6 Tips for Improving Member Retention
✍️ Emily Hall
🗓 September 16, 2019
Members are the reason we do what we do, and probably why you do what you do, too. Without them, there would be no reason to put together membership sites or create content. They are the glue that holds a membership site together (well, that and a little elbow grease).
But sometimes, it can be hard to keep members. You can sink a lot of time and effort into attracting them, only to have them unsubscribe in a short amount of time. It can be demoralizing to see, especially if you are just getting started.
However, all is not lost. We put together a list of tips that can help you patch the problems that cost you members. Some of these fixes are easy, some are more difficult, but all of them are worth it if it helps increase your member retention.
Tip #1: Invest in Your Onboarding Process
Your onboarding process is your new member’s first glimpse into their membership. Not only should it wow them, but it should also give them all the tools they need to use your offering to the fullest extent.
If you are losing members soon after they sign up, take an intense look at your onboarding process. Is it introducing them to the features they need? If it is, then ask yourself this next question: is it engaging?
Giving them all the information they need is excellent… until they start skimming and only half paying attention. Try to find the fine line between giving them the information they need and giving them too much information. Not sure where that line is? Check out this great article by the Membership Guys.
This is also a great time to test your onboarding out on others. If you can, recruit a friend to go through your onboarding process and give you feedback. Better yet, bribe some of your existing members with discounted membership rates or other incentives to rate your onboarding process and give you honest feedback.
You can even build an “exit-onboarding” survey for people who have completed the onboarding process. You don’t want this survey to be too long (the new members are ready to go explore your offering!), but a few questions about their experience can really help you assess how the onboarding process is going.
By using member feedback to identify and fix problems, you can start new members on the right footing.
Tip #2: Lead members through Your Content
This tip is similar to investing in your onboarding: don’t dump members into a large pool of content without direction. Set them up so that they can see where to start. Then, once they have started, point them toward related content. It’s easy for members to become overwhelmed if they are left with no direction. Guiding them through your content can not only alleviate confusion, it can lead them to resources they may not have found before.
This tip doesn’t just pertain to new members, though. Sure, directing new members is pivotal to member retention. However, helping existing members navigate content is necessary as well.
You can direct members in various ways. One way is to design your site in a way that clearly shows them where to go. For example, you may use categories or “series” to show members what content to read together.
If redesigning your content structure isn’t in the cards, you can opt for something less invasive. You could potentially supply members with a list of suggested starting points or “paths” to take through your content.
If your content is disjointed or disorganized, it can frustrate members who want to find specific content. Frustrate them too much, and they may leave.
Tip #3: Make Your Site Easy to Use
Nothing can turn members away faster than a hard-to-use website. Your content could be the best out there, but members will still unsubscribe if your website is a pain to use.
While every site is different, here are some things that can help make or break a site’s usability:
Navigation Make sure that your website has a clear navigation menu. You want your member to know where they are and where they can go at all times. You also want them to be able to navigate to any part of your site easily.
This usually means having a navigation bar or menu on every page and making it easy to find for members.
Easily Accessible Content You should also make sure that your content is easily accessible for subscribing members.
Users who don’t find what they want quickly are likely to leave your site (and unsubscribe from your membership). Just look at this article: 15 Second Rule: 3 Reasons Why Users Leave a Website. People do not stay on pages, let alone websites, very long before bouncing to another site that can get them what they need faster.
Give them what they want – and keep your members – by making your content easy to find. Whether that means redesigning your site, adding a search feature, or just making the content more prominent, making the process easy for your members is never the wrong way to go.
Tip #4: Interview Your Existing Members
Find out what your members want! People usually love to talk about their wants. Ask your members what they love and what would improve your offering for them. You may get a variety of answers, but if you see a theme among any of the answers, it could show something that is lacking (or what you are doing well) in your current offering.
If you do see a recurring critique, we recommend considering adding a feature or element that will fix the problem. Be sure to let your members know, too! Members will love to hear that their feedback mattered and inspired change.
Talking to your customers and gathering feedback from them is invaluable. Just ask our CEO, Ward Sandler. He tries to speak to three customers every day of the working week. You can read more about this and his philosophy when it comes to customers in our article: Talking with Customers Every Day.
Tips #5: Interview Members Who Are Leaving
In all likelihood, members who are leaving won’t agree to an in-depth interview. But you can embed an exit interview in the cancellation process to make up for that. Doing so will help give you insight into the reason for their cancellation.
It can be demoralizing to read sometimes, but finding the problem and fixing it can be worth the pain - especially if it helps make your offering better in the long run.
Tip #6: Hype Your Upcoming Content
If you create anticipation for your upcoming content, it can help keep on-the-fence members subscribed. It might not prevent those who are determined to unsubscribe from doing so, but it could influence those who have already consumed all your content or who are questioning if it’s worth the membership fee.
You can create hype in a variety of ways. Some common ones are announcing your upcoming content over your social media, newsletters, or directly on your site. You’re probably excited to launch it, so make sure your readers feel that. It will help them feel excited, too.
Keep Improving for Increased Member Retention Losing members can be hard, but change doesn’t usually happen overnight. It will likely take steady work to improve your membership site’s pain points. However, all the work will be worth it if you can keep your members longer. No member should leave because your site is problematic or confusing. Focus on making their overall experience more straightforward, so that they can focus on what’s important: your offering.