When qualifying marketing leads via a webinar, you need to take into account both the content of the webinar and the behavior of the registrants; both are as important as the demographic information of those registrants.

The webinar content is what determines where the webinar falls in the B2B marketing lead generation funnel. That is, the content will indicate which stage the potential buyer is in and what they are interest in. And behavior will indicate which webinar registrants are simply contact acquisitions and which ones are truly Sales ready. Knowing the difference will improve the quality of leads sent to sales and build the sales team's trust in Marketing's leads.

The interactive nature of webinars offer B2B marketers a unique opportunity to qualify leads, on the spot, using real-time behavior. Marketers who use every possible opportunity to measure webinar attendee interest during the event are gathering valuable information about the registrants they've attracted; as a result, those marketers will drive better results.

1. Content determines buyer stage

Webinars are selected as a marketing tactic because they offer a rich and engaging medium. The webinar content—thought leadership, education, product demonstration, competitive comparison, product training—determines where to plug it into the marketing mix, based on the buyer's cycle.

Some content, like best-practices and thought leadership, are best used for contact acquisition and do not generate sales-ready leads. A signup for product-demo or competitive-comparison webinar, however, could indicate shopping behavior and readiness for Sales follow up.

The trick here is to understand what the needs of a typical buyer are and to deliver the necessary content at the right moment.

2. Content indicates solution of interest

Content type not only indicates buying stage but also pinpoints the registrant's interests and needs. Using webinar content to determine this information is especially helpful for products that offer multiple solutions or serve more than one target audience.

Consider, for example, a product with two main solutions. Conducting two monthly webinars on best-practices topics (one for each solution) at the top of the marketing funnel will tell a marketer which solution each group of registrants is interested in and dictate the next appropriate step for each group.

3. Interest is not all about attendance

"Attended" or "not attended" is the most basic way to look at interest, but webinar attendance doesn't tell the entire story. Tracking the recording views of each registrant is an extension of the story, because registrants are still taking the time to consume the content.

Realistically, attending a webinar live is not always an option. But just the act of registering for the webinar demonstrates interest in the content offered, regardless of attendance or recording consumption.

When determining score assignments for attendance, consider giving varying scores to a registrant who stays for the entire webinar or watches the entire recording versus someone who attends but leaves early, or someone who does not attend at all.

4. Tease out shoppers at the top of the funnel

Adding a breakout session to the end of a top-of-funnel webinar for a short demo of your product/service is a great way to identify current shoppers early in the marketing funnel. Attendance at that session is valuable information that should be passed on to the sales team and should trigger accelerated interaction with those attendee contacts.

5. Gathering information is a process

Take the interactive opportunity available via the webinar medium to ask a few more questions and gather more information about registrants.

Polling is an easy tactic to add to any webinar; however, it is also easy to get wrong. For instance, asking something already known based on the registration information collected, or based on the content of the webinar, is a turnoff for webinar attendees. In addition, beware of collecting information without delivering value first.

If you're rolling up behavior into a score, assign specific poll answers differing scores based on sales team input on qualified-lead indicators.

6. Track further voluntary content consumption

Providing further resources for in-webinar and post-webinar consumption is a great way to track interest and engagement. Resources can include files to download, such as the presentation PPT, a product solution overview PDF, or a weblink to a Contact Us form.

Consider giving each file or link a unique score; for instance, if someone downloads the PPT from the presenter, that's not as valuable as a download of a solution overview about your product or service. You'll want to let Sales know what each attendee downloaded. That attendee behavior can also be tracked from the recorded version, as the file download and Web link options remain live (depending on the platform you are using).

7. Real-time conversations accelerate the process

The Q&A is one of the most commonly used interactive tactics during webinars. Depending on the content of the webinar, attendees may be asking questions about your product and service, so having a way to flag the questions that indicate shopping behavior or strong interest is extremely valuable. Whether you wrap that behavior up into an overall score or simply pass the information on to Sales, don't overlook the rich information collected during Q&A. If appropriate, inviting a sales rep to assist with attendees' needs during the webinar can provide a smooth pass-off to Sales.

8. Overall engagement points to interest level

Planning out interactions throughout the webinar will help Marketing and Sales gauge attendees' interest level. Adding chat participation, use of emoticons, participation in polls, and activity during Q&A to the behavior scoring equation can give sales teams an overall sense of how engaged each attendee was during the webinar.

Some platforms will generate an overall engagement score automatically. Otherwise, you'll need to find a way using your marketing automation or CRM systems to wrap up all the data into an overall score. If you don't have a way to do that, at least take steps toward passing the behavioral information collected to Sales in a meaningful way.

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Webinars, above all other marketing tactics, give marketers a unique opportunity to interact with prospective clients and to qualify leads based on real-time behavior. Scoring on webinar content and behavior is easier than ever before; the digital nature of webinars allows for ease of tracking and integration with existing marketing systems.

Generating Sales-ready leads is the highest priority of any marketer and gathering demographic information is not enough; it's time to take lead qualification to the next levels.

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image of Shelby Britton

Shelby Britton is senior product marketing manager at Adobe, where she implements programs in field marketing, demand generation, and product marketing for Adobe Connect. She also blogs about webinar best-practice tips.

LinkedIn: Shelby Britton

Twitter: @ShelbyBritton