Your gym lives or dies off its membership. They’re what pays the bills. So your job is to get them and then keep them. While most gyms do a decent job of attracting new people, the majority of them suck at retaining them. Just look at the statistics …

  • Around half of new gym members quit in the first six months.
  • The monthly attrition rate is between 3-5%; that’s around half of your membership lost every year. 

Those figures would be devastating to any industry. Yet, gyms have come to accept them as par for the course. Well, they – meaning you – can’t afford to do that any longer. COVID has changed the game. With more people working out at home or choosing online training options, getting new members has become a lot harder. Here are 6 strategies to stop the bleed and turn new members into satisfied long term allies and advocates. 

The Strategies at a Glance

1. Leverage Your Retention Analytics

2. Know Your Members

3. Offer Free Interventions

4. Get 20 Visits in First 60 Days

5. Make Your Gym a Destination

6. Get Active with Inactive Members

Retention Analytics

Technology has transformed the gym experience. It has allowed members to monitor their body’s response to training, to track their workouts and to minutely analyze their food intake. It has also offered gym operators the opportunity to mine a treasure trove of data that can dramatically impact their bottom line. Yet most gym operators appear content to blithely carry on as always, seemingly oblivious to the opportunities available to them by mining the data they are already collecting.

It’s time to get up to speed on gym analytics.

Don’t Waste Your Data

Right now, it’s a pretty safe bet that your facility is collecting a massive amount of data from your members:

–       Attendance

–       Utilization

–       Length of Workout

–       Monthly Spend

–       Satisfaction Level

–       Employee Performance

–       Workout Diagnostics

As a fitness operator, you can do one of two things with all of this data; ignore it or use it to engage and retain your members. It seems a simple choice, yet many gyms still aren’t capitalizing on data analytics to make inroads into their attrition rate. According to Greg Cibura, CTO of Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago, Technology lies at the core of our retention efforts, and I feel that, right now, we’re just scratching the surface.”

So, just how do you make use of data to improve your membership retention rates?

Turn Data into Dollars

Data on membership attendance, workout time, age and other personal information can be broken down into hundreds of millions of data points. These can then be diagnosed to predict your members’ retention behavior. You are also able to determine who your best and worst members are and why.

But finding out who your at risk customers are isn’t going to do you any good unless you know what to do about it. It is only when you respond to that knowledge with targeted intervention strategies that you are going to improve your bottom line.

Retention data analytics allows you to see where your membership focus and dollars need to be directed. It makes sense to give your attention to members who are more likely to quit. After all, according to the Harvard Business Review, acquiring a new member is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.

The right type of focused analytics will score each individual client on their likelihood of dropping out, so you know ahead of time where your re-engagement energies need to be directed.

Once you have identified your at risk members, you can then undertake specific actions to improve member retention based on outreach programs.

 Personalizing the Member Experience 

Your membership data analysis will allow you to get to know your members on a deeper level than you can achieve by casual gym interactions. You can use this data to make your members feel like they are a priority for you and develop a personal relationship with them. 

Know when your members reach milestones. Each of your members should receive, at the very least, a congratulatory message, on their membership anniversary and their birthday. Better still, by redirecting a percentage of your acquisition budget into a rewards and congratulations budget, you’ll be giving them something positive to talk to others about, which will automatically feed into your acquisition program anyway.

How do you think a member would feel if she received a free gift such as a smoothie when she achieved a goal or milestone? It’s a pretty safe bet that she’ll tell others about that positive gym experience – and that her loyalty to the gym will be strengthened.

The most profound thing you can do to personalize the member experience is to encourage your staff to talk to members. Social media communication has its place, but nothing beats face to face. When your staff talk to a member, it can make him feel acknowledged and appreciated. And unless your members feel those emotions, you are going to have a very hard time building loyalty.

When a member enters the facility, they should be greeted (ideally by name). Your staff should know, from observation and from data analytics, which members are prone to want a couple of minutes chat and which simply want to get to the gym floor. During the workout, or on the way out, causal interactions should also take place. Of course, your staff can’t get into a discussion with every member every visit but they should set the goal of having a meaningful engagement with all of them at least once over the course of a week. 

Here are some questions that members should be being asked on a regular basis:

  • How’s your workout going?
  • Do you feel you’re getting closer to your goal?
  • Does it feel like you’ve hit a plateau?
  • Have you got any suggestions on how we can serve you better?

These are powerful questions. When asked sincerely and when the asker of the questions takes time to listen carefully to the answer, they will go a long way toward building membership loyalty.

