The Impact of a Great Webinar Program

Webinars are still a big part of the marketing mix, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

And by now, most of us know how to create content and webinars that serve a higher purpose than simply promoting products and services. After all, when someone is truly interested in what you’re selling, they’ll find a demo on your website.

A webinar program (and every other kind of content) is about thought leadership, sharing insights, and providing access to expert knowledge that can help people do their job better.

Inbound marketing (synonymous with content marketing in many ways) is not a new concept. Most mature organizations have learned that inbound leads from content promotion can be pretty “top of the funnel” and have a demand waterfall in place to separate the noise from the good stuff.

If you’re great at creating compelling content—promoted through a mix of channels—you’ll certainly stuff the top of your funnel with new contacts, but not necessarily your top prospects.

That’s where lead scoring should kick in, routing leads through your funnel depending on demographic data and behavior.

Demos and trials, for example, are high value activities that immediately trigger sales engagement, where content downloads, visits to your website, and webinar registrations are usually scored and routed differently.

So let’s talk about how to create a webinar program that does three important things:

  • Attracts New Contacts

  • Serves Every Stage of the Funnel

  • Creates Sales Opportunities

Start with a Three-Part Webinar Series

It doesn’t matter what you’re marketing—a cybersecurity product or healthcare services—you can create a three-part webinar series that casts a wide net at the top and works down to niche topics that indicate more serious interest in what you’re selling.

Let me clarify with a real-world example from a previous company.

They sold analytics software to companies who want to embed analytics in their own products. Their ideal prospect was a product manager—a decision-maker who was charged with product ownership.

Ironically, one of our key challenges was that literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WORLD cares about data analytics. We could spin up tasty dataviz content, promote it with Outbrain, and get thousands of downloads.

The problem was conversion: tons of new names in the database but abysmal conversion to opportunities or even to MQLs.

The same was true of webinars. We could easily get 1200 people on a webinar about designing data dashboards, but many attendees were already using Tableau or other competitors’ solutions. They would never be our customer.

So we decided to do a Summer School series of three webinars:

  • The first was a “fan favorite” on dashboard design, meant to attract a large number of top of the funnel registrants.
  • The second was a little more in the weeds—still offering high level info—but getting closer to our message on the value of embedding analytics in a product.
  • The third was directly targeted to our ideal prospect, offering go-to-market strategy for an analytics software product. The only people who would care about this are the very people we wanted to talk to.

We knew that the number of registrants would drop dramatically from the first webinar to the third, but we welcomed that drop off.

The registrants of the second and third webinars were perfect for our SDRs to follow up with, and to track carefully through the funnel.

The registrants of the first webinar would drop into Marketo engagement programs for further nurturing.

The Set Up

Assuming you’re using a marketing automation platform integrated with a CRM system, this type of program is relatively easy to set up.

If you’re already running webinars, then this is super easy to set up.

In this example, we were using Unbounce for landing pages, along with Marketo and Salesforce (WebEx was our webinar platform, for better or worse).

Like most teams, we would send the first webinar invite two weeks before, a second invite the week before, and various reminders to folks who didn’t open and so on.


So the question is, do I create one landing page to promote the series, or separate landing pages for each webinar in the series?

The answer is, do all the things.

To get the most bang for your buck, create a landing page for the series (where folks can register for as many as they want), and create separate landing pages for each webinar. This way you have flexibility in how you promote, and you’re still able to send an email invite before each one.

This also gives you the ability to experiment with promotion and channels: maybe you’d promote the second and third (more in-the-weeds) webinars through channels where you can be more targeted (LinkedIn sponsored content and InMail, for example).

Since these webinars are designed to attract your ideal prospect, think about the watering holes where they’d likely consume content.

If you need ideas or practical guidance on how to set up a program like this, talk to us. Here at Sponge, we love to talk demand gen, campaigns, and marketing ops.

The Follow Up

OMG the follow up.

Like I mentioned, the drop off in registrants from the “fan favorite” webinar to the third—more highly targeted one—will probably be pretty big.

And that’s ok.

