Case Study: Marketing to Marketers With On-Demand Video

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Nevermind spam. Even legitimate emails are clogging our inboxes. Email was once new, unique, and personal enough to be a good marketing device, but that’s no longer the case. Email marketing messages get buried among the heaps of emails that now seem to be part of everyday life. And that makes them very easy to ignore (or to never see at all).

One organization that thinks it has found a better way to market itself is the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. And its better way is through on-demand mini-webcasts produced and hosted by ON24.

The CMO Council describes itself as a private, nonprofit industry group dedicated to knowledge exchange, thought leadership, and personal relationship building among senior marketing and brand decision makers. It’s sort of like an exclusive club for marketing execs (like the Masons minus the weird rituals), but the council prefers to refer to itself as an affinity group. Membership is by invitation and approval. So if you wanted to join, someone would have to nominate you and your qualifications would have to be considered. The group is currently comprised of about 3,000 members worldwide.

The CMO Council has no membership fee. So how does it support itself? Through corporate sponsorships (AT&T, Symantec, etc.) as well as through various events (both live and online) that have admission fees. The CMO Council’s biggest events and money-raisers are its annual summit meetings (one in Europe, one in Japan, and one in North America). The most prominent summit is the North American Summit, which was last held Oct. 4–5, 2006 in San Francisco.

In the past, the CMO Council has promoted the North American Summit though emails to its membership. That was once a good way to market the event, but it is clearly no longer the ideal strategy. Part of the problem is that the Council has recently added more events to its schedule. In the past, the Council had only seven or eight programs per year to promote; but lately it has added events to its schedule, bringing the total to 21.

"When we were promoting that many things and sending that much email traffic, we didn’t want to end up in somebody’s spam radar," says Aaron Ware, the Council’s director of business development/operations. "And we didn’t want our members to get the impression that we didn’t recognize how busy they were. So we started asking—what’s a better way to make sure that they continue to open our emails and that they get a sense of being connected with the people that are producing the event? And can we put a face on our brand to differentiate us from other event producers such as Frost & Sullivan, or CMO magazine?"

The idea to use on-demand webcasts in place of mass emails evolved out of a discussion between the CMO Council and ON24, a San Francisco-based provider of webcasting, video communications, and rich media marketing solutions. The two partners had initially planned to collaborate to create webcasts as post-event promotions to drive pre-registration for the next year’s Summit event. During those discussions, ON24 heard the Council complaining about the slow return on pre-event email promotion and suggested flip-flopping their efforts to address pre-event rather than post-event promotion.

Ware says that last year’s emails promoting the Summit were effective, but the Council thought it could do better. "They were good emails, but we recognized that our members are only going to read so much. So the first step was to shorten the message," says Ware. "Our prior emails were loaded with content, things like what the program was like, who the keynote speakers were. It was like a long invitation," he says. "So we decided to invite them to a link that would open up with a video; it would be very eye-catching. There’s a person actually talking to them and it’s short (about a minute and forty-five seconds to two minutes tops) and gives them the things they need to do to be a part of this event. So we put all the action items there, used some bullets and some Flash."

And so instead of sending long, boring emails that were easy to ignore, the CMO Council decided to send a short email with a photo and a link to another web page with an embedded video. A good example is the email sent to members featuring a photo of Yahoo! CMO Cammie Dunaway. It is simply a single web page/email with a photo of Dunaway and an invitation to "Meet Cammie Dunaway, CMO of Yahoo!"

"That’s it, half a sentence and a link," says Ware. Of course, the real message is on the next page that members can go to if they click on the link button. There they watch a two-minute video of Dunaway in which she introduces herself, talks about why Yahoo! has attached its brand to the CMO Council Summit, and invites other members to join her at the Summit. "It’s a very personal message," says Ware.

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