Many associations spent 2020 giving their webinars away for a free. However, a new report suggests organisations should offer a mix of both paid and free webinars to help boost nondues revenue.
With many associations looking for additional ways to generate revenue as they try to recover from the economic turmoil of COVID-19, some are turning their attention to monetizing webinars. Tagoras, an educational consultancy that produces the Leading Learning podcast, recently surveyed associations and nonprofits about how they price webinars and the revenue they generate. The research sheds some light on what practices are working and where organizations might want to concentrate moving forward.
“A lot of organizations worry that you can’t charge for webinars at this point,” said Jeff Cobb, Tagoras managing director and cohost of the Leading Learning Podcast. “But it’s clear that organizations are able to charge at a pretty reasonable rate, and that they can both charge for webinars and get sponsorship for webinars.”
The survey data showed many organizations have hosted free webinars, while others charge regularly for them. The good news is that an association’s webinar pricing strategy doesn’t have to be either free or paid. They can do a mix.
“You’re able to do the combination of charging fees for some webinars, getting sponsorship for other webinars, and having a strong portfolio of some free, more content-marketing webinars,” he said. “The key there is managing those strategically, as differently positioned offerings. You don’t want there to be confusion between your free webinars and your paid webinars.”
So, how does an organization clearly distinguish between something members need to pay for versus something they should expect for free? Cobb says it comes down to two areas: content and branding.
“If it’s primarily informational, it may also be primarily a form of content marketing, or a touchpoint with your audience that you get a lot more mileage out of not charging for it,” Cobb said. “You’re putting it out there as a free resource from your organization.”
However, Cobb said when the content is something “more unique to your organization or to the subject matter experts that you have access to” or something “that really is going to give people very applicable knowledge or help them learn a new skill, that is when you start thinking, ‘Yes, we need to be charging for this.’”
In terms of branding, anything an organization is charging for shouldn’t be called a webinar.
“Webinar itself, at this point, is a highly generic term, and in people’s minds, they expect something called a webinar to be free,” he said. “Take those things that you might have called webinars—things that offer a higher value and you really have a strong case for charging for them—and consider calling them something else, even something as simple as an online workshop or training.”
PRICING AND GROUP SALES
According to the study, webinar pricing varied based on length and type of organization offering it. When Tagoras averaged it out, a one-hour webinar fell in the $40-$75 price range for participants. On the sponsorship side, pricing ranged from $2,400 to $11,000. However, Cobb said associations shouldn’t use this data as starting point for their pricing.
“You have to consider: How does the webinar compare to other education content or events that you’re offering?” Cobb said. “Where do webinars fit into your overall portfolio? And you have to make sure that what you are charging for that webinar aligns with what you’re charging in other places for other ways that you’re delivering value to your members.”
In terms of sponsor benefits, most were allowed to include their logo and linked text, were given an opportunity to present, and provided with a list of registrants. Cobb added that with registration lists, organizations should consider how to manage the process so they feel comfortable and participants do as well.
One area that was surprising in the research was the practice of group registration—where businesses registered several employees for webinars. “If you don’t have a group registration strategy, I would definitely look at that,” Cobb said.
Organizations who are doing group registration often provide conversation guides for the participants to use after the webinar. “It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be: Here are three points to discuss after the webinar together,” Cobb said. “It helps people remember what happened in the webinar a lot better. It helps people get more value out of it, and it helps them bond with each other and bond more as an organization.”