This program is meant to attract a lot of new names at the top of the funnel, and select out your ideal prospects at the bottom.

Here are some tips to drive engagement and opportunities from your webinar series:

  1. Generate a list of people who register for all three webinars.
  2. Craft an email or call script for your sales development team. Since the people on this list are signalling a high level of interest, the goal should be to set a meeting. At the very least, provide an introduction, and more info about your products.
  3. Track the people who attend and craft a special follow up.
  4. Track the people who watch the recording and craft a special follow up.
  5. Send future webinar invites from the rep, making the invite feel more personal (this can be automated in any system).
  6. Remove these folks from any “standard” nurture program, and serve them middle of the funnel, more product-specific content.
  7. Consider a gift card incentive to drive demos after the webinars.
  8. Track carefully and watch sales opportunities roll in!

And before you launch the program, make sure your SDRs and sales reps know about it:

  • Send them the landing page and brief them on the topics.
  • Have them register so they experience the process as their prospect would.
  • Offer to set up notifications of registrations or attendees so they can work the leads more personally.
  • Stay on top of marketing and sales follow up during and after the series to ensure you’re not stepping on each other’s toes or that nothing is falling through the cracks.

Q4 is not so far away (I know, right?). Start planning your series before the holiday season and close the year strong!

In our upcoming blogs, we’ll share more demand gen ideas that create sales opps. Meanwhile, feast on this:

That Time I Got Advice about My Marketing Career

In 2011 I was running content marketing at a software company in Burbank CA.

There was a good Mexican place down the street, a notable Armenian café around the corner, and the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains rolling down to meet the road behind the office. Coyotes would hang around the parking lot at dusk.

The place itself was meh—an 80s building with a depressing façade and joyless cubicles inside. Mostly beige from what I remember, open and light, but every bit as bleak as a brown Caprice Classic. My favorite memories of that place are the people I worked with and the enormous pine trees I could see out back, over the maze of cubicle walls.

Another memory that stands out is a bit of advice from my boss. I’m pretty sure he meant well, but I remember driving home that day wondering where I really fit in. It was simply this: “Robin, you’re creative. You need to stop tinkering. Just focus on writing and quit all this tinkering.”

Even though this was only 6 years ago, it was relatively early days for marketing automation and inbound. Marketo was still a shiny new toy—and holy crap! I couldn’t stop tinkering.

His point was that I was hired to produce compelling content—to tell stories, craft narrative, and connect with IT dudes who might care about storage virtualization and I/O optimization. Yet there I was messing around in Marketo, running A/B tests, and trying to figure out if leads were converting to opps, and if opps were turning into deals.

Why? Because no one creates content for the sake of creating content.  Plus I’m a curious person.

My content was part of email campaigns, paid social campaigns, Google search and display—my content lived behind landing pages that had to convert for lead gen. My content served the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and armed Sales with material to slay the competition and win business. My content was actually like that Run DMC song about Adidas (in my own mind anyway).

But seriously, even though this was only 6 years ago, it was relatively early days for marketing automation and inbound. Marketo was still a shiny new toy—and holy crap! I couldn’t stop tinkering.

To me—like so many of us—there was nothing more satisfying than not only creating the content itself, but also setting up a campaign, sending it out into the world and measuring what came back.

Here were the tools that made it all possible.

Sure, I’m creative, but I’m also a B2B marketer. What’s the point of all this creativity if I have no idea if my shit is effective? I still live in the real world of leads, opps, conversion, pipeline and revenue.

In fact nerdy unicorns who possess that rare mix of creativity, analytical thinking, and operations chops are replacing the old guard—the CMOs who focus on corporate communications, brand, and PR.

Anyway, fast forward to present time. These days I focus less on content creation and more on demand gen, ABM, and funnel optimization. I spend crazy hours bouncing from Marketo to Salesforce to Google Analytics to Excel, piecing together data and trying to answer some of marketing’s most basic (yet still very tough to unpack) questions: What the hell is working? What’s not? How should I allocate my marketing dollars over the next 4 quarters?

