If you run a membership site, your long-term success will be measured by how well you’re able to retain your subscribers.
However, a membership site isn’t like running a traditional business because it requires you to continuously satisfy your customers to ensure they keep subscribing every month.
This means that retention is critical to the success of your membership business.
In this article, we’ll share with you 11 proven membership retention strategies that you can use right away and make your subscribers stick with you for a long time.
Are you ready? Let’s begin.
- Why Are Membership Retention Strategies Important?
- 1. Create Engaging Content
- 2. Design an Onboarding Process
- 3. Create a Membership Roadmap
- 4. Build a Membership Community
- 5. Host Member-Exclusive Live Events
- 6. Create a Library of Tools and Resources
- 7. Share Member Success Stories
- 8. Create a Retention-Focused Pricing Strategy
- 9. Put a Cancellation Funnel in Place
- 10. Survey Canceled Members
- 11. Track Your Membership Retention Rate to Improve
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are Membership Retention Strategies Important?
When operating a membership site, there’s nothing more important than engaging and retaining your existing members, and the research we’ve found bears this point out. In fact,
- 70% of businesses think it’s cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a new one.
- It can cost 5x as much to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one.
These two statistics clearly highlight why you should focus on strategies that retain members rather than just relying on trying to recruit new members.
In the long run, the cost of relying on new members signing up for your membership every month becomes prohibitive and unsustainable.
Without a clear plan to retain your paying subscribers, the loss—or constant churning—of members will likely cause your membership site to fail.
Additionally, focusing on member retention will force you to pay closer attention to how your site operates overall and provide new opportunities to refine it over time.
Now, let’s get into our first membership retention strategy.
1. Create Engaging Content
Your content is why people sign up for your membership site. If it’s good and engaging, there’s no doubt that they’ll stay subscribed.
This is why it’s important to have a content strategy in place that’s designed to keep your members engaged.
Your membership content should include a mix of core and monthly content.
Core content functions as the DNA or building block of your membership site. It’s evergreen and available for your students immediately after signing up.
It might include a library of blog posts, online courses, or resources they can immediately and ongoingly access when they enter your membership site.
Monthly content, instead, is released on a regular schedule. This type of content helps to keep members engaged and may take the form of a monthly training video, hosted Q&A session, live coaching calls, and more.
Here are a few ideas to make your content more valuable:
- Structure it into relevant categories and consider creating pathways.
- Include “quick-win” content to your membership.
- Make it available in multiple formats (e.g., video, audio, PDF, etc.).
It includes a library of online courses and over 200+ training videos. They also have a monthly curriculum where they assign each month a specific focus and release training content for the same.
Finally, when creating content for your membership site, be sure to share your content on a schedule and let your audience know when it’s coming.
2. Design an Onboarding Process
The first step you should focus on when setting up your membership is designing the member onboarding process.
It’s a crucial step that should be done with great care. How you onboard a new subscriber sets the tone of how they’ll perceive your membership program now and in the future.
If the initial experience is negative or they don’t know how to navigate your site, you risk losing them very early in their journey.
Here are a few essential components your membership onboarding must include:
- Add a welcome video on the thank you page to share a welcome message, give a short tour of the site, or give an overview of what to expect.
- Send an automated welcome email with membership access details, tips on how to get started, and support contact information.
- Create a “Get Started” section in your membership site and include all of the essential resources a new member might need. Also, point your new members to this section in your welcome email and video.
If you want to take the onboarding process to the next level, consider adding a personal touch to it.
For example, you can personally welcome new members to your community; some creators even record and send a personalized welcome video.
Jacques Hopkins, who runs an online piano school, sends a personal video welcome message to every new participant who signs up for his programs. And they have a 91% open rate!
3. Create a Membership Roadmap
Part of why new members sign up for a membership site is because they’re seeking some kind of transformation to apply to their personal or professional lives.
