Member retention - Is it important? Best practices?

Is member retention important? If so, how do you track it and what strategies do you have in place to increase it?

In my opinion it’s the most important, and yet most overlooked.

Coworking is often touted as “no commitment” and “flexible” which…sure, that’s an upside over a lease, but the thing I think people forget is that if you remove the legal obligation to stay…you have to replace it with SOMETHING.

Broadly speaking from the business side of things, it’s typically more expensive to get a new member (in terms of raw costs if you have them as well as time/effort) than it is to keep an existing one.

From from a community perspective, high membership turnover also comes with a significant social cost. If a member doesn’t believe that another member is likely to stick around for very long, their relationships tend to stay very shallow and the elements of community, collaboration, and sharing that make coworking truly valuable never really take hold.

A healthy community requires members to be willing to invest in each other, not financially but at least with their time and often with their knowledge, experience, and even emotions.

Most people are far less likely to do that for a person who’s going to be gone soon, and the long term gains from people continually investing in each other compound when new members see existing members helping each other out in meaningful ways.

Tracking is a funny thing. I think some of the membership management platforms do this but most don’t. Luckily it’s pretty simple to manage spreadsheet of exported member data that includes start/end dates and can calculate membership lengths, and then an average.

Retention strategies can take a lot of forms. Operationally, I’ve seen many spaces go back to doing this with longer commitments (sometimes with a discount), but this sort of surface level thing doesn’t really fix the problem the way a social or cultural fix will.

We’ve learned over time that there’s more than one way for someone to feel like they are “successful” as a member, but we’re often optimizing for things like:

  • Reducing friction for a new member to participate in a conversation with other members
  • Discovering members with common interests (especially outside of work)
  • Increased opportunities to share knowledge and become known by the community as a trusted source on a topic

We also optimize away from certain things that are likely to transactionalize their interactions in the community.

  • We strategically don’t have a directory of members and their skills/services, and instead encourage people to share what they’re looking for in one of our relevant channels to prompt discussion.
  • We guide people to teach what they know instead of trying to sell their services to other members.
  • No special treatment for teams - a member is a member, regardless of who pays for their membership

…and so on.

If you approach things from a “member success” point of view, increased retention is just an outcome of getting those things right.

Our average membership length is several years long, even though all of our memberships are month to month. This focus on retention has also paid off during the pandemic, where we’ve managed to retain a large % of our membership and are now in a much stronger position to begin rebuilding than if we were starting from scratch!

Thanks for asking the question, it’s one of my fav topics and I hope this helps :smiley: