The Holy Grail of business is having customers that keep coming back for more. It takes far fewer resources to retain a customer’s loyalty than it does to attract a new one, and the possibility for profits grows exponentially with every purchase someone makes. Membership sites are no exception.
Yet the concept of retention is a slippery fish. While so desirable, how can we attain it? One effective method is through the development of a strong loyalty program in our membership sites. Customers who are already excited about a company are apt to continue buying from that company, and they become the prime demographic to market new products and services to.
That said, the process isn’t easy or necessarily cheap. According to Forbes, investment in loyalty programs can run as high as 5 percent of sales. As such, rewards programs must be crafted with specific parameters in mind and targeting the right members.
Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that membership site owners are a bit limited. Few membership websites have the bandwidth to implement a point-based loyalty program (think: local grocery store chain). With a limited number of products or services, a customer base that only makes occasional purchases, and long buying cycles, most membership site owners can’t pull off this type of loyalty program.
That doesn’t mean you can’t reward customer loyalty, however. To the contrary, here’s a list of 5 proven tactics that you can implement right away to greatly increase retention and participation in your community.
I suggest discounts with slight hesitation. Used too often or emphasized too much, they can lessen the value of your product or service. Used too little, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on some valuable sales opportunities. Like Goldilocks, you need to find that perfect balance.
One way you can use discounts is to replicate the efforts of many Software-as-a-Service companies. They often provide a reduced price when people purchase longer plans. Commit to an annual plan and receive a month free or 10-percent off.
This strategy encourages an instant commitment from members and brings a pledge of continuous loyalty. It also helps you project further into the fiscal future. Win-win-win!
Everyone loves something for nothing, and this can be witnessed in virtually all successful loyalty programs. Fortunately, you can offer the same in membership site communities.
Think of how Starbucks, Costco, and Amazon achieve greater customer loyalty through bonuses. Become a card-carrying Starbucks member, and you have access to bonus music tracks, convenient ordering, and even an easier way to pay online. Join Amazon or Costco for an annual fee, and you open the door to a host of new products and services.
Perhaps you want to reward people for annual memberships, such as I mentioned above, or maybe you want to provide bonuses to your members that are extra participative or complete a training track. Whatever the case, different bonus options can include access to you, token gifts mailed to their home, access to a special area of the membership sites, additional training, or virtually any creative way you want to take it.
As the old adage goes, early bird steals the worm, and no one wants the worm stolen from their nest. That’s why this loyalty strategy is especially effective in membership site communities.
Consider the plethora of airline award programs. If you’ve earned enough miles as a member, you’re entitled to early access for boarding, quicker check-ins, and even access to a special lounge reserved just for members.
If you oversee membership sites, you can follow the airlines’ lead by letting members download ebooks, experiment with beta versions of your app, or access additional training materials before the general public can. This provides extra value for your members, and it also allows you to get early feedback about items in advance of a launch.
I’ll Scratch Yours
Kind of like the premise of “I’ll scratch yours if you scratch mine,” this strategy relies on networking with other providers.
It’s a concept common among marketers and also one you’ve probably heard of so far as affiliate marketing is concerned.
Let’s break it down:
If you want access to A, purchase B. Continue purchasing B to acquire more A.
This model drives partnership marketing programs for many companies and can serve as an effective means of retaining current members and attracting new members in membership sites.
Consider Exxon. The company’s Plenti Rewards Program allows members to garner discounts at major retailers and dining establishments. It also lets you earn fuel points by shopping at one of their partnering businesses, including Macy’s, Rite Aid, and Mobil.
With membership sites, you might forge partnerships with companies that provide tools your members might use in conjunction with any given course. Let’s say you have a class on your site that teaches how to design multimedia scrapbook pages. After beginning the course, your members might want a stitching machine, organizational materials, and page protectors. If you connect with providers of those items before the course launches, you might be able to offer your members a discounted price.
As retailers are starting to recognize just how effective gamification can be, it’s no wonder that contests are proving profitable. People love games and many games can serve as an inexpensive marketing tool for brands. The same goes for membership sites.
You can incentivize members for becoming more involved in your membership sites through a variety of contests. One such way is to host a contest for the best photo that captures something relevant to your community. For instance, if your membership site is about weight loss; you can have members submit their favorite before and after picture. Members who didn’t participate can then vote on the best transformation. Alternately, you can have members submit video testimonials and the top 3 get a prize. WPX Hosting recently conducted a similar campaign, except that anyone who participated received three months of free service.
As you concoct ways to reward customer loyalty, don’t lose sight of the main purpose: overdelivering value.
Contests, bonuses, and partnerships can be an effective retention tool, but they shouldn’t cloud the real purpose of membership sites. Ultimately, there is no better reward for your members than knowing they’re going to get consistent, high-quality value for being a member of your community.