To ensure they don’t flounder and lose their way, it’s critical to guide them through your membership site with a roadmap so they can easily meet their intended learning goals.
Your roadmap is the path you suggest your members follow to maximize their growth and development.
- What content should they consume, and in what order?
- What steps should they take to reach their goals?
- Why should they follow them?
Again, the key here is personalization. Your roadmap should have multiple tracks that are unique to each of your members’ goals and journeys.
For our VIP Membership @StationX, we created a personalized roadmap for our new members. Now, it is the most requested content from our members.
Apart from a roadmap, you can also consider including a content calendar. This will give your members an overview of what to expect regarding new content and when it will be released.
This strategy can be a great way to build anticipation about upcoming content and create some fear of missing out (FOMO).
4. Build a Membership Community
Building an online community is one of the best ways to keep your members engaged and boost membership retention.
While people join membership sites for the content, they often stay for the community and the people they meet once they sign up.
Online communities can be a great way for members to connect with each other, ask questions, get feedback, and even collaborate on projects. It can also become the central hub of your membership, especially when sharing new content, live workshops, and announcements.
When done right, your community can be a powerful retention tool.
Pencil Kings, a popular membership for artists, also includes a community where you can connect with like-minded artists and attend their workshops and coaching sessions.
Now, building a membership community doesn’t have to be complicated, and there are several community platforms available on the market that you can read about here.
5. Host Member-Exclusive Live Events
One of the most useful membership retention strategies is to host member-exclusive live events.
Live content can serve multiple purposes. For example:
- They allow members to connect on a personal level and foster a sense of community.
- They can increase the perceived value of your membership.
- They can act as the monthly content of your membership.
- You can record live sessions and make them available as evergreen content.
- You can bring in guest speakers and performers who can provide a new perspective on your area of focus.
The team of DigitalMarketer Lab, a monthly membership for marketers, incorporates monthly live workshops to keep their audience excited and coming back for more.
These member-exclusive events allow you to bring in guest speakers and performers who can provide a new perspective on your area of focus.
Through Q&A sessions, live webinars, and interviews, you can offer an exciting and entertaining alternative to a simple membership.
6. Create a Library of Tools and Resources
One of the best innovative membership retention ideas is to provide your subscribers with a library of useful tools and resources.
For example, these resource libraries might include the exclusive use of software, themes, and templates. The key here is to make sure that these are actually helpful so that your members will use them regularly.
For example, Membership Academy, a membership for membership owners, offers a bonus WordPress theme, which you can use as long as you have an active subscription.
If your membership site uses the theme, you’re tied to the membership, which is great for retention.
Now, you can replicate this same strategy by thinking about resources that might be useful for people in your niche. For example, if you run a stitching membership, you can consider offering a library of stitching patterns.
7. Share Member Success Stories
Both new and existing members of your program need to hear about the success of others in the group.
Testimonials work well to create positive momentum throughout your membership site and remind your members of why they signed up.
To do this, you can collect testimonials or even encourage your members to share their wins directly inside the group.
You can also try compiling case studies highlighting a specific transformation of one of your members, the challenges they faced, and what they learned from you to reach their goals.
And obviously, these testimonials and case studies can also be invaluable marketing assets.
8. Create a Retention-Focused Pricing Strategy
Price can be a significant factor in whether your subscribers stay or go.
To ensure they stay, we recommend keeping your membership pricing strategy simple. If you’re just starting, offering only two plans is in your best interest: a monthly and annual subscription.
Depending on your niche, we recommend pricing your membership between $10 and $50 per month. If your niche teaches someone how to make or save money, you can charge between $25 and $50 per month.
While a monthly subscription fee lowers the entry barrier for prospective members, it also provides a natural off-ramp for them to leave. So you should focus on pushing as many members as possible toward the yearly plan.
The best way to do this is by offering a discount or some exclusive perk for yearly payments.
