When we were evaluating marketing automation systems, one of our key criteria was the ability to integrate the marketing automation platform with our webinar platform. Webinars are one of the key lead generation tools that we use. This blog post will discuss what we learned and our experience using both Go-to-Webinar and Webex Event Center integrated with Marketo.
If you can’t wait to read the details, in the end we chose to go forward with Go-to-Webinar integrated with Marketo. We felt that Go-to-Webinar had better features and usability for our needs. We also ran into some email deliverability issues when we were sending Webex registration confirmation and reminder emails through Marketo. And that was a significant issue for us.
The pain points that drove us to evaluate webinar integration with marketing automation
When we first started evaluating marketing automation platforms in late 2011, integration between a webinar platform and a marketing automation tool was not widely available. We were already using Go-to-Webinar, but we were constantly running into problems with audio issues and latency issues (e.g. complaints from the audience that the webinar slides weren’t advancing on their screen). So we decided to evaluate webinar platforms at the same time that we were evaluation marketing automation solutions. When we were talking to Webex, they specifically recommended that we look at Act-On because it had such strong integration with Webex. At that time, Eloqua had just introduced their Webex Cloud Connector, but they didn’t have a cloud connector for Go-to-Webinar. Marketo had also just started to introduce its connector for Go-to-Webinar. Now in 2013, it seems that every marketing automation platform has integration with Go-to-Webinar and Webex. However, those integrations still have room for improvement.
If you’re already using a webinar platform, but don’t have it integrated with marketing automation, here are some of the reasons why you would want an integrated solution.
- Using the standard webinar registration process provided by Go-to-Webinar and Webex requires a lot of manual processes to get registration data into the CRM system. You have to export the registration lists from the webinar platform and then import it into Salesforce.com. With a webinar platform integrated via marketing automation to your CRM system, the leads that register for a webinar are automatically added to your Salesforce.com webinar campaign in real-time. That gives your sales team visibility to new leads before the webinar occurs. Without this integration, our process was to wait until the webinar was over. We actually had to wait 24 hrs after the webinar ended to make sure the system had updated which people attended and didn’t attend before we imported the data into Salesforce.com. We also had to worry about separating out new leads from existing leads/contacts when doing the import to avoid creating duplicates in SFDC. And of course the inside sales team is anxiously waiting for these leads while we’re doing this.
- The standard registration pages that come with Go-to-Webinar and Webex do not provide any ability to customize the registration pages. You have very basic ability to add your logo and change the color scheme of the registration pages. You can’t customize the fields or field labels shown on the webinar registration pages. For example, one annoying feature of the Go-to-Webinar registration page is that they use the Label “Organization” for the field to capture company name. We were constantly getting people entering their department name into that field. By integrating your webinar platform with a marketing automation system, you can develop highly customized webinar registration pages in terms of the look of the page and the registration form. Marketing automation tools let you make a webinar registration page look like it’s completely integrated with your website and ask custom questions on the registration form.
- The standard registration pages provided by Go-to-Webinar and Webex are not integrated with systems that you use for analytics and tracking. That specifically means that you can’t measure visitor traffic or drop-off on those webinar registration pages with Google Analytics or your marketing automation platform. If you’re getting poor registration on webinars, then I would want to look at tracking data to see if you’re getting enough traffic to the registration pages and then measure how many people are abandoning the registration process to determine how to improve the effectiveness of the registration page.
Go-to-Webinar integrated with Marketo
We made the decision to move forward with Marketo and we continued to use Go-to-Webinar. We were very quickly able to get the Go-to-Webinar connector set up. That let us create custom registration pages and get webinar leads into Salesforce.com in real-time without generating duplicates. All of our webinar promotion used tracking codes (URL parameters) in the link to the registration page so we could tell where our leads were coming from.
The Go-to-Webinar integration with Marketo requires you to use Go-to-Webinar system emails for registration confirmation and webinar reminder emails. Go-to-Webinar creates a unique webinar link for each registrant and the Marketo connector doesn’t have the ability to pull that unique link into their system. So you have to use the Go-to-Webinar system emails to send confirmation and reminder emails. The negative is that you can’t customize the message. The positive is that those emails have good deliverability.
