What’s in a Name? Why language matters in your Webinar Strategy

Written by Jeff Cobb on February 8, 2018

One of the issues with which I routinely see organizations struggle is how to compete with free Webinars in their market place, or related, how to justify charging for some Webinars while offering others for free. Webinars have become a commodity item often closely associated with content marketing, meaning that a charging for them has become increasingly difficult.

There are two key steps I can suggest to combat this issue, which turn upon the actual function of the Webinar you are planning – and in fact, the function of the term itself.

Differentiate between “inform” and “perform” Webinars

Clark and Mayer define “inform” programs as those that communicate information, while “perform” programs build specific skills. Using this distinction, “inform” Webinars, intended primarily to convey facts, might be offered for little or no charge to members. These can be positioned as a member benefit and as fulfilling the organization’s mission.

On the other hand, “perform” Webinars, intended to create meaningful, measurable learning outcomes for the participants, offer a richer experience and are therefore of higher value. The benefits of a “perform” Webinar might include meaningful supporting materials, the opportunity to gain continuing education credit, or interactions outside of the session – and this justifies charging a registration fee to reflect the nature of the offering.

Consciously and overtly making this distinction allows you then to name, brand, and position these two products differently.

Re-name entirely

Another, much simpler approach to Webinar strategy: if you want to charge for it, don’t call it a Webinar. Call it an online short course. Or a virtual workshop. Or, best of all, don’t talk about the format at all other than to say that it is online. (See, for example, this offering from the Association for Talent Development (formerly ASTD). In this and other ATD programs the word “Webinar” is practically nowhere to be found.)

Just don’t call it a Webinar unless you want it to be perceived as something for which people expect to pay little, if anything. If you change the language, you change the expectations.

Yes, I know: there are still plenty of exceptions. But having watched this market for years, it’s clear where the trend is heading. It’s past time to get ahead of it.

P.S. – None of the above reduces the importance of the inform-perform distinction. In the end, if you want to charge for it, you will have to deliver clear learning value, not just information. Finally, if you still really, truly want to charge for a Webinar, here is some data about Webinar pricing that I published a while back– and which seems to still hold pretty true, in my experience.

This article has been complied from a collection of Jeff’s insights from www.tagoras.com.