Getting paid for webinars: 25 ideas for creating differentiation in a world of free

So if “get rich quick” and “webinar” don’t belong in the same sentence, what now?

There are two realities. One, it’s possible to monetize any medium of communication. Two, it’s never easy, and it’s even harder as culture shifts…note the essence of the problem in the question that Simon (from London) asks:

“Thanks for the webinar – very informative. A tricky question but, how is it possible to price or charge for online training when so much good stuff out there is for free? We have both class and online courses for our product but I think that a major barrier for subscribers is cost, even though they may save lots on travel…etc.”

We only look to relatively recent history to see how news outlets struggled with monetizing their content online…but they have. The transformation is part art, part science, and there awesome new winners, some new losers. Research, however, proves people are willing to pay for content online.

So what does drive value when selling your live webinar?

The problem most often is one of differentiation…what is the basis of comparison which your market uses when making a decision?

What follows is not a recipe or theoretical taxonomy. It’s simply a list of ideas that might help you fuel finding the place you differentiate your webinars so people will pay your asking price. To be fair, many are similar, sometimes worded slightly differently. This is important…your marketing may find subtle shifts or changes in positioning or wording important to how they perceive value. And by the way, if you want to see a process for how to tackle this, join me here.

Flexibility of scheduling
Sometimes the problem isn’t the price, it’s the packaging. Moving online opens up how you might package your content because it better suits when your market wants to buy it.

Related to flexibility, chunking is taking your content and turning it into smaller pieces. For instance, a (typical) one day seminar is six or six and a half hours of content. Might it be easier for someone to consume and apply if that was four separate sessions of 90 minutes each?

Frequency or “just in time” knowledge
In-person training takes up time to get from place to place. Might online training increase how frequently you can make your offering available?

Accessibility to the content
We’re increasingly a global economy, right? Reality: it’s still not “one world” in many ways. Maybe what you have is of value to part of the world that simply doesn’t otherwise have access.

Accessibility to an expert
I use an example when I do webinars about how to price live, online training (like this one coming up)…one site I found states, right in the promo, that you “get live access to Chuck.” Who’s Chuck? I don’t know, but apparently people in that industry find value knowing they get to ask Chuck questions.

Accessibility to peer or workgroup
One commonality of adult learners: they bring their own experiences to the table. This makes a facilitated discussion, even if you’re the “instructor,” a uniquely irreplaceable event.

Is there value in how you’ve organized the content? For some fields, it’s not just the content, it’s how it’s arranged that creates value (if not accessibility). Example: I have a hundreds of research reports on various aspects of communications (yes, a complete geek). Some, not all, have been arranged by my assistant into a bibliography. In a world drowning in options and four million hits when they Bing it, you create value by analyzing, organizing, and synthesizing.

I just returned home from National Speakers Association annual convention (I’m on the board of my local chapter), and as you can expect, many up-and-coming speakers struggle to differentiate themselves. One thing that came up is how to advertise your personality as differentiation. The reality for many who speak on sales or leadership, there are a LOT of others doing it. Sometimes the exact same content is much more palatable if not understandable simply by virtue of who is delivering it.

This applies to the recordings or artifacts of your live sessions, but do you create value by making content easy to find? Some platforms now do this automagically, or like my friends at, you can go back to a 2-hr lecture and create your own metatags that become web-searchable.

Interactive visual explanation
Whether PowerPoint, a live software demonstration, or whatever, many times you create a lot of additional value over a blog post with the same “content” because the visual explanation aids understanding. By analogy, you can buy a book on Microsoft Excel for 30 bucks (and it might even have pictures), but that doesn’t put all seminar companies out of business who deliver less information in a seminar…but do so in a different way.

Supplemental connections to in-person training
As I’ve oft said, webinars don’t eliminate other forms of communication. Perhaps you create a program that blends them with your in-person offering.

Content curators collect, analyze, organize, and otherwise create value because they touch on many of the items above.

Trust in relationship
Do you have a trusted auto mechanic? Why do you buy his/her services relative to other mechanics who could technically deliver the same thing? When you have a new need or question, who do you call? With NOT distinction in “content,” you may be a trusted resource for you market.

Reduced risk
I know one online seminar company who says, “You give us your credit card, but we won’t charge it until after the seminar…if you don’t fully agree that it was of value, you don’t pay.” Maybe you reduce risk because of trust in your brand. Maybe you reduce risk because you let them attend the first of four sessions for free to see if it’s of value.

