Should you focus on finding members or keeping members?

April 27, 2017

Should your membership business focus on finding more customers? Or should you focus on keeping the ones you have?

When we run a membership business, particularly those with courses and online content, it can be tough to see members sign up and then drop off.

So what’s going wrong?

At MeBox we’re often asked two key questions.

How can I find more members for my course?

And how can I keep my course members coming back for more?

The problem is that when new members join, keeping them engaged enough to repeatedly stay on and of course, keep paying, is a tough job.

We know businesses with a 50% churn rate who would LOVE to keep it just at 50%. Other businesses have a much lower churn rate, but struggle to find customers.

So is it better to have fewer members for longer, who pay more over time? Or is it better to find lots of new customers and whoever leaves, leaves?

Some businesses are happy with churn. They just consider it par for the course. And of course, a certain amount will always leave no matter what.

But should your membership business spend budget and time on finding customers, or keeping them?

You can’t fix it with more content

The biggest misconception in course based businesses is “more content”.

The idea that people leave a membership because they want more content. Or that by flooding your membership with tonnes of extra content, to plug the gap of leaving members, is false.

The reality (and the statistics/facts/whatever you want), shows that just adding more content doesn’t just stop people leaving, it can increase churn.

Imagine not really being that engaged with your accountant. The team that looks after your books, tax etc. Even those of us who are engaged, still pay for the service because we want our finances in order.

But if they started to see customers leave, would adding hundreds of emails, services, courses and paperwork make people stay? Probably not.

The truth is that adding more content can work if it’s done properly. But it shouldn’t be your first port of call.

It’s not about changing your price

Don’t lower it to get more people in. Don’t do one off lifetime subscriptions. Don’t change your price just to get more members.

The key, to membership growth, is to deliver on what your members expect for the price.

By lowering your price, to increase initial customer purchases, you’ll suffer higher churn rates in the end. Keep your price where it is and think about what you have to deliver, in order to justify that price.

For example, if you have a $10 000 a year course, what does that course deliver to the customer that they couldn’t get for $900 somewhere else?

If you can’t answer that honestly, and brutally, you’ll struggle to get anyone to sign up.

Similarly, if your membership is $39 a month but you don’t have regular calls or monthly content, what would keep people staying on?

The reason people stay, might not be the reason people join

In the same vein of “people join a company for the salary, but leave because of management”, membership businesses have a similar philosophy.

“Members join for content, but stay for the community”. Your members know they’re buying into a course, or coaching or software. But what they’re really going to stay for, is human contact and the community.

It’s often said that no one buys software, they buy a license key with support.

Forums, Facebook groups, private members areas. These are all examples of community platforms that increase the likelihood of someone staying with your membership.

You have to make sure that whatever it is you’re focusing on, be it new customers or keeping current customers, you have the solution for both.

Are you investing enough time in your community to get people to stay? Are you creating networks and starting relationships that will grow, despite your initial membership offering?

Similarly, are you promoting your “join” content to new subscribers and leads? Is there enough value in their eyes, to join your membership in the first place? Then, once they’re in, you can blow them away with the private group.

It doesn’t matter if you launch or are open all the time

I know some membership businesses that have launches, meaning they’re only open for one week at a time. I also know membership business that open all the time.

I have seen no strong evidence one way or the other to suggest that you should only do one.

Launch based memberships tend to focus on driving people through a curriculum. A very specific program that needs to be monitored.

Evergreen memberships allow people to join whenever they want, often after going through a sales funnel.

If you’re struggling with one, try looking at the other.

Focus on finding customers and make keeping them a part of the strategy

Your current members, if they’re raving fans of you, your business and your content, will do most of the marketing for you.

Aside from testimonials, social proof and happy tweets saying how much they love your business, you can encourage your members to promote and share your content to their audience.

The customer journey, in your overall strategy, shouldn’t end when someone joins. How does someone go from “new member” to “raving super-fan who answers every post in Facebook and constantly talks about you to their friends and family”?

You need to create a journey that increases the love that members have for your membership. If you’re seriously helping them and getting them results, they’ll stay. But people stay for different reasons than they join.

Community design

At MeBox, our favourite part of this whole process is community design. It’s the single largest contributing factor to having people stay or leave.

Of course, we often hear customers say to us “yeah but my business doesn’t suit a community model and I don’t want to be in Facebook all day”. We totally understand how you feel. Lots of membership businesses have said the same thing.

But what we’ve found is that if you DON’T have a community and you’re not willing to build and facilitate a network, you’re going to suffocate. Your community doesn’t just want to post cat pictures in your Facebook group, it should be a channel for growth and support.

If you don’t want to lead a community, find someone that does.

What have you seen in this post that’s made you re-think your strategy? Is there anything we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.


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