December 16, 2021

2022: The Year We Dynamite Digital

Webinar-itis. Virtual event absentia. Zoom gloom. Just a few of the pesky, present-day afflictions that pervade in an era of such rapid digital acceleration, where work-from-home is the norm and the return to physical events is still up in the air. As a result, B2B audiences are more discerning than ever.

It’s up to the savvy CMO to remedy this “digital fatigue” with high-quality experiences, and in this episode, CMOs Shirley Macbeth of Forrester, Paul Stoddart of Epicor, and Amanda Carty of Diligent share how they’re making it work. Tune in for a deep dive into driving digital engagement, with great tips on how to up your event game, coach virtual keynoters, mobilize employees across the organization, and more.

What You’ll Learn in This Episode

  • How 3 B2B CMOs are engaging digital audiences
  • How to up your event game, and how to prepare virtual speakers
  • How to mobilize employees to drive engagement and content

Renegade Marketers Unite, Episode 271 on YouTube

Resources Mentioned

Time-Stamped Highlights

  • [0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live!
  • [1:45] Forrester CMO on Handy, Helpful, and Human Digital Engagements
  • [9:26] Epicor CMO on Top-Quality Content
  • [16:13] Diligent CMO on B2B Brand Transformation and Thought Leadership
  • [22:28] On Micro, Physical, and Hybrid Events
  • [28:29] On CMO Huddles
  • [30:13] How to Prepare for Large-Scale Virtual Events
  • [40:00] Mobilizing Your Employees to Drive Engagements and Content
  • [47:33] CMO Antidotes for Digital Fatigue

Transcript Highlights: Drew Neisser in conversation with Shirley Macbeth, Paul Stoddart, and Amanda Carty

[0:00] Cold Open: This is Renegade Marketers Live!

Drew Neisser: Hello, Renegade Marketers! Drew here, introducing you to another episode of Renegade Marketers Unite from an episode Renegade Marketers Live. That’s the live streaming show that we often do with three CMOs from CMO Huddles. We’re doing that more and more lately because frankly, these conversations are just so darn insightful.

In this show, CMOs Shirley Macbeth of Forrester, Paul Stoddart of Epicor, and Amanda Carty of Diligent join me to talk about the world of digital fatigue. What I’m talking about is how everybody’s doing more digital and it’s not working as well as it did early in the pandemic or 5 years ago.

We’re talking about thinks like events and how B2B CMOs are curing symptoms of webinar-itis, virtual event absentia, and Zoom gloom, among many others. These are three powerhouse marketers, with a ton of incredibly practical tips to make sure your digital presence is up to snuff and cutting through. I know you’re gonna love the episode. And if you don’t, you know where to find me! Take a listen.

[1:45] Forrester CMO on Handy, Helpful, and Human Digital Engagements

“You're not selling a product; you are addressing a customer need.” —Shirley Macbeth @Forrester Share on X

Drew Neisser: I’m your host Drew Neisser, live from my home studio in New York City. With Google and Facebook both recording record ad revenues in Q2 2021, there are no signs that digital ad spending will slow down anytime soon. But if you dig into the numbers, you will also see an increase in CPMs as marketers compete for high-quality inventory, which in turn is putting pressure on response rates.

B2B marketers, many of whom had hope that physical events would resume in Q4, have been forced to double down on digital but are not enjoying the same yields that they had in 2021.

These marketers are confronting a malaise we will call digital fatigue. Reported symptoms of digital fatigue include webinar-itis, virtual event absentia, and Zoom gloom, among others. But since this show is all about solutions, not problems, we’re here to talk about how savvy marketers are combating digital fatigue.

With that, let’s bring on Shirley Macbeth, CMO of Forrester, star of episode 241 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Shirley, how are you?

Shirley Macbeth: I’m great. How are you?

Drew Neisser: I’m good. Anyway, I know that Forrester has issued a number of reports of late that speak to the challenge I raised in the opening. They’re not calling a digital fatigue. What are you all seeing on a general basis?

Shirley Macbeth: Well, I love the new vocabulary we’re all dealing with, right? The itises and all the maladies of the new digital world that we’re dealing with. But I’d say a couple things.

So, Forrester Research looks at what B2B buyers and consumers are looking at. I’d say, just off the top, we are finding that people, yes, are fatigued of a number of things, but they aren’t fatigued of all digital content. They’re just able to be a lot more selective. There are a lot more people vying for and better content that’s out there.

Obviously, there is no choice. Things have to be digital right now, or virtual, and that’s not going away. It’s actually going to continue on the long front. Marketers have to be flexible and creative to grab that mindshare.

One thing I would also note that really compounds this challenge for marketers is the number of touchpoints in a typical buyer’s journey has greatly expanded. From 2019, it would take 17 touches for a typical lead to close in most B2B organizations.

