CreativeMornings: Building Membership Around Events

CreativeMornings: Building Membership Around Events | The Sterling Woods Group

Buzz! That alarm clock goes off on Friday at 6 a.m. You normally roll over and press snooze. But not today! There’s a CreativeMornings gathering this morning.

If you’re unfamiliar with what they do, CreativeMornings organizes a series of in-person breakfast lectures for local creative communities around the world. The events are run by volunteers, free to attend, and happen each month in over 180 cities. Speech topics include things like symmetry, tradition, or community.

CreativeMornings has absolutely raving fans—more on that later. They relied on ad/sponsor support for their first 10 years of existence. But last year, CreativeMornings launched CreativeGuild memberships, a strategy to monetize attendees in between events.

Was this a brilliant move or just plain, old selling out?

Let’s see what happens when you layer a membership program on top of an events business, and how those lessons can apply in any industry.

Why CreativeMornings is Such a Success

Have you ever met someone who regularly attends CreativeMornings events? If you have, you’d agree CreativeMornings has a bit of a cult-like following, and I mean that in a good way! Some cities see several hundred makers attend an 8:30 a.m. meeting.

CreativeMornings events are successful because they tap into both the tangible and emotional needs of their attendees. While the talks provide useful information that helps with professional development, and the events themselves have networking benefits, the real value is how the events make participants feel. Attendees report that they feel more creative, inspired, and like they’re part of an amazing community.

These emotional benefits are what keep people coming back month after month, taking on volunteer roles, and even agreeing to serve as presenters themselves.

The Introduction of CreativeGuild

CreativeGuild’s aim is to recreate the magic of their in-person events online. Their stated value proposition is “The CreativeGuild is a place to highlight your company’s work as well as your personality, to attract talent, connect with collaborators, and get noticed for the gigs you want.”

Basically, they’re going after solving big, tangible problems: recruitment, networking, and business development.

Features of the program include a global directory listing, unlimited job posts, and a company page where you can showcase your stuff.

Did people bite?

Initial data seems to show they’re going in the right direction. As of right now, 691 companies and 329,102 individuals have enrolled. Plus, there are 1,338 active job listings. It’s worth noting that there is a free tier of individual membership. So, while not disclosed, our hunch is most of the 330,000 individual members are not paying anything. But still, getting that many people to enroll is impressive.

Where Can They Improve the Membership

The numbers imply CreativeGuild’s value proposition appeals to their target audience—their whales—but it seems to us that the allure is mostly about tangible benefits, and our experience is that these types of memberships have high churn.

How can CreativeGuild tap into the emotional essence of the events to increase pay-up and retention?

They’re taking a solid next step by developing an inspiration feed, which is coming soon. This will allow users to curate content from other members that meet personalized filters. Personalization makes the member feel special and important, which is a key driver of retention.

Furthermore, curating inspiration on a regular basis gives doses of creativity to members between events. It’s unclear exactly how the inspiration feed will work, but hopefully it’s something that pushes relevant, inspiring content to the right person at the right time on the right frequency.

Our challenge to CreativeGuild is to think about a way to reinforce the community and connectivity of the in-person events on the online platform. Maybe a question of the day for members around the world to answer? A global webinar in between in-person events with live Q&A? Assignments or projects that members can upload for others to see and comment on? Random pairings of members across the network who will discuss a given topic?

The In Person and Online Interplay is an Opportunity for All of Us

The beauty of CreativeMornings is, ultimately, there is no substitute for in-person interaction. They’ve proven even if your whales are distributed across the globe, you can set up regional meetings and connect the community online. They’re targeted and they deliver both hard and soft value. Think about how you can structure meetups that get your best customers together on a regular basis. This will make them feel like part of a tribe.

We also applaud CreativeMornings for wrapping a paid membership model around their free in-person events. This is another way to reinforce the in-person value proposition and create a virtuous circle. The more you engage online, the more likely you are to attend an event, and vice versa. We’ve seen that with several event plus membership clients in both the consumer and B2B space. So if you’re already in the event business, ask yourself, what is the glue we can provide to keep our attendees enthusiastic in between meetups?

About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC

The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to build deeper relationships with their best customers, launch new products and membership programs, and execute smarter marketing strategies.

We use a hypothesis-driven, data supported methodology to discover your “spin”—a simple insight that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right technologies, marketing plans, and resources to seize this opportunity.

About the Author

Rob Ristagno, Founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Throughout his career, his focus has been on embracing technology and analytics to spur strategic development and growth.

At the Sterling Woods Group, he and the team are passionate about helping clients understand their best customers through data, and developing products and membership programs that exceed expectations – and generate impressive revenues.

Committed to spreading this message, Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.

He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.

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