There’s a good chance that you share the same goal as almost every other membership business: to grow (I’m psychic, I know).
But stay with me: there’s also a good chance that like every other membership business, you’re making the same mistake that holds them back from achieving that goal.
You’re focusing all your time and resources on getting new members to sign up, and aren’t paying enough attention to why a member leaves.
Of course, new member acquisition is important for growth. But keeping existing members around – aka, retaining members – is even more important and far more profitable.
Retention can feel like a tricky – and, let’s face it, boring – problem to tackle…
But, there are straightforward steps you can take today to start fixing the problem. And as for the ‘boring’ factor, nothing feels more exciting and rewarding than seeing those numbers start to pace in the right direction.
So get excited, because this guide will run you through a 2-part approach that will help you to reduce member churn and increase member retention.
Plus, there are a bunch of bonus best practices to help you master your membership retention strategy once and for all.
But before we jump in, let’s take a quick look at why retention is so important, and how to calculate your membership retention rate…
What Is Membership Retention and Why Does It Matter?
Membership retention refers to how many of your existing members stick around over a long period of time, versus how many members churn – aka leave – within a short period of signing up.
One of the most useful things to learn here is how you can work out your membership retention rates, which express your retention as a percentage.
But, before we break out the calculator, let’s take a quick minute to understand why retention is such a big deal for the membership model.
Why Membership Retention Matters
In the marketing team here at Uscreen, we often use the ‘water bucket’ analogy when we talk about membership churn, and membership retention.
Trying to grow a membership when you have a high churn rate feels like trying to fill up a bucket that has a bunch of holes everywhere. No matter how long the bucket sits under the faucet, if the water slows down or turns off for a bit, eventually it’s going to be empty again.
That’s why retention matters so much. It allows you to plug all of those holes, fill up your bucket, and keep it full (even if the faucet slows down for a bit).
Now, as someone who prefers words over numbers, I love that analogy.
But, let’s look at a more practical example so that we can get a better understanding of the impact that retention has on a membership business:
For the sake of a simple example, let’s imagine that you launch a new membership with just one membership level. Each member pays a fee of $15 per month. From the time you launch, you bring in exactly 500 new members every single month for 12 months in a row.
(If only, right?)
In the first scenario, you have a member retention rate of 50%. This means that after the first month of signing up, only half of those 500 members stay committed for the rest of the year.
In the second scenario, you have a stronger member retention rate of 75%. This means that only a quarter of new members will churn, and the rest stick around for the full year.
Here’s how that 25% difference in retention rate would impact your membership numbers over 12 months:
While each scenario brings in the exact same number of members each month, the 75% retention rate outperforms the 50% retention rate from the get-go.
By the 6th month, the higher retention rate starts to generate over $5,000 more every month. Annually, that’s nearly a $60,000 difference in revenue compared to the lower retention rate.
Of course, in the real world, your numbers will bob up and down a lot more. But, the same principle applies: a good, stable retention rate can completely transform your revenue.
Let’s look at how you can calculate your membership retention rate, then we’ll jump into the step-by-step of how to bump that percentage up.
How to Calculate Membership Retention Rate
A retention rate expresses your membership retention as a percentage.
Having this exact percentage worked out will come in handy when assessing the health of your membership business, as well as when monitoring and measuring the progress you make to improve your member retention.
So, how do you calculate your membership retention rate?
Generally, memberships will apply this formula on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.
Let’s apply this formula to an example:
Our membership started the month with 500 active members (C), and gained 250 new members (N). We ended the month with 650 total members (E).
Using the formula above, our calculation would be: [(650 – 250) / 500] x 100
When we plug those numbers in, we have a retention rate of 80%. (Not too shabby for our hypothetical membership, if I do say so myself.)
But, on that note, you might be wondering what percentage you should be aiming for…
What is a good membership retention rate?
A good membership retention rate is anywhere above 75%.
Of course, this will vary, and keep in mind that some months will be better than others. But 75% and above is a solid target to aim for.
If you’ve already crunched the numbers and you’ve worked out that your retention rate is below 75%, that’s okay. That’s why we’ve made this guide for you to follow!
Let’s dive into our 2-part approach to increasing your membership retention rates…
The Push-Pull Approach: How to Master Member Retention
If your goal is to fix your membership retention rate for good, then the push-pull approach is going to be your new best friend. It’s broken into 2 parts:
- The ‘push’: these are negative experiences in your membership that push members away and cause them to churn. The goal is to identify and fix these.
- The ‘pull’: these are positive experiences that pull members in and keep them coming back for more. The goal is to identify and create more of these.
This 2-part approach empowers you to get rid of the things that cause members to cancel, and create more things that get members to stick around for years and renewals to come.
