You may have heard that running a free webinar is a good way to get potential customers online so you can educate them about your product and show them the benefits of your offering. You may have attended some free webinars in the hope of learning something new that will help your business. Perhaps you've even gotten your feet wet and run a few of your own free webinars to try and help your sales.
For the last few years the internet marketing crowd have been banging on about free webinars being the holy grail for generating thousands, if not millions of dollars worth of sales. This may be true in some cases where you're selling promises of making more money, losing weight or finding Mr. Right and you have a boatload of affiliates sending hundreds of thousands of hopefuls to your squeeze page. But let's talk about the reality of free webinars for most startups.
I ran several free webinars over the period of six months to different audiences for different purposes and the statistics astounded me. I've spoken with several other startup founders who have had similar results. On average, 30% of people who register or a free webinar attend and their engagement is mediocre. Contrast this with the very first paid webinar I ran in May 2013 (tickets sold for $97 – $197) where 84 people bought tickets and 78 turned up. Incidentally the other 6 emailed me in advance to let me know they couldn't make it. They were extremely engaged asking lots of questions and tweeting about it afterwards.
My theory is simple. People perceive anything “Free” as having a catch somewhere. In the case of a free webinar it's usually an upsell to a paid product or service at the end of the webinar. This is the oldest trick in the book and although consumers might be savvy enough to know it's coming, the fear of being trapped by a clever sales technique is one factor that prevents them from turning up. Free webinar hosts usually offer a recording after the event anyway so there is no urgency and nothing lost if they don't attend the live broadcast. After all they haven't invested anything.
The other side of this coin is that when people pay money, they pay attention. If you invest $97 in a training webinar you want to make sure you get a return on that investment so you turn up, take notes and ask yourself how you can apply this training to your business.
The only time I offer free webinars now is if I am giving them away as a bonus that accompanies another product or program.
Tell me I'm crazy in the comments…