Scalable And Cost-Effective Digital Engagement

Quick Summary:

On the face of it, going from zero to creatng a full digital engagement ecosystem centred around webinars seems a steep hill to climb. The good news is this: If you know how to do it, it becomes very manageable. We have done it and in this article we share our approach, as well as the outcomes.

Much like a mountain guide helps you to avoid avalanches and crevasses, we work with customers to guide them safely and efficiently to the summit. In 2017, we began working with a global SaaS company to design, build, and integrate their webinar program into an always-on digital engagement ecosystem. The ecosystem was centred around webinars with a goal to generating leads at scale and producing sustainable pipeline as a result.

In this article, we show the critical factors that allowed us to get started. We also discuss the core structure and how it allowed our client to design lead scoring and lead nurturing tracks. There are several critical factors – the ground rules – for an approach like this to work. We have outlined and explained them below.

Several years ago, around 2017, I was recommended to someone for my webinar expertise. This person worked for an up-and-coming Software company, and they were looking for someone to help them with their digital engagement through webinars. I recall walking into their Amsterdam office and within 20 minutes of this guy giving me an overview of what he wanted to achieve, my mind was racing and my heartrate was up. This guy had a vision and it was super exciting – I could see it and it aligned 100% with mine. We were both marketers and he’d put on a whiteboard, what I knew instinctively. Seeing it laid out like that was both inspiring and mind-blowing.

A Bold Vision

It was a structure for an always-on marketing campaign engine that had webinars and digital engagement at the centre. It was not something I had ever seen a company define as a target before.

But before I describe what he had in mind and how we achieved it, let me remind you of what 2017 was like for webinars. Webinars were being given a hard time. The technology worked well, but webinars had fallen out of favour a little. Social media was growing in dominance and appeal for digital engagement, and martech challenger companies like Hubspot were starting to gain dominance and headlines in the CRM and Marketing Automation space.

“… it was a rocketship! Where do I sign?”

So, to have someone focus the creation of a marketing automation and lead nurturing ecosystem around digital engagement through webinars was bold. From my perspective it wasn’t risky, because I knew that webinars would be up to the task, but it was perhaps risky in terms of what the internal perception would be if this approach were to run into challenges – even if they were unrelated to webinars. Would webinars get the blame? Would this guy see the outside of the building before he could take another stab at rectifying it?

Let’s say there was a small element of risk. It was containable, but what compounded that risk was the fact that the SaaS company he worked for was on fire. It was growing rapidly and needed fuel to keep the rockets going. This digital engagement ecosystem he was intent on building would have to provide a large portion of the leads the company needed. If it wasn’t up to the task, the 12 months they’d lose trying to make it work would feel more like 36 months in SaaS.

After an hour, he asked me if I was up for it and if I could see it work. I asked him “Where do I sign?”

The Ground Rules

There were several key factors that would have to be fulfilled for this digital engagement approach to work. Ground-rules, if you like:

  1. They would need a leading webinar platform that had the ability to scale quickly and integrate comprehensively
  2. They needed a fully-fledged CRM and Marketing Automation stack that was integrated and setup for enterprise-level campaign management and data processing
  3. They would need a comprehensive vision of how their lead nurturing would work (it was going to become comprehensive and complex)
  4. They needed enough content for webinars and other supporting assets to sustain a large system like this 24/7/365.

However, the factor that would make all the difference was ‘time’. I raised early on that – irrespective of how long it would take to set everything else up – webinar programs take time to gain traction at scale. This is especially true if a program is new, and audiences are not used to it yet.

I had stipulated that 6 months was a minimum timeframe, which would allow for process design and implementation, as well as the roll-out of weekly webinars that would gain traction and audiences. I also stipulated that they would have to account for sales cycle length. It would take time for leads to turn into pipeline and opportunities.

“… I was speechless…”

So all in all, I stipulated that 12 months would be a suitable timeframe to create, run and evaluate the new program – and I held my breath… The answer I got took my breath away. Until today, I have not heard this statement a second time…

My contact’s boss, the VP of EMEA Marketing said this: “I understand, and we’ll make sure we give you 18 months air-cover. We’ll take a look at progress after 6 months, we’ll make first assessments after 12 months, and we’ll make a call of whether it’s turned into a success after 18 months.”

Wow… I was speechless. Here was someone who hadn’t worked with me before, who was sitting in a rocketship for a company and needed to make things happen, and who was doing something I had not seen any other company commit to before in the same way. And they were going to give it 18 months air-cover? They were either visionary or naïve. 7 years later (although I knew it at the time), I can tell you it was visionary.

