Break Free B2B Marketing: “Webinerd” Mark Bornstein of ON24 on Dialing In Digital Experiences

Break Free B2B Marketing Mark Bornstein Image

Break Free B2B Marketing Mark Bornstein Image

Like many other digital experiences, the webinar has traditionally been viewed as a means to an end: Create something that seems valuable to your audience, and use it as a vehicle to acquire contact information for lead generation purposes.

But marketers like Mark Bornstein take a different angle: What if we view the webinar itself as an end — an extremely valuable marketing tool on its own? What if we’re just muddying it up with all these mandatory form-fills and sales-y follow-ups?

“You need the name once, you need the demographic information one time,” he observes. “But why do we keep putting forms together again and again? What matters is the experience.”

[bctt tweet=”“Why do we keep putting lead gen forms together again and again? What matters is the experience.” — @4markb on #BreakFreeB2B #DigitalExperiences” username=”toprank”]

Mark elaborates: “It’s the experience you give, it’s the way you’re able to connect and interact with audiences that matters. Because that’s where you’re going to get the real data. That’s where you’re going to learn a lot about them.”

Although he is a proud marketer, and VP of Marketing for the webinar solution provider ON24, this self-professed “webinerd,” Mark urges his fellow practitioners to develop a new mindset by moving away from traditional terminologies: “It’s not about marketing anymore. It’s about connecting people to your brand. It’s relationship-building.”

The days of dry, facelessly narrated slide presentations are gone, he argues. We need to dial in and focus on human connections through authenticity, empathy, and compassion. We need to learn more about our customers than how we can contact them with follow-up promotional materials.

At a time where physical events and meetings are off the table, achieving these connections in the digital space via experiential marketing has never been more vital. In his 25-minute conversation with TopRank Marketing’s Susan Misukanis at B2B Marketing Exchange in February, Mark shared a wealth of insights, which have only become more useful and valuable in the weeks and months since.

Break Free B2B Interview with Mark Bornstein

If you’re interested in checking out a particular portion of the discussion, you can find a quick general outline below, as well as a few excerpts that stood out to us.

  • 0:45 – Mark’s experience making webinars, and his view on lead gen
  • 2:00 – Have we reached the end of MQLs?
  • 3:15 – What is an experience and what makes a good one?
  • 5:00 – Examples of companies that are getting digital experiences right
  • 7:45 – What role will technology play in experiences going forward?
  • 10:00 – Are brands becoming more open to moving outside the box?
  • 12:00 – Finding and positioning your brand’s narrative
  • 13:30 – Getting back to opt-in marketing fundamentals
  • 16:00 – Where Mark sees the industry going in 2-3 years
  • 17:30 – Who is poised to win in the short-term (SMB/verticals vs. enterprise)?
  • 20:15 – The value of compassion, empathy and connection
  • 24:15 – How can B2B marketers break free?

Susan: So you talk about an experience … Can you take it a level deeper? What is an experience?

Mark: Well, let me tell you about my world. So in the world of webinars, if you think about what a webinar was even a few years ago — and maybe in some cases still now — the webinar was a talking PowerPoint. Just a headless voice, you didn’t see anybody. You just heard somebody going through the slides in a droll way and it wasn’t branded and it was just boring. And maybe a lot of webinars still are kind of boring. But the fact of the matter is, what we see companies doing now is they’re creating serialized programming. They’re creating these really cool almost TV-like viewing experiences, where it’s a show and there’s hosts and the formats are changing. There’s panel discussions and coffee talks and chat shows and new style formats. So companies that are trying to own thought leadership, to establish a voice, to be the company that people go to — they’re not going to do that through giving a webinar on, you know, here’s our content. Here’s our slide presentation. They’re doing it by building experiences. And I think a really great experience has a few of the following qualities: It should be completely branded. It should be interactive. I always say give yourself the “what can they do?” test. When somebody is experiencing your content, is this all they can do? They’re reading your ebook or watching your video … is that it? An experience is a place where people can ask questions, or they can chat, or they can tweet, or they can download content. They can click on CTAs. You want to create an environment where people are doing stuff, and it’s a multi-touch content experience. And so it’s a different thing today.

