B2B events – an important piece in the membership offering puzzle

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Preferential rates for members who want to buy a ticket to an annual flagship event – with the discount being a membership benefit.
  3. 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.

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A practical guide to building a robust B2B membership acquisition strategy

Effective member acquisition (sometimes referred to as member recruitment) depends on the fine art of building an integrated marketing and sales strategy that creates a pipeline of relevant, engaged prospects who then convert to members.

The holy grail of membership marketing is to achieve strong member retention to build high value, recurring revenues, but it all has to start with strong membership acquisition.

Through our work with companies offering memberships to their customers, MPG has developed a methodology for creating strong member acquisition strategies. Here we share with you our tried and tested 5 step approach.

5 steps to developing a strong acquisition strategy for B2B membership growth

#1 Reach your target audience – build routes to market

An essential first step to your acquisition strategy is to understand which of your market segments has the best potential for delivering the desired member growth. To do this, you will need a deep understanding of the composition of your end-user market.

Market mapping and sizing is essential to understanding what the gap is between your high growth segment and your existing database. Depending on the size of the gap, you can work out how to deploy your inbound channels, and you might need a database build project.

You can read more about MPG’s recommended market mapping and sizing approach in this related article.

#2 Create your outreach marcomms strategy

Your next step in the pursuit of new, high quality members is to build your marcomms strategy.

Creating a well structured outreach strategy is centred around getting the right messages to the right people at the right time. To make this effective based on a fully integrated communications plan, you will need to consider:

  • Brand and tone of voice – have you documented these to ensure your marketing and sales people are fully aligned? This also ensures they stay top of mind
  • Core communications and channels – not only will you determine which communications will be used in which channel, and the frequency of those communications (ideally largely automated), you will need to factor in how often these will be reviewed and revised to suit your members’ changing needs and life cycle maturity
  • Content – what pieces will resonate with your potential members, which channels you’ll be using to distribute and amplify your content, and when this content will be released? How can you customise this based on the specific profile and interests of your targeted members?
  • Quantified, measurable objectives – do you have clear objectives for each communication piece? And have you specified how performance will be measured against each of those objectives?

#3 Communicate effectively for awareness and interest

Now that you’ve defined your outreach strategy, you should turn your focus back to ensuring you deploy the most impactful, relevant messaging for each target audience group. This means articulating your membership USPs (unique selling points), and membership benefits considering the specific motivations, needs, challenges and opportunities that your product addresses, and are being faced by your target persona’s.

There is now more noise than ever with competition from your traditional competitors, and also from disruptors and new entrants who are taking advantage of rapid digitalisation to move into your space. As your competition and the noise everyone is making escalates, attracting, engaging and converting your target customers will require highly relevant and carefully crafted messaging.

If you are not sure where to start with your messaging strategy, have a look at our step-by-step guide for building a winning messaging strategy to steer you through the process.

#4 Engage and convert

You’ve grown your database, defined your target segments and relevant messaging, and built your outreach strategy. The next priority is to get those prospects to convert to leads and ultimately sales.

You need to ensure your entire customer journey is mapped out and optimised to drive those coveted conversions. A fundamental element in this customer journey is your website – you need to get more of the right people to visit your website, complete forms and ultimately sign up to your membership offering.

Investing in your website is critical to ensure all your marketing works. Good SEO and a seamless user experience, with intelligent lead generation and calls to action (CTAs) that drive conversions are all a must.

There are many factors that will impact how well optimised your website is, and in this article we share the top 4 things you should be doing for a high performance website.

#5 Measure ROI and improve

If you’ve been reading our blogs for a while, you know how much emphasis we put on the importance of tracking and analysing results to adjust and optimise your marketing approach in a responsive and agile way for the best outcomes.

It’s so important in fact we’ve dedicated articles to measuring membership marketing success and the 15 metrics that really matter in digital marketing for B2B.

When it comes to marketing metrics, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole and lose focus on what really matters. The below areas are an essential starting point when measuring the success of your membership acquisition marketing:

  • Database size and growth
  • Marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
  • Sales qualified leads (SQLs)
  • Sales achieved
  • Length of sales Cycle
  • Revenue achieved
  • Average yield

DOWNLOAD MEMBERSHIP MAKRETING KPIS


Coming soon…

In the final installment of our membership marketing series to be published later this summer, we’ll be looking at the best way to build events (in all forms) into your membership offering. Not every events business needs a membership offering, and not every membership offering needs events (or at least large, in-person events). But when your product portfolio includes membership and events it is very important to tie them together in various ways to ensure your events support member retention and acquisition for steady member revenue growth.

