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November 2019

Why Members Leave

Memberships Matter – Make the most of Your Membership Program.

Why Members Leave

It took months of preparation. Nick learned about your organization through some peers, and then he discovered not only your website but your social media content marketing, where he began to see that a Membership and the benefits which it offered him was maybe the next step in growing his business.

He reviewed your products and resources several times and thanks to your well-designed website, social media presence, and content promotion. Even his peers’ respect for the organization and other influencers’ buzzing about you on Twitter, and one of his own product providers had good things to say about the organization which they also support; he’s decided to move forward with Membership.

After speaking with your Membership Coordinator, he didn’t bounce. He stuck with it through the signup form, the activation email, and the onboarding tour. He even invited the rest of his team to try the main resource which brought him to join in the first place.

Over the course of the first few weeks, Nick was engaging with the product less and less, and ignoring emails from your Member Success team. Before the first year with the organization was over, he did something heartbreaking — made the decision to non-renew his Membership and churned out.

There’s Nick. Most people in the world won’t make it as far as him. He had multiple chances to lose interest before he made the final choice not to renew – and, in fact, probably had made up his mind within weeks of joining. But, when dues renewal time came, he just let it pass on by.

You never found out why, so you can’t help him, or Members like him. He was out as quickly as he came in, churning before he could truly become a valuable Member.

What is Churn?

Churn is the enemy. Churn is the sickness that will kill your association.

Churn is the rate your members are canceling their membership.

One of the key outcomes of any Member Success strategy is to reduce churn by helping disenfranchised members continue to get value from what you’re offering them.

The pricing model of associations lends itself well to be extremely profitable. The nature of memberships means that your members are paying you regularly which brings in recurring revenue but also puts you in a precarious position. Every time your member gets the dues bill for their membership, they’re asking the question: This month (or this annual term), did this product save me more money than it cost me?

It all boils down to one thing. Member Success teams and strategies are in place to keep members from canceling. The teams and processes exist to reduce churn. Let’s look at this in more detail.

How is Churn Calculated?

Churn is a notoriously difficult thing to calculate properly.

Churn is the inverse of your renewal rate. If you have a renewal rate of 80%, you have a churn rate of 20%.

The calculation of churn can be straightforward to start off with. Take the number of members that you lost last member term and divide that by the number of members that you started with last. The resulting percentage is your churn rate. As an example, a company that started last year with 1000 members and lost thirty (30) over the course of the year would have a churn rate of 3%.

There is, however, another way to do it. A way that shows churn in a more useful and realistic way. A way that considers the fact that every day that a member uses your service is an opportunity for them to churn.

Imagine your membership starts July with 1000 members. Of these original members, 5% leave by the end of the month. We also add 500 new members; 12 of whom leave by the end of July. By the basic definition, our churn rate is 6.2%.

Now, let’s imagine we have the same member behavior in August. We start with the 1,438 members from the end of July (of whom 5% churn), add 500 new members and lose 12 of them. The basic definition produces a 5.8% churn rate in August.

Hooray, your churn rate went down! August must have been a great month. But, there was no difference in member behavior. You began August with more members than in July, which made the denominator bigger, decreasing the churn rate.

After working out the annual churn rate, look at what percentage of the total ARR (Annual Recurring Revenue) those members made up. If you find that those members who churned were collectively only bringing in 5% of the ARR, they weren’t all that valuable anyway. So, what’s the message here?

For one, it’s that churn rate can be extremely deceptive. You must calculate it in a meaningful way and account for member value. The second point is that low-value members are more likely to churn. They aren’t paying much, and they’re not using the membership to its full advantage to them, so they can drop it if they need to and cut their losses.

Member Success strategies reduce this problem by ramping up the unsure members into loyal power users who spread the word about the benefits they’ve found extremely useful to their business and share it with their industry peers.

Today, we’re going to look at the reasons members churn and how you can stop them with member retention strategies.

Voluntary churn: it’s not me, it’s you

Voluntary churn is what happens when the member decides your product isn’t worth their time, money or attention. Maybe they’re wrong and can’t see the value, or maybe they’re right and your product isn’t a good fit.

