Webinars call for full house

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The old adage holds: You have to spend money to make money. Web seminars represent a growing revenue stream, one that a tech-savvy media company can nurture by investing money in the management of its online events business, said Jonathan Moore, VP-events and education at the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

"The publisher has to decide to put money behind it or it's going to plateau," Moore said. That means appointing a business development leader to head a project management team made up of a cross section of traditional media divisions, including sales, marketing, events planning, editorial and Web development, he said.

Kevin Vermeulen, VP-group publisher at ALM, said Web seminars, or Webinars, have been helping extend the company's already broad reach in the legal industry. ALM provides interactive online coursework for readers, something it advertises via print, Web and e-mail. "We are integrated as much as we can possibly integrate," he said.

Kevin Normandeau, exec VP-general manager, online, at International Data Group's NetworkWorld, oversees a client services team that puts together about 85 Webinars each year. The company has seen a 70% increase in webcast revenue, Normandeau said.

"What we're selling to the sponsors is the access to our audience," he said. "There is such a demand for lead generation."

Laura Ramos, VP-marketing strategy and technology at Forrester Research, said she expects that demand to climb. In a recent Web-based Forrester survey of 569 b-to-b marketers, she found that 40% of respondents planned to increase spending on Webinars.

To net those dollars, these industry experts recommend:

Finding sponsors: Approach a hand-picked group of marketers after developing your first event, Moore said. Make new sponsors comfortable by combining print ads with online and e-mail initiatives, Vermeulen said.

Attracting an audience: Segment your databases to avoid overwhelming your audience with e-mail blasts, Moore said.

Netting leads: Include polls and discussion-starter questions that allow the sponsor to find out more information about the audience, Normandeau said. Follow up with an analysis.

Testing the waters: Webinars can provide an incubator for new ideas, including the development of traditional events, Moore said. M

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