Emily Bratcher is a contributing editor at Associations Now.
Associations are increasingly relying on webinars and virtual events to reach their members with learning opportunities. But some associations seem stumped on how to pay for them or—better yet—how to make money from them. An expert offers some advice on doing just that.
Sometimes something new is easier to imagine when you compare it with something familiar. That goes for nondues revenue, too.
“Magazines have ads, shows have exhibitors—everything is supported,” says Philip Forte, founder and CEO of Blue Sky eLearn. “Why would you think it would be any different with a webinar?”
And yet associations seem to experience some confusion over best practices for selling webinars.
Some of that may stem from the fact that webinars are a relatively new meeting model. Just a few years ago, you might have heard “a barking dog or a heavy breather” in the background of a makeshift webinar, Forte says. But webinars these days are sleek and professional.
“If I’m a longtime member [of an association], and I’m paying a fee or setting aside an hour, I have a certain level of expectation,” Forte says—particularly about the webinar’s content and professionalism. And meeting those expectations can come with a pretty high price tag.
Magazines have ads, shows have exhibitors—everything is supported. Why would you think it would be any different with a webinar?—Philip Forte
Which leads to the age-old questions: “How are we going to pay for it?” and “Can we make money on it?”
The answers are “yes” and “yes,” Forte says. You could charge a registration fee, but “a number of organizations are finding difficulty in charging a fee, so the sponsorship model has been growing,” he notes. Webinar sponsors can be recognized in several different ways:
The promotional material distributed before and after the webinar is also important to potential sponsors because that’s where they’ll get some of the most valuable exposure, Forte notes. Some associations also provide sponsors with email addresses for webinar attendees, stipulating that the sponsor can send one follow-up message.
Forte says you can also tag a survey on to the end of webinar with a sponsor-related question, such as “Is the sponsor of any interest to you?” or “Do you have any interest in having the sponsor contact you?”
Like many other association events, webinars are evolving, Forte says. Some organizations are “blending live meetings with webinars. You can almost see where the industry is going because frankly there is going to be a shakeout. More and more people are getting their knowledge and content through digital means.”