Churn can be your fault, or it can be out of your control. If your product doesn’t appeal to everyone, that’s likely a good thing because it’s highly targeted at a certain type of person.

Somebody once said, “Crapiness is sanding all the edges off to make everyone happy.”

You don’t have a crappy product, right? Well let’s focus on the areas that are your fault — the areas in your control, such as:

Poor Member onboarding

Reinforce the value of your resources and tools during the Member’s official welcome into Membership.

I say ‘reinforce’ because the Member understands the value since they signed up in the first place. Recall the promises made in the Membership presentation and connect them to the actual Member experience of your resource. If your Member doesn’t understand the relationship between what they saw in your initial conversation, or what they saw presented on your website or Facebook page and the real thing, that’s a big problem for you.

Clarify your resource or tools’ features with an onboarding tour.

If a Member is just completely confused about how to get started with a tool or resource especially when they are trying to use it to accomplish a specific task, it can be extremely frustrating.

Make sure if they became a Member to use a certain resource that can potentially help them increase revenue significantly, that you’ve made time to give them not only an overview of the tool, but help them get logged in, or signed up, or a profile created – and then a complete tour with aid in using that resource the first couple of times . They’ll be forever grateful, and it could be the one thing that they think of when it comes time to renew.

Involuntary churn:  it’s not you, it’s me

Involuntary churn is what happens when a member can’t continue to use your product because of reasons out of their control. It’s not worth dwelling on ways to stop this because it’s not your fault, but understand that a lot of the time, Members don’t choose to quit.

  1. Their boss decided to go with another product. (This could be related to your tool’s features, but it’s a gatekeeper’s choice, not your member’s).
  2. They didn’t like the result they got, even though they correctly used the tool or resource.
  3. Their company went broke and closed.


First steps for patching up your leaky product

  1. Gather Member feedback

This is monumentally important. For starters, it can be as simple as attaching a survey to your automated email that gets sent out when a member cancels.

  1. Work out what your Membership’s Aha! Moment is

The journey from awareness to long-term use is a rocky one.

You need to get your Member from their first few seconds inside your website to their moment of first value as quickly as you can. When you begin to think about the ways you can do this, your brain should boggle at how many different strategies there are.

One good way that straddles the Member experience and Member success disciplines is analyzing what today’s power Member did with your resource when they signed up.

What do your best Members all have in common? How did they start out with your resources? Answer that, and you’ll know what to emphasize during your tool’s first-time use.

  1. Start targeting the right kinds of Members

Let’s suppose we look at our data one day and find that from our best members, 90% of them are marketing professionals. That means that there’s something particularly appealing about our resource to that segment, even if we don’t know what it is.

So, what would we do? Probably get in touch with them for a start. Ask them what they like about your Organization’s collection of resources — have a chat with them or send them a survey.

Then, we’d gear our marketing material towards that resource or tools. We’d start writing content they’d be searching for, and maybe even make custom landing pages targeting keywords they’d search for. From the survey responses we’d get back we’d know which features are most important to them, and we would be able to emphasize them early on, develop them further and make the ultimate marketing operations tool.

Maybe that would mean we’d not be so widely appealing, but remember the quote about crappiness?

Crappiness is what happens when you try to be the best product in the world for every member. Being the go-to product for every member – whether they’re the right fit or not – is sufferable and it’s not like there’s not enough money in that world.

If it means reducing churn, don’t worry about going after what you thought was just a subset of your Members. Go for the ones that are right for you; the ones that will find value in what you offer, who’ll keep coming back year after blessed year. Remember, you get to choose your members, they don’t necessarily have to choose you.

Also, Keep in mind that every member has a Desired Outcome.  Desired Outcome is the thing your member needs to achieve, the thing they are trying to accomplish; helping them achieve that is ‘why’ you exist in their world.

Now, when you mix Desired Outcome with a well-designed Ideal Member Profile… you’ve got Growth Rocket Fuel!


“Memberships are the most important asset in our industry today.  Are you making the most of your membership program? Is it growing your organization? Are you putting enough resources into growing your member base? Do you have a targeted plan for Recruiting, Engaging, and Retaining your members? We can help.” – Andrew McElhannon, CEO – Association Project Management, LLC®.