Know your Members

To retain members you need to cultivate relationships with them. The most successful gyms build a sense of community. That starts with getting to know what members like and don’t like and adjusting your interactions with them accordingly. 

One way to find out your member’s likes and dislikes is to ask them to complete a survey. You can do this through email or have a physical survey form in the gym. Ask questions that will impact upon your interaction with the person. As a simple example, ask them what their preferred name is. If it’s Steve, make sure that your social media messages don’t address them as Steven. It may seem a little thing but it all contributes to the overall image that members will create about the gym as a place that sees them as an individual. 

The more they feel that you care about them as a human, the more likely they’ll be to stay. 

Offer Interventions

Many of your members have the goal of losing weight, while others want to build muscle or improve their cardio health markers. Efficient data analytics will allow you to track their progress. If they are not making progress, isn’t it better for you to offer a free intervention to help them make traction than for them to grow despondent and give up? 

Data analytics allows you to do that. 

Send texts or emails to at-risk members, providing them with graphed attendance data. Then offer solutions to help them to get their attendance up to three sessions per week. These may be the offer of a free session with a personal trainer, a nutritional analysis or an equipment re-orientation session. 

Don’t skimp on what you offer your at risk members to get them through the door. Remember, so long as your member retention spend is one dollar less than what it would cost to bring in a new member, you’re ahead of the game!

20X in First 60

The frequency of a member’s visits in the first 60 days of their membership will be a huge determinant in their longevity as a member. Those who get in 20 or more visits are far more likely to stay than those who don’t hit the 20 visit threshold. Knowing this, you should actively promote a minimum of 20 visits in the first 60 days. 

One way you can do this is by offering a gift certificate to be used within the gym facility in the amount of $20 to every new member who achieves the 20 visit threshold in the first 60 days of becoming a member. Your actual cost will be around $10 when you take into account your retail markup. Yet that ten bucks will have a significant positive impact on your early drop off rates. 

You can use this incentivized visits concept at any time of the year to reduce your drop off rate. Check your data analytics for the highest drop of months and then offer an incentive for visits that month. It could be something as simple as offering a free gym t-shirt if the member clocks in a dozen visits over the month. 

Make the Gym a Destination

By making your gym more than simply a place to go and exercise on the way home from work, you’ll be able to create a destination of value connection in the mind of your members. You can do this by holding events at the gym. 

If there’s a major sporting event taking place, hire a massive screen and throw a party. Hold member fitness events and challenges, such as Bros vs Pros or Hero WODs on Veteran’s Day. Training workshops and nutrition seminars are other ways you can make the gym an important destination in the life of your members. 

Get Active with Inactive Members

Every morning check your inactive member report. You might focus on members who have not been to the gym four times or fewer in the last 30 days. Set the goal of calling a set number of these members every day. Keep the number small and manageable. A good target is four  inactive member calls daily.

So, what do you say when you call an inactive member?

Let’s start with what not to say.

Don’t begin with “ We’ve noticed you haven’t been in for a while.”

That will immediately put the member on the defensive. They’ll feel the need to make excuses and will want to get off the phone as soon as possible.

A better way to go is to inform them that you’re making a regular customer service call and are interested in knowing how they’re getting on with their health and fitness goals. Ask if there are any challenges they’re facing and what you can do to make life easier. Then, offer a free smoothie or something similar on the next visit. 

Just as important as the inactive member call is the follow through. When this member shows up, they should be treated like a VIP (without your staff being over the top). That means that your staff have to be on the same page as you. They should have a daily list of VIP inactive members you have called. The front desk person should warmly greet them and confirm that their free gift will be waiting at the end of their workout. 

Unless your inactive interventions are coordinated, they will backfire. Imagine a person turning up when you’re not there and the staff knowing nothing about their free gift. That could create a negative experience that will cement their membership cancellation!

Summary

The strategies that we’ve covered have the power to turn any flagging retention figures around, but only if they are applied consistently. Here’s a recap:

1. Leverage Your Retention Analytics

2. Know Your Members

3. Offer Free Interventions

4. Get 20 Visits in First 60 Days

5. Make Your Gym a Destination

6. Get Active with Inactive Members

Customer retention is the key to a successful gym. If you can keep your members engaged, satisfied and occasionally blown away, you will not only significantly reduce your attrition rate, you also have created potentially thousands of brand ambassadors who will make your gym acquisition efforts a whole lot easier.

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