Do you know why members leave your organization?

Even a minor investigation into the reasons why members leave can reveal important insights that you can use to drastically lower the number of members you lose every year.

Of course, no matter how good of a job you do, there will always be a degree of member churn. It’s a simple part of life for any membership manager, but often we can get caught in the trap of assuming that our annual churn ‘baseline’ is much higher than it has to be.

There will always be reasons out of your control that members leave. Professionals change careers, gym goer’s move, businesses declare bankruptcy, etc. These reasons account for an acceptable baseline churn rate.

But what about the reasons you can control? Maybe members are leaving because they don’t understand how to get value from your organization, had a sour experience/misunderstanding with management, didn’t enjoy one of your events, etc. These causes that motivate members to leave are fully within your control, but only if you know they’re going on!

Too often, membership managers become ‘used’ to their annual churn rate, and accept higher-than-required churn because they do not have a strong understanding of the reasons why their members are leaving. They cannot separate ‘the wheat from the chaff’, and neglect to take advantage of opportunities to retain members by addressing issues that are completely in their control.

It isn’t because membership managers don’t want to keep these members, it’s that they don’t have the systems in place to identify members they are able to retain. What little energy is available for retention efforts isn’t always targeted on those they’re actually capable of retaining.

With systems in place to identify, alert, and even contact these members – membership managers can focus their retention efforts by identifying members likely to churn, and targeting them with tailored retention messaging. Here’s how:

Why Are Members Leaving?

You’ll never have perfect certainty about why each and every one of your members leaves your organization.

But with the right systems in place, you can significantly reduce your uncertainty, and make data-driven decisions guaranteed to chip away at your churn rate.

To do so, we need to gather information about why members are leaving. The most popular technique to gather this information is the exit survey, a tool that ought to be on the tool-belt of every membership manager. A simple form sent as part of the leaving process for every member, the exit survey is a convenient and tremendously powerful tool to gather insight into why members leave.

Making a Good Exit Survey

Making a good exit survey is a balancing act between two priorities.

  1. You want to gather as much quality information as possible.
  2. You need to make a survey that people will actually complete.

Priority one suggests that we make a long, complicated form with thousands of fields, questions, buttons, contextual drop-downs, etc.

Priority two suggests that we make our form as short and simple as possible.

Finding the right balance is a matter of understanding what information has the most value to you, an emphasizing it in your survey. You want to give exiting members the opportunity to provide in-depth information, without requiring a hefty investment of time and energy.

The key to striking the perfect balance for your organization and members is to try them out, see what works, what doesn’t, and continually iterate and refine your survey. Maybe starting with short answer fields works better than multiple choice. Maybe contextual drop-downs work well. Perhaps a single, long answer field is the perfect tool for your organization.

Every audience is going to respond differently to different surveys. To find out which survey your responds to best, you’ve got to test!

How to Make Them Stay

The great thing about setting up your exit survey with membership management software is that you can use form responses in concert with email automation to automatically build lists and send out targeted email retention content.

After gathering initial survey data, you might notice trends among members that leave your organization. When you find groups of members all leaving for more-or-less the same reasons, use them as a basis for developing email segments.

Then, write emails addressing the issue that define each of your segments. If you find groups leaving because of negative event experiences, consider offering a credit towards your next event. When a member selects a multiple choice question indicating that they left due to renewal costing too much, have that form response trigger an email to send them a promo code for discounted renewal. No matter what the reason, there is always something that you can do through email to passively address member churn!

Focusing on Quality Leads for Retention

Of course, email marketing isn’t going to retain every member in the process of churning. Not everybody will open or click through your email, but using data on who has opened/clicked, you can identify members worth targeting personally.

The logic is simple, and easily automated through membership management software. By opening but not clicking through retention emails, members suggest some level of interest in staying in your organization. This is an indication of a quality lead for follow-up.

By configuring your membership management software to automatically build a list off of this behavior, you can enjoy an continually updated list of high-quality leads for member retention. This allows your team to focus the energy they have available for retention on the leads that are most likely to stick around. With no time wasted contacting members with no chance of churning, you can more confidently address the issues of those who are!

A Proper Retention Strategy

You don’t have to be perfect to do better.

Setting up email marketing strategies, complicated software logic, multiple forms, etc seems like a tall task because it can be.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Even a basic survey, email, and phone-call workflow is better than nothing at all. You don’t need to write email and automation logic for every one of your member churn segments. You just have to do one to have a measurable impact on your organization’s churn rate.

After you’ve set it up and gotten some experience with it, set up another, and then another, and so on. Doing so will allow you to gradually, but continuously, chip away at your churn rate until the only members that leave your organization are those you absolutely could never retain in the first place!

It might be intimidating to think about the work required to get all the way there, but it’s important to remember that truly the only important step you’ve got to take is the next one!