How many times have you picked what looked like the fastest line at the grocery store, and it turned out to be the slowest? Argh! Isn’t it frustrating?
Today we are in the “subscription economy” or the “membership economy.” Growing a subscription business is the fastest way to scale a successful business. Or so it may appear at the outset.
Fact is, most approach the subscription business in a transactional mindset. They offer their thing on a monthly basis. This trips up too many. They believe they are getting into the subscription fast lane, only to discover later — perhaps years later — that they’ve been futilely building their business in the wrong way. What was supposed to be the faster line turned out to be the slowest, most frustrating path.
Even with the hundreds of tools available today to create an engaging and vibrant community, too few subscription companies take advantage of this retention opportunity. But doing so is always the fastest lane.
With a vibrant community, your member isn’t only subscribing because of what you deliver; they maintain your subscription because they want access to the community. It’s challenging for someone to switch from riding a Harley-Davidson to a Honda motorcycle, and it has nothing to do with the trade-in process. The last thing a Harley rider is going to do is to roll up to his friends riding a Gold Wing.
How do you create your community retention shortcut? Here are three critical components of a community.
This is the most often missed concept in building communities. I discovered it when thinking about my own experience with fraternities. Why is it that once someone joins a fraternity or sorority, they are members for life? And, why is hazing so prevalent? If you’ve been through an initiation ritual, you know the two are related.
Once you’ve gone through what’s necessary to join a sorority — from the selection process at rush, the months as a pledge wearing your pledge pin every moment of your life, and then the initiation ceremony — those Greek letters mean everything to you. You don’t want to give them up.
Let’s deconstruct this process to see what’s important about growing communities. First, there’s a shared experience. They went through something together, and this connects them.
For Harley-Davidson, it could be years of people thinking you are insignificant, invisible to the world. Now, on a Harley-Davidson, you are important, you can scare people when you drive up. The years of obscurity were something of an initiation ceremony.
Also, it could be as simple as watching the same television show or reading a book. If you’ve watched David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks,” you want to talk to someone about it and try to unravel what you’ve experienced.
The entire sports talk industry is built on people wanting to share the experience of last night’s game, listen to what the host has to say about it, and give their own thoughts, either to themselves as they drive on the road or to their buddy when they see him next.
If you try to drop members into a community before there’s a shared experience, you’ll get nothing. No comments, no posts, no energy. To have energy, there must be a shared experience. And, if it’s good enough, that shared experience could be the content you deliver.
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you know what a “muggle” is. If you know what a muggle is, have you ever called someone a muggle? How did it make you feel? I bet you felt better.
If you are a Rush Limbaugh fan, you know what the “Low Information Crowd” is. And making sure you aren’t in the Low Information Crowd is important.
All great communities have their own language. They have terms they use that no one outside of the community understands. And, when a member of the community uses these terms, it makes them feel superior to those unenlightened fools who are not fortunate enough to be in our club.
What terms are you using within your subscription membership program that makes your members feel superior to their peers, who are unfortunately not yet members of your community?
The moment you’ve experienced a fun and unique experience, you want to share your experience with others who have done it too.
There’s got to be a platform to share. Whether a Facebook private group, Slack, a proprietary online platform, or in-person meetings, there must be a way for members to interact with each other and share.
Without interaction, there’s no community.
Community is the single most powerful tool for membership retention. When you build a vibrant community in the right way, you are always choosing the fast lane of the subscription business.