Most websites take their marketing dollars and go after the next prospect. But, in mainstream marketing, the cost of acquiring a new customer is estimated at five times that of retaining an existing customer. So for both the sponsor site and the affiliate, there are huge benefits in minimizing marketing costs to entice new members.
How do you retain that fickle customer? We've learned some great lessons over the years, and here are some of the techniques that work.
There are plenty of sites out there that can't keep a surfer entertained for more than a few minutes. The content quality is poor and poorly presented. And worst of all, as the member checks back on a regular basis, he finds nothing new and no promise of better things to come.
The key is to offer frequent content updates. Those updates don't have to be huge amounts of content, just a few photos or a bit of video at a time. Our company offers two successful products: dating and cams — and both have high retention in large numbers because of the amount of new content added to the site every day. Online dating and community sites are unique in that most content is provided by members that often upload multiple photos, adding new ones on a regular basis. On Cams.com, the models provide ongoing content themselves and members often build virtual relationships with them, anxious to see more content from the same model.
Creating options for members to provide their own photos and information about themselves is one way to easily add material. There are plenty of inexpensive or even free scripts that let webmasters post free content for members.
There are other sources of content too, such as inexpensive licensed content presented as a free model of the day. Or how about rotating images from a site archive or daily and weekly images from a sister site? The key is to make sure the member feels there is always something new and reasons to let that credit card "ride."
In the era of Wal-Mart, it seems that bigger is better and one size does fit all. But web visitors are looking for a more personalized experience, one that speaks to their needs and fills them. Our sites are increasingly designed to speak directly to each member.
Obviously, dating sites do that by allowing members to connect with other people nearby and it is simple to make sure members see local chat rooms and people near them each time they log on. We're also working on an initiative that will offer even greater localization.
It also doesn't take much to use geo-targeting and user-set preferences to create a personalized site for members. A geo-targeting script could offer your visitors information on local activities or people near them, show prices in local currency or even local time. And if you ask your visitors some questions about their preferences or interests, it's easy to offer them the material they're looking for every time they arrive on your site.
The idea is for members to feel they're a part of a community — a community where they'll be missed if they don't come back.
There's a common wisdom in the industry that says you never market to existing members. That's because a lot of them sign up for your site and forget to cancel. Sending them an email simply reminds them they are still paying monthly.
That makes sense for many sites, but not all. We spend a lot of effort emailing our existing members to give them reasons to come back to our sites. AdultFriendFinder members get regular emails with short profiles of members they might be interested in, and monthly newsletters with highlights from the site. Cams.com members get emails showcasing some of the newest and most popular models, with video caps from the site.
One easy way to hang onto members is with a free newsletter. If you're not sure how it will affect retention, do a test with part of your membership. Just email them regularly with TGP-style site content and some well-crafted text. Tell them they're missed.
And be sure to talk about what's coming up on the site in the next few weeks to get them to stay on beyond the next 30-day cycle. While you're at it, why not ask potential members for their email addresses and offer them a similar email with occasional special deals? Make sure you don't spam them, and make sure the content you send them is just enough of a tease so they'll click through to your site.
While all of these are great tools, the bottom line is quality. If your site has poor content and doesn't treat members with respect, you may get decent conversion but eventually that lack of retention will catch up with you. In the face of industry regulation and the way it will affect our finances, the future is all about providing good value for the money to get our fickle visitors to kick back, relax and stick around.
Legendary Lars is Vice President of Marketing for AdultFriendFinder.com.