APM® helps member-based organizations & professional Trade Associations achieve Member Success, stabilize their member retention and guarantee membership growth through Prospect Development and Member Recruitment, as well as Member Engagement and Concierge Onboarding.

Organizations implement APM’s® programs to sustain their current revenue, reduce losses due to Churn (member non-renewal) and generate new revenue by creating Raving Fans® who evangelize new members that over time becomes automatic, organic growth. “Members begetting Members”.

Association Project Management, LLC® also provides a list of other project management and project completion services through a virtual staff member – a committed, trusted expert who helps to reduce costs, lower risks, improve efficiencies, meet deadlines, solve challenging problems, support strategic initiatives and produce better outcomes for your association staff. Visit them today at


FOCUS FRIDAY – Making your time work for you – Productivity does NOT mean working more.

How to Create More Margin in Your Life

Here at APM, we recently discovered Michael Hyatt. Michael is an American author, podcaster, blogger, speaker, and former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson. He has written several books about leadership, planning, and goal setting. If you’re like most of our readers, you’re a successful, high-achiever. You are committed to winning at work, and—equally important—succeeding at life. You strive to grow, get better, and reach your potential. You want to leave a lasting impact on your world.

But something keeps getting in the way: There just seems to be too much to do and too little time. We learned a long time ago, the best way to change anything is to start with the end in mind.

We didn’t worry about how we were going to make it happen; we first needed clarity about what we wanted our calendars to look like.

In a word, we needed margin. Then we discovered Michael Hyatt – and he’d been right where we were too…

How to Create More Margin in Your Life – Michael Hyatt – originally posted Monday, June 25, 2012

The last five weeks have been incredibly busy for me. My new book, Platform, launched on May 22. My daughter Madeline got married the next weekend.

Since then, I have done seventy-three radio, podcast, magazine, and newspaper interviews. I have also had eight speaking engagements.

To be honest, it has been overwhelming, especially because I am committed to keeping up with my blog and podcasting. It finally came to a head last week.

I realized that if I didn’t take action now and regain control of my calendar, the train was going to come off the tracks.

So, I went back and reviewed my Ideal Week (see image below). I learned a long time ago, the best way to change anything is to start with the end in mind.

I didn’t worry about how I was going to make it happen; I first needed clarity about what I wanted my calendar to look like.

In a word, I needed margin.

In his excellent book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, Richard Swenson, M.D. describes margin like this:

Margin is the space between our load and our limits. It is the amount allowed beyond that which is needed. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. Margin is the gap between rest and exhaustion, the space between breathing freely and suffocating.

Margin is the opposite of overload. If we are overloaded we have no margin. Most people are not quite sure when they pass from margin to overload. Threshold points are not easily measurable and are also different for different people in different circumstances. We don’t want to be under-achievers (heaven forbid!), so we fill our schedules uncritically. Options are as attractive as they are numerous, and we overbook.

If we were equipped with a flashing light to indicate “100 percent full,” we could better gauge our capacities. But we don’t have such an indicator light, and we don’t know when we have overextended until we feel the pain. As a result, many people commit to a 120 percent life and wonder why the burden feels so heavy. It is rare to see a life prescheduled to only 80 percent, leaving a margin for responding to the unexpected that God sends our way.

Margin is not something that just happens. You have to fight for it.

Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of you. And no one seems to appreciate the fact that you are a finite resource. (Perhaps you don’t even realize this.)

That’s why creating or re-visiting your Ideal Week is so important.

I was first introduced to this concept by author Todd Duncan in a series of audio recordings he made that eventually became the book, Time Traps: Proven Strategies for Swamped Salespeople.

The idea is similar to a financial budget. The only difference is that you plan how you will spend your time rather than your money. And like a financial budget, you spend it on paper first.

My Ideal Week—the week I would live if I could control 100 percent of what happens—is divided into a simple grid (see image above). Each day has a theme. In addition, each day is segmented according to a specific focus area.

Last week, I discussed My Ideal Week with my wife, my assistant, and my two managers. I realized that I didn’t have any hope of implementing it unless all of us were aligned with my intentions. I then updated my Ideal Week spreadsheet and distributed it.