So, if you have not already signed up to MPG Insights – now is a good time! Subscribe here to get an email in your inbox every time we publish a new blog like this one, or create a resource (e.g. webinar, guide or report) that will help you achieve high performance B2B marketing.


MPG’s marketing strategists provided us with clear direction on how to establish strong brand positioning. Their work for Outsmart Insight included a thorough competitor analysis, customer persona development, messaging strategy development, branding upgrade and website design & functionality recommendations. Having MPG as collaborative and creative marketing partners, focused on delivering marketing assets we could immediately put into action and gain ROI from really helped us move forward as a business.

Alex Ayad, Manging Director & Founder, Outsmart Insight


If growing membership revenue 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. Find out more about our approach – get in touch.

Topics:

How to get the ‘recurring’ into high value, B2B membership revenues

It is now quite common knowledge that a strong, validated high value B2B membership proposition is of great interest to senior executives in B2B media/events businesses. Strong recurring revenues generated by memberships are usually equally interesting and exciting to both existing and potential new investors.

But, it is important to keep an eye on the key word here, which is ‘recurring’. Successfully launching a new membership product that your customers are willing to pay quite a lot to access doesn’t guarantee the revenue will be recurring.

If you are not able to consistently retain your paying members at the same or higher annual yield, you will need to continually ‘top up’ with new members. This ongoing push to acquire new members can be costly and unpredictable.

Don’t get me wrong: member acquisitions are an important part of a membership growth story. But, without the renewals (and ideally upsell) piece working well, your growth is likely to be unsustainable at best, and negative at worst.

According to The Membership Guys, “it costs 7-10 times more on average to win a new member than it does to hold on to an existing one”.

So, when do you prepare your member retention marketing and sales strategy? This must be done before you even start your member acquisition campaigns! One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when launching a membership product is only paying attention to member retention a couple of months before the renewal date – or sometimes even later. To secure properly recurring revenues your investors will love (and expect!) starts the day your member is acquired.


MPG focuses very much on marketing to grow membership revenue, but as marketing, sales, product, account management and customer experience need to be well integrated for member retention to be successful, this blog looks at all of these aspects.

Here are the 5 key areas MPG recommends for focus to achieve good retention of high value, B2B members – to achieve that much sought after consistently recurring, and growing membership revenue:

 

#1 Onboarding

Once your customer has taken that all important step and decided to purchase a membership, you need to remind your new member why they made this purchase and how to get the most out of their investment. So, you need a ‘member onboarding programme’, which should be the first step in member retention.

Here are three things to consider when putting this together.

  • Send a highly relevant welcome email: this is your first opportunity to delight a new member, so don’t waste it with a generic welcome email that makes them feel like they’re just being pushed into your production line. Wherever possible, personalise this communication. Ideally have a real person they’re likely to engage with in future (their account manager, or customer success manager) compiling and sending this email, which should include a product tour or demo video (even if they’ve already seen it) and signposting to relevant content and product features they can immediately start benefiting from.
  • New member interview: make sure you really understand what ‘success’ looks like for every new member i.e. why did they decide to spend the money on the membership? What would a good return on investment look like for the member, and in what timeframe? This is likely to differ by customer and is especially important in the early stages of your membership product life cycle as you gather valuable customer insight. This intelligence is essential to help you further refine and enhance the membership value proposition, while also engaging with every precious new member on a personal level in a way that is likely to be perceived by the member as very good customer care.
  • Keep it simple for your new member! Don’t bombard your new member with an excessive amount of communication and requests for their time and attention. Consider how you give your new members the required amount of time and balanced support to explore your membership offering at a comfortable pace and ‘self-serve’ as much as possible, so they are fully enabled and empowered to make the most of what they have bought.

 

#2 Content

Your content is likely to be one of the main reasons a member signs up. The membership is seen as a means to solve a problem, or a series of problems. These usually include at least two of the following: acquiring new skills, getting valuable intelligence, and accessing a precious, highly relevant network. If you consider these as ‘content’ – joined up and served up in an easy-to-use way, you’re thinking in the right way!

