Having an offer that makes members choose your gym over the competitors is tricky — but what’s really tricky is retaining those members over time. In such a competitive industry, ensuring your member is happy is essential to your facility’s success.
Here, club experts Josh Cherry, the CEO of Delta Life Fitness, and Blair McHaney, the president of ClubWorks, share their top retention strategies.
1. Make the gym more valuable to members. At the end of the day, you can put weights, a treadmill and other fitness equipment anywhere — what differs from club to club, and what can make your club stand out from competitors, is the environment. With your brand, you have the opportunity to position your club in a unique way that is attractive to your members and your targeted demographic.
Before you can add value, you have to evaluate what exactly your members want and then craft an experience that fills that need. Members will stay and be motivated to come more frequently if they have a positive experience each time they come.
One way Delta Life Fitness makes its facility valuable is by the community created from members. “Our niche community and intense sisterhood absolutely plays a factor in retention for us,” said Cherry. “In fact, we’ve had ladies find themselves wanting to cancel or not being able to utilize the gym as much as they used to, but they stay just for the sisterhood.”
2. Have a good operating system. You can’t fix a problem you’re not aware is there. Having a system that keeps track of your retention numbers and sends notifications on membership loss brings the problem to light and lets you address it. Delta Life Fitness uses Front Desk’s management software.
3. Innovate technology. Utilizing technology that tracks workout efforts may be internally motivating in and of itself to members, making them want to stay. Delta Life Fitness utilizes two main types of technology to achieve this goal.
Inside the gym, effort is monitored with MYZONE, which tracks a user’s heart rate and provides minute-by-minute breakdowns of exercise effort in real-time. Outside of the gym, Delta Life Fitness uses a version of the Nudge App, which empowers clients to play an active role in their personal health in-between sessions.
“We make it fun for ladies to get in shape by tracking heart rate in the class, and use the Nudge App to track all other habits — such as steps, water intake, nutrition and sleep — outside of class,” said Cherry.
4. Use social media. Find out what social media platform your target audience uses, and then create a marketing strategy for it. It’s an easy, free, effective way to promote any events or specials. The benefit of social media is it makes your audience feel like they’re staying in “the circle.”
Cherry recommends doing a weekly “member spotlight” on your facility’s Facebook page to make members feel like celebrities. Delta Life Fitness also utilizes internet trends to their advantage to keep members engaged and interested in their social media efforts.
For example, they post positive quotes on Monday for “Monday Motivation,” they show photos of women at their gym on Wednesdays for “Woman Crush Wednesday,” and share workout advice for “Good Form Friday,” along with relevant content throughout the week that they believe will peak their audience’s interest.
5. Keep it simple, and systemized. According to Cherry, having a simple, consistent and systematic way of keeping track of member data and retention is essential. “Know your numbers,” he said. “Have a procedure for reporting end-of-the-day numbers and hold the staff accountable to those numbers. Never just hire help — when you make a hire, ensure they know exactly which key metric or metrics they will own.”
6. Know your demographic. If you see a lot of members in the 18 to 29-year-old age range leave, it may have nothing to do with your facility. “If you’re catering to millennials, they move around a lot, their jobs change — everything could be right, but you’ll still have a higher turnover rate,” said McHaney.
Cherry agreed that knowing your audience is incredibly important to evaluating your retention. “The best advice I can give a new gym owner is that you must know your target client and build your program to fit that client,” he said.
7. Understand member engagement. “Engagement is making sure the customer uses the product, the customer has a great experience while using it, and the customer is willing to give you feedback about it,” said McHaney. “If you have those three things, that’s your most engaged customer. It’s one thing to have a great experience, but you still have to use the product.”
8. Get people to use the club. People may not make it a priority to stay members to facilities they don’t use. When finances are tight, and families go through their budget to cut out extra expenses — the first thing that might go is likely the gym membership they have, but don’t utilize consistently. “It is so much about just getting people to use the club,” said McHaney. “Even if everyone is great and it’s a great facility, it doesn’t matter if I’m not using it.”
9. Don’t force people to stay members. “A lot of other industries have figured this out,” said McHaney. “Mobile phone industries have, and more and more clubs are beginning to start month-to-month memberships. If you have a super easy online enrollment, create an equally easy online cancellation — you can create an online cancellation experience where you’ll have more saves and add more value than you can in person.”
To execute this strategy, McHaney advised thinking about what you’d like the cancellation journey to look like. When a member goes to cancel, they should be asked why they’d like to leave, and also given an incentive — such as three free personal training sessions — to stay.
Use these nine steps and hopefully, you’ll see your attrition stats begin to dwindle.