Getting to the Good Stuff: The 1st Round of Contextual Interviews

The contextual interviewing process continues! Last week, Scott (aka Skippy) discussed some of the simple rules we are following as we learn more about what our customers face on a daily basis, and ultimately, how ReadyTalk can help.  In the past few weeks, several folks across ReadyTalk have been preparing and conducting interviews with some of our most important customers.

As you may recall, we originally identified two types of use cases within our customer base: The Marketing User and the Collaboration User.  After some additional discussion, using the Value Innovations process, we discovered that our most important customers are the Marketing User and the IT Specs/Contracts User.  The Marketing User is primarily responsible for driving new customer leads and/or continuing engagement with existing customers, while keeping a strong focus on their company’s products and services. And consequently, they are heavy users of ReadyTalk webinars!  The IT Specs/Contracts User is responsible for administering several technical and operational solutions across their company, including web and audio conferencing solutions. Each of these users has unique needs within their roles, but both often greatly depend on a reliable solution.

So what have our teams been up to exactly?  The team focused on the IT Specs/Contracts User is in the process of identifying the elements of value for this type of customer, and getting the first round of interviews on the schedule.  The Marketing User team has held some interviews and is starting to identify some of the common themes of what keeps our customers up at night.

Looking for a sneak preview on what’s important to the Marketing User?  Here are some of the major themes:

1)  My customers are exposed to so much information in our industry, how do I become more effective at getting our message across?

2)  What are the best methods of following up with customers and prospects after a webinar?

3)  How do we create a community within our customer base?

4)  I use several tools and platforms in my role, how do I integrate these to make me more efficient?

Stay tuned for a preview on what we are learning from our IT Specs/Contracts User and what we can expect from the 2nd round of contextual interviews!

Beth is a Product Marketing Manager and works with our customers to understand their needs as they relate to event services and our conference center, which is used to setup the details of our clients' upcoming meetings. Outside of the office, Beth loves to spend time with family and friends, cook, and hit the slopes.

Guest Post: Pay for a Webinar? Why not?

By Melanie Turek, Industry Director, Frost & Sullivan

As companies get more comfortable delivering content over the Internet, they are looking for ways to actually make money in the process, by charging attendees to participate in the events.

This is not a new idea, of course. Organizations have long offered events and training sessions for a fee—sometimes, a very steep fee. People will pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to learn more about their industry, develop best practices, and get trained on specific tools and technologies to better do their jobs. But will they pay for that content online? Yes—but with some caveats.

First and foremost, when you take training and education out of the literal classroom, you need to make sure the content is king. No one likes business travel. (Well, OK, some people like business travel, but most people don’t—and their numbers are dwindling thanks to high gas prices, lousy airline services, and the rapid spread of bedbugs across the world.) But people continue to attend in-person meetings for the networking as much as for the information. That networking is less likely in a web conference, which is not necessarily a bad thing—without the socializing, events can be shorter and more focused. But it puts pressure on the presenter to make attendance worth everyone’s while.

The great thing about webinars is that they can deliver clear, specific information to a targeted audience at a very low cost, and without the need for travel or time wasted getting to and from the event. So what attendees lose in networking, they gain in time and productivity. But they also expect the content they receive to be worth the time they do invest—especially if they are paying a fee to hear it.

So as you consider offering webinars as a way to generate revenue, pay close attention to the information you’re delivering. Generally speaking, you should start with training that you would normally charge for in person, rather than entirely new content. This will appeal to an existing customer base that already understands the value of your sessions, and which is looking for an alternative to the high cost of travel and large commitment of time such events require.

Once you see success moving from an in-person delivery model to an online one, you can start to explore other topics for fee-based webinars. These might include industry or job-role best practices that will resonate with your customer base, or market trends they need to understand to better do their jobs and stay competitive.

Make sure your presenters take advantage of the tools web conferencing provides to deliver interactive and engaging sessions, including chat and polling capabilities. And price online events lower than their in-person counterparts, at least until you test the waters and get positive feedback—and strong revenue—from your initial efforts.

For more on paid webinars, please join me for a (free) event on the topic. Register here.

Frost and Sullivan Analyst Melanie TurekMelanie is a renowned expert in unified communications, collaboration, social networking and content-management technologies in the enterprise. For 15 years, Ms. Turek has worked closely with hundreds of vendors and senior IT executives across a range of industries to track and capture the changes and growth in the fast-moving unified communications market. Melanie writes often on the business value and cultural challenges surrounding real-time communications, collaboration and Voice over IP, and she speaks frequently at leading customer and industry events.

ReadyTalk Sponsors B2B Advanced Marketing Practices Handbook Webinar with MarketingSherpa

Complex sales often equal complex campaigns that are targeted at a very specific user persona. This can mean it will take a bit more effort to capture your ideal qualified lead, but it also has the potential to be a turn into the type of client you seek.

This year ReadyTalk is the official sponsor of the B2B Advanced Marketing Practices Handbook published by MarketingSherpa. This book is full of B2B marketing best practices ranging from lead generation, content creation, nurturing tactics and the most effective vehicles to use in distributing all of your information. Campaign planning can be overwhelming but when you have an in-depth study of over 900 B2B marketers to share some insight, hopefully the task won’t seem quite as daunting. You can download an excerpt from the book here.

