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4 strategies for membership retention you can implement today

Increase customer retention starting today by implementing these strategies to keep members engaged month after month.

Do you remember the movie Say Anything?

John Cusack, fresh-faced and not yet known for breaking the fourth wall, deprives Ione Skye of some much-needed sleep by holding a boombox -- no easy feat, as they once rivaled the weight of Rhode Island -- over his head, serenading her with Peter Gabriel?

Cusack’s questionable attachment issues aside, business owners everywhere can relate to those desperate measures when they start losing customers.

I mean, you’d personally be willing to belt out In Your Eyes if it meant recovering lost revenue, right?

Especially if that lost revenue is because your members are leaving your program, cutting into your recurring income and leaving you bereft of both their company and currency.

Here’s the good news:

You can hold off on practicing your ballads, because we’ve put together four easy strategies to help you ward off member churn and keep your members in pocket.

Though, we should talk about that term before we dive in -- what exactly is “churn”?

What is customer churn?

If you’re thinking that churn should be reserved for butter and corn, I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, this word has a different meaning in business: it refers to the loss of customers.

And, just as regrettably, it occurs naturally in every business. Similar to how friendships change throughout your life -- some endure, but most will phase out with major milestones -- customers tend to leave businesses and move on to other pastures as the seasons turn.

5% annual churn is considered “normal” for subscription services (like a membership, regardless of if it's a small mastermind group or an extensive content library).

But while you can’t avoid it altogether, you can take steps to improve your customer retention rate .

Chiefly, by identifying if your customers are leaving due to one of the following three reasons -- all of which we’ll address today -- or some other cause:

Reducing customer churn has become such a prominent focus for business owners (and for a good reason) that some are calling customer retention the new marketing.

Campaign Monitor’s Senior Director of Acquisition Channels, Samantha Anderl , puts this succinctly :

“The end goal is no longer to simply convert a lead into a customer. It’s about maximizing the lifetime value of loyal customers who will come back again and again.”

As for calculating your churn rate, it’s simple. Choose a time period. Let’s say you choose to calculate your churn rate over the month.

Take the number of customers you start with at the beginning of the month and subtract the number of customers you have at the end of the month.

Since you’re measuring your customer churn rate and not acquisition, don’t include any new customers in your calculations -- just the ones that were there from beginning to end.

Then, divide that number by the first number (how many customers you had at the beginning).

To put this in context, let’s use a membership program as an example.

Let’s say Krishna Teja’s “ Complete Salesforce Platform & Lightning Experience Training “ program starts out with 45 members at the beginning of the month.

Over the course of the month, he loses three members.

So his churn rate equation would look like this:

(45-42)/45 = 0.06

To turn that into a percentage, we just multiply it by 100, which gives us a churn rate of 6.67%.

Not too bad, but if he’s not adding new customers to the mix, that drain can put a serious crimp on his income.

Which is where the rest of this articles come in. Now that we have churn rate covered, let’s talk about how to put a stop to it -- or at least put up a good fight.

#1. Send welcome emails that actually help

If you remember, the leading cause to customer churn was poor onboarding. That means when a new customer signed up, they weren’t welcomed into the fold with the tools they needed to achieve their goals, so they -- reasonably -- went and found another tool.

Fortunately, you can flip the script and give your onboarding some much-needed grease without shaking hands with all of your members individually. A well-designed onboarding email campaign is automated, and it’s one people are receptive to.

How receptive? 50% of welcome emails are opened.

Which is a significant uptick from other emails, all but dwarfing regular newsletters in terms of reception.

Plus, if you automate them with a drip campaign -- easy to do from your Podia dashboard or with any email tool of your choice -- your emails will garner 90% more orders than a single welcome email.

Which is great news for someone also trying to sell online courses and digital downloads.

Welcome email series are so effective that they can increase your repeat purchase rate -- which means keep your customers from churning -- by up to 70% , as Peak Design discovered.

So if you want your new customers to stick around, give them a warm welcome, and make it a multi-step process with a series of nurturing emails to keep them primed and engaged.

