Let’s face it. For-profit enterprises post videos, hold webinars, and produce virtual events to drive sales. How effective are these mediums for that purpose? There’s lots of positive anecdotal evidence, but where are the hard numbers?
A marketing automation (MA) program such as Eloqua, Marketo, or Act-On can track the effectiveness of your videos, webcasts, and virtual events down to the penny—but only if you can integrate data from your online video platform (OVP), webcast, or virtual event provider into your MA program. While this integration was rare 2 or 3 years ago, it’s becoming increasingly common to very good effect. In this article, I’ll define marketing automation and show how recent integrations help make all these tools much more effective.
About Marketing Automation
It’s probably happened to you dozens of times. You check the price of a particular product—say a new set of golf clubs. The next 15 times you visit a site such as ESPN, CNN, or Amazon, you see an ad for that same set of golf clubs. Or maybe you registered for a webinar or to download a white paper, and all of a sudden you start receiving emails or even a call from the company. Both of these examples are MA at work.
Marketing automation is like the proverbial elephant that varies in definition based upon where you touch it. At a high level, it’s software that tracks all interactions with a company’s website, as well as communications between the company and a prospect. It typically starts with your first visit to a website. You click on a particular page and the website issues you an anonymous cookie. As you click around the site, data is associated with your cookie, which converts to a live profile if you register with the site.
This sounds insidious at first, but the goal of MA is to help companies identify real potential buyers and close sales more quickly and efficiently. One fundamental MA concept, called lead scoring or interest scoring, is shown in Figure 1. As customers move through the website, they gain or lose points based upon the content that they visit. Prospects who achieve a certain score are passed on to the sales department for email or phone follow-up. Prospects who don’t meet that threshold are cycled through nurturing programs designed to increase their engagement and potentially move them down the funnel.
Fig 1. Marketo’s vision of interest scoring through the sales funnel, from a presentation on the Marketo website
Of course, the prospect’s journey isn’t passive. One critical feature of MA programs is the ability to create campaigns to move the prospect along—perhaps an email pitching a webinar, or an advertisement that appears when they visit the site.
Clearly, the more information you know about the prospect, the more effective these campaigns can be. For example, knowing a prospect’s employer or job title can help you create segmented or even individual campaigns customized to their specific needs. Video, particularly webcasts and virtual events, are rich with potential customer behaviors that are relevant to lead scoring, but only if this data can be captured and efficiently input into the MA system.
“Deploying video in the sales cycle without MA integration is a disjointed experience; there’s lots of useful information, but no way to track it,” says John Stetic, Eloqua’s VP of product management. “Via integration, video consumption is added to the prospect’s video profile, what we call his digital body language. This allows the marketer to see which content and topics are important to the prospect, so they can demonstrate how the brand can solve their problem.”
Act-On is another MA program, and Linda West, Act-On’s director of digital marketing, agrees with Stetic. “From our perspective,” West says, “video is 10 times more powerful when hooked into an MA program, as the views and other analytics become useful across the buying process. On its own, video isn’t necessarily that compelling to a demand generation marketer, which might be why many demand generation markets don’t use video.”
Both Eloqua and Act-On practice what they preach; Eloqua uses OVP Brightcove to distribute video on their website and pass prospect information back to their MA program, while Act-On does the same with OVP Vidyard.
How it Works in OVPs
Just as Eloqua uses Brightcove for its video distribution, Brightcove uses Eloqua as its MA program. Figure 2 shows a simulation of how data fed back from Brightcove into the Eloqua system can help segment viewers and fuel a nurture campaign to further move the prospect through the funnel.
Figure 2. Moving prospects through the sales funnel via Brightcove video and the Eloqua marketing automation program
It all starts on the upper left, with a video made available on the Brightcove website. To create the link to the Eliqua system, you would log in to your Eloqua account from the Brightcove system to create the player and the necessary embed code. Once the video is embedded into a web page, all playback data is fed automatically to the Eloqua system. This information is shown in the upper middle. Not only is the video name and date preserved, but the system tracks the percentage viewed, as well as that viewer’s contact information and URL. This information is sent to a custom object in the Eloqua system that maps the information to a contact record, if one exists.
Once in the Eloqua system, Brightcove can segment prospects based upon how much of the video they watched. For example, prospects who watched 100% of the video might be sent down one path, while those that stopped watching after 10 seconds might be sent down another. Without the integration, Brightcove marketers wouldn’t know whether the prospect watched the video at all, which diminishes the utility of the video from a demand generation marketer’s perspective.
