November 03, 2005
How To

Special Report: How to Sell Sponsored Webinars -- Pricing & What Sponsors Want

SUMMARY: Sponsored webinars are the new cash cow for B-to-B publishers online -- with 20%-30% year-over-year revenue growth. We've interviewed top execs at Cygnus Business Media, CMP TechWeb, FierceMarkets, IDG's Network World and TechTarget to discover how you can to profit from this new B-to-B media. This how-to report includes pricing advice, attendance stats and campaign samples.
Although media analysts only predict a modest 4%-5% increase in overall B-to-B ad revenues this year, online B-to-B publisher ad media revenues will increase by about 25%.

The hottest ad unit right now? Sponsored webinars.

Webinars (sometimes called webcasts) are online seminars containing both audio and visual content broadcast to a live audience and/or offered in an on-demand (recorded) format.

Some publishers fondly refer to webinars as their "cash cow." Many larger B-to-B publishers (especially those in high tech) are selling hundreds of webinar sponsorship packages and expecting 20%-30% year-over-year growth.

Want in on it? In Part I of our Special Report you'll learn how to package, price and sell webinar sponsorships. Plus, we've included four stat charts with numbers you'll need for your budget. Keep reading.

Creating a webinar package sponsors will love

To justify ad spend (and pull dollars away from their current love affair with search PPC), business advertisers want their webinar package to hit four distinct goals:

1. Raise brand awareness; 2. Educate the marketplace; 3. Achieve measurable results; 4. Produce a bigger list of named sales prospect contacts.

“We’re not just promoting the webcast when we talk to our advertisers, we’re talking about the whole package and the campaign,” explains Paul Andrews, VP Interactive Sales Cygnus Business Media.

Key: Every effort to generate an audience for the webinar is an opportunity to promote the sponsor's brand. With a beefy campaign, the sponsor gets more than just sales leads –- they get multiple opportunities to build brand awareness and remind prospects about their product over a period of weeks and months.

Those multiple touches with your audience are the killer app. Therefore, a strong webinar sponsorship package includes:

-> Pre-registration efforts

o Utilize existing in-house email newsletters to promote the webinar and include a clickable text link or logo for the sponsor.

o Develop a special “upcoming webinar” opt-in email newsletter for announcing all future and archived webinars available.

o Create a permanent, easy-to-find “upcoming webcasts” content box on both the publisher’s home page and in any companion print publications (such as magazines, newsletters, etc.).

-> Registration and post-registration efforts

o Prominently mention the sponsor on the registration page. But be cautious about making this a clickable logo, banner or text ad, as this may distract from capturing the registration (which is a valuable sales lead for the sponsor).

o After registration, the online confirmation page is a powerful spot to mention the sponsor in more detail. Perhaps give links to a sponsor’s landing page that offers downloadable marketing collateral, case studies or white papers.

o Be sure to include a confirmation email to the registrant. And send reminder emails a few days and hours before the event -- all with links to the sponsor.

-> Activities during the webinar

o Include the sponsor's logo in the frame of the webinar viewing screen (talk to your webinar host company on how to do this).

o Be sure the moderator mentions the sponsor in the introduction (i.e., “Today’s event is brought to you by XYZ Company…”). Keep it brief. Attendees have limited time and want to get right to the content. Just because a webinar is sponsored, doesn't mean it can be advertorial. This is especially critical because your profits depend on attracting your top readers repeatedly over the year to new webinars.

o Consider offering a one- or two-minute portion in the middle of the webinar as a “commercial break” for the sponsor (be sure to read Part II of this report, which will include tips on how to keep the lines between advertising and editorial content clear).

-> Post webinar efforts

o Send thank-you emails to all registrants after the event. Besides mentioning the sponsor, include an online form for attendees to ask the sponsor follow-up questions. This provides the sponsor with post-event interaction that can go a long way in selling future webinars down the road.

o Burn the webinar on CD-ROM and send a few hundred duplicates to the sponsor. These make great handouts for the sponsor’s sales team at office visits or trade shows. Plus, this effort adds a bit of goodwill.

