Meet the Marketer: Mark Bornstein of ON24

“Conversations, not clicks.”  That’s how Mark Bornstein, VP of Content Marketing at ON24, sees the future of customer engagement.

Maybe it’s a predictable position for a spokesperson for ON24 to take. After all, the San Francisco-based virtual event platform has built its business around the webinar–a forum precisely designed to curate conversations between brands and prospects. But to be fair, he has a much more detailed case to make.

Post-Snackable Content

“Remember the whole ‘snackable content’ thing?” he asked me.  This was the idea that social media users had attention spans way shorter than 30 seconds, leading to the marketing hypothesis that lead generation would be enhanced by publishing video and other content which could be consumed in the blink of an eye. Sure, that content got shared, Bornstein agreed–but so what?  Most people, he said, are sharing video content without actually viewing it. “Do you know that 59 percent of shared URLs don’t get a click?” People actually share content without viewing it. “Where is the value in that?”

Bornstein came to ON24 after eight years managing marketing communications at Cisco.  “It’s been the greatest experience of my life as a marketer,” he told me.  Why?  “Because there’s no better feeling than being a marketer who markets to other marketers.” ON24’s clients, of course, use virtual events to generate and nurture leads. And marketing through an event like a webinar starts out with a big advantage over social media marketing: the audience has self-selected to attend.

It’s perhaps not so surprising, then, that ON24 is currently reporting an average of 57 minutes spent attending virtual events; a whole different world from the short-attention span approach to social marketing.  This doesn’t mean Bornstein rejects social altogether as a marketing tool, but he does see it primarily as a support system. “It’s untargeted and unreliable,” Bornstein said, but it’s nevertheless one way to attract audiences to environments where more substantial content can be delivered; and not just in the B2B space–ON24 is increasingly serving consumer brands too.

Engagement Within the Event

Far from being just another way to schmooze with potential customers, virtual events are now machines for generating actionable data on potential leads. As Bornstein explained, platforms like ON24 have a real-time grasp of what the audience is doing within the event environment–asking questions, participating in polls, viewing videos, downloading whitepapers–and can push the data directly a marketing automation or CRM engine (ON24 integrates with all the major ones). Where events like webinars were once just a box to check, Bornstein said, they can no play a key role in generating and qualifying leads.

What’s more, Bornstein told me, events like webinars have a role to play at various points in the buying cycle.  Microsoft, an ON24 client, uses webinars at the top of the funnel, replete with useful content and calls to action. At the bottom end of the funnel, he sees brands offer are now being called “deminars”–interactive sessions on product functionality, for example via screensharing. 

The Stack Question

As a marketer, of course, Bornstein himself needs be surrounded by the right tools.  I asked him what’s in ON24’s stack.  “It starts with Marketo,” he told me. The brand leverages “the usual social channels” and uses Simply Measured to track social performance. GaggleAMP is a tool which helps employees amplify the brand’s message.

“We’re also playing around,” he said, “with ABM and predictive.”  Currently he described the internal marketing team as “pretty lean. About twenty people.” And yes, ON24 does drink its own Kool-Aid, marketing its services through webinars, webcasts, demos and videos.

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