That has gone up by 10 touches, so 27 touches to close a deal in a typical buyer’s journey. And think of it, they all need to be digital. That’s a big challenge for us here today as marketers,

Drew Neisser: Oh my, 27 touches. Now, on one hand, that probably reflects a growing increase of number of decision-makers that are now in the process. It just reflects, in some sense, what I’ll call the CF-No, and just delaying purchases, which may have happened in particularly in 2020, when nobody knew what things were going on.

But on the flip side of this, as a marketer, I see that as an opportunity in the sense that sales guys can’t make 27 touches. And if they did, they would just really p*** off the customer. That opens the door. How many of those are you estimating are really marketing-driven touches?

Shirley Macbeth: I would say a lot of them. And what we’re finding is that, you know, a touch could mean a lot of things. It’s going to a website, trying out a tool. It’s doing things that maybe you may not even think of that you’re selling to somebody, right?

And we’re finding now that more and more buyers are taking advantage of these digital touchpoints. And in fact, the switch has flipped, where it used to be more human interactions to close the deal versus virtual and self-driven from people doing more in the buyer’s journey.

Those are all the more digital, so marketers have to find great ways to engage and add value along the way rather than, like what you said, the salesperson can’t and won’t go out 27 times. It just doesn’t make sense.

Drew Neisser: As I’m thinking about it, I’ve all sorts of thoughts that are going on at the same time. But a lot of this is we’ve been consumers to buy ourselves, whatever it is—I mean, Amazon, obviously, but everything.

We just take that same consumer behavior, and we bring it to the purchase. But it’s complicated when it gets to be an enterprise sale, and there are 10 people involved. You can’t necessarily do it and there are demos, there’s proof of concept or things. There are all sorts of complicated things in the world of enterprise. So it is hard to create… Everything can’t be self-service, right?

Shirley Macbeth: Right. So, the average number of people in what we call a buyer unit, you’re right, there’s never a single buyer, especially in these multi-year, multi-million dollar deals that some of us face. It’s a minimum of four. 60% of deals have at least four, and there are different types of this purchasing. It’s the CFO, it’s Sales, etc.

Our challenge as marketers, of course, is to tailor content. We talk about it as providing things that are handy, helpful, and now, human. I think the human element, especially during this time, is really important to engage your buyers as people and meet them where they’re at, and understand what’s driving their particular role in that buyer’s journey. You know, a procurement person versus an engineer who needs different types of materials.

Drew Neisser: Handy, helpful, and human. I’m a big fan of alliteration. My new book is full of it. And, yes, I want to break those down. Because what we’re really prescribing is a little bit of a shift here, in terms of the way the marketer thinks about this digital stuff.

I mean, so much of it, if you put it in this world of demand generation, you start to think about as, “I’ve got to get that guy from the top of the funnel to the next level and so forth.” And I’m just thinking about, “Do you want to buy? Do you want to buy? Do you want to buy? Okay, let’s close!” right? Whereas handy, helpful, and human… None of those say “Sell, sell, sell.”

All of those say, you know, what I’ll call sell through service. You are doing something of value to your prospective buyers. What does handy mean, what do you really mean there?

Shirley Macbeth: Well, useful content. Useful in whatever way makes your decision-maker able to make that selection process more easily. And it’s not, I mean, really, the first pivot you have to think about is, think from your buyer’s point of view, think being customer-centric, which is a big Forrester mandate.

You’re not selling a product; you are addressing a customer need. And if you flip that pivot, first of all, you’re thinking about what is handy, not from our point of view as what we’re selling. It’s what will advance and help solve that business problem that a client is having. So that’s, I think, number one is handy from the point of view of the client that you’re trying to address.

[9:26] Epicor CMO on Top-Quality Content

“People will go where not just the good, but the great is.” —@paulstod @Epicor Share on X

Drew Neisser: Now I want to bring on Paul Stoddart, CMO of Epicor, star of episode 239 of Renegade Thinkers Unite. Hello, Paul. How are you?

Paul Stoddart: I’m well. How are you?

Drew Neisser: I’m excellent. Thank you. Now, we spoke a few months back and we discussed at length Epicor’s brand transformation, which is a process that never ends.

I’m curious, what’s the latest with your marketing efforts, particularly in the area of demand generation and this digital fatigue thing that I mentioned at the top of the show?

Paul Stoddart: Yeah, I mean, what a great subject, by the way, and thanks for having me talk about it with you. I mean, you’re right, hey, the brand journey is an ongoing journey. If you’re always trying to raise the bar, and I think that’s the important thing, then it’s never going to end.

Let me think about your question. I think the reality is, digital fatigue… I don’t know that there is digital fatigue. I’m going to be a little bit, push back on that, because I kind of think back three or four years ago when all of a sudden, there was Netflix and Hulu, and you know, you get all of these streaming services.

Would we say that people have got fatigued with the amount of streaming of great content? I don’t think people have. I think the reality is people have become more discerning. And I think people have got more savvy.

And therefore, and I think, to the prior comments about having things which are really good and human and all of that good stuff, the reality is, that behooves us to actually create way better engaging experiences. And if we do that, then I’m not sure that the fatigue has to be there.

