Membership Retention: A Guide To Keeping Your Members

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In our previous blog, Members’ Perks Ideas, we talked about the 10 best membership benefits to include if you’re looking to boost community engagement. We stand by the power of irresistible offers in drawing people in and keeping them on their toes. But are they enough to convince members to stick around?

In our previous blog, Members’ Perks Ideas, we talked about the 10 best membership benefits to include if you’re looking to boost community engagement. We stand by the power of irresistible offers in drawing people in and keeping them on their toes. But are they enough to convince members to stick around?

Membership retention is a whole other ballgame and in this round up, we break down 7 strategies you can use today to make members commit to you.

But before that…

What is member retention?

Member retention, put simply is the number of members that stick with you year on year, it's the number of members that renew their membership. It is the effort your organisation goes through to delight members enough to keep their subscription.

It’s one of two crucial processes. Its predecessor, member acquisition, is what entices members to join your club in the first place. Member retention is what determines these members’ lifespan or how long they intend to become part of your inner circle. Both are equally valuable but we’d argue that retention efforts require a bigger investment as it keeps revenue flowing and inside the organisation.

Some examples of membership retention strategies include:

  • Delighting members with a well-curated membership package
  • Cultivating a warm, productive culture
  • Establishing a clear and appropriately-timed onboarding process
  • Hosting stimulating conversations (in person and virtual)
  • Having an excellent loyalty program
  • Installing good leaders and;
  • Thoughtful career and personal development programs

But don’t just go implementing the next retention hack in the book. Remember that it’s most effective when it’s derived from a clear understanding of members’ behaviour, preferences, and inconveniences, so always keep your ear to the ground.

How can you track member retention?

Member retention is tracked by taking the total number of members at the beginning of the season or membership cycle. Then over a period of time, determine how many stayed and what percentage of that original pool are still active, paying members. 

On a granular level, member retention can be tracked through members’ average organisational lifespan. How long does a member typically last in the club? You can then plan your retention strategy around that timeline, ensuring that you stretch it for as long as you can.

If you would like an in depth guide, Higherlogic’s blog provide an excellent breakdown on the maths involved in calculating your membership retention rate.

What is a good retention rate for a membership business? 

In a perfect world, membership retention rate is 100%. But obviously often not the case. Members dip out for various reasons such as lack of funds, boredom, and venturing into “greener” pastures. A rule of thumb, however, is that a good retention rate hovers upwards of 75%. 

Diving into it, here is a step-by-step guide on how to keep your members hooked:

  • Attract the right audience
  • Nail your onboarding process
  • Remove all friction in membership renewal
  • Prioritise membership engagement
  • Keep an eye out for new demands
  • Improve customer service
  • Spotlight your most loyal members

1. Attract the right audience.

We are way past the point of preaching the importance of knowing your audience. Membership marketing is proof that skipping this step comes at a cost, because as you know, bargain-hunters and toe-dippers do not guarantee a renewal.

At the very least, members must believe in the core purpose of your membership. For instance, if you run a sports club, they must be fans of your team and are hardcore enough to pay for insider news or get first dibs on the best seats in the stadium. The same could be said for professional associations and trade groups. The minimum requirement should be a common desire to be on top of industry trends and best practices (or to rub shoulders with market leaders).

Our advice

When looking for new members, target forums and existing communities.

In the advanced age of the internet, there is always a hive for every interest, craft or niche. Start there and connect with community managers, moderators, and influencers. You can choose to strike an affiliate deal or offer your expertise for free in the form of webinars, workshops, and other partnered events in exchange for a promotion.

A caveat in penetrating internet communities, though, is the outright rejection for hard selling. Refrain from promoting anything before you’ve provided value and what better way to fast-track your exposure than to share your work.

Here’s where to look for communities online:

  • LinkedIn Groups - A go-to for finding professionals across industry verticals
  • Facebook Groups - Hub for service-providers, hobbyists, and master craftsmen
  • Reddit - Niche communities
  • Discord - For high-touch technology-oriented support groups

While the most convenient, recruiting members online isn’t always ideal, so have a clear grasp of your demographic.

Communities that naturally form

Sometimes, you’ll have your recruitment work cut out for you. It’s not uncommon to see communities form naturally around a topic, interest or line of work wherein you’re already a trusted voice in. 

In our experience as an event technology company, one-off events may become a huge hit that attendees demand to stay connected to the event creators. If you’re lucky enough to attract a crowd this way, creating a membership is the logical next step. Just don’t wait too long as you want to present your exclusive community while the highs of the event are still fresh.

Contrary to first instinct, you don’t need to start from scratch when building a gated membership community. A white label membership platform backed by master designers and developers can offer you a fully functional member management system in less time. Choose from the best of the best membership software in this previous roundup.

2. Nail your onboarding process.

Making a good first impression is vital even in membership organisations. Warm welcomes are routine but don’t forget to assure members that they made the right choice. Membership fees are often not cheap so highlighting the reasons why they’re worth it takes priority. In your onboarding email drip, you can include the following:

  • A personalised welcome message from the founder, creator or head organiser with a snapshot of what’s there to expect in the community.
  • The member’s personal membership details and a link to a password setup page.
  • A starter kit or step-by-step guide containing all resources members need to navigate online platforms, venues, and events.
  • Most importantly, teach members how they can claim rewards and bonuses or simply how to use their membership benefits to its fullest potential. If events have a huge role to play in the organisation’s year-round operations, link members to a calendar they can synchronise to their own emails.