Sure. I wish it were easier to untangle the metrics behind multi-channel B2B marketing. Yep, I sometimes wish I could go back to focusing more on the creative side.

But here’s the greatest thing about marketing in 2017: it’s not a matter of one or the other anymore. In fact, nerdy unicorns who possess that rare mix of creativity, analytical thinking, and operations chops are replacing the old guard—the CMOs who focus on corporate communications, brand, and PR.

While I appreciate the advice and the nod to my talent, I’d rather apply data to my creativity, and use every tool in the toolbox to help marketing teams hit goals and drive revenue.

So If you need me, I’ll just be right over here. Tinkering.

Sponge can turn you into a marketing unicorn. Hop on a demo right here.

4 Visuals for your B2B Content Marketing Strategy

We all would like to improve on our open rates. How are we supposed to generate lead lists from our content if no one is opening and viewing our content? There is a simple way to get more eye balls on your content and it hasn’t been a secret for a long time. Adding visuals to your content can help not only improve your open rate; but it can also improve your bounce rate, time on page, and shares. All of those metrics are important to your content marketing strategy.

When creating content keep in mind how you can incorporate visuals seamlessly. The four visuals that I have found to be effective are infographics, gif’s, charts, and video’s. The human mind processes information much faster when looking at a graphic rather than reading it from a page. Having a graphic rather than text on a page makes your content more appealing to the eye as well, thus promoting a reader to share or at the least spend more time on the page. Would you rather read an essay or browse through an infographic? Yeah, that is what I thought. Stop pushing bland content! Let’s add some seasoning to your content and give it that kick it needs!

1) Infographic

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past five years, odds are you’ve heard of, or seen, an infographic. An infographic is a great way to supply readers with a large amount of data quickly and in an appealing way. Infographics are useful for more than just presenting information, they also do a great job at showing trends as opposed to an excel sheet. If you are looking to create an infographic I would suggest using Venngage. Venngage is a free infographic maker that I’ve used before with great success. It is much like Canva in that you can simply “drag and drop” items onto the page to create your infographic.

Infographic Visual

Infographic Visual (Source)

2) Gif

Gif stands for graphic interchange format. That sounds a lot fancier than it really is, as a gif really just an extension for a document much like .csv or .pdf. Having said that gif’s are a great way to stop and grab a viewer’s attention. Instead of a still image, a gif places stim images one after another in a repeating loop. This action is aimed at grabbing a viewer’s attention and getting them to stop and look.

 via GIPHY

3) Charts/Graphs

It is important to display information in an appealing way. The way in which you present information can lead to a better understanding. As mentioned with infographics, charts and graphs can help viewers have a better understanding of what the numbers are trying to say than if you were to present them in writing or an excel sheet. It is a lot easier to see a correlation between two numbers when they are presented in a chart then if you are shifting through an excel sheet with many different variables on it. When making a chart or graph keep make sure you are not presenting too much information so that the eye can get lost. Include only the essential information. Also, it is important to keep in mind a color scheme that fits with the graphic and flows easily throughout. This is generally done by combining warm and cool colors (back to our high school art classes) to the graphic to make it aesthetically pleasing.

B2B Marketing Chart Visual

B2B Marketing Chart Visual (Source)

4) Video

Video is already a big part of modern marketing and it will only continue to grow. Video allows for copious amounts of information to be consumed in a relatively quick timeframe. Rather than reading a 100-page book; you might be able to consume that information in about 15 minutes. The way the human mind works is that it can process images and sound much faster than it can process words from a page. If you have a piece of content such as an e-book, or long form blog, consider making it into a webinar or demo on the overall topic. This can take the overbearing feeling out of people who might fear that your 100-page e-book is not worth reading.

Top 10 Ways to Make a Great Video (

I am a strong believer that you can take good content and make it great. One of the best ways to do this is by attaching visuals to it. Doing more to enhance the experience of your viewers is always a good idea. Yes, it is going to take more time to create your content, but if you are already creating content why not make it great and get the most out of it by adding visuals to it? Don’t waste your time and effort by making boring content that doesn’t keep a reader’s attention, spice it up with some visuals!

