4 strategies for reducing turnover and getting members to stick around

By Brian Keller

Photo by Jeremy Cohen, featuring artist Siobhán O'Loughlin

Based on Patreon’s data, these smart strategies can help reduce churn and keep members on board for the long term.

Cue the confetti: A new member has joined your fan community! But, alongside the joy, you may be wondering: What’s the secret to getting new members to stick around for the long-term? You put a lot of effort into convincing your super fans to pledge and become a member, and when they don’t renew, it’s like a leaky bucket that stands in the way of growing your creative business.

Nurturing and maintaining relationships with members — also known as “member retention” — not only is a great way to connect with your fans, it’s a major opportunity to increase your earnings. So, investing time and care into proven tactics for getting members to remain members is a smart move that can really pay off.

Here, in the first part of our series on member retention, we dive into four data-backed strategies that Patreon’s highest-earning creators use for avoiding and recovering from membership cancellation (also known as “churn”).

1) Turn on annual memberships

By offering annual membership, you can allow members to pay up front for yearly membership access. You receive one yearly payment from members, which cuts down on patron processing fees and payment method upkeep. You can also offer a discount of up to 16% off, and the option will be available on all levels of membership.

A few benefits of turning on annual membership:

  • It’s an easy way to reward loyal members. Simply turn it on and incorporate it into your promotion.
  • You can grow your membership with a custom discount. Who doesn’t love a discount? Entice more of your audience to join with promotion focused on one or two free months (8% or 16% discount). Across Patreon, 32% of members want the option to pay for an annual membership upfront.
  • Automatically retain members for the entire year. Because members are paying for an entire year of membership upfront, they automatically stay members for the first year. And as they become part of your Patreon community and experience your awesome benefits, they are more likely to stick around. Overall, members who pay for membership annually have double the annual retention rate of members who renew monthly.
  • Turn your vision into reality. With upfront payments you can invest back in your membership to upgrade a camera, a mic, start a new series, or realize other creative goals and visions.

Many prominent creators have made the move to adding annual memberships. For example, the team behind The Minimalists podcast notes that turning on annual memberships was a turning point in increasing their monthly retention.

Check out Patreon’s help center for more tips on how to set up annual membership.

2) Explore and act on exit surveys

The best way to figure out why people are choosing to cancel their memberships? Ask them directly.

Patreon allows you to see anonymous feedback from former members through exit surveys. Whenever someone cancels their pledge, Patreon sends them a short questionnaire where they can indicate their reason for canceling and write any feedback. You can then see and download this info, along with the date and amount of the pledge, from the exit surveys page in your creator dashboard. On average, about half of responses shared across Patreon indicate that financial limitations are driving the choice. Among the areas that you have more control over as a creator, being unsatisfied with the benefits and engagement with the creator are the two most common categories.

Comedian Amanda Seales and her team analyzed their exit survey data and found that they had an unusually high number of responses in the “I was overcharged” category. That led them to adjust their messaging about how billing works on Patreon and fine-tune their promotion strategy to focus on highlighting membership earlier in the month. These changes have resulted in an almost 10% point increase in their rate of new members renewing.

If you’re not reviewing your exit survey data every few months, you’re missing valuable input about how you could better retain your members. It can be tough to see and read about why people are leaving, so if you find yourself reluctant to dig in, make a commitment and a ritual around it. Perhaps, devote some time this week to gather the right members of your team, and fire up your exit survey page. Talk through what you’re seeing in the results and identify one or two things that you could adjust in your business. If there’s a trend in the feedback from a few departing members, that’s a clear sign that you can avert that feeling from many more of your remaining members.

Check out Patreon’s help center for more information about exit surveys.

3) Offer a low-cost membership option

When people are going through financial hardship, one of the areas they give a lot of scrutiny are their costs for entertainment. In 2022, some creators are noticing signs that more of their members and audience have concerns about being able to afford to become or remain a paying member. One influential podcaster observed this in their exit surveys from members who had canceled their membership; the percent of their exit surveys where the reason for canceling was “my financial situation has changed” rose from 49% in 2019 to 55% in 2022. If you are seeing similar sentiment from your members, take a look at what options you provide that allow members to keep supporting you at a more affordable level.

This balance is always tricky to strike. A starting tier at $5–$10 that includes some exclusive content or community experiences works well in many cases. Having a lower starting tier can both attract some members who would only pay a small amount and make it easier for a member in financial difficulty to reduce their pledge but still stay in the community. (For a deeper dive into deciding what to offer and setting up your tiers, read our article How to structure your membership and price your benefits.)

The podcasters behind The Minimalists had a specific goal of adding a lower cost tier when they did a revamp of their offerings, which included a new $5 tier, alongside a $10 tier. In addition to creating this new entry point, they also emailed former members for a win-back attempt, leading to both new member growth and better retention.

4) Message declined and canceled members

Messaging declined and canceled members is a great way to get some of them to return to your membership. On average only 1.5% of members rejoin after canceling, so there’s a big opportunity to improve on that baseline by messaging both declined members and canceled members.

Messaging members whose payment method got declined

Sometimes a member’s credit card information was entered incorrectly or their card on file has expired. Some members will correct their payment method on their own, which usually happens during the first week of the month. After that, you can. Here’s how to reach out to members whose payment method has been declined:

  1. Sign into your Patreon creator account.
  2. Go to your Patreon Relationship Manager.
  3. Filter by “Declined.”
  4. Select “Message” to send a standard message to each declined member individually.

18+ community creator LunaKM, who runs The Submissive Society, uses a thoughtful script when reaching out to declined members. They’ve shared it, so you can adapt it for your own purposes:

Hi Patron! Please do me a huge favor and double-check that your payment info is up to date on Patreon. I want to continue being in communication with you through this community, so take a moment to make sure all is up to date on your end. Can you please take care of this by [date]? If you're having issues updating your card, visit the Patreon help page. Here's the link for your convenience. Or, just pop me a note and I'll see if I can help.

Messaging people who have canceled their membership

Even though a member has canceled their pledge to your channel, you’ll still be able to message them to let them know of any upcoming changes to your channel that they might want to come back for. Here’s how:

  1. Sign into your Patreon creator account.
  2. Go to your Patreon Relationship Manager.
  3. Filter by “Canceled.”
  4. Select “Message” to bulk message all canceled members
  5. You can say something like “Hey there, I’m running [this offer] or [adding these exclusive benefits], so now is a good time to come back and check out what you’ve been missing!”

By trying out these ideas — turning on annual memberships, learning from exit survey responses, and getting in touch with former patrons — you have the chance to build a stronger, more resilient membership program that keeps members involved for the long-term.

Want to keep the conversation going? Chat about churn and swap membership retention strategies with fellow creators in the Official Patreon Creator Community Discord server.

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