I think people will go where not just the good, but the great is, which takes me to our journey. Where are we on that whole demand gen, lead gen, and our brand. The reality is, Drew, I know you know my perspective on this—it’s a cake, and it’s all important.

We’re driving for the experience. It isn’t one element. It’s not just about, you know, intent data and enrichment or conversational, and AI and all of that. It’s like, they’re enablers of the experience we’re trying to deliver.

So, our brand’s in-market. It’s performing really well. We’ve gone from a low market awareness to a high market awareness. And now it’s about driving that familiarity and people really understanding and getting the proof of what we do.

We use all of the expected channels, as you’d imagine, to be able to deliver that to our customers. But we keep coming to this endpoint, which is a, what’s the experience we’re trying to deliver, and how do we get to build a really meaningful relationship versus just transactions? That’s kind of the journey we’re on and it’s gonna be an ever-going journey, like we said.

Drew Neisser: Well, so I’m going to step back. And I agree with you, that there will always be demand for great anything, right? But the problem is that marketers didn’t change, most marketers didn’t change the quality of the content. Some did, and those folks are cutting through.

Everybody else is just, mainly it’s about quantity not quality, and they’re just pushing stuff out. They’ve got a content calendar, and they’re going to meet that content calendar, they’re gonna get stuff out there. That’s what I mean by digital fatigue. Your run-of-the-mill webinar, you’re gonna get fewer people to sign up.

But if you bring a star to the webinar, more people will show up. That’s my point is that the average that might have worked a year ago, is not working. And a lot of marketers haven’t responded. I guess the question is, from two years ago or three years ago, what, from your standpoint, are you seeing that you’ve done that’s raised the bar for what you’re doing?

Paul Stoddart: Yeah. And I think you’ve nailed it. I think that’s it, right? Fatigue comes from, you know, just being fed up with something in many ways, or it not meeting a need. I agree with you.

As we always are largely aligned, it is around the quality and how to raise the quality. Otherwise, you just blend out into the background. So for us, I mean, candidly, a lot of it’s been about less is more. Actually creating higher quality, more engaging, to your point.

There’s a production value element to it as well. Technology and tools and capabilities have allowed you to do things very fast, but maybe not to the right quality. And certainly, from a brand perspective, if you’re trying to deliver on quality cues, what does your brand stand for, it’d be really easy to create things that actually don’t stand to the brand test.

So, for us, our journey over the past, let’s go for 18 months now, has been about where do you scale back? It’s kind of a go slow to go fast. Where do you scale back to actually do things really well, which to your point will cut through and actually be really meaningful for people versus just hit that content calendar, which becomes irrelevant very quickly.

Drew Neisser: So, is there anything that you’ve done in the last three months or so that you either performed better than you expected or was an example of raising the bar?

Paul Stoddart: Yeah, it’s pretty specific. I’ll give it its name. We call it the industry insight report. We spend a lot of time doing research with our customers, but also with the wider marketplace as well.

For us, we were on a mission to understand where people are on their journey to Cloud and what Cloud means to them. For us, that’s been, you know, how do you then get the results of that content and give actionable insight so it’s meaningful to both your customers but also prospects in the future as well? Delivering that in a different set of mechanisms globally, again, how do you make it globally relevant, but also very specific to each market?

That’s been an exercise on recognizing that you need to have different levels of content delivered in different mechanisms for people to engage with in different ways. We’ve got a really nice, what I call a cut-down version of the full report and our website.

We work with a brilliant partner, Ceros, they allow you to create brilliantly engaging content, and then you obviously can get access to the full report, all the data, and it’d be home to you as an individual as well.

So, again, this is an exercise of, we want to go really deep on one subject, but apply the learnings from it to many different audiences. And that’s the goal for me. Do something really meaningful, don’t just create lots of stuff.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, proprietary research does it again.

[16:13] Diligent CMO on B2B Brand Transformation and Thought Leadership

“There needs to be more transparency into the organization, so the content is coming in the form of this new digital hub.” —Amanda Carty @diligentHQ Share on X

Drew Neisser: Now, let’s welcome Amanda Carty, CMO of Diligent. Hello, Amanda.

Amanda Carty: Hey, Drew, how are ya?

Drew Neisser: Good. How are you?

Amanda Carty: I’m great.

Drew Neisser: So, let’s talk about Diligent’s brand transformation. You’ve gone through, I think, some acquisitions and evolved the platform. You’ve been busy this summer, I know it.

Amanda Carty: Yeah. Yeah. Busy is a great word to describe it. Diligent has been very acquisitive. Since I’ve been here, close to five years, we’ve had over two dozen acquisitions. That brings a lot of challenges around the brand, with all the goal of it to get behind the big, Diligent brand and market.

But with those acquisitions, our breadth and depth grew drastically. We really had to kind of redefine who we were, and make sure people understood everything that we had to offer. So in 2019, we launched our new category, modern governance, which really broke ground for us. And the journey continues for us.