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So, You Wrote Some Content. Now What?

There you are sitting in front of your computer screen, satisfied with the ebook you’ve been working on for the past week. Then it hits you – that sudden feeling of panic that accompanies the question, “Now what?” Because despite your hard work in creating helpfulengaging, and visually stunning content, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking through your distribution strategy. With all of the hype around content marketing and content creation, it’s surprising that there isn’t more written about content distribution. In this post, I’m going to assume you’ve already written some great content, and now you need to put it to work. We’ll discuss how to create a repeatable content distribution strategy so you can get the most out of every asset, every time.

Register Now: So, You Wrote Some Content. Now What? [Webinar]

A Note on Distribution

Before we get into it, I want to be clear that this isn’t a giant list of places to dump your content. In my experience, simply copy/pasting your content onto 20 sites without any thought as to how you’re helping the community is a waste of time for both you and your prospects. I call this kind of behavior “content spamming” – and in some ways it’s even more annoying than unsolicited email because there’s no way to unsubscribe.

How do you share your content far and wide without becoming a spammer? By making every post uniquely relevant to each audience with which you share it. Remember the cardinal rule of content marketing: it’s all about them. So whether you’re sharing content with a single influencer or a group of 10,000 people, don’t just copy/paste a link to your blog post or landing page. Tell them why they should care about what you have to say by relating it to something they’re already interested in.

Before you start distributing your content, brainstorm a few different angles to drive relevance with each audience you’re targeting. Ask yourself:

  • Why would someone care to read it?
  • Is it related to something they recently wrote/read about?
  • Does it help them do their job better?
  • Can you relate it something going on in pop culture?

You want to find a few different “hooks” to generate interest in your content vs. lazy, impersonal links. Focus on them, be creative/funny/provocative, and by all means act like a human being (no robots, please).

Content Distribution Strategy Basics

Once you have your angles, or hooks, you’re ready to start distributing content. Below are a few basic tactics to get you going:


Plan for one post per angle. A lot of people do one post per content asset, but this is bad for two reasons: 1) that post ends up being a glorified infomercial for your new asset (not necessarily bad, but it’s easy to get lazy, aka not helpful), and 2) if you only do one post for each asset, your promotion cycle will be very short. You’ve just spent a lot of time and resources writing a kickass ebook – give it the promotion it deserves by setting up a schedule that lasts at least 3 months (by the way, once you start thinking about angles for each new asset, I bet you’ll come up with new ideas for premium content, so the whole thing will become self-perpetuating). For each blog post, remember to utilize social share buttons, in-text link ads to promote the gated content asset, and a visual call to action at the end each post.

Example: in-line text CTA from Hubspot


Plan 10-20 social posts across all your social networks over the next 3 months. Remember to test different times of day, formats (question, listicles, key quote, direct). Beyond posting to your page, you can also leverage Groups. Be selective with the groups you post to (don’t want to become a spammer), but these can really help drive traffic and conversation around your new asset.

Example: blog promotion through LinkedIn Groups

Also be sure to leverage your subject matter experts/influencers! Send an inMail/DM to key influencers alerting them to your new asset. You can use a tool like BuzzSumo to find people who have recently posted about the topic you’re writing about. Then you can do two things: 1) go to their posts and post a relevant comment (remember it’s ABOUT THEM) and link to your new post/asset, and 2) reach out to them directly using your most relevant angle.

Content Syndication

For the purposes of this post, I’ll tackle free content syndication resources, including LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, industry-specific sites, and mass media publications, but for sure there will be many paid options as well, depending on your target audience. First, if you aren’t using LinkedIn Pulse, do not walk – run – to start cross-posting your blog posts on LinkedIn. I’ve also found some great success cross-posting with the disclaimer at the top/bottom along the lines of, “This post was originally published on the Sponge blog.” This has two benefits: 1) you’re tapping into LinkedIn’s audience which is likely much larger than your subscriber list, and 2) by sharing it as a Post as opposed to an Update on LinkedIn, the article will permanently live in your LinkedIn profile, so anyone looking at your profile will be exposed to this content from now on.