How did we build this webinar-led always-on digital engagement ecosystem?

Here are the key elements:

  1. The Marketing Tech Stack
  2. The Always-on Structure
  3. The Webinar Program
  4. Lead Scoring & Nurturing

1. The Marketing Tech Stack

The Marketing Tech Stack underpins the entire ecosystem for digital engagement. Without it, it wouldn’t work. The good news was that their Marketing Operations Team was very proficient and very well set up.

At the core were the company’s own CRM system as well as Eloqua for Marketing Automation. The two were integrated with each other through the a well-structured data flow and sync. Eloqua would pull data for marketing promo from the CRM, and feed new/updated data back into the CRM.

Reporting, as well as data enhancements, would take place in the CRM system which held the ‘gold standard’ data. Campaigns would be created in the CRM system, whereas Eloqua would provide the linked, sync’d, and gated campaign landing pages for digital engagement with various campaign assets, including webinars, whitepapers, reports etc.

All of this was pretty standard, but with webinars a third component was introduced. The tech stack was extended through an API integration to include the Webinar Platform. With this third piece of the puzzle, the flow would now be circular between the three, i.e. CRM provides data, Eloqua would pull it from the CRM to distribute marketing promos, which pointed at the Webinar Platform. The Webinar Platform would sync registration and attendee data back to the CRM system during pre- and post-webinar stages (real-time in pre-stage and in timed batches during post), as well as updating Eloqua to avoid duplicate promo to already registered contacts.

In addition, the webinar platform was aligned with the Eloqua landing pages. This allowed for users to register on Eloqua landing pages (by-passing the webinar platform registration page), while being forwarded to the webinar platform’s lobby page prior to the webinar go-live.

2. The Always-on Structure

The foundation for the structure of the always-on digital engagement ecosystem was a brand messaging house. In fact, it had already been mapped out on a whiteboard the first time I was invited to join my contact in their offices. The brand message house was applied to 5 lines of business in multiple languages across the EMEA region.

The brand message house guided the content creation across all asset types, and the overall structure guided us towards the foundational matrix of the webinar program (see below for more details).

With the campaign content messaging outlined and structured against the brand message house, we were able to define campaign flows and digital engagement points with the audience content journey. In turn, this allowed the company to begin the process of defining lead nurturing flows and lead scoring mechanisms.

In practice, the always-on structure showed an audience member’s potential progression through a variety of digital engagement touchpoints and assets per line of business (multiplied by 5 languages).

An important aspect was the ability for audience members to self-select their journey (in part), which would give an indication of their maturity and willingness to progress to the next stage of the buyer journey.

For example: An email promotes asset 1, followed by a nurture email that promotes assets 2a and 2b (more mature/detailed assets). The subsequent nurture email offers a more mature asset (asset 3) or an asset at the same at the same maturity level (i.e. level 2).

This approach was really important for lead qualification and nurturing. Here’s why:

  • Stage 1: Asset 1 is followed by an offer for assets 2a and 2b. This makes asset 1 the overall hook.
  • Stage 2: Assets 2a and 2b are more mature assets. An audience member who consumes them qualifies themselves as willing to continue to engage (warm-up phase)
  • Stage 3: Asset 3 (even more mature) is offered, while also offering a stage 2 asset. Audience members therefore self-select (i.e. self-qualify) to stay on a stage 2 asset or progress to a stage 3 asset.

The audience’s content journey is aimed for them to participate in a (series of) webinar(s), which will provide significantly deeper audience insights based on their digital engagement. Webinars offer behavioural insights alongside mere demographic data (name, email, role etc), as well as a series of qualification signals and touchpoints, such as questions, poll participation/responses, dwell time, related asset downloads, cross-promo registration for another webinar etc.

A simplified view of this is outline in this graphic

webinar lead nurturing

In the next section, we will dive into how the webinar program was structured to feed into the nurturing activity. I will also explain how it was designed to progress audiences further along the digital engagement and content journey – allowing for year-round audience engagement and education. Crucially, the program was designed to retain audiences from the pre-sales stage through into the customer stage. This ultimately led to increased audience loyalty, program growth, and up/cross-sell opportunities and pipeline growth.

3. The Webinar Program

The webinar program was designed to be a central program serving the EMEA region. By default, the webinar content was presented in English. At this point, only the German-speaking (DACH) region was running their own in-language webinars. More on that later.

Starting with the company’s messaging framework, the company had identified three core messages per line of business. These three core messages would encapsulate what the company wanted to communicate about its products in a specific line of business.

