Improving retention involves many components and several steps. But is one tactic more useful than others? For Ralph Rajs, the senior vice president of operations and wellness at Leisure Sports, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about retention is integration.
“We are continually looking for ways to meaningfully connect new members to the club,” said Rajs. “It can be a variety of ways that are free and fee-based. For example, we often give new members vouchers to try a few of our fee-based classes for free. Our goal is to quantify the new member connection to the club through usage, program participation and staff interaction.”
By focusing on integration and building community, your club can transform from a place to simply workout, to an integral part of your members’ lives. “Building community within the club is an important part of creating a connection for all of our members,” explained Rajs. “When a member makes friends and forms bonds with other members through a club-sponsored activity, they are much more likely to stay with us for a long time. We know when members make friends with other members, the club takes on a more prominent role in their lives.”
So what are some methods for fostering a stronger sense of connectivity among members? Rajs suggested offering a wide variety of opportunities, both fitness and social, for members to get to know each other. “We look at each area of the club and actively program in a social event,” he added. “For example, in the spas we host quarterly wine tasting events for our frequent spa users. The goal of these socials is not just to promote spa sales, but also to introduce members to one another.”
In addition, integration efforts can extend beyond the club. Rajs explained Leisure Sports works to build community outside of the club by getting involved in schools and other local events. “We donate gift baskets and certificates for school fund-raising events,” said Rajs. “We sponsor local races and donate to youth sports organizations. I think it’s important for us to be good citizens outside of our walls in the communities we serve.”
Besides building new communities within your club, also look at what groups are already in place. There may be informal groups, such as a network of racquetball players, who have already developed a small community. “Find out who the leaders are and look for ways to get other members invited in,” explained Rajs. “And it goes a long way with those groups when you enhance their experience by donating food and drink every once in a while.”
Finally, once community groups are identified, give them a place to meet. “If you have a lounge area, consider reserving it on occasion for the group to meet,” said Rajs. “This builds their community by expanding their relationships beyond their shared sport. It also attracts the attention of other members by making that group more visible inside the club.”