[bctt tweet=”“Companies that are trying to own thought leadership, they’re not going to do that through giving a webinar that’s a slide presentation. They’re doing it by building experiences.” — @4markb on #BreakFreeB2B #DigitalExperiences” username=”toprank”]

Susan: We keep hearing that marketing is moving toward AI and tech — in a few years, it’ll all be bot-driven. How do you reconcile that with your vision?

Mark: One of the things that drives me crazy about marketing in general is that we as marketers are very interesting creatures, in the sense that we’re always willing to try new things. But we also get into habits we can’t break. And a lot of the technologies — whether it’s automation, or artificial intelligence, predictive analytics — all these amazing technologies that have been created to scale our marketing in ways like never before? Well, we are acting like this technology that was created to get people to our marketing has now become our marketing. So you need to look at, you know, artificial intelligence tells us out of this vast infinite number of people who we should be targeting, and maybe some of the topics we should be talking about. We can get a lot of great information. Automation allows us to scale that up in a lot of different ways. But ultimately, there is a moment of engagement. There still is that human engagement. And so all of that technology can inform, but ultimately, what really has to drive that engagement is the conversation that you have with them and the experience that you can deliver.”

[bctt tweet=”“We are acting like this technology that was created to get people to our marketing has now become our marketing.” — @4markb on #BreakFreeB2B #DigitalExperiences” username=”toprank”]

Susan: You tweet a lot about marketers not asking for proper permission to opt in. So maybe our prospective buyer has a need, but getting that opt-in and going about it the right way, that’s a big hurdle.

Mark: It is. I mean, if you’re a marketer in the U.K., you know what this pain feels like. I think especially in the U.S., but really around the globe, marketers are not ready. I don’t think they’re taking this seriously enough. You know, privacy legislation is in the U.S. now, but it’s mostly based on privacy protections. It’s not based on opt-ins and that sort of thing yet. It is coming. It is going to happen very soon, people. And so we need to prepare for this, which means we need to build our marketing around this idea of people opting in. So how do we do this? We have to be able to produce streams of programming that people will want to subscribe to, right? It’s no longer about nurtures, it’s no longer about ‘can you come to my event’ or ‘will you come to this one-off virtual experience or webinar,’ whatever it is. We need to find ways to get people who want our marketing to opt into our marketing. At a time when all of this digital noise is scaring them away. We need to bring them back in through more authentic, more human, more experiential marketing. We’re going to get them there.”

Stay tuned to the TopRank Marketing Blog and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Break Free B2B interviews. Here are a few interviews to whet your appetite:

Source: SEO blog

The Universal Translator: How Marketers Can Improve Communication with Internal Stakeholders

How Marketers Can Communicate with Internal Stakeholders

How Marketers Can Communicate with Internal Stakeholders

Star Trek is one of my favorite franchises. It’s a beacon to guide humanity to a brighter future: One without wars and scarcity, dedicated to discovery and enlightenment. 

(Can you tell I really loved the Picard series premiere?)

Poster for the Star Trek series Picard
(He has a PIT BULL named NUMBER ONE.) Photo Credit: CBS

But the best tech in all of Star Trek isn’t the transporter, the replicator, or even the holodeck. It’s the universal translator, a gizmo that can process language in real-time and convey every nuance and idiom.

We have a similar technology right now, but… well, it could use some work.

“Shivers down my spine” turns into “chicken skin?” That kind of margin of error would cause some serious diplomatic crises in Starfleet.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Google Translate. Sometimes people speaking the same language have trouble communicating with each other.

Marketers are good at speaking marketing-ese, for example. But within our team we likely have multiple dialects, and that causes communication troubles. And when we step outside of the marketing department? Well, we’re back to flipping through a phrase book, asking “Dónde está la biblioteca?”