Let’s first look at push experiences, how you can identify them in your membership, and how you can fix them for good.
Reduce Your Churn Rate: How to Fix Your ‘Push’ Experiences
The first part of the push-pull approach is to fix your ‘push’ experiences.
As we mentioned briefly, the push experiences in your membership are the confusing, frustrating, or negative moments that members experience when engaging with your membership. These are often why members leave.
These push experiences are often referred to as ‘pain points’, and they’re totally inevitable for any business: whether you’re a small team who’s tight on time and resources, or a massive team who’s flush with cash.
That’s why nobody – not even your members – expects your membership experience to be completely flawless.
And so the goal of this step isn’t to spend a bunch of time and money to overhaul your membership. The aim is to figure out the push experiences that are most commonly picked up on by your members and that have the biggest impact on your churn rates.
Now, what is a foolproof way to figure out your push experiences?
By talking directly to your members.
This can be as short and simple or as long and in-depth a process as you’d like, but the more information you can get, the better equipped you’ll be to accurately and thoroughly address each painpoint.
Cristobal Abugaber is a marketing expert who works with the membership business, Filmmaker’s Academy, and he shared how he approached this step to figure out what what pushing members away.
We were surveying different groups. Current members, loyal members, and former members. Then we interviewed 3 members in-depth. And it helped us a lot, especially in understanding who our consumer is.Cristobal Abugaber, Marketing Expert with Filmmaker’s Academy
And he absolutely nailed his approach.
Your members, current or former, want to see your membership improve. They’re the truest source of constructive feedback, and they provide priceless insight the perspective of your current and future members.
Here’s how you can set yourself up for success with this step:
- Put yourself in their shoes. Poke around your own membership as if you were just a member. Try out the experience for each membership level you offer. From signing up and onboarding, to engaging with your content and community.
- Draft up your questions. Now that your member experience is fresh on the brain, create a list of questions to ask your members. What do they find confusing, or frustrating? And, on a more positive note, what do they find delightful?
- Get your list of members ready. If you’re able to reach different segments of your current and former members, you’ll get well-rounded insight.
- Send out your survey. You can use free online survey tools like Google Forms to put together your survey without any hassle.
- Give it a minute. Allow the responses to roll in so that you can pinpoint any especially interesting or common insights that you can carry forward to the next step.
- Host an interview or two. If your members are willing, set up a couple of one-on-one interviews. Use your insights from your survey responses to ask more specific questions, in order to get more detailed responses.
- Create a game plan. Finally, once you’re equipped with loads of valuable information, you can start to prioritise and plan for addressing your biggest push experiences.
Once you’re confident that your biggest push experiences are taken care of, it’s time to move on to the second part of this approach: creating more ‘pull’ experiences.
Increase Your Member Lifecycle: How to Create More ‘Pull’ Experiences
Your ‘pull’ experiences are positive experiences that pull members in and keep them coming back for more. These are why members join, and keeps members renewing their membership month after month.
These can be broken down into big experiences, and small experiences.
The smaller ‘pulls’ are the nice-to-have experiences. These are the personal touches and membership benefits that take each member’s experience to the next level.
The small pulls are often specific to your niche and brand, so to figure out what they are, it’s crucial to collect feedback from your members to figure out the details that delight them.
The bigger ‘pulls’ are the need-to-have experiences. These are the foundation of what makes your member experience great.
And the best part is that we can tell you exactly what these big pulls are, because they’re the tried-and-true, universal pulls that works for all niches and membership programs.
Based on what we’ve seen across thousands of memberships, the 3 powerful pulls that will help you to increase your retention rates are:
Let’s take a closer look at how each of these pulls can bump up your membership retention numbers.
1. Community: Create a Powerful Sense of Belonging
Your premium content is incredibly valuable, and it’s a huge part of why your members sign up. But, it’s not the whole picture.
If people just wanted content, they wouldn’t sign up for a membership. The thing they’re really looking for is a sense of community.
Your community is the thing that sets your membership apart from a regular subscription service and, if you use it correctly, it can be the thing that boosts member renewals.
Our data shows that an active membership community can reduce churn by 2x.
How? A membership community is a powerful driver for retention because it brings your video catalog and community space together under one roof. This provides the best experience possible for your members, and…
- Helps onboard new members. This can create a great first impression, and increase a member’s likelihood of staying engaged throughout their membership.
- Keeps members engaged. A community space keeps members active, and gives them a reason to return to your membership on a daily and weekly basis.
- Makes members feel like they’re a part of something bigger. Members tend to value their experience more when they’re able to build relationships with other members.
… All of which give members another reason to keep coming back and renewing their membership.