And, no matter what, make sure your welcome email is giving your customer the tools they need to make their new membership work for them -- like the sign-in link, help documentation, and a line to customer support.

Google, unsurprisingly, is a prime example of doing the welcome email well.

Evernote does a great job, too. Again, we see a sign-in link, alongside some value propositions, help documentation, and a link to their support channels.

Which just goes to prove that a strong welcome email doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to be helpful.

Do that, and you’re already fighting the good fight against the number one cause of customer churn.

Then take it a step further and make your membership dynamic.


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#2. Create interactive content to keep members engaged

We live on our phones, which means anyone who wants to compete for our attention has to demand it rather than politely ask for it.

And that means they need to get us to interact. You should be doing the same with your members, too, if you want to follow in the footsteps of the greats. (Want to follow them even more closely? Then check out some of the best examples of membership sites over here).

One of the best tips for membership sites that you can learn from the experts is to use interactive content to connect with your customers: hosting webinars, engaging in live chats, and opening the floor with polls for your members keeps them excited and connected.

At least, that’s what 81% of marketers say interactive content does best.

79% of the same professionals say interactive content like webinars has reusable value, which means multiple visits with the same amount of content. It’s similar to the “create once, publish everywhere” method we talked about -- you can refresh existing content and package it as new free content to give away .

But if you really want to get creative, why not try quizzes?

They don’t have to be super-intensive or serious. After all, 96% of people who start a quiz on BuzzFeed finish it.

Do those users need their intelligence measured based on their choice of restaurant bread like the content hub’s latest offering ? No.

But are they willing to sit down for a minute and a half to reaffirm that their choice of pumpernickel bread correlates to their superior intelligence?

You bet.

It’s easy to create fun quizzes, too. Just head over to Typeform to get started.

Click on any of the “create a quiz” buttons to proceed.

If you don’t already have a Typeform account, you’ll be prompted to go through a quick signup.

You’ll be taken through an onboarding process (they’ve read the reports about churn, apparently), but for now, click the “do this later” link.

On the next page, scroll down until you reach the bottom of the page. Click on the third to last option to edit the geography quiz template.

You’ll be shown a few other options for quiz templates. For the sake of example, click on “use this template” at the bottom of the screen.

Once it loads, it’s as simple as clicking on individual blocks -- pretty similar to how our Podia Editor works -- to change your design and questions.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be serious or world-breaking to be interactive.

For example, this is the quiz-in-progress I’m working on:

And this is what the polished result looks like outside of edit mode:

You want to know what kind of aerodynamic vehicle you are, right?

Have fun with it. If the interactive content you’re creating is enjoyable for you, it’s probably going to be pretty great for your members, too.

And, if you’re feeling ambitious, pair it with our next retention strategy.

#3. Get regular feedback (And act on it)

Unlike how our interactive content should grab attention, this strategy should definitely be a polite request.

Ask members for feedback and make them part of your business journey. When people feel valued and see their input reflected in future products or updates, it resonates well with them.

At least, that’s what Becky Mollenkamp said when we interviewed her :

“...some of the things that I have been like, ‘I wish the thing would do this.’ You guys have made it happen. So that responsiveness is super impressive to me too.”

To sweeten the feedback request, pair it with a reward like a coupon or an entertaining quiz. Using discounts such as coupons for your membership programs (or any of your products) is super easy with Podia and it’ll boost your chances of getting a response.

But don’t just rest on your laurels and wait for people to respond to your requests. Keep an ear out for feedback offered on social media -- even if it’s not always the most complimentary -- and respond as quickly as you can.

Keep it positive and encouraging, too. 71% of consumers who have a good experience with you on social media are more likely to recommend you than those who don’t receive any response.

Just make sure it’s consistent with your brand voice. 75% of your customer base expects to have the exact same interaction with you on social as on your membership website, so even though your audience may be much wider, your approach shouldn’t change.

The result of asking for (and acting on) feedback -- plus responding to it whenever it’s received on different channels -- will be more engaged customers.

And if that’s not enough reason, consider this -- highly engaged customers give you 23% more revenue than less-engaged customers.