Here are a few pointers that can keep your marketing team from getting lost in translation.

Tips for Fostering Better Communication with Stakeholders in 3 Key Departments

#1: The Marketing Department: Build a Shared Dictionary

Marketing is a multifaceted discipline these days, and you’re likely working with a diverse team to cover all the necessary skill sets. There’s the more technical-minded SEO folks, the more creative (but still strategic) design and content people, and of course the project managers who make it all work.

Odds are, each specialty has its own lexicon. For example, our SEO and content teams have one definition for power page:

Power Page [ pou-er peyj ] (n): A comprehensive, 2,000 word or more content asset that aims to be the best answer for a group of search queries.

However, for account managers (the ones communicating with clients), a “power page” was a page designed to convert — what content folks would call a “landing page.”

This misalignment in terminology was confusing for all of us. Once we sat down and agreed on common definitions, we were better equipped to give account managers what they were looking for, and keep our clients happy.


I’ve found it’s valuable to have regular meetings with marketing team members in different specialties. Take a few minutes to understand what they do and the terms they use. The more your team understands each others’ roles, the better equipped you will be to work towards objectives together. 

[bctt tweet=”The more your team understands each others’ roles, the better equipped you will be to work towards objectives together. – @NiteWrites #B2BMarketing” username=”toprank”]

#2: The IT Department: Use an Objective & Solution-Based Framework

Of course, getting all of marketing speaking the same dialect is the easy part. What happens when you have to talk tech with the IT department? 

For example, if there’s a shiny new martech solution you’d really like to implement, or if your design team needs to use Macs in a PC-only environment, you might have a hard time making the case.

Your IT team is likely highly opinionated on these issues, but what seems like stubbornness is just practicality. They need to have a controlled, secure environment. If you sneak in your own solutions to avoid confrontation, you can compromise the work they’re doing. It’s better to try and speak in terms that will resonate with their needs.

Keep the conversation grounded in objectives. Talk about the capabilities your team needs to have, and be able to explain why they matter. It helps to understand at least a bit of the IT architecture already in place.

If you’re talking about adding a new solution, make sure your vendor equips you to handle objections from the IT team. Even better, involve IT in the search process — don’t try to bring them in at the end when you’ve already decided on a solution.

#3: The C-Suite: Leverage Storytelling & the Bottom Line

Even more so than getting IT on the same page, marketers can find it challenging to communicate with the executives who set budgets and make purchase decisions. In a recent interview, Zari Venhaus shared her tips for speaking a language that resonates with the C-suite.

“If they’re not marketers, they don’t understand what we do every day and the impact it has,” Zari says. “We had to learn how to storytell.”

[bctt tweet=”If they’re not marketers, they don’t understand what we do every day and the impact it has. – @zvenhaus on storytelling for stakeholders #B2BMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Zari’s team was able to use the same skills that make for great content marketing — empathizing, knowing your audience, and telling a compelling story — to address their internal audience. (We highly recommend you tune in to her full interview below; great stuff in there.)

Ultimately, with the C-suite it comes down to proving the value of your marketing in concrete terms. That means connecting your marketing initiatives to revenue and ROI, whether it’s raising awareness or investing in new automation tools. It’s one thing to say, “With this tool, we’ll be able to increase conversion rates by .53%,” and another to say, “This tool will have a 135% return on investment within three months.”

Become a Universal Translator

We marketers are skilled communicators and strategists. We’re good at getting the right message to the right people in a way that inspires action. The key to good internal communication is treating our team members and stakeholders like our customers.

That means first getting our messaging nailed down and consistent throughout the marketing team. Then it means delivering relevant messages — offering value, even — to the rest of the organization in terms that are meaningful to each stakeholder.

As Jean-Luc himself would say: 

Jean-Luc Picard says Make It So

The post The Universal Translator: How Marketers Can Improve Communication with Internal Stakeholders appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Source: SEO blog