There’s money in membership publishing. You just have to find it…

With print recruitment advertising breathing its last gasp and a 7.1%-10% reduction in display making a dent in future revenue forecasts, membership organisations are having to rethink their sales strategies – and fast. But, with the right approach, you can bring in revenue to support your membership-publishing programme, as Ian McAuliffe explains…

In short

  • Print display revenues are in sharp decline. The focus is digital
  • Advertisers are looking for a portfolio of opportunities
  • Targeted content for segmented audiences is increasingly important

I’m always a little conservative in my revenue projections. So, you might be surprised to hear that I’m still optimistic about 2017. Yes, we’re in a period of uncertainty. Yes, no one wants to pay to advertise their job in your print magazine. Yes, printed titles no longer support themselves in the way they once did.

But, with uncertainty, comes opportunity for membership organisations. You’ve got a unique bond with members – and advertisers know it. So why aren’t they all flocking to spend money with you, you ask? The answer is more about what you’re offering than who you are.

Take print. Display advertising is in sharp decline, but with content marketing (everything from sponsored editorial and ad-get features to supplements, round tables, special issues and research) on the rise, organisations should be aiming for money and meaningful content from select partners.

But print is now only part of a wider strategy. Partners don’t want pages, they want packages, relationships and ROI. The language of revenue generation is changing and, if you offer a portfolio of products (from thought-leadership content to exhibition stands and speaking slots), you will start speaking that language.

The main opportunity, however, is a digital one. You may have heard of the decline in digital display advertising (damaged by ad blockers and ad blindness), and you’d be right. But with the ability to target audience segments with intelligent and relevant content – and track results – online equals effective. And the best bit? It’s never been easier to develop your inventory online – adding everything from sponsored video and webinars to solus emails and downloadable content.

The portfolio is key. Just make sure you don’t neglect face-to-face communication. Commercial publishers are closing down print channels to ramp up their event activity. Events may be traditional, but they’re here to stay. Get the content right, expand your available inventory (think partnerships not pop-up stands) and you could just see significant increases.

I know membership publishing isn’t always driven by the need to bring in revenue and I run a team that understands how important it is for that advertising to ‘fit’ with the image your organisation is keen to project. But, I really do believe that there’s a happy medium that satisfies members and advertisers – not to mention your financial director!

My big piece of advice for the rest of the year? Find a way to work around those restrictions. If your website can’t take advertising, then what about your e-newsletters? Our latest Re:member research reports that 63% of organisations aren’t carrying advertisements on their email sends even though they are achieving open rates that are above industry averages.

Quick wins can lead to quick returns.

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