This past year, we had three very large and transformative, I would say, acquisitions that really, really expanded our category and our growth. Our company changed overnight. And so, we’re reworking our story and enhancing our brand in market now. It’s been a wild ride.

Drew Neisser: I know, it’s mind-boggling to think about 24. I mean, it’s like every time you get your positioning right and you think you have the language right, there’s another acquisition and a change to your offering. I just can’t imagine. You obviously are an individual with low blood pressure and the ability to just sort of roll with a lot of newness all the time. So I just, I admire that.

Now, if we bring that back to this whole notion of digital fatigue, you have this really interesting challenge, which is, every time you’re about to put some content in the market—and you talked about modern governance, which is a new category.

If we talk about a new category, we need a lot of content to sell that, to just build awareness of it. What role has content played, and have you found anything that’s working today for you that’s fighting digital fatigue?

Amanda Carty: Yeah, so I would say, we do a lot of thought leadership content. We put a lot of content out there. We have, I think, definitely started to raise the bar with our content. Most recently—I think it’s timely, when we talk about upping the game and having to get more creative and how you reach your audience.

We just launched a big content partnership with Fortune this week. We launched The Modern Board, which is a digital experience for directors and executives, really starting to help enhance the conversations between the board and the C-Level executives and have more transparency and flowing of dialogue.

But we had to really try to think of, “Okay, how do we up the game? How do we get to the C-Level and then engage with the board level?” And so we just launched that, which we’re super excited about has a great response so far.

But also, we leverage the product in making sure we’re serving up timely content within the product, and getting in front of the audience as they’re using our technology as well. We’ve found that very helpful.

Drew Neisser: So just in case folks don’t know, because if you’re not in a board or in a governance position, you might not know this, but Diligent is sort of a management software system platform for managing governance and boards and interactions.

I want to go back to the Fortune thing, because this came up a lot in CMO Huddles as we talk about raising the bar. One of the things that brands have been doing is partnering with well-known media properties.

Your match with Fortune is kind of genius, given the fact that they are known as the Fortune 500. They are known as the public company place. So, talk a little bit about what the partnership is in terms of actual the kind of content that’s coming out of that.

Amanda Carty: Yeah. There is a need for more transparency between, as I mentioned, what happens at C-Level and the board? One example would be there’s a lot of commitments that are being made by organizations around ESG.

A lot of purpose commitments being made out there, how organizations are leading with purpose, what our technology does, it allows organizations to have the right insights that spark better decision making, which allows companies to be more accountable and purpose-led.

This content that we’re putting out there is kind of the how-to. How do organizations measure these commitments? How does a chief risk officer talk to the chairman of the board and how do they raise issues proactively and have meaningful conversations except getting called into the boardroom when something bad happens?

It’s breaking down those barriers, the content that we’re putting out there, and just allowing for more transparent conversations to happen. Because you can’t have that wall in the board meeting behind closed doors all the time.

There needs to be more transparency into the organization. So, the content is coming in the form of this new digital hub. We have newsletters going out, we’re doing C-Level events with board directors, and we have some other exciting surprises planned with them as well that will be coming early next year.

Drew Neisser: More coming. Just because there’s a chance my 95-year-old dad might be watching the show, he will say, what’s ESG?

Amanda Carty: Yeah. Environmental, Social, and Governance.

Drew Neisser: There you go. Environmental, Social, and Governance. It is not the same as triple bottom line, but it speaks to the notion of building environment into environmental measurement.

[22:28] On Micro, Physical, and Hybrid Events

“All the great things that we've learned from this time won't go away.” —Shirley Macbeth @Forrester Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re gonna open it up to the whole group now. We’ve been talking a lot in CMO Huddles about increasing engagement for the folks that do show up at events. We just heard Amanda talking about, you were going to talk about C-Level events.

I’m curious, let’s talk a little bit about what you were trying in these we’ll call them micro-events. We’ve heard a lot in huddles about them, but I’m just curious. And Amanda, you mentioned it already. What does a C-Level event look like on a virtual basis?

Amanda Carty: Yeah, it’s small, it’s intimate. Chatham House rules. It is allowing to have hard conversations had with trusted partners. We have found them to be very helpful, but you have to keep them small and intimate.

Drew Neisser: Small. Is that like under 15, under 10?

Amanda Carty: We’ll have one moderator and probably six to seven attendees.

Drew Neisser: Oh, interesting. Okay. Because a lot of the others—Shirley, Paul, have either of you done this, we’ll call a micro event approach?

Shirley Macbeth: We have. We’ve done it actually at some of our what had been traditional larger events. We were one of the first to pivot to virtual and did a lot of things differently, including some micro-events within that targeted towards the executive level. And I’d say Amanda is absolutely right.

You know, the value that you can provide by bringing together a small group of related-type people, whether it’s industries or personas, etc., to have a discussion that’s valuable to them. We’ve been leveraging that as well.

Drew Neisser: It’s funny, because in the huddles, one, it was interesting last week, one CMO talked about how these were really good for top of the funnel, getting folks in, and doing wine and cheese. He mentioned where he got the cheese from. For about 10 to 15 people.

