I didn’t expect that a video about YouTube creator MrBeast would be the tipping point for me to write about a topic that’s been on my mind for a while: customer retention.

In truth, I think about engaging, supporting, and retaining our current customers far more than I think about attracting new customers. But I’m not sure that “retention” is the exact word that comes to mind–it has kind of a clingy connotation to it. I just want to bring joy to our customers, and it’s great if they stick around for more joy in the future.

Beyond customer retention, though, I hadn’t really thought about viewer/reader retention until watching the aforementioned video. Here’s a timestamped link to where it comes up in an interview with one of the biggest creators on YouTube.

MrBeast doesn’t exactly say why viewer retention is important; for him it might at least partially be about ad revenue, which Stonemaier Games doesn’t have at all (no ads on this blog and no monetization on YouTube). My take on it is that if I spent time creating content that adds value to people, it’s not really a good use of my time if people are only watching the first 30 seconds (and I need to improve the content to better engage peoples’ attention).

As you can see from the following short and long videos on my channel, the length of the video has a pretty big impact on retention:

I’ll get back to video retention in a moment. The other form of retention that recently came to mind was retention of potential customerswhich is typically framed as conversion. I thought of this while reading a few book samples on my Kindle. One of the books didn’t hook me in the first 20 pages or so, while another left me wanting more right away–it retained me as a potential customer.

Using these examples as inspirations, here are the various types of retention I’ve thought about recently:

retention when considering a game/project (potential customers): Like the Kindle, board games offer a variety of ways for customers to sample or research content before making a purchase. At bare minimum, you can offer the rulebook for download. You can offer a sample print-and-play version of the game or a digital demo on Tabletopia. You can offer video playthroughs, previews, and reviews. Once the game is published, you can support demos and learn-to-play events at game stores, game cafes, and conventions.
retention when starting to use the product (accessibility): How many games have you played exactly 1 time? That first game is so crucial, and not just for campaign games. There are many different approaches to trying to this, and one that I also keep in mind is trying to make the interface of the game intuitive enough so that everything players can consider is smoothly integrated into the UI–they don’t need to remember a bunch of bonus rules and exceptions. I do this so players can focus their brainpower on the choices, tactics, and strategy. There are some other good thoughts in a recent interview on Board Game Design Lab with the designers of Undaunted, as they talk about some considerations for the first game of a scenario or campaign game.
retention when consuming content (video, blog, etc): MrBeast’s method is to introduce something earlier in the video with a payoff later in the video. I’m trying to figure out how I should do this for my long-form videos, most of which are top 10 lists (to me, it seems like the payoff is already built into the videos: What game is #1?). I may try the thing you’ve probably seen on other lists where I say early in the video, “My pick/reasoning for #3 might surprise you!” But I’m curious to hear your ideas too.
retention from product to product (return customers): So, you’ve bought a product from a company; what happens next to increase the chances you’ll pursue other products from that company? I view this as a combination of many different factors: The quality of the product, customer service, community building, a way to stay in touch (newsletters), and more. Some companies include a little catalog of products in every game box–we used to do that and found it a bit unwieldy to maintain as we expanded, but we may return to it.
retention for subscribers (e.g., Champions): We have around 10,000 people–Stonemaier Champions–who support this blog and my game design YouTube channel by paying $15 a year, and as a perk for their support, they get 20-25% off all orders from our webstore (as well as prioritize shipping). I send Champions a special monthly newsletter highlighting content and often offering them something special, as they’ve become an integral part of Stonemaier Games.
retention for non-consumer customers (retailers and distributors): Our biggest customers are retailers and distributors, and we’d very much like to retain them too! Among the various things discussed in this article, we really try our best to make enough of any given product so that it consistently stays in stock. I’ve heard from retailers that this makes their lives so much easier. We certainly do not always accomplish that goal, but we try.

What do you think about these methods? As a customer, gamer, or viewer/reader, what are some techniques that have retained your attention? And for fellow publishers and content creators, what methods have you tried that create positive retention experiences for your audience?

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