Ask anybody who has ever started a membership business and they will tell you that getting new members is something they think about... a lot! It can be intimidating to deal with getting people to show up, spend their hard-earned cash every month, and actually commit themselves to learning and growing.
But do you know what is actually soul-destroying? Going through the work to build your community, nurturing leads and growing value, and signing up those members, only to watch them leave a short time later.
It doesn’t have to be like this! You absolutely can create a community that keeps giving benefits to the members so that they stick around long term. In this article, we'll talk about some of the best practices for member retention that you can put to work this week.
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In this article
The truth about membership retention
The truth that you MUST know before we talk about membership retention best practices is that some turnover is a normal thing. Don't be surprised when some people leave your community, and definitely don't take it personally. There are going to be people who leave. Maybe they're not ready to go on the journey you're offering. Maybe it's not for them right now. Maybe they can't afford it. And yes, maybe they found somewhere else to spend their time.
It's really hard as a creator not to take this personally. It's hard not to feel the rejection of members leaving. But ultimately, turnover doesn't have to be about you. It's partially about them. And there will always be people in any community who come to the point where they realize, "This is not for me right now." That’s okay.
In fact, some member turnover can be a good thing. You want your community to be gathered around a clear focus, you want to choose an ideal member (which we'll talk about below). If you have a bunch of people who don't want what you're offering and don't engage, it can be really discouraging. It's almost better if those people just go elsewhere.
So the goal with member retention is probably not to get your churn (that's a fancy word for member turnover) to 0. But still, when your business is based on monthly recurring revenue, increasing your member retention will lower your churn and improve your business.
6 membership retention best practices
Clarify your ideal member first
One of the best strategies for member retention can start before you have any members in your community. (If you already have members, you can still do this exercise!)
If you can get a razor-sharp picture of who you actually want in your community, and communicate this vision well, the right people will join in the first place. This can go a long way towards creating high membership retention.
We teach a process here at Mighty Networks that we call Community Design™. Part of your design process will be to interview 15 to 20 potential members to find out what their pain points are and what they could gain from being in a community. Even if you have already launched your community, it's never too late to do these interviews and get a clearer picture of who your ideal member is.
Once you have done this work, you can turn it into what we call a big purpose statement:
Although most of the membership retention ideas below focus on what happens AFTER you get your members, doing this up front will pay dividends.
Build on the right platform
There are a ton of software options for building your membership community; it can be a little intimidating to choose. But picking the right software is an important part of membership retention. Really good community software will be your ally in serving your members. It will make it easier, it will let you do it at scale, and most importantly of all, your members will engage on it!
Too many community builders are stitching together five pieces of obscure technology, trying to blend a course on their website with a Facebook group with other social media platforms.
Let's stop this. Choose community software that you can master and that's flexible enough to let you do anything you could ever want to serve your membership.
We love great online communities, and we directed this passion into building the Mighty Networks platform. From live streaming to an app for every device to brilliant courses to branded subgroups, it has everything you need to keep your members engaged and, ultimately, to keep them!
Create connections between members
One of the things we've learned from thousands of online communities is that people may sign up to take a course or master something, but they almost always stick around long-term because of the relationships. When your community is the place that people go to for friendships and connections, when they can't go a week without dropping in and seeing people, and when they interact regularly with other members, you have a recipe for long-term member retention.
While you can't fake this, you can manufacture the conditions to make it happen! Create lots of opportunities for your members to meet each other. You can do this through informal drop-in sessions, breakout rooms, group coaching, or even content like "member spotlights."
The more you can make your community and the friendships within it something people can't live without, the more you will see your retention go up and your churn go down.
Offer a membership pause
Have you ever planned a long-term vacation and asked your gym if you can put your membership on hold? They are happy to do it. Because they know that, if you cancel your membership, it will be way harder to get you back as a customer.
Offering a strategic membership pause or hold can be a great solution for people who need to be out of the community for a while, but would ultimately like to stay long-term. While there are a bunch of different reasons why people might need to step back from their membership, everything from major life changes to needing to focus on a project for a while, offering a membership pause lets them stay connected without paying.
And it's so much better to ask, "Would you like to put your membership on hold?" than to say, "Ok, bye."
Create membership tiers
Creating different kinds of membership bundles or membership tiers can go a long way to helping your members stick around, making it one of the most recognizable membership retention best practices. The reason for this is that members can easily choose to opt for more or less, depending on how they're feeling. If you have an extensive package that includes weekly coaching and a course, and someone decides it's too much for them, it's much better to have a different membership tier they can drop down to instead of simply losing them as a member.
Ask for feedback
Last, but definitely not least, find ways to constantly solicit feedback from your members. This could include things like:
- 1:1 interviews
- Questionnaires or surveys
- Polls (the functionality is built into each Mighty Network!)
- Exit interviews (offer something valuable to the people leaving in exchange for their candid honesty)
Feedback can be super valuable in helping you to establish what's working and what isn't.
Pro tip: Take feedback and suggestions with a grain of salt. It's totally normal for people to say things like, "We should have a course/group for x" or, "I'd love to see more Y." Make sure you filter feedback through the lens of your Community Design™ work and figure out if it's actually advice you want to follow.
If you put these membership retention ideas into practice, you'll be in a great position to not only acquire members but also to keep them! And once your community becomes an essential part of your members' lives, they will stick around for a long time.
If you haven't yet launched your community, or if you are looking for a new place for it to live, do check out our platform! It's the perfect place to build an engaging online community that stands the test of time. You can try it free for 14 days, no credit card required.