It often amazes me how much humans worry, even about good things that happen. Sharon (not her real name) runs a successful $5 million special interest B2B publishing company that now has a successful webinar business model. We’re not talking about free sponsored webinars, these are paid webinars professionals pay to attend.
After 9/11, her live conference business took a hit, as did many live events during that time when many people feared air travel. Fast forward to this past year of the pandemic, and you might be able to see how this could apply to you right here and now. But let’s get on with this story.
Several years later, she did her first paid webinar, which drew about 80 people at $149 per person. And a few years after that, she was selling about 2,000 seats to 15 webinars, generating about $300,000 in revenue. In addition to being six percent of her top-line revenues, webinars rose to 17 percent of her profits.
But like many publishers who are just getting started in multiplatform publishing, Sharon worried that her webinar business was not growing fast enough, even though year-over-year revenues went up 15 percent. She also worried that webinar profit margins were too high to hold (with almost no marketing cost, as she only promoted webinars using her email list). And, of course, she worried about whether she’d be able to come up with another new product type to keep her business growing (don’t we all?).
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The reason for Sharon’s worry at the time was that she hadn’t quite adopted the multiplatform publishing mentality – relying on many platforms for multiple sources of income. The more digital, the lower the cost, the higher the margins. Meanwhile, her live conference business recovered to pre-9/11 revenue levels with higher profit margins based on increased use of email to promote her live events.
Additionally, webinars are products that can be recycled across many free and profitable platforms. A webinar becomes:
- a series of blog posts, recycling imagery and concepts
- a session at a live event
- an article in a magazine
- a chapter in a book
- a free download
- a downloadable transcript
- a module in a membership website
- an on-demand video
Now in a multiplatform state of mind, Sharon sells webinar encores and transcripts which account for 25 percent of her business.
Her pricing strategy is stringent. She rarely offers a discount based on the media it is accessed on. The user will pay the same price regardless of whether they purchase a live webinar or the 24/7 encore presentation of that webinar.
Even more, her webinars have become the driving force for all of the company’s content products. For example, their management report business is driven by their webinar business. They end up being repackaged webinars with additional content from the company’s editorial files.
Pros and cons of the webinar business model
There are a number of other reasons to consider webinars now, other than better technology and people’s willingness to pay for and attend them, such as:
- Revenue. Most companies aren’t hosting live events, right now, plain and simple. But you can fill a computer screen of pixels with participants online and generate revenue with minimal expense.
- Ease. The majority of people are visual learners, making it the ultimate medium to teach.
- Accessibility. You can reach more people online than you can in-person, which means you’ll attract more attendees. It may also be easier for you to snag a high-profile speaker for a webinar or a digital event than it would have been to get them to travel and commit more of their time to attend a live event.
- Product Development. The technology to record webinars is a part of most webinar and live streaming platforms, making it easy to sell the videos individually, or as part of a membership library later.
- Analytics. Many platforms can give you data about your attendees, such as who attended and how long they participated.
The cons of hosting webinars are virtually non-existent. The one problem with webinars is bandwidth. How good is your speaker’s connection? If they start clacking in and out, how will you handle it? What if they get disconnected? What if you get disconnected? The good news is that everyone is used to webinar hiccups and are pretty forgiving, so having a few canned jokes, or keeping it lighthearted and being willing to laugh it off may be all you need to save the day.
The webinar business model is very profitable and offers perfect products to promote via email because they are timely and are delivered electronically. Although they used to be almost exclusively used by B2B publishers for several years, we’re seeing more special-interest B2C publishers moving into this format.
If you’re looking to build a new revenue stream using audio conferences and webinars, or are looking for new ways to promote, structure, and market your existing digital events, schedule a time to chat and we can talk more about it.
What else do you want to know about the webinar business model?