Strong, regular member engagement with your content is important to ensure members get the level of value that is likely to make them renew.

To ensure you are serving up the right content, at the right time, in the right formats for your members, consider how you incorporate the following into your workflow and offering.

  • Relevant, visible, timely content calendar: make sure what you are serving up is relevant and timely to your member’s ‘jobs to be done’ (e.g. an annual planning and budgeting process) and also make sure your members can see what is coming up. Keep reminding them of what they will get in future at critical times so they see their membership as a  key part of their own workflow.
  • Choice/flexibility: not every member will want to consume your content in the same way, so serve it up in a variety of formats. For example, an intelligence report can be delivered as a PDF, with a highlights video, an accompanying webinar and a Q&A session in an online chat group. Not only will this mean different preferences are catered for, but it also means your high-quality content is likely to work harder for you as it is repurposed. This also helps you achieve the ‘quality over quantity’ balance right, making the quantity look & feel substantial enough, while ensuring the quality content is highly accessible.
  • Ongoing member research: ask questions as members use the product to find out what they like and don’t like about how you have packaged up membership features and benefits, and what they find most valuable and useful – and why. If you can combine a series of automated mini-surveys with personalised conversations to work out if your members are achieving their work goals via your membership, you’re likely to get the best kind of intelligence that will help you have exactly the right kinds of sales conversations to retain and upsell members, and improve the product as you go along.

“The closer you can align the way you package your value to the goal that your customer has, the more likely your customer is to trust you for the long term.”
Robbie Kellman Baxter – Membership/subscriptions advisor & best-selling author

 

#3 Engagement

Having the right content is just one piece of the retention puzzle. The next piece is ensuring members engage with the content. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Nurturing: using email nurture campaigns, personalised to the members’ content needs, are a great way to boost engagement, and therefore retention.
  • Incentives: if you can find a way to gamify membership usage in a way that rewards your most highly engaged members, you’re on to a winner. Maybe you could unlock some exclusive content or higher value features for members who ‘give the most’ to using their membership?
  • Engagement scoring: this is simply a way to categorise your members from least engaged through to highly engaged based on specific actions that they take. You want as many members as possible to be within the highly engaged category, as these members have the highest probability of renewing and probably also buying a bigger package e.g. with more users/seats in their licence or a multi-year deal. Those that are least engaged will need some extra attention well before their renewal date.
  • Data insights & analytics: using analytics tools can provide you with insights into what content your members are most engaged with and also how they are using your content and platform. Insights around your top performing pages and site navigation can provide you with ways to improve platform design to quickly help your members get what they need – faster and in a better format. The easier your membership product is to use, the more your members are to use and get value from it!

 

#4 Pricing

Overly complicated membership pricing plans can often lead to higher member churn. You need to ensure your members are aware of what it is they are signing up for. There should be no nasty surprises in terms of what is expected and then included – or not.

When considering renewals, there a few options and considerations to build into the initial planning and evolution of your pricing:

  • Upgrades: consider how members can move up the value chain over time – in terms of what they can access and how much they pay. A strong upgrade path may attract more members and enable longer term revenue growth.
  • Downgrades: having a cheaper version of your membership, with less access to certain features or content, is a great way to retain members who may struggle to justify or afford a full renewal every year.
  • Pauses: if you can enable a pause to a membership, your customers will thank you. Giving them the option to pause rather than cancel, can be better for overall retention.
  • Auto renewals: having an auto renewal in place that is properly communicated at the time of signing up helps by removing any friction in the renewal process. The member doesn’t need to do anything to renew and only needs to act if they want to cancel at renewal stage.
  • Mid-term upgrades: you don’t need to wait until a membership is about to expire to offer upgrades. This can be done anywhere in the membership cycle. The members that engage well from the start may present your best opportunities for upgrades ahead of the official renewal date. This could be individual users with high engagement scores or companies that have multiple members on your platform.
  • Incentives: building incentives into your membership marketing strategy can help secure early renewals. In an annual renewal cycle, an incentive scheme can start from as early as 3 months out from your expiry date. Types of incentives you can offer include: remaining membership period for free on renewal; access to exclusive pieces of content; or invitations to community roundtables or networking events. Incentives are not just for current members, they can also be a useful tool for re-engaging with lapsed members.

