The Membership Retention Strategy That Will Make Your Members Stay

The Membership Retention Strategy That Will Make Your Members Stay

By JoAnne D. | Membership Sites

Membership retention is crucial to your long-term success as a membership site owner. In today’s article, I’ll describe a membership retention strategy so you can keep members on your site and keep your site profitable.

After promoting your membership site and recruiting as many members as you possibly can, the last thing you want is for them to just cancel their membership.

However, your members ultimately will cancel for a multitude of reasons beyond your control.

But before then, you’ll want to do everything you can to keep your members, because your membership site won’t flourish without them. That’s membership retention.

In this blog post, I’ll be outlining a 5-point membership retention strategy so that you can minimize the number of members leaving your site from reasons that are within your control.

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Membership Retention Strategy

1. Teach your members how to maximize your website.

Your content may be valuable, but if your members don’t know the best way to consume your content, or which content is appropriate for their goals, or even how to access your content, it’s all wasted.

This is also true for those members who do know but haven’t been logging in for a while. Meanwhile, they’re continuing to pay membership fees that aren’t bringing value back to them.

Here are some ways to make sure your members are making the best use of your website.

Ensure your member onboarding process is efficient and covers everything. Getting your members off to a great start increases their chances of seeing results early and staying on as members.

map held by person pointing to a location

Create a roadmap to help members navigate through your site and find the content they need. Some of your members may not need it if they’re the type to explore independently, but others may need additional guidance to keep them on track.

Add a content calendar to your site so members can see it. Letting your members know what you’re cooking up will demonstrate the value of the content you’re providing. This helps inspire them to stay on as members.

Give members a way to track what they’ve completed. When they see how much they’ve completed and how much closer they are to their goal with each content or course they complete, it makes your members that much more excited to log in to your membership site and do all they can to reach their goal.

With some members, allowing other members to see their progress spurs them on, so consider placing a “Progress Log” feature for all members that is visible to every other member so that they can be publicly accountable for their progress.

Be careful, though; you never want anyone to feel that they’re merely being shamed into completing the tasks. Ask members first if they want their progress to be visible to everyone or if they’d rather keep their progress to themselves.

Nudge inactive members. Inactive members are those who haven’t logged on to your membership site for a while (or ever), or those who do log in but haven’t been downloading content or viewing video courses or participating in discussions in the forums for some time.

You can set up an automated “friendly nudge” email to be sent to these members after a period you specify, say 15 days of inactivity.

Don’t be pushy and demand to know what’s going on with them. Instead, go for a warm reminder that you’re around to help and answer any questions they have about your site and that your site will be around to help them attain their goals whenever they’re ready.

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2. Give your members some control over their membership.

It may be hard for you to trust that your members know what’s best for them, but it will go a long way in establishing a relationship with them.

Here are some ways you can give your members some control.

Allow them to pause their membership temporarily. Life happens, and sometimes members need to take a break from your site.

pause icon

Having the option of pausing their membership is better than their only option being to cancel their membership entirely and needing to go through the entire checkout and onboarding process again to rejoin.

Depending on how you’re hosting your site, you can allow them to pause indefinitely or for a set period of time, say 6 months. They’ll be grateful for the flexibility you offer.

Let them change their payment method or payment plan. They may have to rearrange their finances and their priorities a bit, and having the option of switching up their payment plan can be a big help.

For example, if they’re currently paying annually, they might want to switch to a monthly payment after the year is up. Your system should be able to allow that.

In addition, if you’re offering different membership tiers, allowing your members to upgrade or downgrade their membership by simply setting it on their account details (i.e., without having to contact you and have you change it for them) is a nice option to have.

Avoid automatically canceling memberships and revoking access to your site for payment issues. Members’ payment method can sometimes fail; maybe their credit card has expired, or there was a temporary block on the card from a third-party factor, or there simply wasn’t enough balance on the card for the automatic payment to go through.

That’s understandable enough as payments go, and the normal approach here by other sites is that the membership is automatically canceled, normal access to everything is revoked, and the member has to rejoin the membership site like a new member.

