Fee Vs Free Webinars Is It Better To Give Or Receive

"I'd like to charge for my webinars. I don't want to do all this work and give it away!" -Firm Leader

A common question is: Should your prospects pay to attend a webinar? My answer, 95% of the time, is "no." Hosting fee-based webinars counters the process of building and maintaining relationships and sacrifices long-term growth for short-term gain.

This weekend, I went for walk through Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston. (Non-residents may know it as Quincy Market.) To take refuge from the not-so-appealing outdoor walking weather, I entered the large historic building which represents our rich heritage and is now filled with a…food court.

What does this have to do with webinars? It's an eye-opening scene that we're all familiar with. The vendors that understand how people purchase have employees in the walking area offering free samples.

Guess which vendors had the longest lines?

The Effect of Fees on Attendance

Let's look at the math from real examples of an existing client who marketed two separate webinars to their list:

If you want to grow your service firm, do not charge for webinars.

At Rally Point, we look at webinars as a tactic that supports long-term growth. It begins and strengthens relationships with prospects. With that mindset, the more people you reach, the more robust growth your firm will realize in the long-term.

The Value of Registrants and Attendees

To keep things simple, let's treat registrants at free and fee-based webinars equally.

(Arguments can be made that fee-paying attendees are more serious and should carry more weight. An argument can also be made that fee-paying attendees are looking to learn from the webinar so they can do something themselves. Hence, they should be weighted less. We're going to keep them equal.)

What happens after the webinar?

Registrants have indicated their interest in your expertise and presentation topic. Those who attended (live or recorded) have begun developing a trust in your firm and its speaker(s).

Leverage that budding trust and clear interest by inviting registrants to one-on-one conversations. Ask them if they would like to talk about the webinar topic and the specifics of their situation.

Research from RainToday.com shows that, among those who download white papers or register for webinars, there is a standard breakdown of short-term and long-term leads. That is, if you can get prospects aware of you and identify their interest in specific topics, you can expect a portion of them to buy related services in the short and long term.

The breakdown:

That means 75% of the people that register for your event will be purchasing related services within two years. That's a big percentage! And it's exactly why fast growing, successful companies like Leads360, HubSpot, and Citrix all do free, not fee, based webinars.

These fast growing firms understand that to achieve long-term, significant growth you have to get in front of prospects with your thought leadership. You have to provide some free samples to get more prospective clients lining up.

Putting a fee on the webinar is a barrier to getting your expertise in front of as many prospects as possible. It's as if you're asking for fifty cents for a bite of chicken before they buy a $7 entrée at the food court. While some might pay, you will generate a lot more interest if you give it away.

The Long-Term Value of Fee vs. Free Webinars

Pretend your firm is going to run a webinar. You have a mailing list of 6,000 and the team is trying to decide whether or not to charge for the event. Try looking at the potential outcome of both a free and fee webinar. For this scenario, the average client worth (lifetime) for your firm is $20,000:

Is the above table a simplistic view? Yes. Does it illustrate the long term value of free webinars? Yes!

The Final Analysis

Free webinars offer a zero-risk way for prospects to indicate their interest in a specific topic (need) and provide their contact information to a related service provider (your firm). Free webinars also generate more leads, conversations, and opportunities compared to fee-based webinars.

Free webinars will contribute far more to your firm's long-term growth.

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