Membership retention at gyms is something that has always been a challenge. With so many people choosing to embark on a fitness journey, it is no surprise that around half of people who start an exercise programme will drop out within the first six months.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an entirely different set of challenges were given to gyms in order to retain their members. Due to the overwhelming uncertainty it caused, many gym-goers opted to cancel their gym memberships for a range of reasons. Even with facilities reopening, there is understandably some hesitancy and reluctance for people to get back in the gym.
Getting new members in the door will always be important in order to grow your gym, but looking after your current active members and those members who were forced to leave due to worldwide issues, out of their control, is the true key to the success of your club.
Putting retention strategies in place in order to ensure your members aren’t tempted to leave is imperative – now more than ever.
1. Create a loyalty Programme
Do not get so caught up in chasing and trying to attract new members that you neglect the old guard. These are the loyal, 4 times a week gym members.
A loyalty programme is more important than any other marketing programme you have. If you treat the top 10% of your customers right, they will take care of most of your other marketing for you.
Keep the people who love you in love with you. Come up with loyalty programmes to make them feel appreciated:
- Free Gold Member t-shirts for members that have been with you for an extended period.
- If you have extra services at your club like massage therapists, supplements or a juice bar, give them a coupon for one of them.
- Small touches can make them feel special – reward your members with free tea and coffee/ protein shakes. “I’ll get this protein shake for you John as a thanks for being such a loyal member.”
2. Build a Great Blog
Daily exercise tips, diet and nutrition tips, wellness, weightlifting, sports – comment regularly online about ANYTHING! A blog/newsfeed update keeps people up-to-date with what’s going on at your club. But more importantly, it builds a community link between your members and your staff and trainers. This further develops your customer loyalty.
Spread the writing of material amongst your team. Get your personal trainers to write about their particular areas of knowledge and expertise + their case study success stories in relation to results gained by particular members. All this is likely to lead to more training enrolments.
Encourage PTs to send out this info by email, even on Twitter and Facebook. This will lead to more referrals, which all leads to more business.
Most clubs say that member interaction is what separates them from chain clubs. But as these chains grow and their prices come down, independents have to work even harder at service. Most chain gyms have a receptionist who welcomes each member by name as they swipe in – they don’t know the name, they just see it on-screen. This is so powerful in terms of retention!
3. Get Personal With All Your Members
Do you know the name of everyone in your club? Could you greet each one?
It’s also not just about knowing everyone’s name, what can really separate you from the larger clubs is knowing more about your members. Know something personal – why they are here, the real emotional reason i.e. not just to lose weight but deeper than that. ”I want to lose weight so I can walk my daughter up the aisle without getting out of breath”.
Take an interest in what they like to do outside of the club. Get to know about members of their family – this will make them feel special/part of the club and that you really care about them.
Just asking general questions is not enough – “How’s the programme going?” will not get you an interesting answer. Compare this to, “How’s your training going for the London Marathon that you are running in April?” or, “How did your daughter get on in her dance performance?”
How much more powerful is this for retention? With a small membership this is easy, but how to stay on top of this info with hundreds or thousands of members? The best way is to use a software package that has an easy to use Notes section. This cuts out the impossible task of trying to remember all these details! With good entry software you and all of your team can know so much about each member and then really make them feel part of your club.
4. Include Details of Members in the Newsletter (With Consent!)
Remember that Newsletter we suggested you publish all those points ago? Well, you can use this to communicate with your members about the latest developments in and out of the club when it comes to their members. This could and should include success stories, charity initiatives, notable birthdays etc.
People, and especially members, love the lauding of their achievements. And you should as well! Go them!
5. Create A Community In Your Club
Engaging a member with events and activities shows that you are putting their needs and experience above that of profit for the club… but in fact, we all know that a happy member is a loyal member and those loyal members are what keep us making a profit.
Engage members in various ways to keep them motivated and to feel that the gym is their club, their “3rd space” other than work and home. Turn a group of customers into a community. Creating this community feel within your club will not only keep your members confident that you care about them as people (rather than just their exercise results) but they will also have a fear of loss if they do not attend.
Many members will turn up at the club even if they have no intention of training just to see what is going on. Create various challenges for members as well as social events. These activities cost very little to organise and implement but will save you a fortune compared with the marketing costs needed to recruit new members in place of those members you have lost.