And then the other another CMO talked about how they were really good for deal acceleration, where they’d have 10 prospects that were very far down the pipeline and 2 customers. No selling at all.

Anyway, I think it’s fascinating that this has—the value, even those, the bar is getting higher. It’s got to be better cheese, it’s got to be better wine. It’s got to be a better speaker. Paul, have you tried this approach?

Paul Stoddart: Yeah, yeah. Similar in different ways. We absolutely think about the core of bringing people together and letting them have a discussion. There’s nothing more powerful than having one person talk about their experiences, even if some of the conversations are challenging. You know, that’s fine, too. And I agree, hey, the small events tend to work well. And I think what you choosing good cheese. It certainly looks like it by the cost.

Candidly, though, we’re also running big events still, whether that be digital? I don’t know whether we’re privileged or not, but we have customers actually still really care about face-to-face. We’ve leant in where they want us to very cautiously, following everything we can. But you know, there’s the blend. We’ve got to go where the customer wants us to be.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think there’s any doubt in anybody’s mind there’s pent-up demand for physical events. And there have been conversations about doing these small events in person outside and trying to do them in safe environments, but again, I think in the last month, there’s been a lot of pullback in the physical events.

So, I don’t think we’re necessarily going to—any of us are saying, “Oh, we can rely on that for the fourth quarter of 2021.” Any of you disagree with that? Have you got a large physical event you’re going to rely on to get prospects in the door?

Paul Stoddart: Well, I mean, we had one. Again, our timing was maybe sublime, again, because you’re absolutely right, it went a little bit the other way. And you’re right, there was pent-up demand, no question about it. The level of conversation was a categoric all-time high. People that were there wanted to be there. I think when it comes back, it’s gonna be more meaningful than it ever has been in the past.

But you’re right. You have to follow the times and what’s happening and we managed to hit a window, which was great, but does tell us, you’ve got to plan for it. You’ve got to plan when it can happen.

Drew Neisser: Go ahead, Shirley,

Shirley Macbeth: I was just gonna say, when you think about those physical events, we’re certainly not planning for a lot of those now, but when we think about 2022, and as hopeful as we all are, our physical events are going to look very different.

I think they’re going to be better, right, because of the virtual experience. I would say all of our future planning, every physical event has a rich virtual component where it wouldn’t have had that before.

All the great things that we’ve learned from this time won’t go away. And I think the landscape of what events look like is gonna be really exciting. So, combining the benefits of physical with the virtual, the pre-event things that you do, the content being available and live-streamed for much longer. It’s not just that moment in time and you’re done. It’s a rich, multi-month experience.

Paul Stoddart: Completely agree.

Drew Neisser: Yeah. And I mean, I think that notion of create one big thing and then use it for many months, whether it’s a research project like Paul talked about, or Shirley, your large events and spreading out… It clearly is… And then the notion of hybrid, there’s no doubt.

[28:29] On CMO Huddles

“If you're a learner, not a knower, and you want to get an experience every time, @CMOHuddles is fantastic.” —@paulstod @Epicor Share on X

Drew Neisser: I’m going to take, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna just do a little plug on CMO Huddles, which we launched in 2020. CMO Huddles is an invitation-only subscription service that brings together an elite group of CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness.

Now, one CMO described huddles as timely conversations with smart peers in a trusted environment, while another called it a cross between an expert workshop and a therapy session. If you’re a B2B CMO, and you can share and care with the best of them, visit or send me an email and see if you qualify for a guest pass.

Shirley, Paul, Amanda, anything you want to add on CMO huddles? Now’s your chance!

Shirley Macbeth: I think it speaks to the handy helpful human we’ve been talking about. It’s a great way to have these conversations with your peers. And I’ve met some new folks through Drew and through this community, and we’re all trying to experiment and try new things. It’s just a great way to meet other folks.

Drew Neisser: Love it.

Amanda Carty: Yeah, I would add in—it gives you definitely a fresh perspective on some challenges you’re going through. Someone who’s been there and done it can bring some real-life stories to what you’re trying to bring to life yourself. It’s always good to have a fresh pair of eyes on a challenge that you’re trying to overcome for sure. I find that very helpful.

Drew Neisser: I love it.

Paul Stoddart: Yeah. And I’ll cap it off then. So I mean, I agree, if you’re a learner, not a knower, and you want to get an experience every time, it’s fantastic. I mean, even just here learning about Diligent, I’m like, “Hey, that feels like something we should be looking at.” Every time you learn something new.

Drew Neisser: I love it. Thank you all for that.

[30:13] How to Prepare for Large-Scale Virtual Events

“Back to raising the bar, we have brought in a stellar lineup of speakers.” —Amanda Carty @diligentHQ Share on X

Drew Neisser: Amanda, I think I noticed that you all had a virtual summit in September?

Amanda Carty: We do. We have a two-day modern governance summit. It’s a global event on the 14th and 15th, and we are not seeing digital fatigue with this. We have right now, I mean, we’re still a few weeks out.

