When your revenue depends on paid memberships, a decline in renewals can take a good chunk out of your expected income. You can work on increasing the sale of new memberships to make up for it, but that’s not enough. You have to actively prevent cancellations and encourage renewals. The following strategies will help:
1. Create a formal membership retention plan
Even if you know what needs to be done, a formal plan will make sure nothing slips through the cracks. A formal plan also allows you to document what works and what doesn’t, and use that information to improve your efforts.
Your membership retention plan should include documentation for how you’ll develop a relationship with each member throughout the year. Maintaining memberships is a form of customer service and requires an active approach. How you interact with members determines their experience, which determines their willingness to renew their membership.
Create a yearly plan
Create a 12-month plan for all members that includes everything from a welcome email to event invitations, special announcements, and follow-up emails. Some organizations highlight personal achievements and reward members for reaching certain levels.
Plan for encouraging member renewals
As a member’s renewal date draws closer, start offering incentives to renew. For example, offer coupon codes to save money if the renewal is completed before a certain date.
Incentives to renew should be sent in an enticing renewal letter. If you need help writing a convincing renewal letter, check out MembershipWorks for an in-depth outline of the process and a complete sample letter. Your renewal letter must include engaging copy, a call to action, and automated reminders to be effective.
How you engage with your members will depend on the type of services you’re providing, but all memberships should have a plan in place.
2. Keep members engaged
You can’t create a paid membership site and expect members to entertain themselves, with one exception: when your content is designed for people who just want data. For instance, membership sites for scholars looking for research papers will probably do well without providing interactions. However, most membership sites lose their appeal without engagement.
One way to keep members engaged is to run promotions, giveaways, contests, and other fun activities members can get involved in. These promotions allow you to engage with members on a regular basis so they won’t forget about you.
Another way to create engagement is to provide a discussion forum for members to communicate with each other. You could create a closed social network or just host a basic bulletin board.
3. Don’t rely on 100% of your memberships to renew
Not everyone joins membership programs with the intention of staying long term. You might get a surge of new memberships after doing a podcast, only to find a month later people bail.
Don’t count on every member renewing at the end of each year. Don’t calculate your potential income based on a 100% retention rate, either. Most companies aim for a 75% retention rate, but the 2017 Global Membership & Fundraising study shows that number might be too high. Only 65% of companies reported retention rates of 75% or higher.
In the beginning, aim for a 50% renewal rate and once you reach that number, keep increasing your goal.
4. Make membership renewals easy
How easy is it for members to renew their subscription? Do you offer a variety of payment options like credit cards and PayPal? A frustrating renewal process is discouraging to many people. If the benefits of membership don’t outweigh the frustration, you’ll lose out on renewals.
The easiest way to handle renewals is to make them automatic until the customer cancels.
5. Find out why members don’t renew
One simple way to discover why people aren’t renewing their memberships is to ask. Prepare an exit survey for members who wish to cancel and require them to select an option from a drop-down menu in order to process their cancellation. Provide a blank text area as well for those who might want to give you additional feedback.
Use the feedback from cancellations to adjust your strategies.
6. Give members a reason to stay
Once a member scours the members-only area for all available content, what’s next? Why should they stay, and why should they renew their membership?
Adding new content continuously is one way to give members a reason to stay. You can also drip-feed the content to new members so they have to wait to consume the content. This works well when your content consists of courses that require focus and study.
Your members are your customers
If your business model is built around memberships, then your members are your customers. Just like any other customer, you’ll retain their business by providing value, keeping them engaged, and fine-tuning the member experience to meet their needs.
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