This is technically fair but very inconvenient. Once the membership is canceled, it’s so much easier to just let it be than to go through the whole process to rejoin.

Change it so that the membership doesn’t automatically cancel for a grace period, during which time your member can enter new payment details. Most membership plugins for WordPress and membership site hosting are able to handle this special arrangement.

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3. Make your members invested in the site’s success.

Giving your members some vested interest in your site can make it difficult for them to decide to leave.

Elevate your most active and most helpful members to a higher status in the community section. You see this ranking a lot in forums, where there are “newbies,” “members,” and “advanced members,” or any other creative name for these rankings.

black chess pieces arranged by rank

Often, the rule is that the most prolific members that are also the most helpful (i.e., they’re not just trolling people or reacting unnecessarily for the ranking) are given top rankings, which then involve greater responsibilities as well as privileges.

For example, senior members can gain moderator status in the forums and be able to help you weed out comments that are offensive, hateful, or otherwise don’t adhere to your rules.

Plenty of articles have been written about how to rank forum participants and what the top rankers’ responsibilities and privileges should be limited to. Don’t hesitate to explore and test ranking systems that will inspire members to help each other and not antagonize new members or worse, give too much power to moderators.

Another thing to remember here is that you need to be ultra-careful about who to elevate to this status. Once you give out moderator powers, it can be really difficult to take them back. Also, make sure only you retain full control of the community area, and no one else.

Offer them incentives for recruiting new members. You can continue promoting and selling your membership site by yourself, just as when you started.

But having a membership base means you can try to make brand advocates of them and give them incentives when they refer your site to their network and bring in new members.

This is all good in theory, but you also need to protect yourself from giving incentives for members who don’t plan to stick around, so you can set it up so that you’ll only give the incentive when their referral stays for 6 months or more.

Create an exclusive affiliate program for your members. You can formalize this incentive by setting up an official, exclusive affiliate program for your members who are into affiliate marketing through blogging and social media.

Since your members have experienced your site first-hand, they’d know who would be a good fit for your membership site, and they’d be extra motivated to do this because it’s something they’ve benefited from and something that they believe in.

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4. Treasure your community.

Your membership base keeps your site alive. When the sense of community is not there or fades away, there’s hardly any reason left for your members to stay.

group in a circle with outstretched arms and legs

Here are some ways to nurture your community and make them feel valued.

Appreciate them. You’d be surprised at how much a simple “thank you” can motivate someone.

Thank them for staying on, thank them for their support and trust in you, thank them for helping and uplifting each other.

When you ask something of them, like feedback or a testimonial or a simple share on their social media, take it further and express your appreciation through small bonuses, like excerpts of an ebook you’re working on or exclusive peeks at an online course you’re creating.

Additional discounts on tools or resources they already have discounts on can also help goodwill.

Just a note here: don’t give out actual cash as tokens of appreciation. Just like the prizes you give away when you hold contests, tokens of appreciation has a greater impact when it’s something that’s relevant to your site. Plus, you don’t want them to feel like you’re merely bribing them so they’ll stay.

Make it easy for them to reach you. Unless there’s something seriously technically wrong with the site, members won’t pester you 24/7.

But, on the rare occasion that they need your help with a feature on the site or content they can’t download, or a more specific concern with their goals, or even a personal matter, it’s nice to know that you’ll be easy to reach.

Have a dedicated contact form for any such urgent issues so you can prioritize them accordingly and you can reply promptly. Don’t underestimate the peace of mind that their ease of access to you can give them.

Celebrate their successes. People love it when their wins are applauded and recognized. Have an area or forum or even an entire page dedicated to these successes, big or small.


This sends a message that you see a win for them, no matter how big or small, as a win for you. Plus, other members, particularly new ones, get inspired by these accomplishments and affirm the idea that staying on will help them achieve their goals.

Invite them to write testimonials. Testimonials add a lot to your sales page. Including well-written, verifiable testimonials on your membership sales page can boost the number of signups you get.