Here’s how it works:

My themes are listed on the very top row:

  • Monday and Tuesday are devoted to my blog and podcast. This is the foundation of everything else I do.
  • Wednesday and Thursday are devoted to Special Projects. This will vary from season to season. For the next few months, I will focus on media interviews and speaking. When I get ready to write my next book, I will focus on writing. If I have a speaking engagement, it has to come out of this allotted time.
  • Friday is my day for appointments. Taking a page from my friend Don Miller, I am relegating all of these to one day a week. It is very difficult to write when I have any meetings on the same day.
  • Saturday is for personal chores and recreation.
  • Sunday is for worship, rest, and planning the next week.

My focus areas are listed in the left-most column:

  • The early morning hours are devoted to self: reading, praying and working out. I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts while running.
  • The middle of the day is devoted to working. I start at 7:30 a.m. and finish promptly at 6:00 p.m. If I don’t, Parkinson’s Law will become operative: “Work expands to the time allotted for it.” That is exactly what I have experienced over the last month. I have lost my “hard boundaries.”
  • The end of the day is reserved for my family, friends, and (on Sundays) planning. Currently, we don’t have any children living at home. Consequently, Gail and I eat dinner together almost every night, taking time to connect and catch up.

Activities that contribute to my goals and priorities are shaded green. Those are not related to my goals are shaded red. Those that are grey are simply not scheduled. This represents “margin.”

This scheme is admittedly subjective, but it is helpful to me to make sure I am working on what matters most.

Does this sound like it might be helpful to you? Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Create a template. It doesn’t matter if you lay it out digitally or just draw it on paper.
  2. Identify your themes. This won’t be possible in every situation, but it is helpful if you can assign a theme for each day and then batch similar activities together.
  3. Schedule important activities. These are the ones you will shade green—they contribute to your goals and priorities. Allocate time for these first.
  4. Fill in around the edges. Now schedule the less important activities. These are ones you will shade red. These items must be done, but they don’t really move you toward your goals.
  5. Tweak and fine-tune. I usually have to go through several iterations before I get it right.
  6. Share it with your team. If they are not aware of your Ideal Week, they may inadvertently sabotage your plans. But if you are aligned, they can help you stay on track.
  7. Don’t be legalistic. The calendar was made for man, not man for the calendar.

If you are like me, not everything can be shoe-horned into the template. However, having this document will better enable you to to create the margin you need to get the important things done while still enjoying your life.


“Everyone gets 168 hours a week, but it never feels like enough does it? Work gobble up the Lion’s Share – many professionals work as much as 70 hours a week – leaving less and less margin for rest, exercise, family and friends.” – Free to Focus jacket liner.

In Free to Focus (Baker Books, 2019; ISBN.978-0—8010-9394-4 ITPE) NYT Bestselling Author Michael Hyatt reveals nine proven ways to win at work so you are finally free to succeed at the rest of life: Your Health, Relationships and more.

Association Project Management, LLC®  highly recommends Michael’s book, which you can purchase online or in your favorite bookstore. We also recommend you follow his blog at Michael is also on Facebook at Team Michael Hyatt, on Twitter and LinkedIn

‘SCALING YOUR BUSINESS’ THURSDAY – Successful Business Development – Keep your Growth On Track

The Right Mindset for Business development – Part 1

Have you ever thought about what kind of mindset you should have as you go into business development? How do you keep yourself on task, focused on building the clients and relationships in front of you, while looking beyond to be ready for the next opportunity? In this two-part mini-series, My Good Friend and Mentor, Mo Bunnell – CEO and Founder of Bunnell Idea Group in Atlanta GA is going to discuss the best mindset to have as you engage in business development.

The Right Mindset for Business Development – Part 1

“I run a global business development consulting firm called Bunnell Idea Group (BIG). Our trademarked GrowBIG® Integrated System is helping companies grow their business faster, in the right way. Our business development system helps professionals get focused and efficient in business development.” – Mo Bunnell

Mo Bunnell is a Business owner and Business Development thought leader who loves strategy, innovation, and design. He created the Grow BIG Business Development Program, and in 2019 Published the Bestseller ‘The Snowball System’ – A comprehensive system to help you WIN more clients, BUILD stronger relationships, and BRING IN more business (PublicAffairs, September 11, 2018 – ISBN-13: 978-1610399609)

He is the CEO of BIG, the Bunnell Idea group in Atlanta Georgia.

