I don't often post follow up articles on my own blog entries, but "Can You Charge For Webinars" generated enough public and private comments that I thought it deserved another look.
First of all, I was probably remiss in not mentioning ConferTel as a webinar technology vendor that is set up for integrated payment processing with customer events. They are the technology suppliers for Business Expert Webinars, which I did mention. A number of streaming webcast vendors also have payment processing capabilities, which they will customize for their clients' needs. Stream57, StreamLogics, and ON24 are examples (there are others as well). ON24 also has the ability for self-service customers to use their registration management system for their events, although this is not the primary business focus for the company.
But the larger issue seems to be that some people took my article to be a battle cry against ever charging for webinars. I'll take responsibility for the lack of clarity... "The burden of communications rests with the communicator." But that was certainly not my intent, nor my belief. I have clients who charge for their educational webinars. They are right to do so, they are happy doing so, and I love helping them ensure their events are professional, valuable, and glitch-free.
I pointed out definite demand and interest in holding fee-based webinars, both at the start and the end of my article. But I also wanted to point out practical issues you have to be ready to face and plan for as an online merchant of information. Many smaller businesses and sole proprietor consultants (as I mentioned, I hear from these people a lot) just want to run a quick charged event and get money for their efforts. They are convinced the world will beat a path to their door to gather the pearls of wisdom emanating therefrom.
Walter Wimberly commented that in his larger size enterprise company, they run about 300 webinar classes a year, mostly fee-based. He pointed out the necessity of having good planning in place to deal with technical issues and clear guidelines on how you will work with your customers. He also said they use a separate accounting department and systems to do enrollment and invoicing. Points well taken.
Tim Bourquin said that "just because the perception of some people is that content should be free, doesn't make it correct." I couldn't agree more. But that doesn't mean the perception isn't there. I tried to point out that as a marketer and promoter of your events, you will be fighting a more difficult battle to get attendance at a pay event than you would for a free event. Plan for it.
And in a delightful demonstration of flat out chutzpah, Paul Colligan sent me "some link love" and requested a link back to his response blog entry where he refers to my article as a "silly blog post." Done, Paul.
Paul recommends running your registration and invoicing through third party software. He names a number of them (different ones than I named in my article). You then send all registrants a confirmation message with the login information to your event. Okay, you can choose to ignore security considerations and let people forward the login information to their friends. But you should at least be aware of the consideration and have it accounted for in your planning. I don't know why you would get your knickers in a twist when someone suggests it would be nice to have the option of preventing that if you want to as a provider.
He then recommends charging people to view a recorded podcast of the event. That's fine too... It wasn't the focus of my article, but I always recommend making a recording available after a live event. And charging for it is no different a consideration than charging for a live event. I mentioned Brainshark in my original article, which has an entire library of prerecorded content available for free or for a fee.
My summary in the original post was meant to indicate that there is a market demand for a single, pre-integrated solution for people whose time and skills are better spent doing other things than running invoicing systems and tying together different providers' software. If you use a webinar solution that includes full registration and attendee communications (Paul mentions GoToWebinar, which works great as a solution of choice for many small and mid-sized businesses doing webinars on a budget), shouldn't you expect it to handle this additional level of functionality? I do, and yet it's terribly uncommon.