How to Reduce Drop-off Rates With an Online Community

How to Reduce Drop-off Rates With an Online Community
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We’ve all experienced the frustration of drop-off.

The ‘hot lead’ that cools off unexpectedly. The exciting demo session that results in radio silence. The subscription that doesn’t renew, the member that doesn’t participate, the free trial that never gets used.

There are lots of reasons for all of the above. Some you can control, others you can’t. Sometimes, a user may just decide that your product, service or subscription isn’t right for them. But often, opportunities to keep users or customers engaged along their journey are being missed, leading to unnecessary drop-off that could have been converted into a paying customer, a long-term subscriber, or a loyal member.

These missed opportunities are costing you revenue – and an online community is likely to be the missing puzzle piece in your strategy to prevent them.

In this blog, we’ll show you some practical tips on how to do this, but first, you need to identify your drop-off hotspots.

Where are the main areas that drop-off happens?

It depends on the organisation and the CTA you’re guiding people towards. Drop-off can occur shortly after a seemingly successful demo, during (or at the end of) a free trial, or at the end of a fixed-term subscription (it’s not unusual for someone to stop using the subscription before this point, but for their ‘drop-off’ to remain invisible until their contract is up for renewal).

But why does it happen? How can someone go from an enthusiastic prospect, or a seemingly engaged user, to, well...nothing? Understanding the reasons can help you prevent them and can influence how you build your online community to combat them.

Again, the exact reason will be different depending on whether you’re a SaaS business, a B2B publisher or something else, but drop-offs can be broadly grouped into the following reasons:

  • It didn’t deliver value.
  • They found some kind of complication or block.
  • Usage didn’t become a habit.
  • There wasn’t enough to keep them coming back.

Zapnito’s tips for using an online community to prevent drop off

Here, we present four antidotes to the drop-off reasons above.

1. Think flywheel, not funnel

It’s time to reframe the way you think about how your organisation engages with your customers or subscribers. In a digital world, customer interactions no longer fit into a traditional ‘funnel’. You’re not shuffling a customer along to the next action, you’re engaging with them at multiple points in a journey – and that journey doesn’t end when they sign up or schedule a demo. We call it the Community-Led Growth flywheel – a continuous cycle of engagement and interaction that keeps developing and enhancing your users’ experience with your brand, and turns them into a loyal, active participant, not a passive transactional customer.

Your online community can support or even host every aspect of that flywheel. It can provide open content that raises awareness, it can engage using community-generated answers, it can continue dialogue through the acquisition process, it can turn users into advocates for your brand – and connect those brand champions with people newly entering the ‘wheel’. This clearly defined journey can help visiting your community become a habit, not an occasional occurrence – which in turn, helps to cement that ‘habit’ with your service or subscription.

2. Illustrate increasing, not diminishing, value

So, you’ve hooked someone in with an initial promise. Now how are you going to make sure you deliver that promise? When it comes to subscriptions, memberships, or anything that requires a long-term interaction between customer and organisation, you need to keep delivering and illustrating that value. For instance, a free trial should have easy ‘next steps’ that show you how to further extract value over time. A subscription should keep presenting new features or uses to explore. A membership should keep offering new ways to interact with other members, or reasons to maintain that connection.

A well-managed community can allow customers to keep exploring and unlocking this value, offering clear pathways that prompt new value-added actions. For example, take Springer Nature’s method of delivering expert content, and then presenting opportunities to explore and interact with that content, and concepts, at a deeper level.

3. Offer advice and practical input

Chances are, you have a customer advice or support line, but it’s not always possible to be available at every time that a customer might need you – and not everyone will pick up the phone or write an email when they want help, support or guidance. Your community is not only a brilliant place to make advice and user guides available, but to make them interactive, with other users or experts chipping in with their own comments or additions.

This applies to both product or service-based communities, like SaaS, and broader business or media communities. For instance, your community can support SaaS usage by reflecting the complexity of how people really use your product, and connecting them to others in a similar situation. In media or B2B communities, your community can connect peers together with similar issues or problems, adding a deeper level to the support and insight your publication provides (again, adding value to your offering).

4. Open up peer-to-peer dialogue and offer transparency

Your sales team is obviously going to say great things about your platform/publication/membership – but what about the people who are actually using it? An online community offers genuine transparency, with other users enabled to discuss and compare experiences. For SaaS providers, in particular, your users can demonstrate their own experience of the platform, how they are troubleshooting issues they encounter, and highlight where they are achieving the best results. This peer-to-peer dialogue is a powerful asset, as it can help people easily overcome any blocks or complications they encounter in their journey.

For B2B and STM publisher communities, these conversations can highlight expertise and draw new members towards increasingly tailored content. How are other users interacting in your community, and what are they getting out of it? Construct areas where these transparent conversations can take place, with clearly signposted actions that keep people coming back to your community and retain their engagement, rather than allowing interest to ‘drop off’.

This is particularly important for SaaS providers, but applies to any organisation that operates a subscription or membership model, from B2B publishers to the STM sector. An online community provides a wraparound experience that’s essential to digital decision-making processes, and creates stronger connections between your brand and your customers. 

These are just some of the ways that your online community can help you to tackle drop-off. It is essentially all about that flywheel: that cycle of engagement driving further engagement, creating a journey that keeps bringing members or users back to your organisation. The key is illustrating value at every point, to retain interest, boost engagement, avoid drop-off – and ultimately grow your organisation.

If you want more tips and practical advice on avoiding drop-off and generating growth, join the Zapnito community – where you can connect with other community managers in your field and access insight from our experts.

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