6. Use Major Sporting Events To Your Advantage
Big sporting events can keep people at home watching TV so it’s important to turn them to your advantage instead:
- Link spinning class challenges to the route of the Tour de France
- Organise sweepstakes for events such as the World Cup
- Create communal viewing of big sporting events on TV – it’s more fun to watch a big match in a group than on your own at home…
7. Coast-to-Coast Challenge
Create a map of the country and for each mile, a member completes on the treadmill they are able to move 1 kilometre along a predetermined route on the map. So, rather than someone just “going on the treadmill” they actually have an incentive to get across the country and complete the challenge.
If a member completes two miles a session then in two sessions a week they would complete the challenge in 8 months. For members on rolling contracts, this helps to keep them at the club.
8. Run Topical Workout Clubs
As we said earlier, is the Tour De France on? Guess where your Spin-Club is racing today. Is the F1 at Monaco? Let’s go for a ride around Monte Carlo.
The Olympics? The London Marathon? The World Cup? Mr Universe?
When Covid-19 isn’t raging there is always something on the sporting Calendar. It is your job to incorporate these events and advertise them ahead of time.
9. Organise A Friday Coffee Morning
In most Fitness Clubs and Gyms, Friday is the quietest day. Offer a coffee morning in reception or in a dedicated coffee area. This will boost secondary spend as well as increase member interaction. Consider going to them yourself to allow members to give feedback in a neutral environment straight to the person who matters and can affect change.
10. Create The Best Layout For Your Reception Area
Make sure your reception desk is properly equipped to handle customer complaints or issues and prep your staff on standard procedures. Make sure you follow through in a timely manner when any issues do come up.
Gyms that hire people with a willingness to help will attract and retain more customers than a gym that offers 75 different kickboxing classes but whose employees won’t flinch when people have a complaint or service issue. The ability to relate and empathize with your members is just as important as professional certification.
11. Professionalism and Excellent Customer Service Are Your Priorities, Always
This will significantly increase your customer loyalty. Members are demanding more from their health clubs today. They expect to be able to talk to qualified individuals that are willing to listen and help. As we have reinforced before, your staff are some of your most powerful assets
Customers are most satisfied when they interact with self-aware and compassionate people who have the ability to show empathy and optimism.
Nearly all of your members will appreciate a gym that offers staff that listens to complaints instead of a gym that offers 100 treadmills.
12. Retention Rates: Pay Attention To Your Data
For many years, larger gyms have ignored the retention issue and it has proven detrimental to their growth, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, their reputation.
Ask anyone who has been to a large, automated Gym for any length of time and they will most likely have an impersonal story of horror about these soulless and uncaring establishments.
Large enrolment numbers mean nothing if these members are not sticking around for their third or four-month.. It’s the revolving door of fitness. Five come in and 15 go out. Larger gyms don’t always pay attention to this because it’s harder to do.
For smaller gyms, you have an advantage. It’s easier to keep tabs on people and make sure that the core crowd is returning month after month.
13. Be As Visible As Your Staff If Possible
As the owner of the gym, you should strive to be as visible as a Gym Instructor on the floor.
Your staff should work as a team, with the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction and as such we have focused a lot on the guidance you can give them in meeting these aims.
However, at times your gym instructors may not be equipped to handle certain situations, so you as the gym owner should be ready and available to lend support. Showing your strength and versatility as a team and your ability to solve any problem. This will create an impression and a reputation for professionalism and excellence that is not easily forgotten.
14. Failure, Feedback and Asking How You Can Improve
In business, humility is a virtue. We do not get everything right the first time, every time. As much as we try and in the Gym and Fitness Club business, this is no less true.
Machines will be over-used or break, members will be stressed and won’t achieve their goals with the best will in the world, the coffee might be luke-warm on coffee Friday.
It isn’t about the mistake or the short-coming, it is about how it is addressed. Ask your members how you can improve and focus on improving the most often identified areas.
If members see your Gym or Fitness Club shifting based on their advice, it will make an impression that won’t soon be forgotten.
15. Target ‘high yield’ customers
Conduct a membership survey with an incentive for participating. The most valuable information about how your brand is portrayed is going to come directly from the target of your brand message, your members. You should use this information to find out what areas require improvement and also to build on and perpetuate areas of strength.
Operators who measure retention using ‘length of stay’ are ahead of the game as they are able to analyse key member characteristics in their data in order to identify which types of members stay the longest. Understanding which members stay longest and pay more over the course of their membership life will allow you to plan for future years and will influence sales drives etc.
16. Identify High-Risk Customers
Major Gyms and Fitness Clubs have been conducting detailed studies and analysis into ‘high risk’ customers.