I have over 5000 people registered for the event around the globe. But trying, again, back to raising the bar, we have brought in a stellar lineup of speakers. We have Alan Murray, Sally Susman, Dambisa Moyo. We have a really stellar lineup of speakers, so raising the bar there and making the content…

The sessions are 20 to 25 minutes. Short, impactful sessions on-demand as well. If you can’t attend live, you can on demand. And also to keep people engaged throughout, we’re doing gamification. We have contests going with some cool prizes.

Hopefully, that will keep them engaged and coming back and engaging with the content after the event. But we are gearing up for a big one in a couple of weeks.

Drew Neisser: 5000 attendees. And what do you hope—how many people will show up out of that? I mean, I’ve seen all sorts of numbers.

Amanda Carty: Yeah, we actually have a target of 10,000 registrants, so hopefully, we will have the 5000 actually attend or engage with us over the two days.

Drew Neisser: Wow. That’s a lot. And is there going to be anything sort of live and chatty? I mean, because if that were to happen, you’d need a lot of people watching.

Amanda Carty: Yeah, we do. We have team members assigned to be doing live chat during the during the sessions, during Q&As. Hopefully, we will be good with that.

Drew Neisser: Well, first of all, high quality. Shorter segments are something that was a big issue. In a huddle last week, someone talked about seven minutes sprints and thinking about the content in that way. Paul, Shirley, do have longer virtual events on the horizon?

Paul Stoddart: Yeah, we do. It’s probably a product of the people we’re dealing with and what we’re trying to cover. You can’t cover an in-depth overview of product and how to solve a business value problem in seven minutes, per se. Or maybe you could, but I think the audience is expecting that to be more conversational and it’s set up that way.

But I think there’s a good rule. We look at TED Talks, and the reality is, a shorter piece of content, but again, super high quality and really well thought through, is a brilliant format.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I mean, it really is a good model. And what you see there is, it’s one thought and it’s really reinforced and told with really good stories. It sort of goes back to human and helpful. But there’s an entertainment value here that we really haven’t talked about.

I mean, I think Amanda addressed it a little bit by saying a bunch of names that are authorities. What I have no way of knowing is, are these world-class speakers? They’re certainly authorities, right? Are you going to get the entertainment value out of them? I’m curious, I’m going to push back on that just say, how are you going to control the quality of those speakers, even though they’re well known?

Amanda Carty: Yeah, so we do a lot of prep sessions with them. We’ve actually been through actually recording this week, since everything is on-demand. We are going through our recordings.

There’s a lot of prep that goes in and a lot of tapes that go with it. We also have hired a speaking coach that we bring along the way with us. This person has worked with top speakers around the globe and executives as well. He is very helpful. It’s not Diligent giving the speaker feedback, it’s a third party.

Drew Neisser: That’s genius.

Amanda Carty: Yeah, and they take the advice, and he knows how to run shows, so he has entertainment in his background. It’s very helpful.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I mean, that’s a really, really smart idea. If you are using outside speakers that are well known in the industry, but may or may not be world-class speakers, getting a third-party coach to be the bad guy, if you will—not a bad guy, he’s actually trying to help them.

Because that’s really uncomfortable for you as a producer, particularly if they’re clients or you’re paying them. That’s a big tip on its own. And again, what we’re talking about here is, you’ve got to raise the bar. You might have been able to, in a physical event, you brought everybody together, you could get away with the CEO speaking for 15 and not being that good.

Everybody’s there and where are they going to go? They’re waiting for their cocktail at five o’clock. They’re not going to leave. In virtual events, we know people are going to leave because they’re looking at their email and their Slack channel.

That’s so interesting. And Shirley, you had talked about rethinking events. I still think it comes back to the basic quality of the content to begin with. And the assumption with Forrester is that it’s going to be good. You got great research behind it; you’re not making stuff up.

Shirley Macbeth: No, absolutely. Content is king still and it’s got to be the quality of the content, but I love the feedback and the advice around making that super engaging, getting third-party speakers. And I think the beauty of a lot of this content is that we can record it ahead of time, like we were talking about, and you can edit, and you can coach.

I’m sure we all as CMOs have gotten to an event and half the battle is just getting your team there, and you’re like, “Oh, my god, they’ve got to present tomorrow.” With the week before whatever of deadlines and of course pre-recording, that’s upped the quality quite a bit. I think that’s the benefit of everyone.

And Drew, to your point around, you know, where also are they’re going to go when they’re at a physical event, you’re thinking about the long term. Suddenly, your events become assets that live 6 months, 12 months…

If you continue to use those as assets, those recordings from those sessions, they become valuable content that’s not a moment in time, it’s something that lasts much longer. Quality is definitely going up as a result.

Drew Neisser: It’s so interesting, and I hadn’t really thought of it this way. But I’ve been to any number of enormous conferences. IBM or Adobe or Pega. And I know those CEOs have spent a week plus perfecting.

