Membership retention strategies: 16 Exciting ways to keep members long term

Picture this: You’ve set up a successful membership website, had an exciting opening, and received enough monthly subscriptions to more than stay afloat…

And then, one by one, members drop off until you’re left struggling.

It’s a nightmare scenario for any business and the reason why it’s so important to develop membership retention strategies.

It’s getting harder and harder to keep members engaged.

Only 65% of businesses in 2017 saw membership retention higher than 75%, and only 35% reported an increase in engagement. Those numbers dropped compared to 2016.

That doesn’t mean it’s time to drop your subscription service.

The average American spent $273/month on subscription services, and the market has grown 435% from 2012 to 2020.

It’s just a matter of developing a strong membership retention strategy so you can keep a piece of that growing market.

Incorporating a membership management tool into this strategy can be one of the most effective ways to grow your subscription base and keep members subscribed for years to come.

What is member retention?

Member retention is the measure of how many of your customers remain subscribed to your membership program.

This contrasts against member attrition, or churn rate, the measure of how many former subscribers end up leaving your program.

One challenge can be getting users to sign up for your membership program in the first place.

The other is keeping them. As you can imagine, it’s good to keep member retention high and member attrition low.

Why is membership retention important?

A high rate of member retention means more money for your business and more satisfied customers.

If you’re noticing a high turnover rate and skyrocketing member attrition, it means customers are likely unsatisfied and it’s time to implement some membership retention strategies.

subscription economy index
  • Average member attrition was at 6.4% in 2022. If yours is any higher, it’s time to take corrective action.
  • It can cost five times as much to obtain a new customer than to retain an existing one, so it’s in your best interests to keep churn rates low.
  • It’s easier to sell things to existing customers. You have a 60-70% chance of selling something to a current member compared to 5-20% chance of selling to a stranger.

It’s much easier to keep your current customers than to try to draw in new ones. That’s why you should make it your goal to maximize your customer retention rate.

16 Membership retention strategies that work

You can see how important it is to keep members on as long as possible. But what are the best ways to keep your member churn rate low?

We’ve put together 16 unique strategies to help you approach this issue.

They include:

  1. Understanding your members
  2. Delivering value consistently
  3. Maintaining regular communication
  4. Create a membership calendar
  5. Encouraging member engagement
  6. Collecting and acting on feedback
  7. Build a community space
  8. Recognizing and rewarding member loyalty
  9. Implementing an effective exit strategy
  10. Offering unique membership benefits
  11. Learning from others
  12. Providing flexibility
  13. Using social media promotions
  14. Surveying your members
  15. Using testimonials
  16. Acknowledging your members

Many are simple changes that can be easily implemented whether you’re redesigning your membership program or are still in the planning phase.

1. Understand your members

Without analytics, your membership program is bound to fail.

It can be difficult enough to convince members to try out your subscription service in the first place, but gaining their loyalty is another matter entirely.

It requires a deep understanding of their needs, expectations, and motivations.

Being out of touch with members can result in a high churn rate as they fail to feel valued or understood.

Putting in the effort to understand their desires means you can foster engagement, provide useful benefits, and launch promotions that are relevant.

You can also focus on aspects of your membership program that are causing dissatisfaction or could use a little improvement.

In one case study, Geologie used a wealth of user data to increase retention by 25% and increase growth by 150% for three years.


With numbers like that, you can see why you should implement data analysis into your retention strategy!

Use member profiling to track your customers’ demographics and behaviors, as well as engage them directly through surveys, polls, and forums.

You can also track customer lifetime value: how much it costs to acquire a customer, how long they remain subscribed to you and how much revenue they generate during that time period, and so on.

2. Consistently deliver value

The core of a subscription service is simple: You provide customers with ongoing services and customers remain subscribed as long as those services remain useful to them.

But if the services you provide remain stagnant, and all their value can be extracted by customers within a month or two, you’ll notice a high churn rate.

You should ideally provide customers with fresh and useful services month to month.

  • Quality content: What content you provide depends on the type of service you run. It can range from articles, tutorials, videos, podcasts, case studies, or digital downloads. Always quality check your content to ensure it’s informative and well-presented.
  • Exclusive content: Offer high-value services that can’t be found anywhere else. Reports, eBooks, toolkits, and other digital downloads packed full of exclusive information are just some ideas.
  • Exclusive events: Host webinars, live streams, in-person events, interviews, and Q&A sessions. Invite well-known industry experts and personalities for even more punch.
  • Member perks: Discounts, special offers, free downloads, premium features, and unique services will all motivate customers to stay subscribed – especially if these perks rotate monthly.
  • Community areas: Create special, member-only areas (forums, chat rooms, social media groups) where they can communicate with your team and each other.

