How to improve membership site retention
Mar 13 2019 - 5 MINS READ

Retention rates are a membership site owner’s bane.

Membership is a powerful word.

It signifies belonging, indicates you’ll contribute, and benefit in return.  It’s probably our most basic social need: to feel part of a group.

Whatever club of which you’re a member, you deserve to feel like you are valued – and that participation is worthwhile.

Take that to an online membership. Access to online training, for example, often involves being signed up to a monetized community.

If you’re paying to be part of a membership site, don’t you have the right to feel like you’re getting value for money? That the training resources are up-to-date, accessible and relevant to you? What is it that makes this site more worthy of your investment than any of its competitors?

These sites lose more members during the first year than at any other time.

Dropout rates are high. And yet, survival depends more on retaining members than on recruiting new ones.

What can membership sites do to improve retention rates and create a mutually beneficial relationship?

Recognizing the signs

Membership sites experiencing retention issues need to get themselves familiar with the circumstances surrounding the problem.

Leading up to the end of the first year, there might be reduced of lack of activity on the part of the member.

They might be making complaints, or they might be unresponsive to communications.

What’s causing this problem? Maybe fee increases are off-putting.

Maybe there was a one-off new member bonus which has expired.

Or if the client is corporate, maybe they are leaving their role or organization.

Recognizing the warning signs are an important first step in diagnosing the retention problem. Putting in place a retention strategy from the outset, though, is even better.

Rethinking the deal

Retaining members is all about giving the the right people the right service from the membership community.

There are a few different aspects to this that we need to call out, to rethink how online sites can keep their members for more than just that first year:

Target the right people.

If the community promises something different than is actually delivered, members will be disappointed. The sales process must be carefully handled to ensure that targeted sales activity is appropriate and transparent.

Be clear about what you offer: focus on great delivery to members who will see real value from their involvement. Don’t waste time chasing sales targets for new members who won’t get what they need and will ultimately leave once annual subscriptions come around.

Think carefully about payment.

Nobody likes to find out they are expected to pay more than they agreed. Make sure your pricing strategy is clear from the outset.

Clearly display your pricing structure. If there are introductory offers, or a tiered approach to membership, set out each cost separately.

Don’t leave any room for confusion or you’ll end up with disappointed members.

Automatic renewals limit the number of members that casually lapse. Around renewal time, incorporate the benefits the member has received into renewal confirmations.

Just be clear and open about your automatic renewal policy, with an easy opt-out.

Keep in touch.

Welcome new members effectively with an onboarding program. It doesn’t have to be complicated: just a personalized copy of their membership details, with a few targeted links to resources they may find useful straight away.

Invite them to upcoming events, and think about creating a new member community event to expand the member’s network.

Support everything you do with lively and engaging forums and target new members appropriately.

Incentivize your members to participate.

Consider a rewards programme, based on engagement: attending events, clicking through emails, visiting the website and participating on social media.

Make it easy and rewarding to be an active member in the community.

Make sure you survey your members regularly, so you know what they want to get from the membership.

Keep it fresh: a few questions every quarter is plenty.

Make sure your organisation is set up to focus on retention.

Membership sites thrive or fail on their retention. That means a dedicated retention team is essential: to set policies, carry out targeted research, and respond to issues.

A referral scheme is a good way to boost the engagement of suitable, interested members.

Existing members get rewarded for bringing in new subscriptions, and new members are eager to follow a quality recommendation that they can trust.

Get personal.

Recognize each member’s personal contribution as their anniversary approaches. This means tracking their participation through the year.

Entice continued membership by highlighting what they will gain in year two – specific events or features coming up that will especially interest them as an individual.

Respect the relationship between site and member.

Recognizing new members for the future opportunities they bring will benefit both sides of the relationship.

Members expect new, fresh content and a place to connect with like minds. Member sites need to keep engaging members through research and innovation in order to continue to grow.

Focus on data collection to drive a targeted retention strategy. Involve the member in their community. And don’t forget to deliver on the promises you made when they were signing up in the first place.