Take 5: ON24’s New CMO Shares Plans For Driving Future Growth Of Online Event Sector

Published: November 4, 2008

During her tenure at Genesys, Persson’s marketing strategies and programs helped the company build a customer base of more than 200 of the Global Fortune 500. She was an also integral member of the executive team that grew the company tenfold – from $20 million to more than $200 million.

In her new role at ON24, Persson will drive the company’s global marketing efforts for its integrated family of webcasting and virtual events solutions across the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific Regions.
DemandGen Report had an opportunity to chat with Persson to learn more about the strategies and practices she plans to bring to ON24. She pointed out that her experience as a customer will help in to shorten her learning curve in her new position in the virtual world.

DGR: Given your experience at Genesys, you are obviously very familiar with the event business, how have you seen the landscape changing over the past in light of the challenging economy, particularly as it relates to using events as a lead generation tool?

Persson: Virtual events and webcasting are the obvious answers for addressing the perfect storm—escalating costs associated with business travel combined with the increased need for demand generation programs that enable you to better engage your audience and also a global audience.

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In the past, virtual events and webcasting have been used to optimize demand generation programs. Moving forward, we are working with our customers to help them further optimize their audience generation and getting more people to participate in a webcast, as well as how to create a more compelling event experience. We are also focusing on the follow-up after the event, in terms of lead scoring and allowing customers to qualify the leads from their webcasts before they pass them on to sales. In addition, there is opportunity to use webcasting to nurture those prospects and leads moving forward.

DGR: How would you describe your approach to demand generation and you share some insights into how you plan to integrate that approach into ON24?

Persson: My approach over the past several years has developed into a very systematic approach to demand generation, and that is very much the approach that ON24 has had as well. Really moving away from the traditional campaign approach, to more of a prospect maturation process, which allows us to provide a more engaging experience with our target markets and really position ON24 as a trusted advisor among our prospects. Rather than focusing on one-off campaigns, and then moving on the next month, we are looking to create more of an ongoing conversation with our target markets.

DGR: When you look at ON24 as a company, where do you see the biggest opportunities and room for growth? How much room for expansion do you see in the traditional web seminar business?

Persson: There is a tremendous growth opportunity among our existing base of large enterprise customers, coming back to the need for helping them optimize the use of virtual events for demand generation. We want to provide them tools for audience generation. Many of our customers have only been using our services for the actual event. We also have tools to help generate a larger audience, such as video-based invitations, and video-based banners which can help drive interest and participation in your event. And then after the event, we have extensive lead scoring capabilities which helps qualify opportunities. Some companies have thousands of participants in their event and need to decide who to call first. Our tools can help rank the leads and prioritize them before they hand the over to the sales team, or put them into a nurturing program.

DGR: ON24 recently announced its expansion into the virtual show platform. What kind of runway do you see there and will your marketing approach for this platform be different than the current business?

Persson: We are moving back to a whole education process where webcasting was five years ago– very educational approach in our marketing efforts. It’s all about getting customers exposed to what a virtual show is and get them to attend their first show so they get to experience it.
From our side, it is going to be so important to create a very compelling experience for participants in a virtual show. So one thing we are heavily focused and we have invested heavily is to truly customize the virtual show. As a business executive, you don’t want to attend a virtual show that has a cartoon type of feel to it, you want something more engaging. It’s about educating the market and making sure that everyone’s first experience exceeds their expectations.

DGR: How about the Insight 24 business, will that be part of your focus as well, and if so, what are your plans to increase the awareness and utilization of that platform?

Persson: That business has really taken off. It’s very much an extension to what we do, extending the shelf life for the content you have already generated. It really provides a greater return on your investment so you can continue to generate leads after the event is completed. You only pay for the leads you want and the lists you are getting are pre-qualified and ready for contact.

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