: The future of webinars.

Mr. Pete: Very narrow subject.

Mr. Matt Ley: Yes. Thanks so much.

Mr. Pete: Thanks so much.

 

 

Matthew Ley

Matthew Ley

Matt Ley is the current President and co-founder of The Streaming Network. Starting his career in virtual events in 2007, Matt is an industry veteran that is passionate about helping customers stand out in their industry with compelling virtual events that people want to attend. The driving ambition for Matt is that virtual events are not a utility for information distribution but an opportunity for firms to create a competitive advantage. Matt is an accomplished speaker, moderator and a sought-after thought leader.

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