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How to Evaluate New Webinar Partnerships

Recent events have seen many life sciences companies turn towards digital platforms, particularly webinars, in an effort to replace the leads they would have generated from face-to-face events.

At the same time, many events companies have pivoted towards developing digital products to replace revenue lost from postponed or cancelled events.

Suddenly the market is awash with different digital options and potential partners. Who should you partner with and what criteria should you use to make that decision? This article will give you a checklist by providing you with what to avoid and what to look for when looking for digital partners.

What to avoid…

*** Traditional face-to-face event companies with no digital track record

Just about every events/media company is undertaking a ‘digital pivot’ at the moment. The desire of physical event companies to mitigate for lost event revenue by spinning out webinars is understandable. So, make sure to ask questions about potential partners’ track record and webinar engagement levels, as well as about previous webinars and case studies. We recommend not entering into a digital partnership with a company that has no track record of engaging your audience digitally, even if their face-to-face events are successful, unless you have an excellent reason for doing so.

*** Companies whose only digital content is sponsored by a client

Would you attend a conference where every session was sponsored? No, and neither will an audience make an en masse effort to attend webinars or other digital products where every one of them is sponsored. Audiences are particularly sensitive to being sold to at the moment (see this article for more on that topic), and so the likelihood that the partner who only does sponsored webinars of having an active, engaged digital audience for you to engage with is small. Most traditional events companies are only creating webinar-style content that’s sponsored at the moment. This should be a big red flag when considering any company for a digital partnership.

*** Digital partners who do not have a clear mission or purpose

The best companies, almost as a rule, start with ‘why’ (see Simon Sinek’s excellent TED presentation on the subject). What’s their purpose or mission?

Digital audiences are far more likely to connect with content providers who have a mission that they also care about. If it’s not clear how a potential digital partner is adding to the industry or where they fit in the market, steer clear. It’s likely they’re just in it for the cash, so don’t make the mistake of associating your brand with theirs.

*** Companies who refuse to share metrics or, where relevant, hand over leads

One of the strongest benefits of digital is the enhanced ability it affords marketers to track performance and results with precision. This is critical in deciding where to invest next. Beware companies who refuse to share metrics (e.g. number of page visits), either for their entire website or specific pages/content that you’ve sponsored.

This is particularly important for sponsored content where the audience are being asked to register or download a product. Many digital products are an incredible tool for lead generation. Beware of companies who do not share registrant or download information with you – GDPR is not an excuse IF companies have a good relationship with their audience.

What to look for…

*** Companies with a strong track record of engaging with your audience digitally

Typically, these are the companies who already have:

A website packed full of existing digital content

A comprehensive media kit or information describing traffic, demographics and case studies.

Existing digital clients, particularly repeat clients and testimonials.

Case studies of successful digital partnerships with clients.

Look for each one of these things before you enter into an agreement.

*** Companies who already run communities that allow their audience to engage with each other digitally

If a potential digital partner already has a thriving, engaged digital community of participants or members who are already seeking and finding answers digitally, pay attention. It’s highly likely the company is using their digital community to engage, listen and refine their products in a way that works for that community, and should be considered a big tick in the ‘plus’ box.

*** Companies who have a solid plan of engagement beyond the current crisis

Many potential digital partners are using digital products to fill a temporary revenue gap. It’s likely these companies will be less committed to their audience and their audience will be less engaged with them in return.

*** Companies with a strong brand reputation, who are recommended by your audience

Researching with your target market or audience should tell you a lot about which digital partners you should be working with. Ask your audience which sources, channels and/or websites they were using both before and during the crisis. Remember, when you partner with a company you are aligning your own brand with theirs, so also check back with your audience before entering into a partnership with a company you were previously unaware of.

Going it alone

Don’t rule out going it alone.  You obviously lose some of the independence that often works for an audience. However, the barriers to creating engaging digital content and reaching your market via your own channels have never been lower – if you have a strong brand presence, reputation and thriving customer community/base, definitely consider this option.

If thinking about going it alone, it’s important to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of doing so. In particular, get stats from potential digital partners and compare them to your own. During the crisis, we’ve heard some horror stories from clients from both sides – both partnering with organisations and going it alone.

Finally, it’s worth stressing that what’s right for one company in a digital partner might not be right for another. It’s worth creating a checklist of what’s important to you in a digital partner (it may well be different from mine).

As in life, choose your (digital) partners carefully!

This article is one of a series of articles designed to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some other posts in this series:

Why death by webinar will soon become a real thing (and what to do about it).

Why helping, not selling, is the smartest marketing approach right now.

3 major forces re-shaping the business landscape due to COVID-19

Marketing best practices during COVID-19: Building success during uncertainty