LinkedIn Posts on Your Profile

While I haven’t tested it much yet, I know a few colleagues that are building a following on Medium, and use it regularly in much the same way as LinkedIn Pulse. It seems to be a slower burn than LinkedIn (where I see a big spike within the first 48 hours, then a slow decline), but could be a good option if you put some work into growing your subscribers and are able to get featured. See this post on how to hack getting featured on Medium.

Depending on your industry, there will also be a bunch of blogs/news sites/other communities that allow you to syndicate your content. For example, at Sponge we target demand generation marketers, so relevant sites include the MOZ blog, Marketo blog, and We write guest articles for some sites, and cross-post articles on other sites. It really depends on the publication, so spend some time getting to know the relevant sites and how they leverage third party content.

Finally, for mass appeal articles, don’t be afraid to post to Huffington Post, Mashable, etc. Just like all editors, they’re often desperate for great content and many are really enthusiastic about new authors. I became a HuffPo writer after cold-emailing Arianna Huffington, who put me in touch with someone on her team. Now I can post on Huffington Post whenever I want and have my content seen by hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. Bottom line: don’t be shy about asking to become a writer – just make sure you can prove you’re writing quality stuff that’s relevant to their audience.


At long last email – because you know I’m all about that (data)base. Without a doubt, email will be your #1 source of traffic for content, so it should be one of your top priorities to grow your subscriber list. If you’re truly sharing educational stuff (read: not self-serving promotional stuff), definitely send at least one email per asset, potentially multiple emails to different segments of your database utilizing the different angles you brainstormed. You can also leverage new content assets in newsletter-ish roundups as well as email series. I’ve had a lot of success serializing content via email (I got this idea from Unbounce’s 7-day Landing Page Optimization ecourse). For example, let’s say we wrote an ebook on based on this blog post, and then we wanted to turn it into an email series. I might set up an email series like this:

  1. Does Content Distribution Work? (key is to make it uniquely relevant to each audience)
  2. Content Distribution Strategy: Blogging Basics (how to use your blog to drive traffic)
  3. How to Leverage Social to Promote Your Content (sample 3-month schedule)
  4. Are You Using LinkedIn Pulse for Content Distribution? (how-to guide)
  5. A Content Marketer’s Guide to Using Medium (in-depth case study)
  6. Get Featured on Huffington Post without a PR Agency (how-to guide)
  7. Content Marketing + Email: BFFs or Frenemies? (role of email using industry stats)

Just like that, I’ve turned one post into a seven-email series. This is a great tactic that requires very little work, and enables you to dive deep into topics you know are relevant to your target audience and establish your thought leadership. It’s also a great way to kickstart sales cycles – I usually end my emails with one of two things: 1) strong CTA to download premium content, or 2) reply with their thoughts/questions. The latter approach lends itself really well to people responding along the lines of, “Hey, this is really interesting – we’re actually experimenting with Medium right now but not sure how to measure the effectiveness of that channel.” To which you can respond with information about how your product/service helps them solve that problem. It’s sneaky simple.


So, what have I missed? What other channels are you seeing success in terms of content syndication? Really interested to hear about new ideas and tactics. I’m also hosting a webinar next month where we’ll cover some advanced distribution techniques, including press releases, secondary CTAs, and aligning content to the buyer’s journey. I’ll also give you a sample 3-6 promotion plan that you can use for your own content.

Register now for our content distribution strategy webinar

3 Questions to Ask Before You Do Any Content Marketing

You may have heard a thing or two about content marketing. It’s quickly become the modern marketing strategy for companies of all shapes and sizes. CMOs are rushing to hire writers, in many cases former journalists, to crank out keyword-laden content to drive awareness and demand. But while content marketing has certainly gone through the hype cycle, in many ways, it isn’t anything new. Marketing has always been about solving problems for buyers. The only difference is the Internet created a more even playing field for smaller companies to compete with larger ones on the basis of content. Buyers are increasingly researching solutions to their problems online, and companies are increasingly found by their digital footprint. Content marketing is merely a way to expand that digital footprint so you are more likely to get found. However, before you embrace content marketing and start creating assets at scale, make sure to ask yourself these three questions first.

