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.

 


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The Marketing Mix | The Best of MPG

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Growth Marketing Hacks: 8 things you can do to convert registrants (non-paying subscribers) to paying subscribers

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It’s fascinating just how much faster things move in a mostly digital world. Meetings done via web calls seem shorter and snappier, events and training courses are compressed into hours rather than days, and marketing campaigns are being planned and executed at lightning speed.

‘Hacking’ has become a buzzword again. Marketers are being asked to make ‘short cuts’ and ‘quick wins’ to deliver a rapid and strong return on what is often a low marketing investment.

Growth marketing hacks are certainly being sought in the world of B2B subscriptions. From the work MPG has done in the B2B media community, there is no doubt that subscriptions are an important growth area and – without much additional marketing investment – have also been growing faster than pre-COVID-19 times. But with so much competition from free online content, how will this growth be maintained?

Two key things marketers can and should do to maintain and ideally further accelerate strong subscriptions revenue growth are:

  1. Identify the prospective subscrib