This is a form of agile customer retention that can prove highly effective in identifying and retaining flagging members.
Meaning those customers most likely to cancel at a given point in time.
These studies show that when it comes to retention, prevention is far better than cure. Identify existing members who are at risk of leaving so that there is more time to intervene before they make the decision to leave.
Fall off in attendance, lack of engagement in classes, the signs aren’t hard to read. It is up to you and your staff to develop strategies to re-engage members in an organic, naturalistic, and unobtrusive way.
17. Understand Which Members Are No Longer In Contact and Learn How To Work Around This
Assign responsibility and set up a plan. Your first step will be to identify which member of staff will have responsibility for this area. Track your members so that as soon as they are out of contract you offer them a renewal deal to encourage them to stay. Be careful not to wake any sleeping members who are on rolling deals as you might just remind them to cancel.
Undoubtedly, there will be members who fall off the wagon a little bit. Do your best to try and capture these members early on. If you track attendance, it’s easy to run a report of last visits and call the members you haven’t seen in a while. Monthly newsletters, email campaigns, postcards, and regular Facebook or blog posts are other ways that you can keep your gym fresh in members’ minds and even recapture those you may have lost.
18. Stay in Touch
Leading on from the last point. It is important to stay in touch with members throughout their membership, albeit in a meaningful way.
Do not spam them with propaganda and bulk emails. A member should see a notification from your gym or fitness club and be enthused that they have received some quality content. Not another mindless TGIF spam email.
As a service, you exist to add value to your members’ lives and this is no exception.
Fill your emails with interesting events, promotions that are relevant, human interest stories that will ignite their passion and opportunities to improve themselves or their community.
19. Improve Your Technology and Research
Members want to feel that their gym has the latest and greatest, both in practicing principles and in equipment.
The reason they aren’t lifting dumbbells at home is because they want the best equipment and expertise at the lowest price. You need to make sure your staff and your equipment is the best it can be on your budget.
If you know you aren’t able to afford expensive new gym equipment, make sure your staff focus is even stronger to compensate and ensure your members are getting value for money.
20. Achievements Board
Not all achievements are equal. Everyone has a different journey and a different path to take.
Mary might just be interested in making sure she can still run a single kilometre without stopping and John might want to deadlift three times the weight of Mary.
Both of these achievements are important to both individuals and both should be celebrated, with their consent.
If Mary is consistently hitting her goals, then fantastic, and if John has just managed to up his game from 3 Marys to 3 and a half Marys, then excellent! (Though he should probably stop measuring success in Marys).
21. Communicate With Members Everywhere
Your Gym or Fitness Club will have certain areas where you have a captive audience. This includes a treadmill, the reception desk, and more pragmatically, the toilet cubicles and changing rooms.
Use these areas to place posters that reinforce the message and story you want to get across.
Use your latest product or PT package and keep the info up-to-date. Members will be compelled to read the message and you will increase the chance that a member will decide to purchase that extra product from you.
22. Monitor Your Competitors and Their Pricing Levels
No man is an island as John Donne said, and neither is any business.
Don’t ignore what your competitors are doing price-wise. Your pricing decisions should be based on real market analysis, so keep an eye on what they’re charging for various membership types.
23. Allow Members To ‘Freeze’ Their Memberships
From time to time your members might have a genuine reason for not being able to attend the club. Rather than letting them cancel, allow them to freeze their membership. However, if you just agree to the freeze, the member might at the end of their freeze period stop their direct debit, try to cancel, complain or ask to extend the free. If you set up a system you are far more likely to reintegrate them back into the club.
Contact the member at various stages throughout their freeze period:
- a) At the start of the freeze confirm the terms of the freeze and check the members contact details.
- b) During the freeze contact the member to remind them you are still there and try to encourage them back earlier.
- c) Before the freeze ends to reduce admin, cancelations and encourage them back to the club.
Over the past 5 of our blog posts, we’ve armed you with 100 tips for recruiting and retaining members, there is only one obstacle standing in your way to running a successful club: implementation. It is time to get some of what we have detailed here underway.
You’re a smart gym owner or you wouldn’t be reading this guide. You realise that everything boils down to getting and keeping members. You know you need to sort out your marketing, software systems, payment, collection, retention strategy, and more.
But you know all that, and the problem has always been having the time to do it. Who can you trust to allow you to have more time to focus on getting more members?
Ashbourne Membership Management has the solution.
*Remember you can also download all 100 of our proven strategies to attract and retain members completely free! Available here