Marketing Automation and You
What do these capabilities mean to you? Well, if you have a marketing automation program and you’re using video in your sales funnel, you obviously need to check if you’re integrating playback data into your MA program. If your current provider doesn’t offer MA integrations, and won’t in the short term, you seriously need to consider using another vendor.
You might also need to rethink the utility of posting marketing videos on YouTube or other UGC sites that report views, but don’t send prospect-specific information back to the MA program. Michael Ballard, senior manager for digital marketing at Lenovo, a Vidyard/Eloqua shop, defines the issue this way: “YouTube provides lots of exposure, but from an analytics perspective, it’s generic. The big metric is pageviews, and pageviews don’t pay the bills or allow me to pass qualified leads to my sales people.”
Rob Bois echoes this sentiment. Bois is director of product marketing at Plex, a developer of cloud-based manufacturing ERP (enterprise resource planning), who also uses Eloqua and Vidyard. His pet peeve is that the company’s sales reps often share videos with prospects from YouTube, which not only deprives him of the data, but also prevents him from directing the prospect to additional information based upon the viewing data.
“Our Vidyard integration is particularly useful,” Bois says, “because we can assign calls to action within the videos, so if the prospect wants additional information, or to be contacted by a sales rep, they can request this within the system. Not only can YouTube potentially suggest a competitor’s video when a prospect is done watching ours, we lose the ability to help direct the prospect further through the sales funnel.”
Eric Hanson, director of demand generation at Cetera Financial Group, a retail investment advice platform, also uses Vidyard’s pop-outs to good effect.
“While visitors are watching a video about a product or service, we can pop out a link to a flyer with more details, and track whether they download the flyer,” Hanson says. “We can also pop out a contact form at the end of video, which feeds directly back into Eloqua. If a prospect wants to speak with someone further, we can make happens in short order.”
These pop-outs and calls to action raise an interesting point. It’s not just whether a video platform offers integration with your MA program; it’s also whether it offers marketing-oriented features, such as calls to action or contact info collection, that allow the video platform to function more effectively as a component of an your marketing schema. Vidyard does this directly, but it can also be accomplished via integrations with other partners, which can add a variety of interactive elements to the video platform.
You should also make sure that the OVP supports the MA system or systems that you’re currently using. Most OVPs integrate with Marketo and Eloqua, but Vidyard offers 13 integrations, including these two, as well as multiple components of the Salesforce ecosystem, including Chatter, and email providers.
What if you don’t have a marketing automation program and don’t plan on deploying one anytime soon? Find an OVP partner that collects some of the data described above and makes it available within its own systems. For example, in addition to having marketing integrations with several platforms, OVP Wistia lets you collect email information before displaying your videos, and shows you how much of each video a particular user watched, in graph form. This is shown in Figure 3; and if you didn’t opt for an email gate, the system shows you information gleaned from the IP address.
If you do opt to collect email addresses, Wistia can integrate them into mailing lists for further follow-up. While it’s not suitable for larger organizations tracking thousands of prospects, this scheme could certainly work well for smaller companies tracking a few dozen leads a month.
For demand-gen marketers, each content type is judged not only according to its effectiveness in advancing the prospect through the cycle, but also by how much information it can feed back into the MA program. And this is where webinars can really shine.
Figure 3. Someone from Salisbury, Md., watched 94% of the video, including several sections multiple times. Email capture would make it possible to contact this person.
With video, you can harvest the percentage of video played, information about the viewer, and perhaps insert a call to action. With webinars, you can track how long the viewer stayed, whether she responded to polls, downloaded any documents, or asked any questions. This flows back into the MA program where, if and when appropriate, the lead is passed to a sales rep for email or phone follow-up. You can imagine how much more effective that sales rep will be with this information in hand.
Even better, the richness and polish of webpage and email communications delivered by MA programs help improve the effectiveness of the webinar platform. According to Sabrina George, vice president of marketing at Onstream Media, the goal of her company’s integration with Marketo was to allow their joint customers to create all marketing-related content in Marketo, with information fed back into the Onstream platform as needed. During the webinar, the information flow reverses, and viewing and activity data are fed back into Marketo.
“Before our integration,” George says, “these integrations were performed manually, which was time-consuming and error-prone. Now the information flows automatically, so marketers can convert the data into automated smart campaigns that further nurture the prospects. While analytics will always be available in our platform, we expect that most users with MA programs will access them within those systems.”
