I recently had a conversation with someone asking about membership sites. She wanted to know which membership site platform had the best member retention.
That’s like asking what type of paper you should use to print your newsletter on to improve retention. For member retention, what’s printed on the paper is a lot more important than the paper itself.
There are many good membership site platforms out there. I’m partial to the one I use because I helped develop it, and I appreciate its features. But the platform matters little, even though that’s what everyone wants to ask me about.
A membership site is a tool for communicating with your members. Of all the ways commonly used for communicating with members, it’s actually one of the worst for member retention.
The problem is the member has to take the initiative to connect with your benefits. Your member is already dealing with an avalanche of communication from all sides. He’s attempting to filter through what’s important and what isn’t. How likely he to pull up your membership site?
I was contacted by a prospective client with a $197.00 per month membership program. His program included three teleseminars for members each month. Everything was delivered via email and the membership site. Even though he had great email communication each month, his retention was poor.
It would cost this prospective client less than $10.00 a member to put recordings of those teleseminars into the mail for each member, and it would immediately reduce his member churn rate. Heck, a member welcome package that provided a benefit guide and resold them on the exciting transformation they’d experience after a few months in the program would also do wonders. I’d already lost his interest by this point in the conversation, but a well-done, printed, mailed monthly newsletter would have also created another retention improvement.
This man’s business mindset is committed to the myth of the member site. He’s bought into the dream that was sold to him when he purchased the member site platform, and he still believes that just by loading content onto the platform, he can get people to join and retain their memberships forever without any ongoing work. To improve his poor membership growth, he’s redoubled his marketing efforts to recruit more new members. Pouring more water into a leaky bucket doesn’t repair the leak.
It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the business he is in. He’s been led astray by individuals selling particular platforms or courses; he’s been sold on a business plan that is more about hope than real business.
And, the irony is, it’s so much easier when you understand the real business you are in. Too many people think it’s about publishing content, fulfilling monthly calls, and answering people’s questions. All of that is secondary.
I once marketed membership for an association that had zero tangible benefits. There was no membership site, no newsletter, no teleseminars, no provision for answering questions, nothing. And I had better member retention than this guy’s membership site. It’s not about the content, and it’s darn sure not about the platform you chose for the member site.
The membership business is about creating relationships with people using systems that scale; they grow in capacity as you expand your membership. Almost everyone knows how to create a relationship with someone face to face. You greet, you get to know each other, and if there’s some follow-up, a relationship develops. Too much follow-up, and you are considered pushy and weird. Not enough follow-up, and you are forgotten. It’s a balance.
When you focus your attention on creating relationships versus delivering content, your member retention improves and your program grows. How do you feel when you develop a new friendship? You feel great. You feel important because another human being took notice of you and considers you to be worthy of their time. This is the feeling you want to give your new members. Let’s consider how to build systems that scale to do this for our new members.
How do you build this system that creates a feeling of friendship with each new member? Make a big deal about new members; make them feel like they are important to you. Send them a member welcome kit that helps them get engaged in your community, gives them an overview of what the community is about, and lets them know that people like them are welcome in a community like yours.
I’m biased toward delivering materials to their mailbox. I don’t believe email and PDF files have the same impact as something from you, thoughtfully prepared, physically arriving in their personal space. It helps build a relationship; it serves as a similar function to showing up in person at their home or office after a first meeting. An email can’t replace this feeling.
When in doubt, remember membership is all about systems that scale to create relationships. Mastering this gives you a superpower to lead people, grow a community, and live a happy life shared with scores of devoted fans.