Plus, having your existing members write testimonials compels them to think of the positive aspects of your membership site, and associating your site with positive thoughts makes it harder for them to leave.

Conduct regular surveys. Knowing what your members want to see in your website, as well as what they don’t want allows you to steer your website in the right direction content-wise.

Find out how your members are interacting with your site, which content they’re downloading, and which areas they’re consistently accessing.

Even when they cancel, ask them what worked and what didn’t work for them. It’s entirely possible that the reason they’re leaving is out of your control (i.e., it’s not you, it’s them), but even when they’re about to become ex-members, their feedback still matters. Make them feel that it matters.

Request to interview members who have attained their goals through your site. Again, it’s nice to be celebrated, especially by your peers. Interviewing successful members gives them a boost, and gives your other members who watch (or read a transcript of) the interview added motivation and inspiration.

Plus, using a portion of this interview on your sales page (with the interviewee’s permission, of course) can help you sell more memberships, as this gives prospects confidence in the quality of your content.

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5. Always be providing value.

Think of your membership website as a product in itself.

Your members will stick around as members (i.e., continue paying the membership fees) as long as your website is valuable to them.

The thing is, the value of your site doesn’t only depend on your content, products, and services, though they play a significant part in it. The value of your site depends on why your members joined.

The value could be in the community, your regular webinars, your mentorship, your roundups; that is, it’s what your members need to achieve the goals and results that compelled them to join your website in the first place.

Whatever the results you promised them, they had better get those results, or at least see themselves progressing toward those results.

coins in glass jars with plants

When they see that there’s no longer an effort from you to provide value in your content offerings and that whatever you’re putting out isn’t helpful to them and their goals anymore, your members will leave. It’s simple as that.

Here are the ways you can ensure that you’re providing continuous value.

Update, improve, and add to your existing content. Ensuring that your content is relevant gives your members reason to stay on. And it applies no matter how evergreen you think your niche or your topic is.

Any online business has to cope with constant change. Best practices evolve, technology advances, science discovers something new. If your content doesn’t keep up, you might as well be pushing members out your door.

Engage with your community area or forums. As I’ve mentioned, community is generally a great motivator for plenty of members. Make sure your community section is alive and thriving.

Encourage members to participate in your forums by also participating. Answer questions and help out your members while follow your own rules when you engage with your community.

Keep your finger on the pulse of your site. When you know what the majority of your members find valuable, it’ll give you a specific focus and direction on what to improve and what to add value to.

Aside from asking for feedback, monitor the tracked activity on your site. Which content gets downloaded most often? What topic seems to be hot or popularly on your forums?

Looking at this information will help you form a picture in your head of which aspects of your site you need to improve, which ones should be left alone, and which ones should be removed.

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Final Thoughts

Keeping your members engaged and satisfied is key to keeping them as members, ensuring that your membership remains profitable in the long run.

Here’s a recap of the membership retention strategy I outlined.

  • 1. Teach your members how to maximize your website.
  • 2. Give your members some control over their membership.
  • 3. Make your members invested in the site’s success.
  • 4. Treasure your community.
  • 5. Always be providing value.


Accept that cancellations are inevitable.

You worked so hard to get them and worked doubly hard to keep them.

So when members leave, it hurts.

However, it’s a fact of life and sooner or later they’re going to leave.

When they ultimately do, handle it with optimism and in a classy, dignified manner. Don’t burn bridges (unless they’re scammers and/or harmed the site, you, or their fellow members, then burn away).

fire burning up a structure

Aim for them to leave with a positive impression of you and your website, and make their departure a constructive process; ask them for their feedback on you and your website, and use that to improve and build a better membership site.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll be back and bring their friends with them (I told you, be optimistic).

Over To You

How do you keep your members happy? How do you deal with those who plan to leave? Speak out in the comments!

The Membership Site Masterplan Series

This is the 6th of a 6-part membership site masterplan series. I highly recommend reading them in order.

For your reference, here are links to all the articles in the series:

About the Author

JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.