In parallel, we identified five audience maturity stages. These stages defined the audience’s levels of knowledge about the company and its products from ‘basic’ to ‘expert’.

As a result of these audience maturity stages, we were able to identify five webinar content formats (read more about webinar formats here), which would serve the audience with the right type of content in the appropriate content format.

From this, we designed a matrix which assigned webinar volumes (per webinar format) to the different lines of business. Each line of business had different requirements, and each webinar format (and maturity stage) had a different target audience size. Therefore, the number of assigned webinar slots differed for each line of business. The core underlying principle for volume allocation was based on the distribution of pipeline goal percentages per line of business.

At a later stage, we added different languages into the equation as a way of serving regional language and relevancy requirements. However, we also created regional webinar programs which served their audiences directly.

4. Lead Scoring & Nurturing

The content journey was designed to capture audience registrations with top-of-funnel content (eg analyst reports) in traditional content formats (documents). This wide appeal ensured database growth and initial net new (and existing) audience engagement.

However, at the centre of the always-on engine was an advanced webinar program designed to engage audiences in real-time. By using webinars, we were able to generate quantitative and qualitative data from the audience’s digital engagement. Demographic data was augmented with behavioural insights, as well as specific buying signals. Across the audience’s content journey, we were now generating a wide range of touch points, which formed the basis for lead scoring.

Based on the type of engagement and lead score, the audience could be nurtured along a content path, which ultimately would either disqualify them as a lead or qualify them to the point of sales engagement.

The Result

We soon saw that the overall approach was resulting in staggering results. It had started with a clear and bold vision, we had a realistic and even generous timeframe, and we applied a logical (and even scientific) approach to defining the overall process for webinar program planning and execution. The marketing tech stack provided a solid foundation for what the marketing and campaigns teams would put in place. Everything was setup for scale and execution. We just needed to switch it on.

Within months we knew that what we had created was working. We could see early indicators for success and they continued. Yes, there were a few tweaks, but they were minimal. This was to no small measure due to the vision and timeframe we had agreed with the customer.

Paradoxically, the simple act of guaranteeing aircover for 18 months allows us to create something that produced results sooner and bigger than we had been able to with a shorter timeframe guarantee.

We implemented the first iteration (i.e. evolutionary step) of the program after two quarters and continued to iterate every two quarters after that for the next 2 years. After year 1, we were able to see that pipeline contribution from webinars had increased from under 20% of total pipeline to over 50%.

As a side effect, we saw the pool of webinar speakers increase, giving speakers the opportunity to build both their personal brand as well as the company’s brand.

When Covid hit, the company was primed to take advantage of 100% digital lead generation. The systems and processes were in place to pivot in an instant. And 7 years after designing the program webinars are continuing to be one of the most dominant, well-established, and cost-effective pipeline drivers for the company.

What are the benefits of the always-on digital engagement ecosystem?

We have covered the positive financial contribution to pipeline, but benefits extend well beyond this outcome.


The approach and structure of the program and always-on engagement ecosystem was the foundation for a scalable approach. It could be replicated and applied at scale.

High engagement:

The approach offered many touchpoints, which were designed to continually engage the target audience. By matching audience maturity and associated content requirements with the appropriate content type, we consistently saw a high degree of audience engagement.


Each touchpoint was trackable and provided insight for lead scoring and nurturing. This provided clear buying signals and a strong marketing qualification. As a result Sales Accepted Lead numbers where at almost 100% and Sales Qualified Leads quickly turned into pipeline and opportunities.

Automation and time-saving:

The use of automated lead scoring and lead nurturing led to significant time-saving, as well as optimisation of audience engagement.


7 years after initial implementation, the approach has evolved well beyond its original design. And it continues to drive leads and pipeline at scale, while operating from a very cost-effective base.

Key Take-aways

You have heard the saying before: “Every journey starts with a first step”. This step was taken 7 years ago and it led to a phenomenal outcome. Without the original vision, it would not have grown into what it is today.

It takes boldness to put a vision into practice, especially if it different to what has gone before it. But the rewards and benefits are worth the risk. We partnered with exceptional people to make this vision a reality and the success belongs to everyone involved.

Of course there were challenges and changes along the way. That is normal. But we knew that these changes would be easier and faster to implement because of the strategic and structured approach we had defined at the beginning.

You can also put a vision into practice and achieve great results. WebinarExperts is here to partner with you and help shoulder the load. Get in touch with us today and tell us about your vision.

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