From 1% to 100%: The Secret to Keep your Community Members

In 2016, a tremendous enthusiasm spread across the British kingdom. Both of the British cycling teams, the women and the men, won a gold medal in the Rio Olympic games. The victory was so powerful, since the country’s cycling teams trudged along for 100 years without any victory.

How did it happen? And what can we take on communities from this British accomplishment?

The British Cycling Women’s teams is winning a gold medal in Rio Olympics games | Video: YouTube

The journey to the gold

Meet Dave Brailsford, a coach who was hired in 2003 by British Cycling, the national governing body for cycle sport.
What Brailsford did was to insert small improvements in all the possible aspects related to the team. One improvement after another, throughout the years. For example:

  • Redesign the bicycles’ seats to make them more comfortable. The assumption behind was, that if cyclists will feel more comfortable, they’ll focus their energy on their performance rather than their sore behind.
  • Rub alcohol on the bicycle tires to get a better hold on the ground. Apparently, alcohol has a marvelous ability to digest the rubber. It makes the tires stickier, which enables a better hold on the ground.
  • Purchase cycling pants with electric heating, which can be adjusted before the ride to keep an optimal body temperature in real-time.
  • Assimilate a more frequent hand washing routine to prevent spreading illness among the team members (this improvement probably sounds familiar to you).
  • Use smart sensors that track biological metrics to adjust the training to the cyclist.
  • Find the best massage gel — the one that helps the mussel recover faster.

Because of all of these small changes, after 100 years without victories and an average performance, between 2007 and 2017 British cyclists won 178 world championships and 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals.
All this, thanks to tiny improvements of 1% throughout time.
Or as the official name of the theory suggests, “the aggregation of marginal gains.”

Getting better over time

Our friend Brailsford called his philosophy the aggregation of marginal gains, since he believed that we are underestimating the value of small improvements on a daily basis.
According to him, we can look for tiny, marginalized things that we can improve in everything we’re doing. Aside from setting goals and metrics as any action plan, we should focus on the “system” — implementing small improvements throughout time. If we’ll improve one thing by 1%, and something else by 1%, and then another and another — through the time we’ll improve the whole system.

That’s why all these small fixes and improvements combined led to the impressive victories of the teams that he coached.

Cycling Team
The tiny improvements led to the impressive victories | Photo: James Thomas

From the theory to our community

When I learned about this theory a few years ago, it immediately resonated with me as to what we’re doing in our communities.

After all, as the national cycling team of Great Britain pursued winning and bringing home the gold, we can do the same in our community. We want to see success in the community. We are continuously making sure that the community achieves its goals, that our community members receive value, and we keep the retention rates over time. A retention rate in a community is the percentage of members who joined the community and keep being there or return, in a specific period of time. 

So how can we implement the theory to preserve community members?

Our starting point should be the community strategy (here you can find a canvas that will make things clear for you).
The community strategy and its goals are always our navigator, the direction where we take the community.

We might have turned aside from our goals, or we set unclear metrics that account for why the community members are leaving. The reason might be unsatisfying activities, or loosened community management. Adding to that, when the community grows bigger and offers a greater variety of contents or products, or splits into a few sub-communities, the retention of the members becomes a more complicated task.

Complicated, but absolutely possible!

Because similarly to Brailsford, we’ll have to “attack” the challenge from a few angles.

Therefore, we should first find the points that require improvement. We need to map all the places where we identify community members’ dropout and discover the reasons. Dissatisfaction, resentment, irrelevant content, and even difficulty within the platform where the community platform is managed.
How do we execute the mapping? Surveys and forms ,questionnaires, in-depth interviews with community members and focus groups, are some of the ways.

Interested in learning how to find the places where you can improve the community?

Read about different methods for mapping

1% after 1%

Now, when we have a wider picture, we can brainstorm ideas for improvements with the managing team or other stakeholders related to the community.
We’ll have to see where we’ll drive/extract the greater benefit from the improvement. We’ll also take into account the existing resources, such as time, team members and budget, and whether the improvements are applicable at all. In other words: we’ll make a cost–benefit analysis in the professional jargon. According to what we learn, we’ll set specific goals.

Here are some examples for tiny improvements of 1% from the community world:

The community gathers at an online platform and its new members are not sure what happens there.
Pin a post that explains what the community is about, and tell the new members how they can get involved.

You send a newsletter with information about the community activities but the opening rates are low.
Consider moving the newsletter to a smart email marketing platform, which sends the newsletter to the addressees according to the times they usually open the newsletters.

Community members don’t know each other at the events. And it’s awkward.
Add an active networking activity during the event.

Your community is huge, the managing team has the motivation to manage the tasks but they are not always sure what the tasks are or what are the up-to-date procedures.
Schedule a monthly training that combines professional guidance with an added-value content.

You find it hard to recruit new members, although you know your community is meaningful.
Share the success stories of your community in its social media networks.


When we talk about 1% improvements, we should remember that many times it can be hard to measure their effect on the whole system. For example, if we improved the bicycle’s seat planning, added a new comfortable garment, and changed the cyclists’ training hours, it will be hard to know which items were responsible for the improvements. However, the final result is that together, all these factors combine to create the improvement — and that’s exactly what Brailsford did.

And he had a lot of patience. Because members’ retention takes time and requires patience, tracking, and persistence.
And finally, for me, the ability to jump between the big picture to the small details and vice versa is what makes the difference. Especially in communities, which are composed of different people with different desires and needs.

What requires improvement in your community and how are you going to take care of it, in 1% small steps? Tell me in the comments or write to me directly.



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