Member retention is important for every online subscription business – the longer a member stays with you each month, the more revenue you’ll be able to generate overall. It’s simple math.
All of the most successful membership websites have comprehensive member retention programs. Building and optimizing your personal member retention strategy is fundamental to increasing the growth & churn rate of your subscription business.
We have helped both online course membership websites and software tool subscriptions alike scale their revenue to $500k+/year. Through this process we have learned and broken down membership retention into 3 essential steps, that if you develop for your own business, will significantly increase your own revenue.
If you’re trying to elevate your existing membership website to the next level, you should make sure you have these membership retention strategies covered to increase the longevity of each your customers.
Let’s first start by summarizing what other successful online businesses are doing for their best member retention practices, so you can understand and implement these strategies yourself.
Membership Retention Best Practices
Smooth Signup Process: After customers submit their payment, the registration process should be quick and simple. Customers should not be left waiting in the dark for their login details or be confused on what pages they need to access for the members area.
Test your sales page and registration process yourself to ensure your customer registration process is smooth and there are no stress points or confusion points that could be impacting your customer’s opinion of your business. Make sure to create your membership site or online business on a platform that is seamless and easy to use.
New Member Adjustment: The first few days when a new customer signs up is when they will be most active with using their service – therefore this is the most important time to make sure they are getting adequately adjusted once signing up.
Understand what reasons your customers are signing up, and what specifically they are purchasing for – Is this your training content, or your paid community? Consider sending automatic onboarding emails to new signups asking them if they accessed everything they need, or if there are any remaining questions they still have
Long Term Value: Beyond the first month of service you are providing, what else will customers receive if they stay with your business? Successful subscription businesses make their long term value clear of how remaining a long term customer will be beneficial.
Make sure you are providing additional value on a regular basis. Whether these are useful training videos/content made on a monthly basis, an engaging community that users or enjoy, or development on new projects – share with your user base what you’re working on and what you’re excited to provide them with.
Member Engagement: Successful online businesses engage and interact with their customers on a regular basis, and understand that acquiring a new customer is just the few step in building the relationship.
Reach out to your user base regularly – both new and long term users. It can be easy to focus on gaining new customers – but don’t forget about your long term customers who have been part of your business for months or even years. Reach out to your long time users and ask them for their opinions and what direction they’d like to see your business go.
Membership Retention Plan Template
The first step to successfully retaining more members is to position yourself where you view your customers as a relationship instead of as a transaction. Building trust and a connection with your members is just as important, if not more important, than the actual logical features you are offering. People want to feel like they are a part of something, and people join and stay with an online community if they feel welcomed and alongside like-minded individuals where they can learn & grow.
Let’s continue with the member retention program:
1. Member Onboarding
Welcome new members to your site accordingly. When a new member signs up for a subscription, send them more than just the registration email. Put them in an email funnel that follows up with them to keep on track with your content and tools
- Day 1 Email: Follow up with registration – make sure the member has created their account and lead them to get started with the first step in your course
- Day 5 Email: Follow up with important steps members should be starting out with your learning materials – check in to make sure the member has gotten adjusted to the content/tools and is using your subscription as intended. Ask if they need help with any specific aspects of your membership.
- Day 14 Email: Users should be well into your course by this point. Follow up to summarize what steps the member should be accomplished with right now, and what the member can do with all the new things they have learned. Make sure the user is set up for success with your subscription.
- Day 29 Email: This is 1-2 days before the first month of the subscription ends – a very common time for members to cancel their subscription after they have gotten a taste of 1 month. The goal of this email is to motivate the member to get behind your movement and remain a member for a few more months. Summarize everything the member has learned over the last week and explain how that knowledge can be used for success. Showcase some ‘wins’ and ‘successes’ from some of your other members. This should help show the member that you have created a great community which is a positive place for them to learn and grow moving forward.
Successful membership sites usually have more aspects to it than just a learning course – You might be building community and using a platform like Slack, Discord, or Facebook Groups. Make sure you welcome to members to your community/message board on these platforms as well. There are bots that you can add to most of these messaging services that will allow you to send a welcome message to every new member and help them get started with your community.
Although these welcome emails may seem like small points, they can make a huge impact for getting your community talking and creating conversations within your group.