I don’t want to say—they are often really, really good. Everything is just, and I’m wondering, because they know they were live—I’m wondering, is it harder now with the virtual portion of it where they’re in a studio to get them as geared up and practice as much?

Shirley Macbeth: I find the opposite. I don’t know. I would say, for our CEO in particular, he’s great live as well, but we’ve now even used some cool teleprompter stuff.

He doesn’t need it, but just to have that reinforcement of content has made it all the better. So he’s like, why didn’t we record everything before? He’s such a fan now for earnings and for everything else. I think it’s actually better?

Drew Neisser: Well, there is that term, you can fix it in post. You have the advantage of the power of editing versus the liveness of it. But there is something; we all know there’s something missing. There’s that interactive. I think about it from the other way, like I was asked to do a keynote today and I said, I don’t necessarily want to talk to nobody.

You don’t have that audience interaction. I find that so difficult. I wonder how these speakers are managing because you love the audience in the feedback and so forth. What are you doing, if anything, and I know I’m sort of pushing this a little bit, to sort of replicate that for the speakers, so they have a sense of interaction? Can you do anything when you’re pre-recording?

Paul Stoddart: It is a great question, Drew. I’m at a loss, to be honest with you. I’d say I hadn’t really thought that through. It’s a really good point. I’m a little bit like Shirley. Our CEO is great with the teleprompter, it really helps and he’s polished. But you do get an energy when you’re around people.

That reaction, you know, it gives them a little bit of swagger, which is otherwise a little bit hard to recreate. Yeah, I kind of wonder, you know, do we need to create a virtual environment for them to be looking in the whites of people’s eyes or something? It’s a great, great question. I’m gonna dwell on that one.

Drew Neisser: Yeah, I feel like there ought to be some software out there that could probably provide that sort of artificial live feed. “Great point!” “You’re awesome.” Or laugh at the joke. Because some of us who actually use humor, I mean, there’s nothing worse than, you know, it’s like, you’re putting a joke out there and nobody laughs.

You sort of lose the confidence that you would get from it.

[40:00] Mobilizing Your Employees to Drive Engagements and Content

“Your next demand gen channel really is your support channel. How do you use support most effectively?” —@paulstod @Epicor Share on X

Drew Neisser: I’m going to ask, what would Ben Franklin say? I did some homework on this, as I always do before the show, thinking about this. What we’re talking a lot about is this world of transformation. Of course, Ben had something to say.

He said, “Can anything be constant in a world which is eternally changing?” He said this in about the 1740s, so I think he anticipated a world that was always eternally changing. As marketers, we’re used to dealing with eternal change. This is just such an interesting thing because there’s so much in flux.

We’ve been talking a lot about, now, big events. We’ve talked about micro-events. I’m wondering now, if we get back to this notion of digital fatigue—Paul, you’re right. Some things are working, and some things aren’t.

I’m wondering, if we stick with this, how much pressure are you putting on yourself to challenge you and your team to change the way you’re doing these kinds of… we’ll just call it digital interactions?

Amanda Carty: Our team is challenged every day. Either coming from me or coming from our CEO. I think it comes down to two things. One, maybe it’s a little bit of my Disney experience background, but I focus on the experience. But the person you’re going after is human.

You have to remember who your audience is. They’re human beings. Yes, they have a job, but they’re also human, dealing with a lot in the world as well. So, if you’re leading with empathy and compassion in your experiences, I think that will go a long way.

Drew Neisser: There’s that human word again. Let’s talk about this in the context—one of the challenges is, I’ve really gotten good at ignoring digital ads. With Microsoft Office, I’ve got the Focused and the Other and I often don’t get to my Other inbox.

I’m wondering what you all are doing. Again, that’s another form of digital fatigue, just like, another email, another LinkedIn connection, another thing. What are you doing in terms of employees and/or customers to help you market these virtual events? Shirley, you want to start?

Shirley Macbeth: Sure, yeah, I mean, I think we’ve always focused on, you know, our brand ambassadors are really our employees.

When you think of the power of LinkedIn and all the connections, the multiplicity of connections that we all have in either our personal or professional lives, we make it very easy for our employees to share and promote our events and our content and everything.

We have, and I’m sure many of you do, an employee advocacy program at work to drive content and expand your views in that way.

Drew Neisser: And that pre-existed digital fatigue, but I’m imagining it’s as important or more important than ever because it is—we trust our friends. We look for friends to give us information that’s important. Paul, Amanda, you doing anything with employees to help support this? Amanda, in particular, you’ve got to get from 5000 to 10,000. We’ve got to get that army of advocates out there.

Amanda Carty: Yeah, I would echo Shirley’s comments. We leverage the employee base, and we have technology that helps them push out social posts to help spread the word. We craft emails for them. We write scripts for the SDRs to call out on. But we definitely leverage the employees around the globe.

Paul Stoddart: I’d be mirroring again. Drew, we talked about this in our session. For me, brand is internally focused, externally felt. You start within and it should permeate on the outside. Adding to that, I heard something really interesting the other day, and it’s something that we’re pausing for thought on.

