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  • Writer's pictureMadeleine Milne

When Less is More


Many paid-for communities fall into the trap of assuming that more = better. People are shelling out, so surely they want loads of “stuff”. Content from quizzes, reports, articles - from anything actually - plus a dizzying programme of events that will somehow help them achieve any goal they could dream of. However, often the sheer quantity of content and activities can be totally overwhelming and ultimately counter-productive – both for the members, who don’t know where to start so quickly lose interest, and the company, which is baffled why all the great “value” they are offering doesn’t translate into great engagement.


I had exactly this experience recently when I joined a fitness app. The message was simple – they would help me achieve my fitness targets without having to go to the gym. I was in! Snag was, soon my principal athletic activity was racing around in the maze of options. I counted over 50 different work-outs, notionally customised for me. Then, the app started dementedly leading me into nutrition and general well-being support. But I didn’t want all this choice or add-ons. I just wanted to get fitter like they said they would help me do at the start! The result? They lost my business within a month. So now I’m just as unfit, but relieved to have escaped.


When we come across situations like this with paid-for communities, we usually advise going against the natural instinct to add more. We start by going back to basics – why are members joining? What are they hoping to achieve, fix or develop? Of all the content and activity being generated, which elements really answer these needs, and which are just distracting noise? Just as the best way to preserve the health of a plant can be judicious pruning, sometimes cutting back the options on offer can make for a stronger offering.


The “give them more” instinct tends to be particularly irresistible when engagement and retention levels are dropping. Usually, though, the real reason for those falls is that the community isn’t answering the fundamental needs of the members any more. Businesses can lose focus over time, and members’ needs may change. When organisations go back to basics, renew their understanding of members’ needs and clarify how they can help them achieve these, they are far better positioned to provide a service or offering that is lean yet sticky. Less isn’t always more, but surprisingly often it is.


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