As we get further through January your sales might be slowing to a regular pace and you might be spending more time thinking about retention. Each year you bring in an influx of new members around the beginning of the year, but also each year you have an outflux of members returning to their regular lives outside the gym.
As people tend to quote regularly, consistently doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. For years and years we’ve discussed the same thing — large numbers come in, you do something to keep them, but they still leave. Why?
The perfect question in this scenario is, “Why?” But I don’t believe, “Why they leave,” is the question you should be considering. In my opinion, “why do you let them in,” should be considered.
In the fitness club market one word that has always made me curious is “club.” I’ve never attended or been a member of a workout facility I would consider a club. Certainly some aspects of the facility have club-style amenities, but not like a club in the traditional sense.
When I think of club I go back to my youth when my grandparents were members of a country club. They had been for years and it wasn’t easy to get involved. You either got in when it was built and/or growing, or you were a legacy of some sort. Even new citizens to the town couldn’t just walk in and receive a membership, no matter the amount of money they possessed. It was a club in the true sense of the word. They didn’t have to worry about a massive influx of golfers when the temperatures warmed because they had the same amount of people from year to year, plus and minus a few.
In the fitness industry we don’t take this into account. Just about anyone can be a member of the vast majority of facilities in the U.S. All you have to do is enter the gym, meet with a sales representative and pay your money. Members don’t have to qualify, nor do they have to present their application to a panel to see if they fit.
We wonder why people come and go so freely in the fitness arena. Each year they swarm through your doors for about half a month to maybe three months, and then they disappear. In this time, how many of your loyal members are actually lost? It’s hard to go from a certain routine and expectation to all of a sudden massive change. These loyal members no longer can maintain their routine because you have a million people surrounding the equipment.
I propose that more fitness clubs set limits on the amount of membership they can have. Make being a member at the club more exclusive and less of a sell-as-much-as-possible scenario. Not only does setting a cap on the amount of members help you with retention because you’ll be able to focus on current members more, but it also allows you to have a smaller, more qualified sales force. You will be able to train your sales staff to sell value and maintain clients as opposed to prospecting and pitching all day. Finally, you won’t worry about the influx at the beginning of the year, but instead you’ll keep steady and focus on increasing other areas of revenue, such as personal training or corporate wellness, during this time.
When the old ways aren’t working, it’s on us to figure out a new solution to the method. Maybe the constant in and out of the new year isn’t best for the industry, but rather a more exclusive membership to fitness should be the solution to your club.
Tyler Montgomery is the Editor-in-Chief of Club Solutions Magazine. For thoughts on his blog, the print issue or the industry, reach out to him at email@example.com.