Like many organization leaders, you likely spend a significant amount of your time attracting new members. Marketing to new members can quickly become an expensive and time consuming process, which is why it’s so important that your organization retains the members you acquire.
Member retention is essential for organizations of all sizes, industries, and operating styles. From gyms to online communities, ensuring your members stick around will help supply your organization with reliable income, allow you to grow your organization in the future, and help establish a stable community necessary for many basic events and activities.
However, many organizations often get stuck in a loop of recruiting new members just to lose them only a little while later. To help your organization take a more direct approach to improving member retention, this article will explore why membership retention is so important, and then dive into ten practical strategies for organizations of all sizes and types.
Our team at TagFi are experts on community management, engagement, and retention. Having worked with a wide range of membership communities, from associations and organizations to Chambers of Commerce, businesses, and Meetup groups, we understand how to identify and resolve common retention problems across a variety of industries. In this article, we’ll share some of our top solutions for convincing members to stick around for the long-haul that your organization can launch immediately.
It’s easy to overly focus on recruiting new members and put retaining those members on the backburner. However, high member churn can quickly undo all of your organization's efforts, forcing your team to find new members to replace the ones who left.
Focusing on retention helps you avoid this problem, subsequently making your strategies for recruiting new members even more impactful. Specifically, member retention can provide your organization with benefits essential for your continued success, including:
Remember that member retention can also be a sign of your membership program’s overall quality. After all, members who enjoy your program and see value in your content are more likely to renew their memberships year after year, whereas a low retention rate can be a sign to analyze your program to see opportunities for improvement.
While your membership retention may not jump dramatically overnight, there are strategies you can implement right away to get your organization on the right track. To help your organization take active steps to improve your member retention, here are ten strategies that will work for most organizations of all sizes and types:
Members often leave organizations when they feel like the value of being a member is no longer worth the cost. Sometimes these feelings can be exacerbated by increases in membership dues or personal financial constraints. Other times, a member may feel like they would be happier being a member at a reduced rate with more limited access.
If members commonly cite financial constraints as a reason for leaving your organization, consider implementing a flexible membership model. Flexible membership models can help retain members by providing them with options for how they participate in your organization and keep them in your system until they are ready to resume a higher membership level.
Flexible membership models include systems like:
While flexible memberships can be positive for your members, be conscious about how they are impacting your organization. For example, extending grace periods too far may disrupt your organization’s ability to accurately estimate your monthly revenue. Find a balance that provides your members with options without limiting your organization’s resources.
Your registration and billing process may feel like the red tape your members have to get through before they can interact with your organization, but in reality, an optimized billing system can go a long way towards helping you retain members.
To routinely collect membership dues, your organization should aim to create a recurring billing process that is easy to complete and helps facilitate membership renewals. Here are a few strategies that can improve your billing process:
Paying membership dues is unlikely to be your members’ favorite part of joining your organization, so aim to create a billing process that is as straightforward and unobtrusive as possible. Additionally, consider how you can make the billing process simple for member upgrades. Many organizations leverage one-click upgrading tools to help their members change membership tiers in a matter of minutes.
Has your organization ever created a sign-up perk for new members? Benefits like free trials and discounts can be effective for boosting new memberships in a short period of time, but it’s not uncommon for these members to churn as soon as their benefits expire.
While there is still a time and place for short-term benefits for new members, you should also create rewards for staying with your organization long-term. This can help persuade members to stay with your organization and also prevent long-time members from feeling neglected whenever new members get showered in perks.
For example, your organization might offer members loyalty rewards based on how long they’ve been with your organization. For a year of membership, you might provide members with a gift card to one of your sponsors or provide them with a discount for one of your programs. Choose long-term benefits that will appeal to your members to show you care about their interests and encourage them to stick around until their next milestone and the one after that and so on.
Joining a new organization can be overwhelming, especially if they have a lot of content accumulated for members to explore. How well you orient your new members when they first join can directly impact whether they choose to renew their memberships.
You can improve your new member retention by creating an onboarding program designed to welcome members to your organization, help them find the content and activities they’re most interested in, and provide resources to get additional help as needed.
