When webinars first started going mainstream in the early to mid-2000s this was a question many companies had, and it seems to be making a bit of a resurgence. However, the motivation driving this question has somewhat changed over the years. In this blog post, we look at the original reasons for the question, as well as what has changed since then to make this question come up again. Whether you charge for webinars or not, this information could be interesting for your content strategy and revenue streams.
When webinars were reasonably new to the marketing mix, many companies found it difficult to justify the cost. It was a new technology, a new cost, and many webinar platforms provided very little analytical insight to provide the data to drive ROI.
Back then, companies paying good money for webinars were searching for a direct way to recoup those marketing funds. Attribution modelling was in its infancy, at best, and an obvious question was “Should we charge for our webinars?”. Another challenge were online payment systems, which were also far from sophisticated back then. As a result, many early adopters either abandoned the idea, or came up with adventurous solutions that allowed them to take payment, but at the cost of user experience. Needless to say, the idea to charge for webinars never really went mainstream.
Over time, webinar platforms became more sophisticated and while analytics insight gave access to the kind of user information necessary to drive lead attribution, APIs did their part to tie in with other tools. Webinar organisers were now able to charge for webinars, but by this point webinars has established themselves as something that was provided free of charge, in return for user information and behavioural information.
Today, we’re seeing this question reappear. But the motivator is no longer to try and recoup the investment into the webinar platform itself. Sophisticated marketers are able to show ROI and don’t need to front-load the cash generation to cover the investment. A number of factors, such as the establishment of self-service SaaS models for running webinars, mean the cost per webinar has reduced.
Instead, the reason for the desire to charge for webinars is led by factors such as:
- The increasing speed with which new technology is emerging, as well as the shortage of skills required to operate this technology
- The ability to obtain data that drives new specialist insight for new subject matters
- The increasing tool set to produce and self-publish content cost-effectively
So the drivers to charge for content are different today, compared to a decade ago. We’re seeing a new professional education focus, based on a shortage of specialist skills, that drives a new type of webinar. Granted, many companies, governing bodies and associations offer educational content for CPE/CPD free of charge, as a way of generating leads. However, there is an emerging market for webinars that are part of paid-for online courses.
A new need, a new way
Solutions specialists, either as individuals, as SMBs, or as part of an Enterprise organisation can now offer their specialist knowledge to peers who have the need to acquire that knowledge. Technology is developing faster than the wider population’s skillset is able to keep up with. Educational institutions are too slow to respond, which creates an opportunity for those who already possess the skillset.
Where, in the past, there were concerns over user-friendlyness and user-experience, there are now various solutions in place to facilitate easy access to paid webinars. Even if these weren’t available, the increasing need and desire to acquire these new skills is eradicating the user’s concern over how easy it may be to gain access to these resources. In other words, it has become acceptable for it to take two or three extra steps, or a couple of minutes more, to access the webinar content.
No doubt, over time even these additional steps and the extra time will be eradicated to zero. But for now, the skills shortage is a core driver for paid content. Unlike ten years ago, when the high technology cost was a barrtier to entry for many smaller organisations or individuals, these experts are now able to afford and access webinars and turn them into a profitable revenue stream.
(Not) a blank cheque
This development does not mean that all or any webinar can now be made chargeable. Lead generation webinars at the top of the funnel should remain free of charge. However, it is conceivable that the companies running lead generation webinars can now create an advanced educational programme for their customers, power-users, 3rd party developers or other parties to gain a competitive advantage, before their offering and knowledge becomes commoditised. With the ever increasing speed of technological dvancement, we currently don’t see an end to that opportunity.
How do you use your webinars? Do you have an opportunity to create a paid webinar offering?
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