Over the past 18 months we’ve seen many B2B media and events businesses choosing to create integrated product offerings where annual flagship conferences and/or a series of smaller events are integrated with digital information membership/subscriptions, and given the label of ‘membership’. Often, these memberships also include access to online communities and in some cases also ‘micro-communities’ – carefully curated matchmaking to bring together peers with very specific challenges they can work on solving together. One of the main drivers for this move to integrated offerings comes down to generating more recurring revenue from event audiences. Another is building more engaged audiences to then sell on to sponsors. How well this will actually work for all businesses remains to be seen.. If we work through the logic of turning ‘event revenue’ into ‘membership revenue’, it is important to look at the data. Based on MPG’s benchmarks, at a company level, event organisers of well run and valuable annual events should typically expect to see a 40-50% YOY retention rate of attendees. At an individual level this is 20-30%. A good membership offering will provide year-round relevant and valuable content and networking opportunities. Therefore, one would expect more invested and engaged customers who then renew at a higher rate – typically over 60%. Well established, high value and usually enterprise level memberships can expect 80%+ renewal rates, and the most successful membership offerings have over 100% ‘renewal to value’ rates, where upsell and cross-sell delivers more revenue from a member base that renews at 90%+ at volume level. There are three main ways we are seeing annual flagship events being integrated into digital information membership offerings: Including ‘all access’ tickets to annual flagship events as part of a premium membership product. These tickets cover in-person attendance and access to all digital event content. Preferential rates for members who want to buy a ticket to an annual flagship event – with the discount being a membership benefit. Member only events – where customers can only access the event if they buy a membership. What does this mean for your marketing? When it comes to creating your marketing strategy, you can apply MPG’s community marketing model to your events and membership offering to identify marketing activities to grow both membership and event revenue. As customers move up levels, they become ‘higher value’ based on their level of engagement and therefore likely retention rate increases. It is important to focus marketing on moving customers up levels, ensuring the highest value customers are engaging well, and that engagement at all levels is growing over time. Level #1 – Lurkers: These are your unknowns – people who are visiting your membership or event site .You don’t have their data. They are consumers of your free content. You want to attract these ‘lurkers’ through inbound (e.g. SEO, PPC, social media, advocacy marketing) and ensure your website is optimised to get them to convert to contacts (level 2). Level #2 – Contacts: These are the known, relevant contacts on the database. You want to track engagement accurately with this segment and hit them with targeted messaging, strong product marketing messaging and content marketing to effectively engage them so they convert into leads and buyers. Level #3 – Leads / Freemium: These are contacts who are more committed and are engaging with your content in a free capacity e.g. signing up to a free newsletter, attending a free webinar, downloading your event agendas or post event reports. Again, your goal here is to increase levels of engagement by encouraging more customer interaction with your content and products e.g. encouraging them to attend more free events or to sign up for a membership trial. And here you want to start paying close attention to what they are consuming, and what they value most in the free content you are pushing out. We recommend using nurturing campaigns and remarketing to keep these leads warm. Level #4 – Transactionals: These are your paying customers that have made one-off purchases e.g. they have bought a single delegate pass or a lower priced membership. These are the customers you want to convert into higher value, recurring revenue memberships. It is important, at this stage, to pay close attention to what content and networking people are willing to pay for and in what formats – and how much they will pay. For these lower value members, you might want to start offering discounts for your events to encourage them to engage with more products in your mix and become ever more familiar with your brand and the overall value it offers. Level #5 – Loyalists: These are your paying customers who make larger purchases of renewing products. These can be members or the delegates who attend your events every year, usually with large group bookings. Typically, these loyal event customers offer the best opportunities for conversion to your high value annual memberships. This is the group you want to focus on growing fastest, retaining and upselling. Here you need some well targeted, well coordinated marketing and sales approaches, supported by well set up tech and automation. Level #6 – Leaders: Even if this group is smaller than groups at other levels (and it is likely to be), these are your most important customers. They are typically community leaders and also enterprise-level customers who make purchases for whole teams to access renewing products. These high profile, repeat attendees and speakers should also be the strongest advocates for your brand. You want to encourage them to share news about your events and the benefits of membership with their network – within their organisations and externally. Make sure you leverage their advocacy in your own social channels by tagging them in social posts. Use your event speakers as advocates for your membership products. Provide them with membership access and encourage them to share the membership benefits with their networks. Tag them in social posts as users of your membership offering. Getting this model right so that you can create those high renewal rates takes time and a lot of hard, complex work. A well skilled and well organised marketing team is essential , and is likely to look quite different from a traditional event marketing team. MPG recommends the following as the ideal marketing department structure: Acquisition marketing team: will need to focus on reaching high volumes of potential customers via inbound marketing and data acquisition. This ‘one to many’ approach is essential to reach enough potential relevant customers and to move purchasers down your marketing funnel – either to purchase your event product or your membership offering. The target audience for this team will consist of both individuals who are not members but their colleagues are, or individuals who have no affiliation with the membership offering. It will also contain your traditional event contacts – leads, attendees etc. Once you have converted one of these leads to a customer of your membership offering, they should be handed over to your retention team who should start the renewal process on day 1 of their membership! (See MPG’s relevant blog on this important subject!) Retention marketing team: should be completely focussed on keeping your customers engaged to ensure high renewal, cross-sell and upsell rates. When you have events integrated into your product mix, this retention marketing is not just focussed on renewing memberships, but also ensuring members that have signed up to your events actually turn up! Your members who turn up to your events are more likely to renew their membership, and so the virtuous upward circle continues. An important note about martech and data… This cross selling, and cross pollination of your product mix can only take place when you fully understand the relationship customers already have with your brand. Are they a newsletter subscriber? Have they purchased an event (and turned up)? Have they taken out a free trial? This holistic, single view of your customers behavioural / engagement data comes from a well set up sales and marketing tech stack – backed up by bomb-proof processes and workflows. It is an exciting time to be a marketer! But, it’s not an easy time as marketing has become much more complex and in many ways more technical, requiring an ‘engineers brain’ to do some of the problem-solving that pops up every day. It is also a time that demands a significant ‘upgrade’ in terms of marketers’ strategic thinking, knowledge, skills, confidence and profile within their organisations. The future will belong to those who are bold and knuckle down – moving fast into new ways of doing things. And unfortunately, some marketers and companies will be left behind. I will be watching with interest how this future unfolds! I was very impressed with the marketing strategy MPG developed for Environment Analyst. The level of thinking that went into this strategy and how it was delivered has created great value for our business. My marketing manager and I now look forward to working with MPG to execute great marketing together. Julian Rose, Director & Co-Founder, Environment Analyst If creating strong recurring membership revenues with integrated events is a strategic focus for you, MPG can help. Our team of marketing specialists can create, and execute on, a robust membership marketing strategy for you, incorporating event marketing to secure the revenue growth and profitability you need as we move forward into a post-pandemic world. Find out more about our approach – get in touch.