Remember, what is considered “valuable” to your customers can only be determined by understanding what it is that they want.

That’s why you should use a membership plugin with strong data analysis and customer engagement tools.

3. Maintain regular communication

Communicating with your members is one of the most important member retention strategies there is.

Establishing a meaningful and personalized connection helps you build strong relationships with members.

It also makes it easy to keep members up to date with the latest events and announcements, and provides an opportunity to send them targeted, personalized offers that can draw them in further.

You should regularly send out a newsletter to subscribers, ideally targeted to specific members and their activities.

For instance, you could send a special discount to users who have proven themselves likely to purchase from your store on a regular basis. Or send a reminder to your monthly subscribers to renew their plan.

This is possible with SureMembers using integrations. It integrates seamlessly with its sister plugin SureTriggers, which in turn integrates with email plugins like MailPoet.


Here’s a quick guide on how to set up automated emails with SureMembers.

  1. Install SureMembers, SureTriggers, and MailPoet on your WordPress site.
  2. Set up MailPoet automation with SureTriggers by connecting your accounts.
  3. Go to the SureTriggers dashboard and set up a new workflow, selecting the triggers and actions you want to use (for instance, adding people to the mailing list when they submit a form).
  4. Set up email automation with MailPoet.

SureMembers and SureTriggers integrate seamlessly so you can set triggers in SureMembers (or other plugin) to send emails whenever you want.

4. Create a membership calendar

Imagine hosting a major event for subscribers, only for no one to attend!

Events such as livestreams and webinars can be major draws for your community members, but you need to make sure they’re informed.

Calendars can also be used to schedule public releases of long-awaited content your members are looking forward to, from blog posts to eBooks.

For this, you can use a WordPress plugin such as The Events Calendar to set up fully customizable calendars.

The Events Calendar plugin

If you wish, you can easily restrict this calendar page to logged in members only by creating an access group in SureMembers.

5. Encourage member engagement

It’s very important to encourage engagement from the members of your program. Radio silence from members leads to little feedback, no sense of community, and no reason for members to stick around long-term.

Providing a platform to have their voice heard is a good way to keep members satisfied and engaged with your brand.

Give members ample opportunities to communicate with you and with others. Provide forums, social media groups, and webinars or livestreams with a live chat feature.

And of course, make sure it’s easy to contact you if they have any questions or complaints.

Even if there’s a problem, resolving it quickly will lead to happy, satisfied customers who stick with you for years to come!

6. Collect and act on feedback

A business that refuses to change for its evolving user base is a business that fails.

It’s important to keep an eye on your users and their needs, both ones communicated directly to you and those not.

It’s important to always have your emails open for customers to provide feedback, suggestions, and opinions.

To that end, popular plugins like Contact Form 7 will allow users to stay in touch.

Contact Form 7 plugin

But your members will also communicate their concerns not just to you, but between each other.

Members will openly discuss the services you provide if given the chance through mediums such as forums and public chat rooms.

You can even have special topics in your forum dedicated to gathering bug reports, feature suggestions, and opinions. You could also host polls asking members what they like to see, or what they haven’t been too fond of.

To set up a forum, you could use the SureMembers integration with BuddyBoss.

This combination allows you to create forums and other community engagement platforms on your site. By using SureMembers, you can restrict these to your subscribed users only.

You should also keep track of brand mentions on social media.

Should anyone complain about a certain feature or an annoying bug, you’ll know exactly what to target.

Services like BrandMentions can help with this.


If you’re willing to change for your users when needed and clearly value their input, they will appreciate this and become more loyal to your brand.

As a consumer, nothing is more frustrating than a brand that refuses to listen to its community!

7. Build a community space

Don’t underestimate the social aspect of your subscription service.

Many people like nothing more than investing themselves in a community and are often willing to spend a lot of money on things they’re passionate about.

Nothing stokes that passion more than a thriving community of like-minded individuals. Where members can share their knowledge, ask questions, make connections, and even form friendships.

Your community may even become known as a key place for networking, getting answers from industry experts, and connecting with important people.

This can easily be leveraged as a benefit in your marketing.

Make it easy for members to talk amongst themselves. Public forums, members-only chat spaces, private social media channels, and even in-person meetings and events are all ways to allow people to connect.

These spaces can even be leveraged to attract new members or draw in current ones.

