The Membership Guys

Avoid These 6 Common Member Retention Mistakes

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If there's one thing you need to have at the core of your membership strategy, it's member retention.  

Because attracting new members is one thing…

But making them actually want to stick around in the long term is a completely different ball game.

And the last thing you want to have is a business that's leaking members left, right and centre! 

So, how can you make sure that your retention rate doesn’t spiral downwards?

Avoiding these six common member retention mistakes will help…

Mistake 1: Overlooking member retention altogether

Member retention is more important than member acquisition…

Yes, I said it…

But despite this, membership site owners still seem to underestimate its value to their business.

The thing is, you're not selling a one off product…

You've launched a membership to reap the benefits that come with recurring revenue…

And member retention will help you do that by creating that stability.

So having people stick around who pay consistently each month is way better for your business than those who join and run off after a month.

If you have a constant cycle of short-term members, it can be challenging to take your business to the next level and really grow.

But when members are in your site and they're engaging, getting results, making progress and forming connections…

That's fuel for continued growth in your membership…

And an essential part of what we call the Membership Marketing Flywheel.

This is where your existing members become a key part of your strategy for attracting new ones…

Because they're having THE best member experience in your site.

And as a result they become advocates for your membership by spreading the word about how awesome you are.

Membership Marketing Flywheel Course

They can give you useful feedback that you can turn into social proof…

They'll sing your praises to their own social media followers…

And even recommend your membership to others.

In other words, they become a key part of your marketing strategy for attracting new members.

Happy members are your best marketing asset! 

So this is why you shouldn't overlook member retention.

Mistake 2: Making cancellation difficult

Many of us have experienced this as a customer or member ourselves…

When you try to cancel a membership, expecting it to be as simple as clicking a button – but then discover you've got to call the company, where you're bounced around four different departments and made to jump through all sorts of hoops before they let you leave!

The whole process just becomes incredibly frustrating. 

Thankfully, many modern companies now make it easy to cancel.

But there are still those out there that think if you can’t cancel, they’ve still got you.

The truth is that if someone wants to cancel their membership they'll find a way…

And if you make it too difficult there’s a very good chance they’ll never come back.

A lot of membership businesses burn their bridges this way and turn-off potential returning members.

The main reason people do this is because they’re scared of losing members…

But, if the only thing keeping your members is an awkward cancellation process, you’ve got bigger problems to worry about!

There’s a great quote from Robbie Kellman Baxter, author of The Membership Economy, who says:

Your retention strategy needs to be more sophisticated than simply hiding the cancelation button”.

Making it difficult for members to cancel won't stop them pressing that button…

Instead of making the process of canceling difficult, make the decision to leave difficult.

Your members should have to wrestle with the decision because the experience is so good…

It might be that they actually want to stay but there's a specific reason that they can't…

Maybe they're having issues with finances or things are going on in their lives that are beyond their control…

Or they might simply not have the time right now, but would like come back in the future.

Whatever the reason, you shouldn't block their exit.

The cancellation process should be painless.

Mistake 3: Mistaking inertia for loyalty

No news is good news, right?

Not when it comes to member retention…

You may think that quiet members who never kick up a fuss are ideal…

But what if you're mistaking inertia for loyalty?

They may not be happy…

Or even worse, they may have absolutely no opinion on your membership at all.

That’s not good for you because eventually they will cancel, and it won’t be a tough decision for them.

They’ll just disappear and won’t come back.

There’s a saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”.

So often we think the members we're most at risk of losing at the ones who complain…

And as a result, we spend more time keeping those members happy…

But what about those who don't shout out and make no noise?

They often go unnoticed. 

We may even dislike the complainers, but at least they're interested enough to engage with you.

To increase engagement in your site with your members you can use tools like Intercom as an easy way to stay in touch or prompt a dialogue.

Member surveys are also a great way to get some feedback, which brings us on to our next point…

Mistake 4: Missing out on valuable feedback

Getting feedback from those who cancel is a great source of information.

You can see where you’re going wrong and what the most common reason for canceling is.

Perhaps after a couple of months, your content gets a bit stale.

Or on the plus side, maybe they already have what they need from you and no longer need to be a member.

Whatever the reasons, you’ll be in a much stronger position if you know what they are.

When people cancel, send them a quick exit survey to find out why.

Make it short and sweet and optional.

If you want to get smart, you could use a survey before they cancel to see if there’s anything you can do to make their experience better…

And potentially change their mind.

A tool like Gravity Forms if great for this as it lets you use some conditional logic magic…

For example, if the reason for canceling is that they're struggling with finances, you could point them to a ‘Pause my membership’ option…

Or if they say they don't have the time you could direct them to a planning guide or a tutorial on time management.

This can be a very effective method of potentially convincing members to stay and improving member retention.

Mistake 5: Not following up with ex-members

Cancellations are often temporary.

Sometimes members might leave fully intending to come back in a few months time…

But life often gets in the way and you drop down or fall off their priority list…

So if you’re waiting around for that, twiddling your thumbs, you could be waiting forever.

In this case, it’s worth giving them a little nudge.

You reminding your lapsed members that you're still here

Follow up with your ex-members to…

a) remind them that you exist and…

b) offer them an incentive to return.

This could be a re-joining discount or a trial, something to entice them back.

We call this a ‘Win-back campaign,’ and you can find a ton of resources on this in our Membership Academy.

We have tried-and-tested methods and tips for executing a win-back campaign that gets ex-members to click the ‘Join’ button again.

In fact, our own win-back campaign for Membership Academy sees around 25% of ex-members come back within 6-12 months…

So it's definitely worth following up with lapsed members!

Mistake 6: Punishing people for leaving

Some membership businesses will actually punish people for leaving.

They might ban you from coming back or even charge you a re-joining fee…

Imagine giving over your hard-earned money to a company that punishes you for leaving.

You probably wouldn’t do it, would you?

If making the cancellation process too difficult doesn’t burn bridges, punishing someone for canceling definitely will.

Membership businesses who do this have surely got to ask themselves, do you really want your business to be like this?

Beyond the damage this could do to your membership, the problem here is thinking all cancellation is bad.

The truth is, people cancel for various reasons….

Circumstances and priorities can change quite suddenly…

The pandemic has been a prime example of this.

Lots of people are canceling memberships.

Do you really want to punish people for that?

Remember, focus on what happens AFTER the sale

It’s easy to get member retention wrong…

But if you get it right, you can really transform your membership business. 

So, rather than purely focusing on getting new members, make sure you’re paying attention to the ones you've got…

They're the lifeline of your business, after all. 

So these are the things you need to remember:

  • Overlooking retention will lead to you losing members
  • Don’t try to hold members against their will by making cancellation difficult – this will burn bridges 
  • Give your quiet members just as much attention as those who are fully engaged in your site
  • Feedback is one of the most valuable things you can get from your members – this is why you should have an exit survey in place
  • Execute a ‘win-back' campaign for lapsed members – you never know who will want to re-join
  • People leave for various reasons. It might not always be bad. Don't punish them for it 

On a final note, it's important that you don't take cancellations personally…

Yes they suck, but they're unavoidable and inevitable part of the member life cycle.

Every membership site owner has to deal with them…

But if you give your members the best possible experience and avoid these common (and fatal) member retention mistakes, then it doesn't have to be the end…

They can leave on a positive note…

And maybe eventually come back!

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