Membership sites are the envy of many business owners, because they create long-term, loyal relationships and consistent revenue.
After successfully launching a membership site, many owners begin to obsess with membership retention. And that’s for a good reason. Keeping members for the long-term is the number one way to make this offer profitable.
Membership programs are popping up everywhere … and for good reason
Membership programs are more appealing than ever as they serve buyers who have been burned by buying high ticket programs that didn’t give them a big return and for those who realize learning at their own pace works much better for them.
Memberships give participants three important benefits:
- Connection – people are craving community more and more in this fragile, disconnected world. Creating an inclusive and safe space for them to retreat from the masses is a huge benefit to many.
- Low barrier to entry – paying lower monthly fees for access to support is much less intimidating than joining high-ticket, time-bound programs especially in economic uncertainty.
- Marketable skills – many individuals are looking outside of their current job for added income and security and using memberships to learn new skills and find out which ones they need to stay relevant in their field.
Every single day a large number of business owners are making the decision to launch membership sites, and they are doing it either in addition to what their current offers or replacing other program formats altogether.
How member retention is evaluated
There are two ways to track the ongoing health of a membership program. One is the lifetime value (LTV) of our members. LTV helps us understand how much revenue each member brings into the business.
If you take the average of this amount, you’ll be able to track how much you typically earn from a sale. This will help you decide how much you can spend to acquire each new member.
We can compare the cost of getting a new person to join vs. keeping a current one.
On average, the cost to acquire a member is 7-10 times more than it is to hold onto an existing one. Client acquisition can be costly (especially when you use affiliates or advertising to drive sales) and constant churn can make your membership site cost as much to run as you get from those sales.
The next metric used to track retention is the retention rate. You’ve probably heard it described it elsewhere as a churn rate.
Here’s how you calculate it.
(Members at the end of the month – new members)/Members at the start of the month
(100 members month end – 10 new)/100 month start = 90% retention rate
In this example it means that even though you’re gaining new members, you’re losing an average of 10% each month.
A good retention rate is 95% and the highest you’ll get away with is 80%. That means 1 in 20 and 1 in 5 members, respectively, leaving every month.
Using the latter example, if you want to grow your membership, you have to replace 20% with new ones every month just to maintain your current numbers and that’s not always sustainable, especially if your acquisition costs are high.
And let’s be real. Costs to acquire new members can be as high as 50% in today’s competitive market, leaving you with a very low profit margin. Zero profit certainly isn’t the goal.
All this makes membership retention strategies critical.
Before we jump into that, let’s look at why members unsubscribe.
Why members unsubscribe in the first place
It may seem like there’s no reason for anyone to leave a membership but, in reality, let’s face it, people do move on. There are many reasons why they do that are outside of our control … and there are a bunch that are within our sphere of influence.
The number one reason is they don’t see the ROI. And this could be because …
- It lacks features they need to optimize using their membership
- It’s clunky and hard to navigate, has bugs or errors
- Their goals have changed and it’s no longer what they need
- They’ve reached their goals and have outgrown it
- They never got in the groove of using it and don’t want to pay for what they don’t use
While 1 is something a membership business can add over time, 2 is something that can be fixed, 3 out of our hands and 4 is a cause to celebrate (and a chance to get a great testimonial).
The biggest impact membership business owners can make is within category 5 – getting people using it regularly right from the start, helping them build the habit so they see the ongoing value.
21 strategies to increase retention and membership program longevity
1. Leave a Lasting Impression
Within the first 21 days of a member’s journey you’ve got to make a connection. People are paying the most attention to their purchase and their decision to join. Go above and beyond to provide exceptional value, personalized attention, and an experience that will leave a lasting impression.
2. A Thoughtful Note Will Not Go Unnoticed
Take the time to write a personalized handwritten note to your members at any length inside that expresses gratitude for their commitment will help them feel valued.. This small gesture can make a big impact on building a strong long-term connection.
3. Surprise and Delight with a Gift of Appreciation
Sending your members a thoughtful gift that aligns with the core purpose of your program will make them feel special and reinforce their decision to remain part of your community. They’ll literally see your deep level of care.
4. Connect through Face-to-Face Messaging
When new members join, recording a personalized video, addressing them by name and offering ways to support them will be unexpected and help them see that you’re committed to their success.
5. Include a Personal Email that Shows You Care
Regularly send personal emails to your members, addressing their specific needs or interests, especially if you haven’t heard from them in a while. You can share relevant resources, ask for feedback, or offer customized upsells based on their needs.. Tailored communications demonstrate your dedication to their success.
6. Spotlight Their Expertise Through Presentations or Share Opportunities
Invite your members to showcase their skills, knowledge, or success stories by offering them opportunities to present or share their expertise within your community. This participation will make them feel recognized and inspire engagement.