That is, your next demand gen channel really is your support channel. How do you use support most effectively? How do you take things which were considered maybe only to customers in the past, but actually bring it forward into the buying cycle and to your prospective clients as well?

There’s something there for me, which is around how to support the players part because people are looking to engage with support. It’s not something that gets done to them.

Drew Neisser: Your next demand gen channel is your support channel. As in, we’re getting real-time feedback from our customers, they’re giving you something because they need support, which means they’re not being able to do it on their own. This is an opportunity to not only engage, but upsell, cross-sell, refer. And it’s a moment of interaction that is so missing. It’s sort of ironic.

Paul Stoddart: It really is. I mean, you’re truly engaged to that point. But also, how do you make it more upfront? In some B2B environments, all of that stuff is behind a firewall, or you have to sign in for your customer service.

Those sorts of experiences. How do you bring that more forward? How do you maybe expose some of the truth of what’s going on? Bring that right up front so that other people can like learn from other’s experience and feel maybe more of a trusted environment? That’s, I think, where it’s kind of probably going and creates support for coming into demand at the same time.

Shirley Macbeth: We do every year, we put out a challenge for executives to do what we call a CX Reality Day. So, customer experience reality day. Live in your customer’s shoes for the day. Go out, try to find something on the website, try to log a service ticket, try to sign up for an event, whatever it is.

Where the rubber meets the road is, how does your brand promise actually come across in that moment? We’ve done it for several years running for ourselves; it’s actually driven some new product enhancements as a result. And it helps you really think about, you know, that experience of your buyer, your customer needs to be what you think it is. And often it may not be.

Drew Neisser: CX Reality Day. It is really very cool. I can see Amanda and Paul thinking, okay, we can do that. We can do that. Shirley, as you’re talking about it. Are there any finer points to what that means? I mean, did you give them a playbook for that? I mean, how do you implement CX Reality Day?

Shirley Macbeth: We actually have some blogs on it on our Forrester website, but the idea is, you literally get in in the morning with your executive team and give them a task, and it’s probably not something they own. You might have the IT person go sign up for an event, or you might have the marketer… whatever it is.

We made a list of common use cases that we should be able to solve really easily. We set up accounts so nobody knew that this was happening, the sort of secret shopper, if you will, and really it gets you that feedback of living, walking in your customer’s shoes,

Drew Neisser: Walk in those shoes. Once again, we are talking about being human and being helpful.

[47:33] CMO Antidotes for Digital Fatigue

“Orient yourself, be customer obsessed and view it through the lens of your audience.” —Shirley Macbeth @Forrester Share on X

Drew Neisser: We’re getting to the end here, and I’m wondering if, we’ll start with you, Paul—some final words of wisdom for the CMOs in the audience in their efforts to fight digital fatigue.

Paul Stoddart: I think we’ve heard it all the way through. For me, it’s all about the quality and raising the bar. I’m gonna like mirror that with a—I think it’s okay to go slow to go fast. I think it’s okay to be a fast follower. You don’t have to be on the bleeding edge all the time. See what works and just do it really, really well.

Drew Neisser: Do it well. Quality trumps quantity every single time and even more so right now. Love that. Okay, Amanda, what’s your summary here?

Amanda Carty: Yeah, unique experiences that resonate with your customers? Raise the bar with them.

Drew Neisser: And how do you figure out what’s unique here? Unique to your category? Or unique just out there?

Amanda Carty: I would say unique to your persona. How can you make them better personally? Think about that personal development, that personal growth, and you have to get creative. With those creative experiences, make magical experiences.

Drew Neisser: Magical experiences. We are all working for Disney, I guess, is what we’re really saying. Yeah, we just didn’t know it yet. But I guess it’s Disney or Amazon. Okay. Alright, Shirley?

Shirley Macbeth: Well, I’d say first and foremost, start with your customer’s need. You’re solving a problem that they have. Orient yourself, be customer-obsessed and view it through the lens of your audience rather than starting with, “Hey, I’ve got a product to sell you.”

That doesn’t work. And the content, people can be more a lot more selective with choosing the right digital content, but if it’s oriented to their needs, they’re gonna find that valuable.

Drew Neisser: I believe every word and you’re preaching to the choir, but I hear the CMO say, “Yeah, but that’s not going to help me make quota next month. I’ve got to fill pipeline so my sales guys can, my BDRs can… I need three times pipeline.”

How does that, starting with a customer, end up translating into content that drives business?

Shirley Macbeth: Easy. It’s speaking in their language. It’s resonating and talking in their language, understanding what’s driving them. You are, after all, solving a business need that they have.

We took that pivot about a year and a half ago. It works. It really does. You’re really honing and focusing and able to engage the right keywords, the right content to meet the buyer where they are.

Drew Neisser: I love it. And yes, we talked a lot about that on the show, so be sure to listen to that episode because it really does get into the effect that if you follow this methodology, it really works. Thank you, Shirley, Paul, Amanda, you’re all great sports. Thank you, audience, for staying with us.