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How to track and improve your patron retention

If you became an artist to get away from the business world, the words “tracking patron retention” may make you want to run for the hills. Don’t get scared — it’s just a fancy way of figuring out, on average, how long your patrons are sticking around. And, if you want to grow your membership, patron retention is a super important metric to keep in mind.

Why is tracking patron retention so important? For one, it helps you gauge whether your patrons are generally happy with your membership. Also, it can give you valuable data to help boost your long term retention, which can provide stable income and a solid foundation for the growth of your creative business.

While acquiring new patrons by promoting your Patreon is still important, keeping your current patrons around is the sign of a healthy membership experience.

Part of a bigger picture

Before we dive in, it’s important to remember some best practices, so you can take action after having more insight into your retention data. Here are some things you can do to help increase patron retention:

  • Deliver content regularly: In our research, patrons told us they want content that is consistently delivered. 80% of patrons said that in an ideal world, they would want content at least once a week.
  • Set expectations: Whatever your content cadence is, set expectations of content release or update frequency (i.e: “a new episode every week”, “monthly tutorials”).
  • Keep communication open: Be honest and transparent about your timeline and potential creative slowdowns. Your patrons will feel more connected to your creative process, and you’ll keep them around for longer.

Step 1: Download your CSV with Active, Declined, and Former Patrons

Now let’s work to understand the current state of your patron retention. We’ll show you how to use Patron Relationship Manager’s CSV download feature to understand your long term patron retention in the following 3 steps.

Go to your Patron Relationship Manager, making sure Declined Patrons and Former Patrons are included. Download the CSV file.


Step 2: Make a copy of our template

Grab our example template here. Make a copy of the template for yourself to use in step 3.


Step 3: Copy your data and paste it into the template

Once you've created a copy of the template that you can edit, click on the tab at the bottom of the sheet titled, "Overall." Paste the entire Patronage Since Date column from your Patron Relationship Manager CSV download into Column A of the template. Then, paste your entire Last Charge Date column into Column B.


Your chart should automatically generate

The chart that appears in the spreadsheet is what we call a retention curve. Starting from the month of their pledge (Month 0), this chart tracks the amount of patrons who continue to pledge to your membership month after month. If the beginning of your retention curve shows a pretty steep decline but flattens out over time, don't worry. This is totally normal, as people who aren’t finding a product or service valuable will leave quickly, and those who are still around at months eight or nine are more likely to stay for the long haul.

Note: The “Overall” tab aggregates the data from patrons who signed up from January to May 2019 and tracks whether they deleted their pledge over the course of 12 months. You’re looking at the long term retention of your membership, so you have to use data from 12-16 months ago. If you only have recent data, the chart will not populate. To click into a specific month, you can look at any of the tabs at the bottom of the sheet.


So how do you stack up?

In the chart, we provided some benchmarks from industry experts (a good and great level), which aligns with averages from creators on Patreon. Looking at the chart above, which tracks the pledges of an anonymous creator over time, they seem to be well on their way to great retention! Just shy of 60% of their patrons stuck around for 12 months. Is there still room to improve? Always! Some creators have retention upwards of 90% at the twelve month mark.

If you notice that your chart shows a large drop off in a particular month, perhaps in the future, you could engage with your patrons right before that moment and make sure their experience is still delightful.

By providing consistent value to your patrons, and setting expectations that you will be regularly releasing quality content, your retention can surely improve. When patrons have something to keep coming back to, they are less likely to cancel their pledge. If you’re looking for a goal to help keep you on track, consider Netflix — by providing consistent value to their customers, they’ve achieved a 66% twelve-month retention rate, which remains a high benchmark for any creative business to aspire to.

Stay Tuned

Understanding your retention is just the first step in sustaining a successful membership business. Over the coming months, we’ll be releasing new features and information to help you boost your long-term retention. From improvements to Patron Relationship Manager to offering Annual Membership to your patrons, we are simplifying ways for you to grow your membership.

Want to learn more? Join the discussion about this post in our creator forum.

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