7. Include Tailored Support to Address In-time Needs
Identify the specific needs of your members and curate resources, tutorials, or exclusive content that cater to them. This customized approach will demonstrate your commitment to their success and add significant value.
8. Foster Personal Relationships, Not Just Business
People don’t just want to know the business leader side of you. When you Invest time in building personal relationships with your members by engaging in conversations, show genuine interest in their lives, and finding common ground, you’ll connect on a deeper level which will strengthen loyalty and foster a sense of belonging.
9. Prioritize Quality Over Quantity
Avoid overwhelming your members with an excessive amount of information or content. Instead, focus on providing high-quality, actionable content that they can easily digest and apply. Quality over quantity will ensure they stay involved and motivated.
10. Show Them a Crystal Clear Path to Success
Offer a clear roadmap or onboarding process for new members, ensuring that they understand the steps they need to take to achieve their desired goals within your membership. Providing a structured path will reduce confusion and help them take necessary steps to getting results. This is mine:
11. Become a Leading Learner by Embracing Your Own Growth
Continuously educating yourself and sharing your learnings will make you more interesting to follow. This won’t only provide valuable information for your members but also will inspire them to grow alongside you.
12. Be Vulnerable, Be Yourself & Let Them See It
This one nicely follows the last point because along with experimenting and growths, comes failure & mistakes. So while you’re sharing your learning journey, you can also be open and transparent by admitting mistakes or sharing personal stories of struggle. This vulnerability builds trust and shows that you are human, making it easier for members to connect with you. Authenticity breeds trust
13. Spotlight Long-term & Valued Members
Your long-term members are the backbone of your program so you’ll want to find way to celebrate and honour them. You can do that my sharing & celebrating their milestones and their success. Highlighting their progress will demonstrate to others that their goals are possible and inspire them to continue their path while nurturing your own connection to your long term friends.
14. Find a Unique Way to Solve Their Biggest Pain-Point
Let’s face it … if your membership program offers something that members can’t find elsewhere, they won’t leave. By ensuring that your membership program delivers unique and valuable content for a specific audience, members will have a compelling reason to remain both active and engaged.
15. Fresh and Engaging Content for Keeps Thing Exciting
I don’t think memberships have to provide copious amounts of content so giving your existing content an update and refresh can serve to both stand out to new members and help existing ones circle back to it. Do this by updating existing resources, expanding on past trainings or offering live challenges to get the work done.
16. Provide a Roadmap as a Guide
If you can find a way to help each member access the tools they need the most right away, you’ll get them in the habit of using your program as their go-to resource. It may not be possible yet to use AI to help them navigate your membership but you can organize your content in a way that gets them to the right place for them quickly.
17. Keep Them in the Loop
In order for your membership to remain engaged they are going to have to know what’s going on inside your membership program. Communicate regularly and consistently with updates via posts or email, or both. You want them to prioritize your program as much as possible so give them lots of advance warning for events and make sure you get in their calendar.
18. Rapid Responses to Satisfy Member Setbacks
Responding to member inquiries and concerns as quickly as possible will win you points. This includes regular admin queries as well as cancellations and constructive feedback. By demonstrating attentiveness and showing that their needs matter, you build trust and satisfaction among your members.
19. Forging Connections: Building a Vibrant Community
Encouraging and facilitating interactions among your members will create the connection real communities are built upon. Brainstorm opportunities for members to connect, engage in discussions, share experiences, and support one another. A supportive environment enhances the overall membership experience and comes from know, like and trust amongst members.
20. Apply Feedback-Driven Program Enhancements
Wondering what to work on inside your program? Use feedback to improve your offer. When you gather feedback from members, they’ll share what they need and provide suggestions for improvement. The best thing you can probably do is actively listen inside your program. They are constantly giving clues by talking about what they are working on and and what they want.
21. Create Exclusivity with Perks & Premium Access
Memberships, unlike courses, are about limited access. Inside members get things they can’t get outside the program. You’ve likely lured them in with great content and big outcomes and now you’ll want to keep that going by continuing to create exclusive benefits only available to them. Giving them growth opportunities with special, member only pricing will help them stay in your world and feel like they’re in an inner circle.
By implementing these membership retention strategies, you can foster sustainable growth and maintain a thriving community of engaged members who are enthusiastic about being part of your program which will add up to a more profitable long-term business!
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Lisa Princic is a Business Strategist & Membership Expert who helps thought leaders & niche experts build wildly successful memberships while making a positive impact. She helps entrepreneurs scale with powerful positioning & profitable programs designed around their zone of genius. A staunch believer in simplicity, Lisa helps her clients accomplish their goals by focusing on what to do AND what to ignore.