 

#5 Measurement

As with all other marketing efforts, keeping a close eye on the metrics that matter most is essential!

We recently published a blog on the key strategic KPIs for membership marketing and sales – presenting the core metrics for both acquisition and retention. Below are the main areas your retention metrics should be focussed on:

  • Onboarding
  • Engagement
  • Sales
  • Renewal cycle/timing

DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY OF THE FULL STRATEGIC KPIS

Whether you have recently launched a membership, already have a strong membership offering, or you are in the early stages of planning, we have some upcoming blogs in the series that will provide you with practical approaches for your membership marketing strategy:

  • The ideal member acquisition process: how to build a marketing and sales funnel that becomes a powerful feeder of new business – to achieve strong membership growth over an extended period of time.
  • The best way to build events (in all forms) into your membership offering: to achieve strong member retention rates and to act as a reliable growth engine for membership revenue.

So, if you have not already signed up to MPG Insights – now is a good time! Subscribe here to get an email every time we publish a new blog like this one, or create another resource (e.g. webinar or report) that you will benefit from.


Launching a new membership offering or wanting to grow strong recurring revenue for an existing product?

Team MPG creates and executes on robust membership marketing strategies that support both acquisition and retention growth. Find out more about our approach – get in touch.

 


“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

Topics:

Building a winning B2B membership model: where your marketing should start

When the B2B media and events world was first plunged into the unknown at the start of the global pandemic, many ‘pivots to digital’ focused on creating or strengthening a membership proposition, typically something ‘high value’ (£500+ per user per annum). 

This was a perfectly logical move to make considering the more stable, predictable, recurring revenues that memberships promise. 

And we all know that this is the holy grail of business valuations: 3+ years of healthy, consistently growing membership revenues – fed by both retention (and ideally annual upsell in volume of users and average order value), and a steady stream of newly acquired, good quality members. This is what gets the investors lining up and paying handsomely.  

At this moment in time, we believe it’s important to take a very sober look at what has really happened over the last 18 months or so. Since January/February 2020, business owners faced the catastrophe of live event revenues falling away – knowing full well that digital alternatives were likely to generate a fraction of the revenue. 

Generally speaking, those with relatively established membership products and/or digital subscriptions already in the market saw higher demand for these services. As live events weren’t running (and it took a while for digital events to emerge as reasonable alternatives), their members/subscribers started looking to these offerings to meet their knowledge and networking needs. 

And many that did not already have a membership proposition started working hard and fast to create one. 

But, as organisations in both of these situations will know, creating and establishing a successful membership model requires significant investment and takes time. A reasonable payoff is often only realised 5+ years after the first version of the membership offering was launched. 

And what most successful, profitable membership service owners will know, is that a smart, strategic marketing effort, fully integrated with leading and supporting the sales function, is essential.  

In the early stages, many put most of their marketing dollars into a shiny new piece of martech, seeing this as a ‘silver bullet’ solution to make their membership marketing somehow magically work well with limited marketing resources. This is one of the biggest, most costly mistakes we see made – again, and again. 

What should come first is a robust and well thought through marketing strategy. This should be aligned with and built to fully support your business, product development and sales strategies.

So, where should the marketing strategy start? It should always start with the ‘Control’ part of the SOSTACⓇ model that MPG recommends marketing leaders follow when building a marketing strategy. SOSTACⓇ stands for:

S = Situational Analysis
O = Objectives
S = Strategy
T = Tactics
A = Action (operational plan)
C = Control 

Even though C is the last letter in the SOSTAC acronym, it should come first in your process when developing and implementing a winning membership marketing strategy. Why? Because you need to know how you’re going to measure success, and how your marketing investments are going to help you achieve this success.

If you don’t have the right KPIs, people, systems and processes in place to measure your growth – and where this growth is coming from – how will you be able to prove to your potential investors that you have a strong, predictable and growing membership revenue stream?

Put this measurement system in place at the start of your membership journey, and you will have all the analytics you need to tell your growth story for investors in 3 years time.

This data is what gives you strong visibility of how your membership is actually performing, what is holding you back, and what is driving growth. It’s essential for making good decisions that will enable you to make the right investments and build that ‘holy grail’ membership proposition that will make your business so attractive to investors. 

Focusing on measuring membership marketing success from the very beginning will also ensure your marketing and sales are integrated from the start. Marketing a