So more revenue, higher engagement, and better customer service and relationship-building (the second and third leading cause of churn, if you remember) -- that’s what you get when you ask and respond to feedback.

Not to mention it'll go a long way towards keeping your lifetime members happy for the long haul.

But if you need a little more convincing, consider this: Glossier , expand across the continents, and helps another, Swiftpage , regularly drive up their renewal (recurring!) revenue.

Not sure how to land the ask? Check out our in-depth guide on getting sales page testimonials , alongside another Typeform tutorial specifically on creating customer feedback surveys.

Maybe next time I’ll create a quiz about what kind of chihuahua people are in exchange for their feedback.

OK, there’s one last strategy for you to retain members. It’s another email one, but while our list has been focused on how to prevent churn altogether, this last tip is pretty much the hail mary play of membership retention.

#4. Reactivate at-risk members with a “winback” campaign

Like we said earlier, no matter what you do, you’re going to have churn. Members will leave your membership program for one reason or the other, and while you can do a lot to stem it, you can’t stop it altogether.

But when you’re in the bottom of the ninth inning -- I may be getting my sports analogies mixed up here, but stay with me -- and your customer is all-but-gone, there’s one last thing you can do.

Like John Cusack, you can try to win them back with a last-ditch email campaign. Called the “win-back”, Bonobos does this really well in the below example.

Win-backs aren’t just effective for targeting members, either. They’re good for subscribers and can even net you some additional orders if you play your cards right.

But even if you don’t manage some extra sales out of your win-back, you can still save an at-risk member.

At-risk, by the way, means anyone who’s dangling at the edge of the membership abyss. They haven’t been logging in, opening your emails, or otherwise engaging with their membership.

Or, those who are having trouble with their financial credentials. Payments that don’t go through, for one reason or another, put 7.2% of your customers at risk of involuntary churn.

Scary, isn’t it? So if you have members who aren’t engaging with your membership or have their payment fail but don’t cancel it, then the win-back is your final lifeline to retain that customer.

The great news is that it’s a strong lifeline.

Half of the users who get your win-back email will open it and engage with your next series of emails, so if you pair it with our second or third tip, you’ve got a strong chance at preventing churn.

Or, go even further and add an incentive to it like a special discount or raffle like SMG Richmond did. They recovered 6% of their inactive users with this tactic.

That might not sound like much, but when it’s your monthly revenue on the chopping block, even a small change in your churn rate can make waves for your bottom line.

Here’s an example of an incentive-based win-back that’s frankly making me hungry to look at:

Not only is it tantalizing to read, but it gives the user a positive reason to get clicking and log back into their account.

Alternatively, you can send the win-back as an update.

Do you have new content? Did you release a new quiz? Use this opportunity to let your at-risk member know everything they’ve missed.

We do it. Here’s a peek at one of our win-backs:

This is the gist of it:

You can’t save every membership. Some will churn.

So make sure you give them every opportunity to not churn by sending them a lifeline in the form of a win-back.

If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost something that wasn’t already slipping away -- but if it does, you’ve put customer churn in its place.

Which is as far away from your membership program as possible.

In your (members’) eyes

Thankfully, you don’t have to channel a young John Cusack to prevent membership churn and keep your customers close to heart. You just need to do the following:

  • Understand your churn rate and what the leading causes are behind it. Is it something you can address? Some churn will always be natural, but even small boost to your retention rate can help your business.

  • Poor onboarding is one of the leading causes of customer churn. Bypass that with a well-timed and automated welcome email series to make sure your members have everything they need to get started on the right foot.

  • Create interactive content to keep things lively and get people’s attention. It’s hard to compete with the internet’s plethora of cat .gifs, but most people are willing to stop and answer a few questions to find out what type of hot dog their patronus is (or similar).

  • When you’ve done everything you can to retain your members but you still have people falling to the wayside, send a win-back email to revive them before they slip out of your fingers.

But, if all else fails, there’s always the boombox method -- if you can find one that isn’t in a museum or my house.

About the author

Lauren Cochran is the former Director of Content for Podia. She still drops in to say hello and share cat pictures from time to time.