If you want to dive deeper into how you can level up your membership community, we wrote the (play)book on it:
2. Convenience: Reach Members Everywhere With Membership Apps
The key to a successful membership experience is meeting your audience where they are.
Whether they’re on the go or relaxing at home, having your own membership app allows members to access your exclusive content, community discussions, and live streams with ease.
Within your membership app, members can…
- Create their own customized video playlists
- Follow your membership’s calendar to track uploads and challenges, or create their own
- Download videos to watch without internet access
… all of which contributes to the best member experience possible.
And, in turn, this can have a huge impact on your membership numbers.
By offering seamless connection and convenience for your members, you can create a powerful ‘pull’ experience that can keep your members engaged, and take your member retention strategy to the next level.
3. Connection: Supercharge Member Engagement With Live Streams
When a new member signs up, they’re looking to connect with you. They’ll be soaking up your content and diving into your community space.
But what if you could provide a powerful ‘pull’ experience to delight each new member, and boost membership retention?
This is where live streaming starts to reveal its potential as one of your membership retention strategies. Live streams can offer each new member a dynamic and real-time interaction that kickstarts a sense of connection and community from the first week these members join.
Our data reveals that memberships who live stream regularly generate 2.5x more revenue than those who don’t. That’s because regular live streams are a way of showing members that you’re directly engaged and connected to them.
If you think that personal contact is what’s missing from your membership, consider hosting live Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes glimpses, or exclusive events to reach and delight more members.
Live streams not only provide valuable content but also create a unique and personal connection between you and your members, enhancing their overall experience and reinforcing their commitment to your membership.
Smaller Membership Retention Strategies to Support a Bigger Goal
There are a number of smaller membership retention strategies that play an important role in supporting your larger efforts.
From refining onboarding experiences to maintaining consistent engagement, these tactical approaches form the backbone member retention.
So, let’s explore all of the extra ways you can delight your members and keep them around for many renewals to come.
Create a Great Onboarding Experience
When it comes to building an effective membership retention strategy, the first impression is crucial.
A well-crafted onboarding experience sets the tone for your members’ entire journey.
Let them know what to expect by providing a clear overview of your membership benefits, content schedule, and community engagement opportunities.
For example, if you have a set schedule for uploads, live streams, etc., guide them on when and where to tune in. If you offer downloadable resources that add to a member’s experience, point that out.
You can also prompt them to create their first community post, encouraging engagement from the very beginning, and helping them to find a sense of belonging.
Host Regular Check-In Sessions
Building a strong sense of community involves regular check-ins.
This is the perfect opportunity to foster a personal connection with a new member, reconnect with existing members, and gather feedback on their experiences within their membership.
This doesn’t have to be entirely negative feedback either. Even if they’re happy with their experience, ask how you could improve it. Is there a specific benefit that they’d like to see added? Would they benefit from a student membership discount?
Schedule periodic sessions to connect with your members, whether through live Q&A sessions, virtual meet-ups, or interactive discussions.
These weekly or monthly meetings not only make members feel like their feedback is heard and valued, but can also provide priceless insights into where you can improve your ‘push’ and ‘pull’ experiences.
Offer an Alternative to Canceling
Sometimes members consider canceling due to a host of different reasons.
But, instead of losing each member who cancels altogether, consider providing members an alternative membership plan, or a discounted next month.
By reaching out and providing a few options when members leave, you show your commitment to accommodating your members’ circumstances.
This makes it more likely that they’ll return when circumstances improve, or at least spread the word to other people about how great your membership experience was from onboarding to cancelation.
Keep this in mind for lapsed members too. When a member’s membership expires, reaching out with an offer or a nudge to get them back is an important part of a member renewal process.
Depending on the membership management software or platform you use, this might be easier than you think. Uscreen offers a range of built-in marketing tools, including a Reduce Churn feature that automates this process for you.
If you’ve ever sought out advice on how to build an audience, then you already know that consistency is key.
This matters even more when you want people to continue showing up for your membership program. Set expectations and follow through. This doesn’t just apply to a posting schedule but communication too.
If you’re proactive about communicating with your members, they’ll feel reassured that you care about them and you’re committed to delivering your best.
Even if you run into technical issues or a spout of burnout, sending personalized communications can go a long way in keeping members happy.
Closing Thoughts on Member Retention
The success of your membership business is closely tied to your ability to retain members.
While acquiring new members is important for growth, prioritizing member retention is the key to long-term success and profitability.
If you can implement a handful of these strategies that enhance the overall membership experience, foster community connection, and address potential pain points, you can build a loyal and engaged member base.
Consistency, effective communication, and a proactive approach to feedback will not only reduce churn, but also help you to reach your membership goals year after year.