Tomlinson Harmonica School, for example, offers three pricing options: lifetime, yearly, and monthly. While the monthly access costs $39 per month ($468 per year), their yearly plan is a one-time fee of $299, which is an almost 40% discount over the monthly price.
Because learning a musical instrument takes time, the $169 difference between the monthly and yearly price will likely sway some members towards the yearly plan when signing up.
Another pricing strategy you may want to consider is grandfathered pricing which allows your existing members to keep paying the same subscription price even when it changes for new customers.
This can be a highly effective pricing strategy because it creates a powerful disincentive for members to leave your membership. It’s also a nice gesture of goodwill towards your early adopters who chose to sign up for your membership when it was still in its infancy.
9. Put a Cancellation Funnel in Place
It’s natural for members to leave your community. However, you should still provide them an avenue to stay, especially if there’s an accidental failed payment or they’re struggling to afford your membership.
In these cases, it’s a good idea to have a funnel to address the issue and prevent the subscribers from canceling.
First and foremost, you should have a system in place to recover failed payments. Most modern membership platforms offer features to automatically follow up with your customers and ask them to update their card information.
However, sometimes your members may enjoy the benefits of your membership, but it doesn’t fit within their current budget. Allowing them to shift to a cheaper or downsell version (less features or content) of your membership may be a helpful way to retain them.
For example, if you subscribe to an annual Kajabi plan and try to cancel it, you’ll see a message that tells you to book a one-on-one call with their customer success team or downgrade to a monthly plan.
The next best option is to allow your members to pause their subscriptions. During that time, they won’t be charged, and they can return when they’re ready to activate their membership.
If someone has already left, you can target them by offering a discount or a couple of free months to win them back. You should use this option on a case-by-case basis, and you shouldn’t advertise it on your site.
10. Survey Canceled Members
Each of your members will have different reasons for canceling their membership. Is the content not what they expected? Did they not enjoy being a part of the community? Is the price too high?
If you can’t prevent your members from leaving, at the very least, you should find out why they’ve chosen to leave.
There are a couple of places to collect this feedback:
- In the last step of your cancellation funnel
- In your cancellation confirmation email
Now, you can collect this feedback by asking them to reply to your email, complete a simple online survey, or even join a one-on-one call.
Every piece of feedback you’re able to elicit is a valuable data point, and it’s very likely that if one member is having an issue, others feel the same way.
Getting ahead of these problems and proactively solving them will help you retain members.
11. Track Your Membership Retention Rate to Improve
Running a membership business is hard, and you should analyze some critical metrics to ensure your business is on the right track and inform your future decision-making.
The first and most important metric you should monitor is the churn rate, which will tell you how many members are cycling out of your membership each month.
The average subscription industry monthly churn rate is 5.6%, and a low churn rate (e.g., 5%) shouldn’t be a concern. However, if you’re noticing a high attrition rate (+20%), you likely have an issue that needs to be examined closely. Having to replace more than 20% of your members every month is unsustainable.
In addition, it’s beneficial to track other key metrics, including:
- Average membership length: this metric allows you to see how long you retain your customers. Is there a drop-off after a few months? This data point can also be helpful in creating your pricing strategy.
- New member acquisition: by monitoring new members’ growth, you can see if there’s a month-to-month or year-over-year increase.
- Engagement: you can measure engagement in many different ways. For instance, you could track how much time your members spend on your site and videos or track event attendance to see what topics and activities your members are interested in. Tailoring your membership to what they want is obviously a great way to keep them happy and engaged.
Finally, remain consistent with how you monitor your membership site activity. Establishing a baseline can give you an accurate picture of the overall health of your membership and insights on how to improve.
The key to building a thriving membership site is having a solid plan to retain your members. In this article, we laid out numerous strategies you can implement to boost your membership retention.
As you begin thinking about how to apply these strategies, be sure to keep your members’ learning goals in mind.
Their goals will inform you how to create and deliver content, set up your payment systems, measure progress, and engage them over the long term.
What strategies will you try for your membership site? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!