Webinars are an important component of many B2B marketing programs. They offer an experience that’s different from other types of content (typically more engaging), and give the speaker(s) a platform to cover a greater breadth or depth than a typical blog post.
However, according to a report by Millward Brown (gated), when it comes to measuring ROI, webinars are the most difficult channel for marketers. Furthermore, 74% of the marketing executives surveyed also said that they would invest more money if it were easier to measure the ROI (and presumably, it was positive).
Webinars present a challenge to marketers because they are not a marketing channel in the sense that paid search or organic social are channels. Webinars are content, in which you then use other channels to promote it. So when you measure the revenue impact and ROI of webinars, you need to measure it like content. Depending on the webinar, they can have similar characteristics to a whitepaper, or speaking at an event, or an intimate Q&A session.
Additionally, webinars can be targeted at all stages of the funnel. You’ll find articles that recommend different types of metrics for different types of webinars -- attendees or social shares, webinar engagement like time spent or questions asked -- but all marketing really comes down to one thing: revenue. What good is awareness or even engagement if it doesn’t end up (even if it’s months down the road) in revenue? How do you measure the revenue impact and ROI of top of the funnel webinars?
Fortunately, no matter what kind of webinar you decide to have -- a thought leadership panel, a new product launch, or a deep dive on a new report -- accurate ROI can be measured. Here’s how to do it.
Measuring the revenue impact of webinars
Like any other marketing effort, attribution is what connects webinars to revenue.
To measure the complete revenue impact of your webinars, you need to run a channel-agnostic attribution report based on the webinar registration page. At this stage of the analysis, it really doesn’t matter where a person heard about the webinar -- you want to capture all of it.
Of course, you don’t want to make the mistake of measuring ROI too early. You need to consider your sales cycle before creating a revenue report. If your sales cycle is three months, you need to wait at least three months before calculating the revenue impact. That’s because if the webinar was a prospect’s first touch, the downstream revenue may not happen for three months. You need to give your prospects a chance to get through the funnel. (Note: You could also use a projected revenue figure if your attribution solution provides that. In that case, you would be able to calculate revenue earlier.)
Furthermore, webinars can be great evergreen content. You can continue to promote the recording or even edit it to create a webinar highlights video. These, too, can continue to drive revenue, so it should be accounted for in your ROI calculation.
Now, once you’ve given your webinar registrants enough time to make it through the sales funnel, you can run an opportunity or revenue report based on the form URL attribution data. Everyone who filled out the registration form would create a touchpoint, which is then traced to downstream opportunities, pipeline, and revenue.
Even though your content is evergreen and will continue to bring value, at some point, you need to do your reporting and measure ROI. Do your calculations, but keep in the back of your mind, that your revenue may be slightly undervalued because of this. It can be the tipping point if you’re on the fence at the end of your analysis.
Here’s what that attribution report could look like:
Total Pipeline Generated: $144,000
Total Revenue Generated: $37,700
Each report tells you three things. First, the record count tells you how many people registered for the webinar are now opportunities (in the opp report) or closed-won opportunities, a.k.a. customers, (in the revenue report).
The next row applies the weighting of your chosen attribution model to those records. If you’re using a W-shaped attribution model and a person, as a result of registering for the webinar, converted into a lead, they would receive 0.3 credit for that touchpoint. That’s how we get the fractional credit in the opportunity count.
The bottom row in both reports is where dollar value is attached to the opportunity -- one is pipeline and the other is revenue. Let’s say that a prospect account is worth $10,000. If someone registers for the webinar and, as a result, converts to an opportunity during the same touch, that touchpoint will receive 0.3 credit. Assuming all other touchpoints are unrelated to the webinar -- the remaining 0.7 -- the webinar will receive $3,000 ($10,000 x 0.3) when that prospect becomes a customer.
Now if you’re a SaaS company or another type of company with recurring revenue, the revenue number in the report is likely ARR. To calculate the actual total amount of revenue generated from your webinar, you would have to calculate in your expected lifetime value. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume the expected lifetime is one year with no upgrades or downgrades, so our total revenue is still $37,700.
Measuring the total cost of the webinar
The purpose of ROI measurement is to determine whether it was a useful investment of your resources. First, did you make more money than you spent? And second, could you have used that money to make more money a different way?
So when it comes to figuring out the cost portion of the ROI equation, you want to calculate your cost holistically. That means counting the money you spent on promotion, the time you spent preparing for the webinar, and anything else that went into it. For example, if you brought on expert panelists, what did it cost you to get them? If you can put a monetary value on it, it should be included.
The cost of your time, if handled on a case-by-case basis, can be a little subjective. For in-house marketers who don’t use timesheets, it can be hard to say how much money to value each hour of work. It helps to have a standardized estimate to make calculations like these easier.
Let’s say you value your time at $100/hour and it took you 10 hours total to coordinate and create the webinar materials. You also got a couple hours of help and feedback from coworkers, and did three hours of prep work, bringing your total cost of time to $1,500.
The biggest chunk of your cost will likely be paid media. In our example, we’ll say you spent $10,000 on paid promotion across your various channels. This data can be easily found on your native ad network platforms. You should be able to find cost broken down to specific campaigns and even ads. If your attribution solution has ad network integrations, you’ll also be able to find these cost numbers alongside the rest of your attribution data.
Adding it all up, this brings you to a total cost of $11,500.
(Drumroll) And your ROI is…
The webinar generated $37,700 and cost $11,500, which is an ROI of 3.3x.
Measuring ROI requires the right tools
For most marketers, the most challenging part of calculating ROI is getting revenue numbers that you’re confident in. Multi-touch marketing attribution that tracks and allows you to report on the data based on the download or registration page, makes it easy to measure the downstream revenue from marketing efforts, including webinars. By tracking and reporting based on the URL of the registration, it doesn’t matter where the visitor came from -- it could be organic, paid, email,etc. -- because you’re not relying on channel data.
Furthermore, with a multi-touch attribution model, you can be confident that the revenue attributed to the webinar registration touchpoint isn’t being under or overvalued simply due to where in the customer journey the webinar impacted. It could be the very first interaction a visitor has with your brand, it could be the webinar that convinced them that your product was the right one to purchase, or anywhere in between. An advanced multi-touch attribution model, like W-shaped or Full-path, will track the prospect’s path all the way through the funnel and give it the weighted fractional credit that it deserves.
Now that you know how to calculate the ROI of webinars, you can properly assess where they fit into your marketing plan. Are they delivering high ROI? Or are they bringing in less revenue than you had actually thought. As with all marketing, decisions should be based on data and made with revenue and ROI in mind.