I just finished producing a freemium telesummit for one of my clients. Freemium telesummits are ones where the attendee gains access to all the live sessions with just their email address.
I know, I know, I can hear you now….
“But Leesa, don’t you frown upon the freemium telesummit model?”
Yes, I do and my client had to really twist my arm to produce his third telesummit using the freemium model.
But I’m glad I did…
Because I was able to experience firsthand the differences between premium vs. freemium telesummits.
Now, this doesn’t change my view of hosting freemium virtual events, but I do believe that there are some wonderful benefits to hosting a freemium one. So, here are the disadvantages and advantages of hosting a telesummit based on the freemium model.
Advantages of the Freemium Model
The Freemium Model Encourages a Higher Level of Access on the Live Calls
My client only offered the live session for free which ended up being a REALLY smart idea. If the attendee missed it and wanted to access the replay, they had to invest in the package that contained the recordings.
There were no 24-hour or 48-hour access to the replay. You had to be there to listen and if you missed it, invest in the recordings.
When I checked my client’s numbers in InstantTeleseminar, he had 10x the number of people listening in via the phone or webcast compared to the premium telesummit we hosted in 2010 and 2011. Ten times! I was SHOCKED at what I saw.
With that many people listening to the live session, it results in a higher percentage of attendees taking action on offers the speakers or the host make. One speaker emailed us to say how delighted he was to see a bump in subscribers to his list after making an offer during the live session.
My recommendation: If hosting a freemium telesummit, offer free access to the live sessions only. Save the recordings for the package that people need to invest in.
The Freemium Model Removes Money as a Barrier to Participation
Money can sometimes dissaude someone from participating. We all know that. There are many excuses why someone just won’t pay for education or training. The freemium model removes the barrier to participation and gives the attendee access without putting limits on their enthusiasm.
In fact, I believe this loving move – to offer access to the live sessions at no cost – does more to encourage the attendee to take decisive action on any offers the host makes. They’re not in a penny pinching place. They get valuable content for free and thus, can make the upgrade to whichever offer meets their budget.
However, for this free access, email is not enough. I firmly believe that if you’re going to give away all this great content at no cost, the attendee must give you more than just their first name and email address. There has to be some effort on their part.
My recommendation: Gather, not just an email address, but mailing address too. Or, take the opportunity to have attendees fill out a survey for a coupon that’ll give them free access. But email and first name are just not enough in my book.
The Freemium Model Helps Attendees Commit to a Higher Level of Investment
The psychology of a telesummit attendee is to get information and results fast. They will listen to the free sessions and if there’s an opportunity to work directly with host, they’ll jump at it.
This is the pyramid model that Kendall Summerhawk encourages her students to use. You get them on your list with a free offer, typically an invitation to talk to you through a breakthrough or discovery session, then you invite them to invest in a high-level coaching day. If for every 10 conversations, 3 say yes, this means that your coaching day is priced well. If more than 4 say yes, it’s priced too low.
My recommendation: With the freemium model, you’ll have a captive audience who want results fast. Don’t be tempted to offer them just access to the recordings. Invite them to sign up for a breakthrough or discovery session, then move them into a coaching day with you.
Disadvantages of the Freemium Model
The Freemium Model Brought Out Brokeback Entrepreneurs
I wrote about the Brokeback Entrepreneur a few years ago and this term applies to some of the people we met during my client’s freemium telesummit.
My team and I dealt with a higher number of tickets compared to years past. The first day of a telesummit is the busiest, but I found we were more busy than normal. And the type of tickets we got were from people who were ANGRY that they missed the free session, wanted us to make the recording available, then “stormed” away when we shared that they could get the recording if they invested in the package.
I’ve learned that when people get angry about not getting access to the FREE offer that you’ve pretty much insulted the god in their life. It means that even if you bend over backwards to appease the person’s anger with an extra, unadvertised offer, they’ll pretty much spit in your face in the form of demanding more.
Getting emails that say “you don’t know what your mission is, do you” all because they had tech issues accessing the free session doesn’t make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
My recommendation: Put together a list of FAQs so you’re clear right up front what your boundaries are. Share that link in every email sent to attendees.
The Freemium Model Increases Costs
Due to the high number of people accessing the page to get the handouts and call-in details, there were some server outages. With the premium model, we never had this problem since the numbers were lower. Only those who paid got access to the handouts and call-in details. With the freemium model, my client encouraged those who signed up to share the call schedule page with people in their office, so we really couldn’t anticipate our numbers.
The good news is that the intermittent outages only happened when the first session was set to begin each day. And as there were no complaints from attendees, my team and I were slapping each other on the back that the outages were not noticable.
Also, we experienced higher than normal access to the video that’s on my client’s front page. I hosted it through AudioAcrobat because it has a prettier interface compared to YouTube, but after getting an email stating that I was over my allotted bandwidth (which means a higher bill), my team moved the video over to YouTube.
My recommendation: Free is not really free, so make sure your server can handle your newfound popularity and that you’ve budgeted for any increases in the use of online tools.
The Freemium Model Produces Smaller Conversion Numbers
What’s very attractive about the freemium model is that it can build your list fast. I’ve seen people add up to 10,000 people to their list in just a matter of days. But there are 2 issues:
- The conversion from free to your recording package is low. It ends up being as low as 2%. Hence, you need a high level of sign-ups in order to break into 5-figures on admissions alone.
- The unsubscribe rate will be higher. Most people who sign up for a free giveaway will unsubscribe as soon as you send your first non-telesummit ezine. I’ve heard one internet marketer state that you’ll lose 70% of your list within 13-months. He’s not that far off. I participated in a free giveaway in April 2011. Nearly a year later, only 50% remain on the list. Some email services will penalize you if you lose too many subscribers in a 30-day period. One of my Certified Virtual Event Managers who participated in a giveaway got emails from her email delivery service stating that losing too many email subscribers may get her classified as a spammer and they’ll close her account if the trend continued.
My recommendation: Just be aware that you’ll have a higher than normal unsubscribes. If you’ll fall apart seeing that many people leave your list, either don’t use the freemium model or send those unsubscribe notices to an email you never check.
I still much prefer the premium model, one where people pay for access to the live sessions and the recordings. However, there are some compelling reasons why one could use the freemium model, however, consider both the advantages and disadvantages before hosting your next or first telesummit for free.