Many organizations onboard new members through a welcome series of emails. Decide how you will time these messages in order to get new members onboarded relatively quickly but without flooding their inbox over the course of a few days. During the onboarding process, ask members questions to better tailor their experience to their unique interests.
Few members want to engage with organizations that address them as “valued member” nor ones that don’t appear to have any content that matches their interests. You can ensure your organization never runs into either of these problems by personalizing your communication strategies.
Specifically, you can tailor your messages to each member with the following two personalization strategies:
You can combine these strategies to tailor messages to each member’s interests as closely as possible. For example, you might segment your supporters based on the last few pieces of content they interacted with to avoid promoting an activity they already participated in to them and instead directing them to new content.
Members stay with organizations for all sorts of reasons, but one of the top incentives is a vibrant, engaged community. In communities where members communicate freely with one another and are empowered to create and share their own content, your organization will have infinite ways for members to participate. There will always be an activity to engage in or conversation to join, no matter how long a member has been with your organization.
Here are a few strategies for building an engaged community:
An engaged community can influence current members to stay and also attract new members. Many members join organizations specifically because of networking opportunities with the member base, so be sure to give them plenty of opportunities to connect with one another through your organization.
Sometimes the best way to learn how you can improve member retention is by asking members who you did not retain what you could have done to prevent their lapse. Whenever a member chooses not to renew their membership, send them a quick exit interview survey with questions that can help you understand their reasons for leaving your organization.
These exit interviews might include questions such as:
Keep your exit interviews short and to the point. While current members may be more motivated to fill out long surveys to improve their personal experiences with your organization, members who are leaving may be less inclined to spend more time than necessary.
Additionally, in some cases, asking to conduct an exit interview might actually catch members who didn’t mean to leave your organization. In these lucky instances, you can quickly bring them back to your organization.
Sometimes members seem to leave with no warning, while in other cases there are clear signs that a member may lapse. You can only spot these signs by reviewing your data and identifying trends in lapsed members’ behavior. Here are a few factors to check when determining if a member is at risk:
If you identify that a member is at risk of leaving your organization, do not wait to take action. Immediately reorient your communication strategy to focus on retaining them. In most cases, this will include halting emails asking them to upgrade their membership and instead personalizing content to reflect their unique interests or even arranging a one-on-one chat to personally reconnect with them.
While your members will be able to self-direct and navigate your content themselves in most situations, there may be times where they need additional help. Be sure that your organization has effective, easy-to-access help channels that members can take advantage of whenever they need. If members feel like your team is too distant or uninterested in resolving community problems, they may consider ending their memberships.
To help your members and save your team members time, consider creating a set of self-service tools to help members handle common and uncomplicated problems. This might include basic directions for how to complete tasks on your website or answers to frequently asked questions. Additionally, you can also create a troubleshooting forum thread where members can answer each other’s questions and your community administrators can jump into help occasionally.
For more complicated questions, ensure that your members have a way to get in touch with your team. This could be a designated email address or phone number or even a specific team member whose role includes handling community questions.
Many of the strategies discussed here focus on creating an optimized membership experience that accounts for each member’s unique preferences. Of course, keeping track of all of your incoming data and knowing how to use it to adjust your strategy can rarely be done without the proper tools.
To manage every aspect of your organization, including member retention, consider investing in membership management software. Membership management software is designed to help you track each of your members and some robust solutions (like TagFi) offer additional features that can create a better, more comprehensive member experience.
Look for membership management software with the following features:
Some solutions can even equip nonprofits with new websites, marketplaces, and even social network platforms. Choose a solution that is scalable that can help you retain all of your members, whether you have a community of 20 or 20,000.
Member retention is essential for your organization’s continuous growth and financial stability. Persuade your members to stay with your community by improving their experience, automating key processes, and using tools that help you collect the data you need and put it to use.
A variety of factors can influence whether you retain or lose a member. This can often include external factors such as your members’ individual financial situations and career choices, but there are also many internal factors you can optimize to encourage members to stick around long-term.
Specifically, you can retain more members by improving your approach to member engagement. Here are a few articles covering just this topic that can help you refine your strategy: