Why Do Members Refuse to Do Anything With the Materials You Give Them and Then Quit Their Membership?

It makes me so mad. Customers opt-in, review my sales message, talk to my people and choose to buy. Then they do NOTHING and quit. Some even have the gall to criticize the program when they did nothing with what I sent to them. I can see they never opened their emails or logged into their member dashboard. Argh!

I’ve had SAAS clients with past customers who did nothing with the product, but still took the time to post a negative review of the product. Or I’ve seen subscription boxes with past customers posting on social media, saying, “Received a box, never opened, stupid.”

Oh, and this is really a sore spot with my publisher clients. How many times have you heard, “When I put this month’s unopened mailing on top of a pile of four other months of unopened mailings, I decided I needed to call to cancel.”?

And, while it frustrates me when members to do it me, I often share their feeling of being overwhelmed. I’m a member of D23, the Walt Disney World fan club. One of the key benefits is a weekly email on Thursday evening with insider videos, behind-the-scenes photos at movie shoots, and photos of interesting videos and insider materials from the Disney archives. More than half the time, I delete the email without opening it. By the time I see it on Friday morning, I’m in “go” mode, trying to answer client emails and get started with consulting projects. Sometimes I reconsider whether I should even renew the thing, as I don’t read the emails they send.

What makes the difference between subscriptions with great engagement rates and the stuff people set aside or ignore? Why do we care?

We care because increased engagement builds retention and increases “switching costs.” I loaded my contacts, built sales forms, and loaded follow-up email sequences into my Infusionsoft app in 2005. I’ve kept that system ever since, because it meets my needs, and it would be a huge pain to convert everything over to a new system.

I’ve subscribed to the magazine The Week since 2008, and just renewed it for another two years with auto-renewal. I subscribed because I read the thing each week, and agreed to auto-renewal because they promised to stop sending me renewal solicitations every two weeks.

I use Slack and Trello every day. Meanwhile, I let SurveyMonkey and Mindmeister expire. Why? I don’t use them anymore.

It takes effort to change old habits to incorporate something new. Subscription box companies have it easiest. A high-quality subscription box is like a monthly surprise gift from a friend. But getting your customer to use the stuff that’s in the box is an entirely different challenge. And that’s the weak link that trips up most subscription boxes, leading to high churn from low engagement.

Subscription-based is the single best business model. I’ve been in the subscription business my entire career and I’ll never run another type of business. However, growing a subscription business takes a unique set of skills.

Your new subscribers already have habits and systems in their everyday life. Sure, their habits may be the reason they don’t accomplish their dreams, and their systems could be really inefficient. However, they are entrenched in their daily routines.

To turn your new subscriber into a lifetime member, you’ve got to get them to make a change, break old habits and form new ones, and build new ways of doing what they’ve always done. How do you that?


Yes, that’s right. It’s often called “onboarding” your subscribers, or “member journey” — I prefer the term “initiation.” It’s a similar experience to initiating a member into a fraternity or sorority. Once in, they become a member for life.

The real selling job begins after your new member buys your program. Getting them to buy is the easy part. Now you’ve got to get them to DO something.

When I create these systems for clients, there are six key aspects to the initiation. Let me dive into three of the most important aspects in the time we have left together.

Dreams. You have to give your new member a mental picture of what life will be like after buying and using your product. What problems will be solved? How will he feel? What will others say about him? How will he think about himself? What transformation will he make? It’s not good enough to provide a list of benefits; you’ve got to use words to create a picture in your new member’s brain of what life will be like after he incorporates your program into his life. He will take action to the extent of this mental image. This dream is more vibrant and important in his mind than the frustration and annoyance of finding the time and making the necessary changes to use your product.

Beliefs. Your member has certain beliefs about herself and the world around her. Those beliefs are responsible for the life she’s created for herself. If you are going to move her into action, you must help her incorporate a new set of beliefs. There’s nothing that works better than a successful peer group. Via media, we use case stories of successful members who overcame past beliefs to succeed. Today you can also use social media and online peer groups.

Instructions. Too many subscription programs want their members go start at A and go all the way to Z. It’s unrealistic. What is the single fastest way your new member can receive a transformation in his life? Focus on quick wins, which will allow your new member to build confidence in you and herself. Then, build on those wins for increased engagement.

Each of these may sound trite, or they may sound ridiculous. Some publishers think I’m crazy; we deliver information, we aren’t trying to get people to transform or believe anything. But when you look at other publishers that grow rabid cult followings, it’s easy to see the difference.

Subscription businesses grow income every month, because you don’t have to replace the customers you got last month. That is, unless last month’s customers quit. Stop your members from quitting by getting more of your new members engaged with your products.

About Robert Skrob

The problem with subscription membership programs is that members quit, I fix that problem. For more than 20-years I have specialized in direct response marketing for member recruitment, retention and ascension in diverse subscription members environments including non-profit associations, for-profit publishers/coaching, subscriptions and SAAS companies. For an evaluation of your current churn rate and how I can improve it, contact me here. I discover there are often two or three quick wins you can implement within a week to lower churn immediately, let’s talk about your quick wins.
10X Subscription Growth

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