Webinar package pricing tactics

Publishers charge anywhere from $15,000 to more than $30,000 for a webinar sponsorship.

Don’t underestimate production costs (just because it's online doesn't mean it's ultra-cheap.) “Take into consideration all of your back-end, technical and audience development marketing into the pricing,” suggests Jeff Giesea, President FierceMarkets. “I’ve seen people spend more than $50,000 doing their own webinar in-house.”

Five variables to consider in your pricing strategy:

#1. The more elements in the campaign you can offer (text-links, email blasts, banners, archive-time, etc.) the advertiser, the more you can charge.

#2. Your staff coordinating the content, production and all technical aspects is of primary importance to the advertiser. You’re providing a full-service opportunity for your client, so be sure to charge premium dollar for it.

#3. Anticipate the number of registrations (sales leads) the webinar will generate for the advertiser. If you are new to providing webinars, it can take some testing to determine the lead guarantee you can safely offer. Archiving the event for on-demand viewing for several months will generate more leads. (See stat charts at the end of this article for more data.)

#4. If you’ve got a well-known, high-profile editor that will be introducing the webinar or moderating a panel discussion, consider that in your pricing. Top names bring bigger dollars.

#5. If your publication has strong brand recognition in the market, charge more for the association with your label. Remember, this isn't just a lead generation tactic, it's a brand awareness and educational campaign as well.

Six selling tips to attract sponsors

Tip #1. Make sure reps pitch the total package/campaign

It’s tempting to just sell the lead guarantee to the advertiser or agency media buyer, but publishers are securing more sales by highlighting the entire campaign of promotions they do for each webinar as well as all the content expertise and back-end support they provide.

Tip #2. Arm your sales staff with survey data from past webinar attendees

“We’re able to demonstrate to advertisers that these aren’t just sales leads. These are qualified leads that take action,” says Dennis Shiao, TechTarget's Director of Product Management, Webcasts.

Shiao’s webinar team has found that about 90% of attendees who previously watched one of their webinars have taken some sort of action that benefits the sponsor. That is, they contacted the sponsor, visited the sponsor’s website, or passed information to a colleague.

Tip #3. Provide reports to the sponsor’s upper management

“We realized that the guy who actually bought this didn’t get anything – it was the sales person who got the leads, ” says Kevin Normandeau, EVP Business Development & GM Online for IDG's Network World. And, given the disfunctional relationship between sales and marketing at many companies, this can mean your sponsorship buyer may not have the power to buy another one. IDG gives the sponsor’s marketing VP and ad agency a webinar campaign summary report that includes stats on the volume of leads, where they came from and a breakdown of demographics. “This helps secure the sale at all levels in the organization.”

Tip #4. Manage sponsor expectations

Since many advertisers might have tried a webinar in-house before and were frustrated with the technical process, make sure you understand their fears and expectations upfront.

Others may have unrealistic ideas about how many leads an event will generate. Key: before setting a lead guarantee, have the advertiser define what a "qualified" lead is to them. Each company's definition is different.

Tip #5. Offer integrated print plus Web campaigns

Some publishers are able to boost print ad page sales by integrating print with a webinar sponsorship. This can be done with a pre-event series of print ads or inserts promoting attendance to the webinar, perhaps tied to an advertiser’s new product debut or other special announcement.

Other integrated ideas include creating a microsite for the advertiser based on an industry trend. (See link below for a sample integrated campaign.)

Tip #6. Use an integrated sales staff

If a publisher has both print and online publications, integrated sales teams work best (that is, the sales reps can sell both print and electronic ads). This allows the sales rep to be a true consultant for the advertiser, maximizing the results for the sponsor and ad dollars for the publisher.

Don’t miss Part II of this article, which will give three more webinar best practices -- including how to develop an audience, build content and provide production and lead generation support.

Useful links related to this story

Four stat charts you'll find useful on Webinar attendance rates, plus creative samples from an integrated sponsorship run by Sybase on Network World

Cygnus Business Media



IDG’s Network World

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