We’ve also put together a corresponding webinar this month that goes hand-in-hand with the topics addressed in the book. Join us on Thursday, March 17th at 2:00ET as Jen Doyle, Senior Research Analyst for MarketingSherpa and author of this year’s handbook, and Kirsten Knipp, Director of Product Evangelism for HubSpot share their approaches to demand generation. If you’ve never heard of the FUEL Methodology this is a great opportunity to learn more about how attracting, qualifying and automating your lead process can boost your sales conversion rate. Who doesn’t like that?

All webinar registrants receive a $100 discount toward the purchase of the B2B Advanced Marketing Practices Handbook through March 31st. Visit the following link to purchase your copy: Be sure to sign up for Thursday’s webinar as well and/or follow the webinar discussion on Twitter with the hash tag #SherpaWebinar.

The Engineering Lifestyle, Part II

Continuing in our Engineering Lifestyle series, we are going to touch this week on the topic of "giving back." Here on the engineering team and within ReadyTalk in general, we really try to give back to the community in many ways. From an engineering standpoint, we love to give back to the local academic community. Being located in Denver, we're surrounded by several great universities, and many of our engineers graduated from local universities.

The first thing we focus on every summer is welcoming into the team a handful of interns, both for software engineering and quality assurance. Our recruiting efforts are always focused on local career fairs, and we've been especially lucky with the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Colorado. This year we expect to hire around 4 or 5 interns throughout engineering, with at least one of those being a QA intern. Our typical approach has been to get an intern involved in learning about ReadyTalk, while turning them loose to work on something that is really interesting to them. The intern projects are not typically related to our production service, although they may work on things that indirectly impact our production service such as Avian. Our goal for internships is two-fold: we want the interns to get benefit from the work and learn something that they will be able to use as they continue down the path of a career in Computer Science, and we want them to get a taste for what working at a great company is really all about. We want them to get back to school and talk to all their friends about how great the ReadyTalk engineering department is and how much they learned from their internship. This is always a great thing and leads to more interest in our internship program year after year. To date, we've hired 3 of our summer interns full-time immediately following their graduation, and we'd love to see that trend continue.

The second way we give back to academia is to sponsor a senior project team each year. This year, we are sponsoring a team of 5 seniors from CU Boulder. The way the process works is: we submit a project idea to the university and the senior CS students get into teams and pick a project to work on for their senior project. This project is required for each senior at CU Boulder to graduate from the CS degree program. The student team works with us to understand the project requirements and what the deliverables should be, but they are given quite a bit of creative latitude in what they deliver. Our engineering teams meets with the student team every 2 weeks to go over any questions they have, give advice on how to implement certain things, or to answer any programming or code related questions. This is a year long effort, where the first half of the senior year is focused on planning and requirements, and the second half of the senior year is focused on implementation.

It's always a great thing to be able to give back to the community, especially when you can be supportive of higher education in the process. We love to see up and coming computer science and QA engineers get great working experience that will help them succeed when they get to the big-time, and we try to help in every way possible. What successful ways have you seen software development companies giving back, or do you have suggestions of additional things that ReadyTalk could look at implementing?

Jason Collins (aka JC) is the VP of Engineering at ReadyTalk and the self-appointed Chief Happiness Officer. He's been either writing code or managing engineers for nearly 15 years and has a passion for technology and agile development practices. The happiness of the engineering team is his top priority and he can usually be found wearing a ReadyTalk cape and the infamous "idea helmet" around the office to help keep people entertained. When he's not hanging out with his work family, he's at home with his wife and four boys doing all sorts of geeky things, like playing video games and watching campy Sci-Fi and Action flicks.

NEW Feature: ReadyTalk Active Speaker

Be Seen and Heard

ReadyTalk recently released an enhancement to it's web based audio controls. Now for meetings of any size Chairpersons and Co-Presenters will have a visual queue for any audience member who is speaking. This feature brings more visibility into the audience of your web and audio, or audio only conferences.

With Active Speaker you can:

  • See who's audio line is making background noise and mute it
  • Find out who's hold music is playing for the whole call to hear
  • Have more effective collaborative audio conferences
  • Gain visibility into who's asking questions during your conferences


Who is it for?

Active Speaker is especially useful for those collaborative meetings you may be having with your team members. Active Speaker, coupled with Name and Number matching through the phonebook, creates a very efficient collaborative meeting. Set up name and number matching by clicking the phonebook icon in your audio conference controls (pictured below). Once open add the names and numbers of the colleagues you frequently  meet with. The next time they dial-in to your ReadyTalk conference their name will automatically be entered into the audio participant list. Now when you start your meeting your colleagues names will automatically show up and you will be able to see who is speaking from the start of your call without having to set anything up. Now anytime someone speaks up on your collaborative call you will know exactly who is speaking making note-taking, follow-up, and roll call much easier.

Paul was formerly an Account Executive at ReadyTalk gaining valuable experience with competitors and the state of the web and audio conferencing industry. Currently in his role as Product Marketing Manager, he is in charge of the competitive landscape, on-demand audio products, and the web meeting interface. Paul loves the outdoors, his pup Huck, his wife Jess, and getting to the ski slopes as much as possible.