Organisational health and safety

No matter the space you’re holding your membership in (online or in-person), it’s vital to establish general guidelines for member safety from the outset. In high-touch communities where members freely interact with each other, interpersonal conflicts may arise and cause a rift in a safe organisational culture discouraging victims from sticking around. What’s worse is one ill-managed incident may lead to a mass dropout.

We couldn’t stress enough how important it is to know where you stand on issues like harassment, offensive language, bullying, and discrimination. Of course, your health and safety measures must take concrete forms. One clear way to communicate this is through a set of house rules agreed to by members as part of their onboarding. Make sure to include how offences will be evaluated and what penalties await those that break the social contract.

3. Remove all friction in membership renewal.

Sometimes, it’s not your leadership that’s in question. Members may enjoy the membership experience to bits and delight in their perks, but if renewing their membership or updating their payment method are a real pain in the you know where, you may never see them past the first season.

Frustrated customers are hard to appease.

The solution–invest in a membership management system that automates the renewal process for you. Eventcube Memberships is an excellent platform to manage memberships in. Whether your members prefer calling your line to upgrade their package or are comfortable doing it themselves from their own dashboard, Eventcube got you covered. You can now lead members down a seamless renewal process and upsell a service in under 5 minutes.

The system lets you set-up various pricing plans and offer direct debits and one-off card payments to customers. And if you’re running loyalty discounts, you can carry them over each renewal season without fuss. 

4. Prioritise membership engagement

Memberships may appear like a mere service individuals access on demand, but it has the potential to turn into a community. And transforming it into a buzzing hub is in your retention strategy’s best interest. Here’s why:

Networking opportunities

Good networks are forged where there is an opportunity for it. Membership organisations already attract individuals who share the same passions and interests, so providing an avenue for members to nurture their bond is only logical. This is why events, conferences, and discussion boards are popular among these communities.

So while perks are attractive for their utility and monetary value, they’re undeniably enjoyed best with others who appreciate them and have thoughts to share about the experience. It’s also harder to leave behind friends than it is to leave membership privileges.

Clear interaction with the perks members are paying for

One benefit of member-to-member interaction is feedback. Through this, individuals get a glimpse of how others are enjoying the same set of offers as them and it helps them validate their own experiences. 

A clear frame of reference is available, allowing members to form more accurate opinions about the organisation. Where they already hold positive biases, learning about others’ feelings can amplify their own. Thus, if satisfaction and the desire to stay is overwhelmingly strong among the crowd, renewal is an easy choice.

Feedback is a double-edged sword, however. The same mechanism applies to negative biases, so it’s important to offer good customer service all year round instead of only during renewal season.

Social and technical support

A forum to run to for technical support is always helpful in clearing confusion. Sometimes, FAQ pages won’t cut it or that members feel like their questions fall in grey areas. Helpful, more knowledgeable members may just be your lifesavers.

5. Keep an eye out for new demands 

Membership demands hardly stay the same, so make research a regular part of your management tasks. Membership retention means finding out all the reasons members may jump ship and the best way to do this is to ASK them. 

Lengthy studies aren't always well-received although they offer the most comprehensive results. A good alternative would be to chop your questions down into pieces that won't take longer than 3 minutes to complete. You can space them apart to maximise reach. Some examples include:

  • Quick email blasts
  • One-question polls on social media
  • 3-minute yes-or-no surveys hosted in Google Forms or Survey Monkey
  • Dashboard pop-ups

Choose whatever is easiest to implement.

Through these mini surveys, you can mine information about the perks members want added to their membership, events they look forward to the most, preferred payment options, desired improvements in the software you use…the list goes on. 

Need insight into what members want? You can check out this market research on enhancing the membership experience we recently produced with the help of over 200 members. 

Competitor research

Always stay one step ahead of your competitors by looking for gaps in the market you can fill. Have other members been showing dissatisfaction with their current membership? What might be causing the stir and how can you prevent it in your organisation?

Studying where you stand in your industry also helps you hone your unique selling proposition. It's easier to convince members why you're the best when you know what you can offer that others can't. 

6. Improve customer service.

Catch member dissatisfaction before it evolves into a massive turnover. Man your customer support channels and take note of recurring problems and requests. Acknowledging complaints is standard but don't go without informing members how you intend to move forward from there. You can offer a temporary solution or commit to raising the issue on your next planning session.

Prioritise areas with the loudest uproar and work your way down. When you get the chance to fix major problems, don't forget to send a broadcast email. This will show members that you don't take complaints lightly and are determined to build a satisfying membership experience for everyone.

7. Spotlight your most loyal members 

Memberships tend to become an endless subscription cycle so it's important to create your own milestones to reward members who have been with you the longest. Loyalty programs primarily cement your relationship with legacy members, but it does so much more. 

If gamified and awarded in tiers, loyalty discounts can motivate new entrants to continue their membership; a good route for improving member retention. It's like an upsell that's bought with time instead of money.

If you’re looking for loyalty perks ideas, here we listed a few:

  • Membership renewal discount
  • Customer support priority lane
  • Exclusive discounts in partner businesses
  • A badge next to their name
  • Front row at select events
  • Reserved parking spots
  • First dibs on premium event ticket tiers
  • A specially delivered care package during the holiday season
  • A special feature on the organisation website

If you're not sure what rewards will click, go back to our fifth point: research.

And that’s your 7-step guide to membership retention. Maintaining members isn’t a one-off deal but an ongoing process that requires patience and strategic decision-making. But when in doubt, remember that the most fail-safe way to retain members is to provide excellent services. You can never go wrong by putting quality first. 

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