A forum full of positive interactions and interesting discussions is a unique and effective way to advertise your subscription service.

Prospective members will see this and be more confident about the quality of the services you offer.

Hopefully, members thinking of leaving will hesitate at leaving their community behind.

8. Recognize and reward member loyalty

If you hand out the same rewards month after month, that could be a reason why you’re seeing subscription rates drop over time.

Members enjoy being rewarded for sticking with your program for a long time. It’s a good idea to add special rewards for your especially long-standing members.

They’ll be more unwilling to cancel their membership and lose out on all the perks they’ve collected.

Here are some ideas:

  • Offer perks that unlock over time the longer someone remains subscribed.
  • Give larger discounts to people who have been subscribed for months or years.
  • Implement a higher-priced tier that gives access to even more perks.
  • Use a points-based system that racks up as they stay subscribed and makes purchases, and hands out various lucrative rewards.
  • Give loyal customers early access to your latest products.
  • Sell exclusive products and merchandise only available to members of your loyalty program.

You can use SureMember’s integration with BuddyBoss to set up a loyalty program and even gamify your site. That way, your members stay engaged and interact more.

9. Implementing an effective exit strategy

While an exit strategy typically refers to planning for the departure, merger, or sale of a business, it can also be applied to membership retention strategies.

In this case, an exit strategy involves addressing the reason why a member might choose to cancel their membership, potentially mitigating member churn rate or even bringing back in lost members at a later date.

Some strategies include:

  • Gather feedback as to why they chose to leave. Conduct a survey or interview to get detailed information on where your platform has fallen short.
  • Tailor future retention offers to target the pain points that have been pointed out by lost members.
  • Collect behavioral data and identify members at risk of canceling their membership using a customer data platform. Then, target them with these revised retention offers. Leveraging such technology can help you proactively address churn and improve customer retention strategies.
  • Offer alternative solutions such as a discount to members considering canceling their membership.
  • Maintain a positive relationship with lost members, such as continuing to offer some deals and invitations to events to increase the chance that they will return one day.

You can use SureMembers and SureTriggers together to form an exit strategy to retain members.

For instance, you could send an email when a member is removed from a SureMembers Access Group.

  1. Install SureMembers and SureTriggers.
  2. From SureTriggers, create a workflow using removal from an access group as a trigger.
  3. Add an action to send an email using your email plugin of choice. This could contain a link to a survey or an offer for an extra perk if they renew their account.
SureTriggers in action

10. Offering unique membership benefits

Why should anyone subscribe to your membership site if it’s the exact same as all the others out there?

Many businesses are implementing memberships and subscriptions into their business plan, so you really need to stand out.

It’s best if the services you offer are entirely unique and have very little competition as that’s sure to get attention.

For example, the Natural Cosmetic Formulation Club is a site with a very interesting premise that few people would have thought to monetize before.

natural cosmetic formulation club

Even if something 100% unique isn’t possible, you can still offer a variety of unique and interesting benefits that your competitors haven’t even thought of.

This will all depend on your industry, but here are a few membership retention strategy ideas:

  • Get exclusive items that are entirely unique. For example, if you’re in the music industry, you could offer merchandise signed by the artists. Or you could offer one-of-a-kind products that can’t be found elsewhere.
  • Provide networking opportunities or opportunities to meet important people. For instance, you could invite a well-known person to speak at a webinar.
  • Create your own unique content. For example, you could conduct your own market research and publish the results, or create an app that does something useful for your members.
  • Offer one-on-one experiences. Coaching, meetups, tutoring, and mentoring sessions offer a one-of-a-kind experience that can help members feel personally valued.
  • Partner with other companies to offer exclusive perks that your competitors won’t have access to.

Your customers are less likely to cancel their membership if your competitors aren’t giving something equal or better.

11. Learning from others

It’s never a bad idea to keep an eye on the competition. Not only will this keep you alert to changing trends, it can also help you come up with new ideas for your own business.

Understanding your competitors and exactly what they have to offer means you’ll know exactly what they’re missing, and what their customers are wishing for.

What can you do that they aren’t doing? Are they doing something to upset their user base, which your business is also doing?

Besides scoping out their websites and social media, you can use competitor analysis tools like Semrush to scope out any potential weaknesses.


These tools can even alert you when competitor brands are mentioned on social media. They can provide great insight into what people are looking for in a membership.

If you’re not sure who your competition is, analysis tools can help you find competitors, or you can Google industry-relevant terms and see what websites come up.

