This is a contribution by Maggie Aland.

A Note from the Editor:
I love this article by Maggie Aland on how to keep members from cancelling, and here’s why:

So many times, when membership site subscribers start cancelling, panic sets in. You might try publishing more content or reducing your prices, all in an attempt to stem the flow of cancelling members…

But as you’ll see, sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference in member stick rate.

So kick back, and enjoy these practical tips from Maggie Aland on how to keep members from cancelling.

When you run a website that relies on membership, you’re inevitably going to have some people who sign up and never visit your site again.

Experts believe that losing 10 percent of your members each month is acceptable, and a churn rate 5 percent is excellent.

Those numbers might be okay if you’re just starting, and you have a few hundred members. However, your membership site will bleed if you have 10,000 members with a 5 percent churn rate. That means you’ll need 500 new members every month just to keep membership steady.

While that may be possible, it’s often easier and more cost effective to retain your existing customers than to get new ones. In this article, we examine 3 usual reasons for membership loss, and offer 3 effective strategies used by leading websites to keep your members coming back.

3 Reasons Members Leave Your Website & How to Get Them Back

When people register for membership, they expect something in return for their investment of time and (possibly) money. Your website’s ability or inability to meet their expectations is one of the reasons why members bolt and never return.

Here are some of the specific reasons why people leave a website after signing up as a member, along with the solution:

Problem # 1. They Were Lured With False Clickbait

While many websites provide great value for their members, the Internet is also full of false promises.

Many website owners rely on clickbait material to lure people into visiting their sites and signing up. One of the most common strategies used is overselling a product or service.

How many times have you signed up for something because the company offered a ‘free’ something, but it actually turned out to be false advertising?

It’s a classic case of clickbait content.

Users are motivated to visit a website and sign up in exchange for something of value.

When they realize that their investment is not rewarded (or there’s a catch that wasn’t clearly advertised in the offer) they leave and never look back.

The Solution: Deliver Spectacularly, As Promised

No one likes to be oversold and receive something mediocre in return.

Instead of overselling, be honest and upfront about what you’re offering.

Clearly state what you intend to provide in exchange for membership on your website. (That’s the easiest step for how to keep members from cancelling!)

The perfect example? Amazon Prime. Their membership pool exploded from 25 million in 2013 to 85 million in June 2017.

One of the reasons they’re so successful is their clear statement of 24 benefits. They’re clear and upfront, and take the time to clearly describe situations when these benefits are not applicable.

how to keep members from cancelling

If you want to keep your members, be honest about what they’ll actually receive in return for visiting your site and signing up.

Here are a few specific perks that you can offer upfront if exchange for signing up:

  • Discount off first purchase
  • Free short course
  • Free ebook or informational guide
  • Members-only offers
  • X dollars as a welcome bonus
  • Free shipping on first X purchases

In addition to a good signup offer, adding a reward or gamification element to your membership site can keep visitors coming back.

For example, you can offer points for completing various activities, such as signing up, downloading an ebook, or buying something from a partner website. Then, members can trade in their points for different prizes, such as free product and service samples. (See how it works here.)

Problem # 2. Your Members Are Bombarded With Too Much Information

Stats show that website users typically stick around for an average of 10 – 20 seconds. To compensate, some websites bombard visitors with offers, value propositions, and calls to action.

This can backfire.

Blasting visitors with huge images of your products or big text that screams “Sign Up Now!” can do you more harm than good.

One study revealed that the more visually complex a site was, the lower its appeal.

This research was supported by a case study on web design. simplified their website by including more white space and featuring single products.

As a result, the bounce rate was reduced by 23.2 percent.

how to keep membership site subscribers from cancelling

how to keep members from cancelling website before and after.

The Solution: Simplify Site Navigation

When people visit a particular site, they are usually looking to satisfy a particular urge. That’s according to Nir Eyal, seasoned advertiser and author of the book Hooked.

