Guide to Sponsored Webinars and Campaigns

Sales needed MQLs yesterday?  Sponsored webinars and demand gen campaigns can deliver almost-immediate leads at a compelling price.  This post explains what sponsored webinar programs cost, how to find reputable vendors, and how to negotiate contracts.

>>Related:  [Template] How to Plan and Launch a Marketing Campaign <<

You gotta eat today

Most annual marketing plans [should] have diverse channels and tactics across the entire buyer journey:

Of course they’re all important.  But I’m going to be honest – they’re not all important right now. 

Marketing is under enormous pressure to deliver pipeline.  And some of these channels are akin to planting seeds in the ground:  SEO, retargeting, email nurture, trade shows, and ABM eat up a lot of resources short term, and literally don’t pay off for 6+ months.  (Also similar to a garden, once these programs are humming along, the Cost Per Lead and Cost Per Opp can then be incredibly efficient).

But… we’ve got to eat today.  This is where channels like sponsored webinars – with quick/bulk impact – come to the rescue.  Instead of planting a garden, we’re grocery shopping.

How to find sponsored webinar vendors

Like all campaigns, start by determining ICP.  What companies, titles, industries, and geos do we want to target?  And what loose topics/offers do we want to present to them?

From there, I ask internally if there are watering holes people recommend or have relationships with.  After that, I just drop the ICP keywords into Google and prioritize publications, watering holes, and large communities.

As I dig through their websites, I keep an eye out for green flags:

  • Is the publication producing new content daily or weekly?
  • Is that content aligned with our ICP and topics?
  • Do their social channels have dynamic follower engagement?
  • Is the website professionally designed and managed?
  • Do they offer a media kit with sponsored webinars or programs?  We’re not taking chances on novice vendors!

Absolutely beware retargeting or syndication vendors (like Outbrain or Taboola).  While they somehow guarantee high volumes at low costs, I find the leads are junk and/or never convert.  Same for podcasts… it’s too TOFU when we’re desperate for pipe.  And I’m also wary of magically-intimate meetings with execs.  I want hundreds of warm contacts, not 2 weird conversations.

The most important green flag is that the vendor is transparent about their database size, user types, titles, and activity.  Some won’t share it in the media kit, but they should at least be forthcoming on a call.  I have absolutely seen a vendor try to pass off hundreds of thousands of retirees as legit contacts. 🙅🏻‍♀️

How to negotiate with a sponsored webinar vendor

You have more power than you think.  Similar to trade shows, vendors are pretty desperate for dollars.  I negotiate the hell out of these contract terms and ensure:

  • We can run the program ASAP, not next quarter
  • I can give them a suppression list so they’re not promoting to my database, customers, or open Opps
  • Lead guarantees exclude students and retirees
  • Lead guarantees exclude the leads I source through my own promo
  • We get a copy of the recording [soon] afterward, and we’re allowed to host/promote it
  • They’ll promote across email, social, web banners, etc.
  • We can review/edit the form questions
  • Leads come from specific geos and titles that align to our ICP
  • Leads will be delivered on a tight timeline (and can they come in batches so the leads are warmer?)
  • We’re crystal clear about roles and responsibilities

I may also… not want a webinar.  The vendor could have a lot of lead gen options, including advertising, emails, web features, list rentals, etc.  Ask for their advice!  And press them to create a bundle with discounts.

What does a sponsored webinar cost?

Plan on spending $3k-15k and about $50-$75/lead.  Compared to the LinkedIn CPLs I see, it is such a bargain.

Spinning up a sponsored webinar

While I’m negotiating with publications, I try to bring a few topics to the table.  But sponsored webinar vendors know their databases well!  Ask what they recommend.

From there, it’s just like planning an in-house webinar.  Here are some best practices to keep it efficient and boost interest from prospects:

Pick a “fan-favorite” topic

I promise almost no one wants to watch a product tour or hear a value prop.  Instead, focus on genuine thought leadership, exclusive data, and expert knowledge about something ripped from the headlines, industry-wide, or pain-point related.

Use a compelling format

The best webinars are short, use very few slides, and feature at least 3 speakers. Debates, panels, and show-and-tells are far more interesting than a lonely voice reading slides.

Here are some interesting formats I’ve seen:

  • Debating two sides of a controversial industry topic
  • Touring a fantastic customer project
  • Customers screen-sharing how they creatively tackled the same problem
  • Interviewing an industry author, journalist, or luminary
  • Fireside chats with the Customer Service team about how [anonymized] clients creatively tackled the same problem
  • Internal subject matter experts teaching a class on a deep-but-popular topic
  • Interpreting news, announcements, and updates for the industry

Err on the side of informal

In almost all cases, we don’t need a script or slides. Write the outline, some starter questions, and then just… have a conversation. We want to emulate a podcast, not a high school lecture.  I promise being unscripted will pay dividends in retaining and impressing the audience.

A charismatic interviewer doesn’t need any subject matter expertise as long as they can pose thoughtful questions, listen, and invite SMEs to weigh in.

Only pay for the vendor’s efforts and prospects

Vendors typically have a lead guarantee per program.  Don’t pay for leads you generate or for leads you could have converted for free with an email invite.

  • Make sure you get a unique URL or UTM code for the registration page.  That way you’ll know how many leads you sourced vs. the third party.
  • Similarly, before they begin outreach, ask them to suppress your existing database.  You can invite them yourself and ensure every contact you pay for is actually new.  Plus you won’t bug customers or open Opps.

[Try to] Optimize promos

Usually the sponsored webinar vendor will spin up the landing page, email invite, ads, and creative.  I always try to streamline the form and strengthen the CTA to boost conversion.  There’s no penalty for a wildly successful program!

Follow-up is as important as promo

Sponsored webinars are an efficient way to acquire new contacts and leads, but there are no shortcuts for follow-up:

  • Pre-determine how these leads will be scored
  • Create a SF campaign to track conversion rates, and capture the Lead Source and Lead Source Detail correctly
  • Write and build a nurture email so leads correlate your brand with the content they just consumed
  • Prep your reps to (quickly!) follow-up via phone and email
  • Once you have the recording, post it on YouTube
  • Create an “on demand” program, form page, and a TY page that embeds the YouTube video
  • Promote the new form page on social, in email newsletters, in Outreach snippets, and add it to the resources section on your website

Don’t forget to repackage

Webinars are always one of the most efficient ways to create new content:

  • Get the recording transcribed so you can repackage the content into blogs and an ebook
  • Cut the video into sound bite clips and post to social to help promo
  • Run the same webinar again!  Mention how popularly it was and offer “an encore”


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