12. Providing flexibility

An inflexible pricing scheme means turning away plenty of customers who can’t quite afford it.

Instead, many membership sites implement a tiered pricing system with varying levels of perks and benefits. The more they pay, the more they get.

This way, your customers can choose the plan that works for them.

Some people will be satisfied with the lowest tier plan. You can always implement strategies to encourage them to upgrade.

It’s better to have loyal and happy members than turned-away customers!

If you need a great example, take a look at Sew It! Academy. They provide four separate plans so you can pick the one that suits you best.

sew it! academy

While this has more to do with getting members than keeping them, a member may choose to simply downgrade their plan to a lower tier instead of canceling entirely.

This means more opportunities to continue gaining their loyalty.

You could also allow members to suspend their account temporarily rather than canceling it entirely.

Finally, allow members to choose a membership duration that works for them.

Many people won’t commit to a yearly plan at first, but they may after trying out the monthly plan and realizing they like what you have to offer.

13. Use social media promotions

Hosting an event or promotion on social media can be a fun way to get your members engaging, or re-engage members who may have withdrawn.

Social media is great at fostering a sense of community amongst your members, and a big event is likely to draw everyone out.

A popular choice for social media events is hosting a giveaway. You could also hold a Q&A session, start a contest, livestream, or start a virtual networking event.

These events can be hosted on private, members-only social media groups. They can encourage subscribers to get to know one another and connect as a community.

14. Survey your members

We’ve mentioned surveying former members who have canceled their subscription, as it can provide valuable insight.

But you get just as useful information from your active members, especially those who may be about to unsubscribe.

Surveys can be used to improve your services, get feature ideas and identify possible issues that could be driving people away.

Ask your members:

  • Demographic information. If you haven’t collected this already, now is a good time to ask. Just do it carefully and explain why you want to know.
  • How long they’ve been a member. This can give you a better idea where your members are coming from with their opinions and concerns.
  • Membership satisfaction. How satisfied are they, how likely are they to renew, and how likely are they to recommend your service?
  • Features. Ask what features they enjoy the most, which they never use, and what they would like to see. You could also ask how they engage with your content and suggestions for improving it.
  • Community. How often do your members post on your forums or social media groups? Do they feel like they’ve formed valuable connections?

Allow members to type out detailed responses for you to review, but also create multiple choice questions for easy statistical breakdowns.

This information can give you a good idea why members may choose to leave your site so you can focus your retention strategies there.

15. Using testimonials

Positive testimonials can have a large impact on your brand’s trustworthiness.

It doesn’t just affect prospective customers; it can also inspire disengaged members to stick with your service a little longer.

SureMembers testimonial

You can promote testimonials on social media, through email, or on your website. You can gather these testimonials directly from your customers through surveys or interviews.

Consider asking well-known and respected members/companies for their endorsement.

Don’t underestimate the power of positive feedback casually given by members in community spaces like forums and private social media groups.

This can be far more convincing than any advertisement. So get your members talking about what they like about your brand in these public spaces.

16. Acknowledging your members

It’s good to make your members feel appreciated, so acknowledging them and making them feel valued is a very good idea.

That’s especially true when it comes to employing membership retention strategies for those on the fence about staying.

You can automate this to some extent by offering badges for members with longevity and discounts on their anniversary.

But people appreciate a personalized, human gesture more than anything.

If possible, welcome your members personally, especially when they first enter community spaces. Offer shout-outs to members who are helpful in community spaces or make a major achievement due to your services.

Make sure your support and/or moderation team is on top of responding to members’ questions and feedback.

Show that their input is valued with thoughtful and helpful responses.

Create surveys and polls often and respond to the feedback given by changing if necessary, so your users know that you’re listening. Communicate clearly any changes you make due to member feedback.

A kind and helpful community support team is key to making this a reality.


Retaining members is not always an easy task, and it can hurt to see people unsubscribing from your service.

fortunately, there are many strategies you can implement to keep members subscribed and part of your community.

Making members feel valuable by fostering a welcoming community, making sure their feedback is heard, communicating transparently, rewarding loyalty, and understanding your members’ wants and needs is the best way to retain your members long-term.

For this purpose, implementing a membership management tool like SureMembers can help a lot with these processes, especially where automation is concerned.

As SureMembers integrates seamlessly with SureTriggers, you can set up automation for WordPress or just about any process you can imagine.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may receive a small commission. Read disclosure. Rest assured that we only recommend products that we have personally used and believe will add value to our readers. Thanks for your support!

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