For example, people visit YouTube to play silly cat videos because they’re bored. Knowing what motivates your members to visit your site is key to creating a simplified navigation.

how to keep members from cancelling

Why do people visit Google? Simple: they want answers.

According to Nir Eyal, that urge is the internal trigger. Identifying that internal trigger is essential to creating an external trigger, which is a button, notification, or symbol that gets the user to the material that satisfies the urge.

Going back to our Google example, the call to action “Google Search” is the external trigger that satisfies the internal trigger of wanting answers. There are no distractions or competing calls to action. The road to satisfying the internal trigger is clear and easy.

To simplify your navigation, you must understand your members’ internal trigger. Learning your members’ goals is an important step for how to keep members from cancelling (and even for getting them to sign up in the first place!).

If you’re running an education-based website, for instance, learning new skills and accomplishing something new are likely the internal triggers for most visitors to the site.

Education website Coursera acknowledges those triggers by stating that you will earn a certificate upon successful completion of any course. (You can do that for your members using AccessAlly Pro, too!)

A clear call to action button that says “Enroll” and the date of the first class at the left hand side of the screen serve as the external triggers. The date also creates a sense of urgency, encouraging members to sign up and return to complete the full course.

Simplifying your navigation and making changes to your website may require expertise in U/X design, web design, and programming. To find the right person, make sure you’re connecting with pros who are trained and certified in the specific area you need help with. Posting on more general sites can also be an option if you’re looking for a longer-term employee to add to your team.

how to keep membership site subscribers from cancelling

Coursera’s course page has a simple navigation and clear internal/external triggers.

Problem # 3. Members Found the Site Untrustworthy

A whopping 86 of all websites have a serious security vulnerability that would allow a hacker to intercept and access sensitive data being transmitted online, such as usernames and passwords.

This is one of the reasons why browsers maintain a level of healthy skepticism. They look for indicators to assess whether the website is authentic or not. If these hints are not available, many immediately leave the website out of fear that their system might get compromised.

how to keep members from cancelling

An icon of a circle with “i” inside indicates that the connection is not secure

Any interaction with your website must be secure so people feel comfortable providing the sensitive data that’s needed to sign up as a member, such as email and credit card numbers.

The Solution: Display Trust Signals

It will be difficult for you to convert visitors into members, let alone keep your members, if your website does not inspire a sense of security.

Your members should be able to trust you, and that trust begins with your guarantee of protection. This guarantee is implied through social proof and third-party validation.

Here are some trust signals that visitors look at to check whether the website is legitimate or not:

  • A padlock sign before the website address to indicate a secure connection
  • “Https://” if you store sensitive details or allow purchases on your website
  • Testimonials from other users that show how they are benefiting from your website
  • Logos of reputable companies (perhaps partners or sponsors) to increase social proof
  • Social media icons to indicate a following or community
  • “Contact” button with an email address, phone number, and/or physical address to demonstrate that someone is available to help the visitor

Highlight these indicators on your homepage because first time visitors will most likely look for them. For instance, the website of HR management platform Zenefits uses Https:// with the padlock icon before the web address. They have social media icons on the footer, and they published their contact phone number at the top of the webpage. They also feature logos of reputable partner companies to boost their reputation.

how to keep members from cancelling

Make your visitors feel secure to encourage them to sign up and stay on as a member.


Now that you know how to keep members from cancelling…

Losing members is an inevitable part of operating a membership-based website, but there are things you can do to lower drop off.

You can keep your members from leaving by displaying trust signals, delivering promises, simplifying navigation, and offering rewards. With these tactics, you can influence your members to return again and again.

About the Author

how to keep members from cancellingMaggie Aland is a staff writer for Fit Small Business and editor of the Marketing and Reviews sections. She writes on a variety of marketing topics, ranging from newspaper ads to how to market your business on Facebook. Before joining Fit Small Business, Maggie worked as a marketing associate at a niche publishing company. There she was responsible for determining the marketing plan and keeping up with the budget of 10+ B2B products. Her experience includes email, direct mail, social media, events, and more.

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