I hate subscriber churn. Each time a member quits feels like a personal rejection. And it is!
I’ve been marketing memberships for more than two decades. And when I see a client report with higher churn than their product value deserves, it makes me angry. Even if it’s a client prospect that I haven’t worked with yet, I still take it personally. For me, there is no normal churn. Churn means rejection, disappointment, and someone else getting your member instead of you.
Okay yes, I understand that SOME churn is a necessary part of selling. If your churn is really low, it could mean you aren’t signing up enough new members. There are always going to be some people who join but aren’t a perfect fit, and it’s better for them to go quickly rather than for you and your team to try to please everyone. You can never be all things to all people.
But what about that person who has been a member for 12 months or more and then quits? If you don’t take that personally and find out what went wrong, you don’t have a long-term business.
There’s so much talk today about the membership economy or the subscription economy. While for-profit companies have started waking up to the opportunity, this business model is not new. Associations have been at this business for several decades.
I first started working with nonprofit associations in 1993, and the education I received is a huge advantage in today’s “subscription economy.” People who run associations have a built-in approach to membership that is different from for-profit subscription companies, much to the latter’s detriment.
Subscription companies and for-profit memberships focus their time on “delivering value.” Subscription boxes try to put more expensive items in their box to justify the monthly cost. Publishers try to provide 25 percent more pages or words of articles. Financial gurus try to provide more stock picks, perhaps three a week instead of two.
Association membership directors think in a different, more productive way. They know that adding a day to their two-day meeting won’t generate more attendees, but cutting the event down to one day might. They consider compressing the size of their newsletters to fewer pages to become more valuable to members. Associations understand that subscribers and members don’t value “more.”
Customers want five things, and yes, value is one. But they also want a feeling of importance, to be part of a community, to feel like they are a member of a movement, and to have a chance to contribute to the community.
When I speak with subscriber membership programs for the first time, I ask them two questions they can never answer very well. I never intended these questions to be difficult, but when I started to ask them, I discovered they were usually met with silence.
Zinger question No. 1: If lowering churn or increasing conversion or retention is such an important driver for your company, who is in charge of retention?
Zinger question No. 2: What training do you provide the editors, designers, and customer service team members on retaining members?
Turns out, few have good answers to these questions. If this includes you, let’s talk about how to remedy this situation so your subscription membership program can grow faster.
This month, I’m off to London and Ireland with my wife and two kids. My daughter graduates from Florida State University in December of this year, and my son will leave home to attend the University of Florida. This may be our last vacation as a family. No matter what, it’ll be special, as my wife and I will soon find ourselves home alone for the first time since we were newlyweds. What’s your favorite thing to do in London, Dublin, or Southeast Ireland?