Tools & Software Onboarding
Does your business include any additional tools such as plugins, addons, or software? Not every is as tech savvy as you! Make sure the steps to setting up and using your services are simple and easy to understand.
2. Member Engagement
Giving users access to your entire course content after signup is like dropping a new born baby in water and expecting them to swim.
Drip feeding is simply giving access to your content over time. Instead of just giving members access to your entire course at once, it’s better to set these up in modules and release access periodically. Not only does this help stop members from being overwhelmed with new information, but it gives them a structure of content to look forward to on a consistent basis.
Learn more about drip content membership sites here.
We recommend splitting up your learning content into a week by week course, with atleast 4-5+ different weeks of content. This will keep members engaged for the first month, and provide some additional learning value past the first 4 weeks of the membership, in order to increase overall retention.
In addition to drip-feeding your content course, you may also want to drop in a few new content pieces to keep your members regularly engaged.
- Instant access to brand new training videos
- Members Q&A or webinar
- More training articles and topics
- Podcast/Special Guest Episode
People sign up for memberships for more than just learning about a technical concept. They want to join a group of like minded people where they can learn & improve their skills around other smart people. If you have not created a community for your members, this is your cue. A community platform is one of the best forms of member engagement by keeping people focused and interested. This member retention idea is one of the best because you don’t have to engage your members directly – by creating a place for them to share ideas with others, you are building a valuable online space that people will want to come back to.
The Personal Onboarding Class Strategy: This strategy has been extremely successful for us in terms of retaining more members long term. We take new members from the specific month, and put them in a ‘Onboarding Class’ together. We personally explain to them that they have a personal mentor in the group who will help them get adjusted to the community and help them with anything they might need. Grouping new members in with each other helps so they can network with others in the same phase of their journey, and having a mentor for these new members helps them feel welcomed and motivated.
3. Create your ‘sticky’ point
Ultimately at the end of the day, creating a long lasting membership retention plan means differentiating yourself from your industry and offering something truly special that customer can’t get anywhere else. This is very hard to do and can’t be done overnight – but as you build and develop your subscription business, keep an eye out for the things that puts you a step ahead of your competitors.
What is your competitive advantage? What can you do better than others in your market that can help your community and provide value for them? Think about what uniquely you can offer and focus on extracting the most value out of that so you can create a unique and interesting subscription service.
This is most likely something you won’t discover until months or possibly years down the road into developing your subscription service. Once you get into your journey of building your membership and executing your ideas, you will start to get a better idea for what direction you need to go in order to build a successful business.
- Differentiate yourself from the market
- What can users find at your business that they can’t get elsewhere?
- What’s your competitive advantage? What specifically can you do better than other businesses in your industry, and how can you focus on those to bring you the most results?
Extra Member Retention Ideas
Retaining Members vs. Acquiring New Members
All too often, people will put too much focus on how to market a membership website, with too little emphasis on how to retain new customers and existing members. This is a fine balance, and its important to have a plan in place to retain members before spending too much time or money on acquiring new members. Acquiring new members without a member retention plan will simply result in a short burst of sales, but no long term revenue being generated.
Membership Pricing & Retention Rates
Does your pricing affect your retention rates? Be sure to consider that the monthly cost for your membership is easily justifyable by customers, so they can clearly see that they recieve more benefit from your website than it costs each month.
Consider how to price your membership website by analyzing how different pricing structures might integrate with your audience and potential customers.
$49/month: This is the reccomended pricing structure for most subscription businesses and membership websites. The goal is to create a reliable service that provides your customers with value every month, that they are happy to pay to stick around.
$99 + $19/month: This may be a better pricing structure if you have high member dropoff rates, and customers only stay signed up for 1-2 months. The initial higher cost paired with the lower monthly cost will make it easier for customers to remain members for longer, and also provide an incentive to stick around longer, since they already paid the initial higher price, and would need to pay that again to rejoin.
Long time member benefits
Recognize long term members within your member community by either shouting them out or giving them a special emblem withinn your community or website.
Consider sending a physical thank you to long term members. You can even send a Tshirt to all members who stay on for atleast one year – a great way to motivate members to stay on, and solidify your existing relationships.