Erika Jones, senior marketing program manager at MicroStrategy, a provider of enterprise software programs, feels that the integration of webcasting and MA improves the utility of both programs. Her company, which uses the ReadyTalk webcasting platform and Eloqua, had run multiple webcasts before the two were integrated, and while the results were good, there was definitely room for improvement.
“Before the integration,” Jones says, “we created all landing pages, reminders, confirmations and other transactional emails in ReadyTalk. We were limited in our ability to design webpages and customize the emails. After the webinar, we had to manually load the registration-related information into Salesforce, which was time consuming and delayed the flow of information to our marketing and sales team. Now that the programs are integrated, we create all webinar-related registration pages and emails in Eloqua, which offers superior design features, and helps us maintain visual consistency across all marketing campaigns.”
Beyond appearance and the speed of data flow, the integration lets Jones make use of Eloqua features that she can’t access in ReadyTalk. For example, MicroStrategy uses a service called DemandBase to harvest more data from site visitors. Jones can integrate DemandBase with registration pages created in Eloqua, but not in ReadyTalk.
Eloqua also enables Jones to access features in ReadyTalk more efficiently. For example, a feature called simulive allows MicroStrategy to use existing recordings as part of a live event. With simulive, MicroStrategy can produce a webcast once, record it, and run it multiple times around the globe with local staffers on hand to answer questions, so the webinar feels live. But setting up the rebroadcasts in ReadyTalk alone was cumbersome.
“Between ReadyTalk and Eloqua,” Jones says, “the process of running these ‘simulive’ webinars is almost completely automated, so we can set it and forget it, perhaps running the webinar 10 times a day with minimal effort.”
What does this all mean for you? Well, if you use a marketing automation program and produce webcasts, you should make sure the two systems are integrated. If you have an MA program and you’re considering which webcast platform to use, dig into the integration documents to learn which data points can be transferred from the webcast system to the MA program. For example, INXPO is a webcast and virtual event provider, and Figure 4 is a screen adapted from the Marketo INXPO Adapter Setup Guide that details how to integrate data from INXPO into Marketo.
Figure 4. Integrating data from INXPO into Marketo
As you can see, the integration goes far beyond how long the customer watched the webinar (or more accurately, how long the webinar player was open on his computer). Rather, the INXPO/Marketo integration allows you to capture engagement-related data. While most webcast systems provide a similar toolset of surveys, polls, downloadable documents, and Q&A, not all transfer these data points over to the MA system. So when choosing a webcast platform, look beyond the mere existence of the integration and dig into the details about which data is transferred over.
If videos provide a trickle of user data, and webcasts a stream, online events provide a torrent of data. (See Figure 5.) While not as commonly used as video or webcasts, it’s interesting to look at these events from the eyes of the demand-gen marketer. Briefly, an online event is like a virtual tradeshow, with registration, exhibit halls, meeting rooms, sponsor space, and other features. MA software provider Marketo runs an annual online event called Marketing Nation Online that draws over 25,000 attendees. During the event, attendees can watch video presentations, visit booths, and read marketing literature, both live during the conference, and later on-demand.
Figure 5. Virtual events like this one produced using the INXPO online event platform provide a river of user data
Philip Chen, an enterprise marketing manager with Marketo, runs all of his company’s virtual events. In comparing the effectiveness of virtual events to live events, Chen says, “If you hold a live conference, you have many similar behaviors, attendees watch presentations, visit booths, and read marketing literature. But none of this rich information is capturable with the ease and accuracy of an online event, which makes it much harder to effectively leverage after the event.”
It Doesn’t End When You Close the Deal
Rather than ending when the deal is closed, some demand-gen marketers see continued value in tracking customer behaviors in a similar way. For example, Act-On tracks customers’ website visits and video consumption to enhance their customer support efforts.
“We make the same information available post-sale to our customer success team as we do pre-sale to our marketing team,” Act-On’s Linda West says. “When speaking to a user, team members can see which pages they’ve visited and which training videos they’ve watched, which helps them understand the customer’s needs and allows them to help the user more efficiently. We want to stay with customers through the entire journey, to make sure they’re happy and become strong brand advocates.”
While all this tracking undeniably feels a bit like Big Brother, remember that MA programs help companies quickly discern which campaigns are working, and which aren’t. So you can expect that any campaign that irritates more prospects than it nurtures would get terminated quickly. Even so, marketing automation is here and will only become more pervasive, whether you like it or not. So wherever you are on the video production and distribution value chain, make sure you leverage that reality to your advantage.
This article appears in the January/February 2016 issue of Streaming Media magazine as “The Future of Video Marketing.”