The Five-Step Guide to Build a Membership Site to Prevent Member Churn

Let’s talk about churn. What’s referred to as “churn” is simply the rate in which you’re losing members over a designated period.

To calculate your churn rate for the month, divide how many members you’ve lost within the month by how many members you had at the beginning of the month. If you want to find your yearly churn rate, use the same formula but with how many members you had at the beginning of the year and how many you’ve lost within the year instead.

Keep in mind that even best-managed companies experience churn, so don’t be upset if your rate isn’t 0%. However, given that churn means you’re losing subscribers, you’ll want to have the lowest rate possible.

Research shows that 53% of all causes of customer churn are due to these three leading causes: Poor Onboarding, Weak Relationship Building, and Poor Customer Service. As a membership site owner, it’s important you do everything you can to stay on top of membership attrition and do your part to minimize it.

So, to help you conquer the top reasons why members leave, I’ve laid out 5 steps that you can add to your membership site today.

Step #1: Member Onboarding

Ever get a rush of adrenaline after making a purchase?

Well, so you do your customers! Members are the most connected to your membership site immediately after joining. Seize this opportunity to practice member onboarding, which is the process of integrating your new customers into your site effectively. The sooner members are set up, the sooner they can consume your content.

My favorite way to onboard new members is by “welcoming” them directly. You can do this several ways but the most popular is through email or video. In a welcome email, introduce yourself and your site, and explain how your content will help your members achieve their goals. Be sure to also educate them on how to access your site’s content and where they can go if they have any further questions.

If you can edit and you aren’t camera shy, opt for a welcome video instead. Having a video allows you to add a more visual component to the onboarding process. Plus, you can also introduce yourself on camera, allowing members to put a face to your name–making you “real” and easier to connect with.

Step #2: Keep Your Existing Customers Active

Ask yourself: Are your EXISTING members engaged?

It’s easy to get caught up trying to attract new members, but don’t get ‘Shiny, New Toy’ Syndrome and forget about your existing members. Make no mistake, your members will leave your site if they feel it has nothing left to offer. Think of all the ways your current subscribers add value to your site. They contribute to forums, promote your site on social media, and play key roles in your site’s community. Plus, losing your existing members also means losing their money.

Simply put, you can’t afford to lose your existing subscribers. So don’t. Here are some ways to help keep your site members continuously engaged:

Give your members your personal time. A good teacher gives their students access to them outside of the classroom. This is why college professors have drop-in office hours for their students. Your members don’t just see value in your content, they also see value in you. Let them pick your brain and give them access to you, whether it’s through emails, phone/video calls, forum discussions, etc..

Get feedback from your members. Don’t guess on what your customers want. Instead, send them a survey or an email directly asking them for their opinions. Find out what they want more of, what they like, and they don’t. Your members will feel good knowing you value their opinions. Plus, the information you gather will help you improve your membership site, making it more valuable to everyone. It’s a win-win!

Let your customers track their progress. Progress tracking gives subscribers tangible proof of how much you’ve taught them. Plus, this is a fun way to motivate members to consume more of your content. You can even make it a game! Allow members to track their progress through assignments, badges, levels, or even by issuing them a certificate.

Create a community. Like most relationships, the more effort you put in, the more you’ll get in return. Talk to your members, but also be sure to promote introductions and discussions amongst them too. Humans are social creatures. Creating a community allows your membership site’s influence to grow and will engage members continuously.

Read more: The Best Advice for Creating a Successful Membership Website

Step #3: Track Member Behavior

Tracking user behavior will help you get to know your members and your site better. You can find out how often your members are logging in, what content they’re accessing the most, and what features they are and aren’t using. If you do this, you’ll be able to assess your findings and correct any potential problems with your membership site.

For example, let’s say that most of your members were relatively active on your site’s community forum, but for some reason after last month, membership activity dipped significantly on those pages. After further investigation, you realize that a new plugin has made the forum page impossible to navigate. By tracking member behavior, you were able to discover and solve a problem with your membership site, as well as prevent any possible churn.

While Google Analytics is one of the most well-known tools, here’s a list of other great programs you can use to track member engagement.

Step #4: Optimize User Experience

In addition to tracking member behavior, be sure to also track how your users feel about your site (there are some great tools here). User experience, commonly abbreviated UX, is constantly expanding and improving. So, it’s important you keep yourself updated on how your members are using your product.

Imagine: You’ve launched your membership site. Your content is well-organized and you have an intuitive and cutting-edge theme. However, after months of tracking user behavior, you notice that the majority of your members are accessing your content from a mobile device.

In order to optimize user experience, you now have to make sure your content is mobile-friendly, meeting the demand of your clients. By prioritizing user experience and accessibility when designing your site, you’ll prevent any churn caused by site frustrations.

Step #5: Make Membership Renewal Easy

This last step is often overlooked but is nonetheless important. Whatever you do, do not ignore the member renewal process.

Don’t be fooled. Your members may be active on your site now, but if they aren’t renewing their subscriptions for the upcoming year–you’re going to have a serious problem! Members not renewing means you won’t be making any money from them next year. Your profits will plummet as fast as your churn rate skyrockets.

Ensure your renewal process is straightforward and simple. If a majority of your members aren’t renewing their subscription, this could indicate a membership engagement issue that needs addressing. However, the reason behind low renewal rates may actually be a lot more innocent. People may just…forget.

For this reason, I personally recommend implementing auto-renewal onto your site. Send an email to customers telling them that their subscription is expiring and they will automatically be charged for the next year if they don’t cancel. If your members are active on your site now, chances are they’ll want to keep their subscription. If you have subscriber levels, I also recommend you give your members the option to upgrade their membership during the renewal process.

The ease of auto-renewal for both businesses and customers is why big name subscription services like Netflix and Adobe continue to favor it.

Read more: 4 Mistakes That You Might Be Making in Your Membership Website


At the end of the day, one of the best ways to reduce churn is by retaining your existing members. Keep your members returning year after year by making membership renewal simple, prioritizing user experience, and by keeping them continuously engaged. Satisfied customers won’t leave your membership site if they know you’re being proactive in promoting their interests and their success. Focus on these 5 steps and I guarantee your churn rate will show for it.