What can SAAS companies learn from membership organisations?

"Software as a service" (SAAS) businesses are now a commonplace. Everything from CRM to accounting software are leaning towards a recurring subscription model, £ per user or other usage metrics rather than the traditional upfront licensing costs which were once the norm.

With recurrent subscribers, these companies now share many similarities to membership associations. With significant effort going into recruiting new customers and sizable pay-per-click bills it surprises me how little work goes on to retaining business.

Membership organisations survive or thrive based on the health of their membership and typically they keep a close eye on retention. Retention is related to engagement and a subscriber not maintaining their membership in many aspects is predictable.

I've signed up to many online software tools and after the end of a trial period or to unlock some further functionality to make the tool more useful, I enter my credit card details and start my subscription. If like my gym membership, my enthusiasm wanes after a period and I stop using the tool, it's only a matter of time before I cancel.

There are of course a few reasons I might not use the tool, but for simplicity, I'll focus on a few:

  • I forgot about it; I'll remember when I see it on my bank statement at annual renewal.
  • They've changed the user interface, and it’s harder to use.
  • I've slowly stopped using it in favour of another tool.
  • I only use one of the features, and I don't use that often enough to justify the cost.

In all of the above scenarios if the organisation were tracking my engagement they may be able to influence my behaviour.

The key elements to facilitate the above are:

  • Logging my activities and interactions.
  • Ensuring all my history, both online and offline, are stored in a CRM.
  • Use marketing automation tools to facilitate nurture.

In the scenarios described, apart from the gripes around the user interface, the organisation could:

  • Seen I hadn't logged into the tool in 6 months --> Sent me an email reminding me of the benefits it offers..
  • Seen I hadn't logged in since the new interface change or been using the tool less and less --> Offered me a survey to describe my feedback in case any of these are valid.
  • If there is a pattern with many customers only using a subset of features --> Start a nurture campaign to educate them on the benefits they are missing out on, and depending on uplift consider revising the membership plans to reflect the benefits uptake.

Pixl8 offer creative marketing tools and advanced rules engine that coupled with a capable CRM create highly personalised online experiences. If you need help with online recruitment, retention or have a technically challenging online project, please get in touch.

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