One other note about the Go-to-Webinar integration with Marketo is that it doesn’t automatically update the Attended status and it still takes 24 hrs for Go-to-Webinar to update that. We have to import a spreadsheet into SFDC to update the campaign member status to Attended. To enable sales to follow up faster, we started manually tracking who attended during the webinar and immediately updating Campaign member status instead of waiting 24 hrs for the webinar platform to update itself.
We continued to use Go-to-Webinar with Marketo, but we were still experiencing audio issues and slide latency issues. We were looking for a webinar platform to deliver a better customer experience and decided to evaluate Webex Event Center.
Webex Event Center integrated with Marketo
We were able to get the Webex connector for Marketo set up fairly easily. The advantage of the Webex integration with Marketo is that you can send the webinar registration and confirmation emails from Marketo. Webex Event Center also creates a unique URL for each webinar registrant, but the Marketo Webex connector is able to pull that data from Event Center and put it into a Marketo email. Everything else is similar – you can create custom registration pages and using tracking codes. However, we ran into one significant issue – the email deliverability was really poor on Marketo emails for Webex webinar confirmation and reminders. The emails would not arrive in a timely manner or at all. We worked with Marketo Support to set up branded links and a branded CName for our email, but it didn’t improve deliverability. That was a significant issue. We didn’t have those deliverability issues with Go-to-Webinar.
Go-to-Webinar vs. Event Center
Ultimately, our decision to move forward with Go-to-Webinar primarily came down to differences between the two webinar solutions. We ran live webinars with both products. When we ran a live webinar with Event Center, we ran into just as many complaints about the audio from the audience. So here are the key reasons why we chose to move forward with Go-to-Webinar:
- The Go-to-Webinar user interface lets you detach the various control panels from the user interface so you can enlarge them across dual monitors and make it easier to manage a webinar. All of the Webex control panels are fixed to the main screen and it’s more difficult to use the different panels because they’re smaller.
- Both webinar platforms offer polling questions, but Webex doesn’t associate answers with each person. In Go-to-Webinar, we export each person’s responses to the polling questions and import that into Salesforce.com to give our sales people more insight to each specific lead.
- We found that the process for transferring presenter controls was a little more complicated in Webex. Perhaps it was because we were so used to Go-to-Webinar.
- When Go-to-Webinar sends out a webinar registration confirmation email, it includes a link to make it easy to create an Outlook calendar appointment that contains the unique URL for that person to attend the webinar. Sending Webex confirmation and reminder emails from Marketo can’t do that. You could create an ICS file for the Webex webinar date and send that in the email, but it won’t be able to pull in the unique URL that each person will need to attend the webinar. The person will have to hunt through their email to find their unique link to attend the webinar. So we find using the Go-to-Webinar system emails for registration confirmation and reminders to be a better solution especially given the email deliverability issues described above.
- We preferred the phone audio solution offered by Go-to-Webinar. We use the non-toll, free option for audio over the phone. One advantage of Go-to-Webinar is that it has local numbers that European audiences can dial into. For Webex, a person in Europe that wanted to dial into the audio would have to call a US phone number. The Webex audio solutions seemed designed for large corporations that provide toll free numbers or have their own phone infrastructure for webinars.
One other “gotcha” that is a Marketo issue common to both webinar platforms is that Marketo has different campaign member status progression values than what most people commonly use for webinar campaign member status values in Salesforce.com. As a result, you’ll need to build a smart campaign in Marketo to change your webinar campaign member status values to your desired values in Salesforce.com and you’ll need to set up Salesforce.com webinar campaigns using all the different member status values that Marketo uses. It’s a minor detail, but important to get your campaign member status values set correctly.
There were a few other minor areas where we felt that Go-to-Webinar was better than Webex from a usability perspective, but that may have been because we were so used to Go-to-Webinar. More recently, we haven’t had any significant complaints from our webinar audiences about audio quality or slide latency with Go-to-Webinar. So we’re moving forward with Go-to-Webinar integrated with Marketo.
I’d also like to thank Flora Felisberto for her contribution to the information in this blog post. She did all of the testing with Webex Event Center and Marketo.