Are you developing content over time? Might those updates be available in the future at no additional charge? Might the purchaser audit the same session in the future at no additional charge?

In many small and medium businesses they often have the flexibility to tailor or personalize products or services to markets, segments, or even individual customers. Might your online training do the same? Example: a signifiant number of elements of what I do apply to sales people, marketers, HR/learning and development, etc. But when I speak to one of those audiences specifically (e.g., talking to a roomful of sales professionals at Ohio University), it’s a missed opportunity to connect and add value to use examples for trainers.

Micropayments are big. Might your training benefit from being subscription-based or available at $X per month instead of all at once?

In the world of software, we know that interoperability is important… maybe you teach one time management method and the prospect uses another. Not as good. Or then use the same one. Muy bien.

The exact same online session, marketed with killer testimonials, will bring you more money. Like “trust in relationship” above before you’ve got the relationship.

Do people who attend your webinar get to a result more quickly than if they read the same info in a book?

Reduced costs or “TCO” (total cost of ownership)
To Simon’s point above, he could point out how much less the cost would be (he doesn’t say if that’s an explicit part of his marketing). If that’s not working, then (like the publishing industry often found), he might find there are other factors that work better for his market. But you very well may have a story about how to reduce costs that’s important and relevant for your market.

Making money
You may very well have a defensible position in telling someone they’ll make more money if attend your webinar. If you want a long-term, sustainable business, being able to articulate a defensible model of how you’ll help someone do this is a completely legitimate way of sharing why they should pay for your webinar. This is different, however, than playing the “fear and greed” card which hawkers are using when they’re telling you how you’re going to get crazy wealthy with webinars.

Brand recognition
Sales trainers, for example…can be had for hundreds or tens of thousands of dollars. Some very good ones aren’t that expensive, but then not all are Jeffrey Gitomer. Brand counts.

Networking, or not
One critical value of in-person events is networking and after hours activities, something online training doesn’t have. Or does it? Many virtual event platforms have networking built in. Many online trainers are connecting people in other forums or social media.

Other business model considerations
The classic “public speaker” business model is “paid for speaking, paid for back of room sales, paid for follow-on consulting/training.” So some people charge for speaking, others speak for free…on the same topic. It’s not a right or wrong, but it’s something you have to take into competitive consideration in your market.

Two final thoughts…

One, if you’re creating value, you have to communicate it.

Two, if you want to see the difference between a blog post full of ideas and a (free) webinar on the very same topic, please join me. And remember one critical thing: I’m not selling you the webinar, I’m suggesting you experience the difference between a blog post and live, interactive webinar. 🙂

5 thoughts on “Getting paid for webinars: 25 ideas for creating differentiation in a world of free

  1. Alice Heiman


    Thanks for the many free ideas on how to charge for webinars. I have been doing many of those but will now do more. I do believe there is a difference in the free webinar vs paid and for me it is that I don’t sell the whole time, I do limit the attendance so people can participate, I do introduce the attendees so they can network and I do give great value for the fee I charge. So far so good, now I just need to cast a wider net.


  2. Monique L Wilson

    Very imformative. I’m preparing to do my first webinar and I’ma little nervous, so thanks for sharing. MLW

    1. TheVP

      Monique, I know it’d be easy to say, “don’t be nervous,” but I’ll avoid that. Remember this…if you were in a room with some folks to make a presentation, you might be nervous, but they’d appreciate you being yourself. Same online. Love ’em first and everything else is a detail. 🙂 All my best!

  3. James

    do you have any softwares you recommend if I’d like to host my own paid webinars? How do I accept the payment, give the user some unique ID so they can login into the webinar and authenticate that they paid.

    Do all the webinar softwares have this option?


    1. TheVP

      Hey James,

      That’s a great, albeit HUGE question. Web conferencing platforms do not, as a rule, take payments, but a number of them enable you to also take payment via PayPal or equivalent (e.g., Omnovia, Citrix GoToTraining). Further, there are other systems that may serve as the hub for you marketing, including using web conferencing and taking payment (e.g., Infusionsoft, Act On Software).

      It’s not an answer to your question, but you might start reading my other blog about business-building, starting with this post:

      Thanks for dropping by!

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