Two press releases crossed the wires yesterday, each touting a similar capability. eTrigue announced new event management features in their DemandCenter marketing automation suite, calling out integrations with WebEx and GoToWebinar. Constant Contact announced a new integration with MeetingBurner.
In both cases, the idea is to make it easier to tie together webinar planning, production, and reporting with trackable and accountable marketing programs. That is a huge need in the industry and I hope the coincidence in press release timing signals a growing trend.
I have seen studies and anecdotal user self-reporting indicating that marketing is the number two use for webinars and webcasts (behind training/instruction). I am purposely omitting peer-level web meetings from this discussion. Training needs are often covered by specialized product versions with features to support those needs in the webinar. And several products pursuing that strategy have integrations with third-party Learning Management Systems software.
But I am not aware of any similar specialized versions of webinar software intended specifically for marketing applications. So these integrations with external marketing automation programs are particularly important and beneficial.
What are some specific capabilities that marketers need and seldom get in their webinar software?
1) Registration page customization. I’m not talking about adding a few custom fields to the webinar vendor’s fixed format. I’m talking about extensive control over formatting, colors, field position, dynamic fields, pre-populated dropdowns, and many other things influencing the effectiveness of a registration page. You can read a longer discussion in a blog post from February 2010 that is still criminally valid two years later.
2) Registration page analytics. I don’t know of a single webinar vendor that reports on completion versus abandonment of registration pages. They wouldn’t want you to see those numbers until you could do something about it. And you can’t. ARGGHHH!
3) Email customization. Webinar vendors often give far too little control over the emails that get sent to registrants. Sophisticated users should be able to override the source and reply-to addresses, internal formatting, headers/footers, and should be able to work with multi-part formats for text and HTML recipients.
4) Lead source tracking. Different marketing campaigns should report where visitors came from to track the effectiveness of different content and channels. That information needs to be associated with registration, attendance, and post-webinar lead quality, ideally all the way up to customer conversion.
5) External registration. The biggest webinar vendor/product in the market still doesn’t let you upload registrants into an event from an external CSV or TXT file. How is that possible?
6) Follow-up link integration. If the webinar software records an event to a server location, the viewing link should be automatically accessible as a field in follow-up emails.
These are just a few of the most obvious examples. The basics of webinar usage are well-understood by now. It’s time to step up the game and give more support for that significant segment of the webinar user population – the marketer. If the webinar vendors can’t or won’t support their customers’ needs, I’m happy to see more work being done by the marketing automation vendors. Keep ‘em coming, guys!