I get calls and emails from small businesses, sole proprietors, independent consultants and trainers thinking about trying a webinar to help grow their business. The focus is almost always on one of two scenarios: Lead generation and marketing presentations to help raise awareness and find potential clients, or moving educational classes online to cut costs and reach a wider geographic audience. Invariably the first thing I hear is “How much does it cost to do a webinar?”
Nobody ever likes it when I tell them, “It depends on a lot of factors.” But at least I can help guide you in understanding the allocations and choices available.
If you like analogies, it occurred to me that the subject is much like an entirely unrelated activity I’m just starting to go through in my personal life. I’m going to do some kitchen remodeling (pray for me!). How much does it cost to remodel a kitchen? “It depends.” Are you going to tear out the old cabinets yourself and do your own sheetrock and painting? Are you going to buy cabinets off the shelf from IKEA, or are you going to have custom cabinets made to order by a high-end manufacturer? Will you be buying the cheapest appliances you can find at Sears, or will you be ordering professional grade restaurant quality units? Do you want a kitchen design company to handle everything on a turnkey basis from design to general contracting?
In the same way, you have a choice with webinars. You can do things yourself to save money, or you can hire someone who has done it before to manage everything for you. You can prioritize cost on your technology choices or pay more to get additional product features and capabilities.
The three primary areas where you will spend money are: Technology, Services, and Promotion. Each has a wide range of options and costs.
Technology: There are free web conferencing services available. But in almost every case, they don’t allow for large meeting attendance. Some cap their free rooms at 3 people, some at 10, some at 20. I can’t think of a free one offhand that goes higher than that. So most business webinars require payment for the web conference room. Pricing can be based on a monthly or yearly charge that lets you hold as many sessions as you want, each one limited at a certain audience size. Some companies hold firm to the limit, while others let you pay for “overage” in your audiences, usually at a hefty additional charge.
There is an alternative pricing structure that is worth thinking about if you are only going to try out a vendor on a single webinar to see how it works. You can “pay per use” at a fixed rate per person, per minute. If you get a lot of people to your event, you’ll pay a lot. If only a few show up, you haven’t sunk a large fixed cost into the provisioning. Budget ranges for technology on a single webinar can go anywhere from $100 (I’m using United States Dollars and basing this on U.S. businesses) up to $3000. Quite a spectrum!
You should also think about audio costs. I prefer to give my audiences the choice of listening on the telephone or over their computer speakers. If you are giving a training class, you might require telephone audio for open two-way communications. Telephone conferencing options vary as much as the web conferencing does. In the U.S., we have “free” conference calling available, which is actually charged as long distance charges to each attendee when they dial a toll number. If you want to offer a toll free dial-in number, you always pay on a per person, per minute basis. Costs can range from around 5 cents up to 25 cents per person-minute. At higher rates, you usually get additional capabilities including operator assistance, subconference rooms, and so on. Check this post for more details.
Services: This is where I make my money at Webinar Success. I help clients make sure their event goes smoothly. That can mean different things to different people. How “hands on” do you want to be and how much time are you willing to invest in learning some new technologies and best practices? There’s nothing you can’t do yourself. I’m not a magician. I’ve just done enough webinars to know how to set them up quickly and efficiently, manage all the little details that have to get taken care of, run the technology, and manage the audience during the event. You could learn it and do it all too, given enough time. So do you want a services provider who will manage everything from start to end on a turnkey basis where all you have to do is show up with your content and give a presentation? That might cost you anywhere from $1000 up. (The open-ended top range is because some service providers will bundle in marketing and promotion for you, which we’ll see in a minute can be as high as you can conceive.) Or you might opt for just an event moderator during the live session for a few hundred dollars. Or maybe some a la carte services to help fill in the gaps you aren’t comfortable handling yourself.
Promotion: You need to let people know that a webinar is going to occur. If you are a consultant or trainer, this cost is probably no different from the promotional costs you spend to let people know about your physical in-person offerings. But if you are offering a lead generation webinar and are searching for new prospects who have never heard of you, your costs can go as high as you are willing to spend. Marketing costs money, and there are lots of ways to spend it. Search ads, press releases, banner ads, newsletter sponsorships, email/postal invitations are just some of the things you can buy. If you want to rent lists for email blasts, prepare to spend, spend, spend. I have worked with clients who spend $100 on promotion and I have worked with clients who spend $30,000 on promotion (yes, you read that right!).
So we come back to “How much does a webinar cost?” You can get some good, capable web conferencing software on the less expensive side, learn how to use it yourself, manage everything in-house, and invite people already on your own list. Total cost, maybe $500. You could go crazy and blow $15K-$30K, but nobody other than a giant corporation gunning for huge-spending clients would ever do that. A good mid-range overall budget might be somewhere in the $2000-$4000 range, which would get you solid web and audio technology, real support for the behind-the-scenes stuff, and some marketing/promotion expenditures. Obviously every company’s situation is different, and you can often amortize your costs over a number of webinar sessions. But at least you have a starting point for thinking about whether a webinar is reasonable for you to consider.