Marketing, webinars and the gorilla experiment

by | Jul 14, 2020

Gorilla suit

One of our biggest limitations as a species is that once we focus in on something we often become blind to other things going on around us. This was beautifully proven more than two decades ago by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons with their ‘invisible gorilla’ experiment. If you’ve not seen this, they simply asked viewers to watch a video of basketball players and count the number of times players in white shirts pass the ball. It turns out that more than 50% of people are so focused on the players and their task that they completely miss the person in the gorilla suit that clearly wanders into shot. Our brains simply can’t cope with paying attention to too many things.

And as the business world has pivoted in the last 6 months and the webinar and on-line event has become so prominent, I think marketing and events teams are falling into their own version of this gorilla shaped trap.

I’m a regular attendee at on-line webinars as they can be a great source of learning, provide insights and even contribute to competitor knowledge. But dear god, the quality and inconsistency of what we’re all being subjected to is frightening.

The impression I’ve been left with is that the vast majority of people have simply taken a bunch of existing presentation material and lightly ‘adapted’ this for the webinar itself, with very little thought given to what happens before or afterwards. There are two big problems here: firstly, a webinar is a very different medium to an in-person event and requires a different approach to storytelling and presenting in order to successfully communicate key messages and hold the attention of your audience. Secondly, and maybe even more critically, there seems to be a total lack of strategy in place to support a targeted and well-executed follow up, once the event is over.

In particular it all has a feeling that everyone is so focused on measuring success by how many people attend, they haven’t noticed that most of these names are never followed up by sales to convert into opportunities!

Having been in the sales game for nearly 30 years now I well remember the days of being handed a list of ‘attendees’ at a trade show stand and being told to follow them all up. This was always frustrating as you could have anywhere between 20 and 100 names without the first clue which were the ones to get excited about and which weren’t even worth the phone call. And here we are, several decades later doing the same thing but in virtual form. Like it or not, the simple fact is that if you give most salespeople a huge list of names with little insight and no weighting on which are any good, the chances are most will never be followed up! Be honest, how often do you hear from a salesperson after you’ve attended an on-line event? Rarely? Never?

Yes, it’s really important to get your content on the day right for a webinar (and I’ll get to that) but the thing everyone seems to be missing right now is what you do post-event. This is the phase which, when done properly, will actually drive conversion into sales and deliver ROI. Everything else is simply part of the process.

And this is where I would contend the process is broken. How many webinars have you attended where you’re pointed to a generic web page afterwards for a copy of the exact same slides you just viewed, with no value-add, and no follow-up from the host company? This is what frustrates me. Too often it feels like the measure of a successful event is the number of people who attended.

This was brought home to me when I joined an event last week where the follow up email promised to send me a copy of the slides and celebrated the fact that 700 people had attended. Sadly, I’m pretty sure that this statistic will be used to show event success, when in all likelihood 98% of those 700 will now fall into the abyss, never to be heard from again.

This is a missed opportunity and means that, however much excitement it generated, the event will fail to deliver the ROI it could have done.

So, what’s the answer? Like all things it’s multi-faceted, but I’d argue that the solution firstly needs to bring together your marketing and sales team to develop engaging, audience-focused story-telling and content which adds value to each stage of the process. How are you going to encourage people to attend your webinar or event? What’s the purpose of the webinar, what are your key messages and takeaways and what do you want them to do as a result of attending? And how are you going to re-engage with them when it’s all over?

Once you’ve figured all this out, then it’s about leveraging the right technology to create a personalised, targeted and measurable end-to-end experience which both captures the imagination and interest of your attendees, and delivers actionable insights to your sales team, allowing them to follow up with the right people at the right time.

Rather than simply giving sales the entire list of attendees at the end, your ultimate aim should be laser-focused on handing over a small number of qualified and highly engaged prospects for them to follow up, recycling the rest into further marketing funnels and continuing to nurture them until the time is right for sales to re-engage.

This isn’t just a theoretical ‘best practise’ rant, there are some brilliant companies who can help you deliver this strategy effectively. From firms like Eyeful Presentations who specialise in creating storytelling arcs and amazing presentation content, to technology firms like Folloze who can provide you with a platform to not just host the event on your webinar tool of choice, but also create an end-to-end experience that monitors engagement, personalises content and allows you to hone in on the few that actually might buy your solution.

Combining this approach with your sales and marketing team allows you to craft not just a compelling event, but crucially also to shape a strategic and highly targeted follow-up process that goes way beyond the ‘set of slides hosted on a web page’ into an experience that tests which attendees are consuming which types of content and how deeply, and therefore who are the most engaged and potentially receptive to becoming customers.

And for those who aren’t ready to buy right away, you can continue to drive ROI from your event by getting seriously clever with these approaches over the longer term. By continuing to refine and serve up the content that you know is of interest, you can guide your potential customers through an ever more engaging journey, nurturing them until they are ready to be picked up by sales.

As for us, beyond just being passive attendees, here at Sales Engine we’ve been supporting customers to close the gap between marketing lead generation and sales follow up for years now. Whether it’s working through complexity to create high impact messaging and structure for webinars, exhibitions, industry events and keynote speeches, or working with sales teams to leverage technology, to innovate and to develop robust processes that support marketing initiatives and drive ROI, we understand how important it is to get this right and we always focus on the outcome.

So, if you’re committing to events online over the next few months please stop focusing simply on the event itself and take a look for the gorilla that is the actual closeable lead you can hand to sales. To get there you need to bring sales into the heart of the discussion to ensure that all your efforts will be chased up. They’ll love you for it and in return you’ll be rewarded with a much greater ROI.

And if you need a helping hand with making all this happen, well you know where we are.