The key to any enduring membership site is retention – a steady influx of customers combined with a relatively low churn rate. Without loyal members, your membership site is ill-fated to become a barren wonderland. Think abandoned carnival: rusty old rides left standing with ne’er a soul in sight.

Here’s a sobering fact:

That’s what happens when you focus your efforts solely on new members and neglect those you have. The good news is that it costs seven to 10 times less on average to retain and satisfy existing members than it does acquiring new ones. And there are a number of effective user retention strategies you can employ to keep users on board and engaged with your site (and with each other) well after they’ve joined.

 

1. Tease Upcoming Content

To build anticipation around your soon-to-be-released content, give members a glimpse of what’s coming. A content calendar not only incentivizes members to stick around, but also creates some much needed FOMO amongst members that’s sure to spread. If you plan on using drip content functionality, you’ll do well to incrementally leak blocks of your new content — also known as cliffhanger content — to eager members. Leave them with an unfinished piece, and they’ll be yearning for the rest.

 

2. Grant Early Access

If, like the rest of us, Amazon is your impulse buy haven, you’ve surely noticed Lightning Deals on featured items peppered throughout the site. These are time-sensitive and sell out quickly. Early access to these deals is one of many reasons it pays to go Prime, Amazon’s exclusive membership. For Amazon Prime customers, a membership guarantees a 30-minute heads-up period in which members get priority access to flash sale items before the general public.

3. Offer Discounts

Think of your membership site as a rewards program — the longer you’re a member the more perks you get.

For those of you pursuing a paid membership model, discounts can be a great retention tool, but beware; emphasizing them too strongly may undermine the value of your offer.

Here’s an effective discount idea: If your membership site boasts multiple-tiered membership levels, offer an upgrade at a discounted rate to mid- and low-tier members. Customers love being rewarded for their loyalty. They pay less and gain more value from a worthy product or service while you’ve effectively locked in new recurring income.

 

4. Reactivate Dark Users

Reactivation, also called re-engagement, is a technique used to reach out to the people who have previously expressed interest, purchased, or otherwise engaged with your company but have since “gone dark” or disengaged. The goal is to encourage them to become active again. The reality of reactivation, however, is that not all members will be receptive to your efforts.

 

5. Send Payment Decline/Card Expiration Reminders

Don’t count on your members to update their payment information on their own. Should a credit card on a renewed subscription fail, send your member a friendly notification to update their credit card with simple instructions on how to do so. The same goes for expired cards. The key there is to press the issue (gently) before the card expires. Your members will appreciate you for it.

 

6. Spotlight Your Members

Acknowledging your members is a surefire way to heighten their sense of belonging. There are a number of creative ways you can make members feel loved and appreciated.

For instance, online dating giant Match.com will spotlight the dating profiles of select members (with permission) for up to two weeks on its site and partnering sites. Members are incentivized to stick around by being offered more exposure in the dating pool.

You can also try this: Recognize new sign-ups by name, thereby publicly inducting them as new members. What better first experience than a warm welcome?

 

7. Host Contests/Giveaways

A well-designed contest or free giveaway can be a great way to keep your community engaged and strengthen loyalty to your brand. Contests are fun; there’s little to nothing at stake, and you stand to win something.
Retailer Neiman Marcus recently hosted a photo contest in which customers could win ascension to a higher tier of membership by submitting a photo of themselves on Instagram with a caption professing their love of the brand.

You don’t need to be a high-profile retailer to pull this off. Your contests can be small and even limited to certain membership levels. Here are some ideas:

  • Award a gift card to whomever leaves the best comment on a post.
  • Host a photo contest related to your product.

Both of these work great on user forums too. Which brings us to …

 

8. Stir Up Your User Forum

Encourage your members to leave comments on your posts and/or forums! It’s the best way to instill a sense of community while engaging your audience. Make sure to respond to EVERY comment! Doing so elicits two critical responses:

  1. Encourages members to comment, since they know they will be getting a response from you
  2. Shows your readers that you care about them and what they have to say

Be sure to moderate all comments. Spam equals visual pollution. Allowing spammy comments in your forums/comment sections is an easy way to annoy your members and ruin the authority of your site.

 

9. Offer a Cancellation Survey

It hurts seeing members go. You’re left scratching your head as to why they lost interest or if you’ve failed them somehow. But there’s a lot of power in knowing when your members are dropping off and why. Build a voluntary exit survey into your cancellation process. Keep it short; phrase all questions non-aggressively and offer a write-in option to up your odds of getting responses. Most importantly, welcome all criticism; it’s the best way to improve your product.

10. Gamify the Membership Experience

 

Gamification — in all its forms — can be a turnkey solution to guarantee engagement on your membership site and turn your visitors into loyal fans.

In other words, make your site more intriguing and stimulating using games. However, let’s make something clear: Gamification is not about creating games for your business for the sake of it. It’s about adding the elements that make games so much fun (points, levels, challenges, competition, etc.) to an underlying customer interaction in order to make the experience more exciting and engaging.

By ‘gamifying’ your membership area, your site automatically becomes more appealing, which incentivizes users to log in more often and spend more time interacting with your content. Gamify your membership site’s user experience and you’ll see amazing results.

Gamification Examples

Check out how these awesome companies are using gamification to encourage engagement and make the user experience fun.

1) TreehouseTreehouse utilizes tracks, courses, challenges, quizzes, bonuses, points, badges and perks to teach users how to code.

2) FitbitA goal oriented app, Fitbit uses celebrity challenges, quizzes, badges, goals and competition to encourage users to take their fitness to the next level.

3) Waze

Its efficiency contingent on user interaction, Waze uses points, leaderboards, and levels to encourage users to report obstacles on the road.

Find out more on gamification:

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10 Proven Strategies for Sky-High Member Retention
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10 Proven Strategies for Sky-High Member Retention
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It pays to keep subscribers of your membership site engaged and satisfied. These 10 retention strategies will have your members coming back for more.
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