‘Why’ Wednesday – Find your ‘Why’ – What is the reason your association Exists?

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Do you know ‘Why’ your Association or business organization exists? Truly?

According to a recent article in Forbes® Magazine, Purpose is on its way to becoming the ultimate differentiator in business. Companies with a strong defined purpose drive employee engagement, connect deeper with customers and fuel their bottom line. According to Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen, “Exceptional firms have always been good at aligning their purpose with their execution, and as a result, have enjoyed category leadership in sales and profits.”

Purpose relates to your “Why” as a business. To quote Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do or how you do it, they buy why you do it.” Purpose should permeate everything you do. “Every decision should be looked at in terms of purpose. Some decisions may be purpose neutral. But Purpose is certainly not just a marketing issue or positioning of your brand image. Purpose should impact every aspect of the firm,” says Raj Sisodia, author of Conscious Capitalism and FW Olin Distinguished Professor of Global Business at Babson College.

In Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek presents the idea that great leaders inspire others by putting the Why (the purpose) before the How (the process), or the What (the product).

Start with Why created waves of discussion and change around our office.  Simply put, we love this book.  In addition, we love the TED talk on this same topic. Watch it below; it is the second most viewed TED talk of all time.

In summary, we recommend Start with Why to everyone because Sinek’s revolutionary philosophies on leadership can easily be used in any professional and personal situation that calls for inspiration and influence. Sinek is also the author of Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. We can’t wait to read it next.


  1. Examples of asking Why:

–  Why does your company exist? (not profits; profits are the result.)

–  Why should people care?

  1. To motivate action, you can manipulate or inspire.
  2. Manipulation includes: price, promotions, fear, aspirations, novelty, peer pressure (endorsements).
  3. Manipulation is best for transactions that will likely only happen once, not building loyalty.
  4. Inspiring people requires a real purpose, a Why.
  5. A clearly expressed Whyhelps separate you from the rest.
  6. Humans want to belong to communities and cultures.
  7. Clients identify with brands that articulate a clear Why.
  8. Clients cannot identify with the What without the Why.


  1. Behavior needs to reinforce the Why.
  2. Be authentic. Know your Why and align ALL decisions, actions, and communication with the Why.
  3. Guiding principles need to be focused around meaningful, action statements, not nouns.

–  Say: find creative ways to solve problems, instead of innovation.

  1. Ignore the competition.  Only focus on the Why.


It is not logic or facts but our hopes and dreams, our hearts and our guts, that drives us to try new things.

Trust begins to emerge when we have a sense that another person or organization is driven by things other than their own self-gain.

An Apple pitch that leads with Why: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly. And we happen to make great computers. Wanna buy one?

When you force people to make decisions with only the rational part of their brain, they almost invariably end up “overthinking.”  These rational decisions tend to take longer to make, says Restak, and can often be of lower quality. In contrast, decisions made with the limbic brain, gut decisions, tend to be faster, higher-quality decisions. This is one of the primary reasons why teachers tell students to go with their first instinct when taking a multiple-choice test, to trust their gut.

“I can make a decision with 30 percent of the information,” said former secretary of state Colin Powell. “Anything more than 80 percent is too much.”


“To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, each of us can change our world for the better.– Simon Sinek – ‘Start with WHY’.

Simon Sinek is an unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. He discovered remarkable patterns about how the greatest leaders and organizations think, act and communicate.

Simon may be best known for popularizing the concept of WHY in his first TED Talk in 2009. It rose to become the third most watched on, with over 40 million views and subtitled in 47 languages.

Simon is the author of multiple bestselling books including Start With Why (global best seller), Leaders Eat Last (New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller), Together is Better (New York Times and Wall Street Journal best seller) and Find Your Why. His latest book, The Infinite Game, was recently released in 2019.