1. Define Your Content Marketing Goals

Before you create a new asset, figure out why you need it, and how you’re planning to use it to achieve one of your content marketing goals. Choose 1 of the following 4 content marketing goals, which are aligned with the different stages in the buyer’s journey:

content marketing methodology

  • Acquisition: generate web traffic, social shares, and/or other high-level engagements
  • Conversion: drive conversions, where previously anonymous visitors turn into actual leads
  • Nurturing: convince leads that they should become your customers
  • Engagement: provide ongoing learning and delight amongst your customer base

It’s easy to skip over this step, especially when you’re rushing to get content out the door period. But it’s important to determine the stage in which each asset will be used, because that will inform how you measure its success or failure over time. If you create an infographic and then get frustrated because prospects who view the infographic aren’t any more likely to convert to opportunities than prospects who don’t view the infographic, you might come to the conclusion that “infographics don’t work.” But that’s not necessarily the case because infographics are typically used much earlier in the buyer’s journey, so the right performance metrics would be traffic and social shares (possibly also leads influenced if you’re using secondary CTAs).

Setting the right goals is also important when communicating your performance to sales and the executive team. When the CEO asks how content marketing is doing, but you know he’s really asking how many leads have you generated from all that blogging you’re doing, you need to manage expectations. Educate them on the different stages in the buyer’s journey, and show how you’re working on different assets to match each stage. Then measure your performance against the metrics for each stage so you can show what’s going well, and what still needs improvement.

2. Determine Your Target Audience

Okay, so you have an idea in mind for a best practices guide and you correctly identify that its purpose is to generate leads. Now, who’s it for? If you aren’t using personas at your company, now’s a good time to do so. While defining your buyer personas can easily become a significant effort, especially if you’re trying to drive alignment and understanding across multiple departments, it doesn’t need to be. Just write down the 3-4 different kinds of people you’re marketing to, and then pick the ONE that this asset is for. Why just one? Because the whole idea of content marketing is to help prospects solve their problems, and you can’t really be helpful when you’re talking to different kinds of people at the same time.

persona-template-demographicsI used to work for a company that sold enterprise software, and we had a lot of different people involved in the sales process, including IT and business. We were working on a best practices ebook, and the whole way through the piece I just felt lost. I couldn’t tell what it was trying to get me to do as the reader. Then I realized it was because we were trying to talk to IT and business executives at the same time. In doing that, the advice we were giving was so high level it became meaningless. It was so muddled that there was no way we could make a meaningful impact. This happens all the time so consider yourself warned – before you write a single word, figure out who you want to read it and orient the whole piece around them.

3. Choose Your Format(s)

Okay, so you’ve got the idea, the persona, and an outline together for your new asset, a best practices guide. Now you need to decide what format to use – is it an ebook? A podcast? A webinar? The format will dictate how you layout the remaining content, how quickly you can go live, who needs to be involved, and how you promote the new asset. For example, I haven’t had a lot of success promoting webinars through PPC but ebooks perform very well. While certain formats are more appropriate for different stages of the buying cycle, you will know best which formats resonate better with your audience. Use the graphic below as a guide, and combine that with your own experience to settle on the right format for your new asset.

Marketing After ContentRemember that the first asset can spur a whole slew of other assets in the future as well. For example, I once ran a webinar with an industry expert on The Art of Dashboard Design. It was so popular, we turned it into an ebook, and then ran a similar webinar on our own on 30 Dashboards in 30 Minutes, then turned that into an ebook, which turned into another webinar on Dashboard Design Before & Afters, which turned into an ebook, several blog posts, and a session at our annual user conference. What started out as one asset quickly turned into 10 more – all utilizing similar content once we found a topic that resonated with our audience.

All Things Considered

There’s a lot more to content marketing than just content creation. To make content work for you and drive the results you’re looking for, you need to make sure to you set the right goals, write for one persona at a time, and leverage appropriate formats. If you’re disciplined in these three areas, you’ll be well on your way to driving demand from inbound.

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