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Group X: The Key to Retention


Retention is an issue that all clubs struggle with, and unfortunately, there is no single solution to ease your retention woes. “While some factors and trends have changed over the years, member engagement and ultimately retention remain among the biggest challenges for fitness clubs,” said Brian Gagne, the CEO of Les Mills U.S. “Most clubs still lose at least half, if not more, of their members from one year to the next. Members need to be engaged in their club to stay a member. Attrition is the outcome of members not being engaged in what you have to offer.”

The good news is there are a few things you can do to keep members connected to your club. Ask yourself one question: Why do members join a health club to begin with? The answer is simple: fitness. The foremost reason clients buy a gym membership is because they want to get in shape. And they want creative and fun ways to do so. This is why Group X programming becomes your silver bullet to retention woes.

Research shows that group fitness is more profitable per square foot than any other fitness activity. In fact, group exercisers are 26 percent less likely to cancel their membership than gym-goers who only use the fitness floor.

“Many facilities are in the business of selling memberships, rather than focusing on net growth of members,” said Gagne. “Selling and retaining members are equally important to the success of clubs. Retaining members is a much more cost-effective way to grow your membership base. Helping your members fall in love with fitness is the key to engaging and ultimately retaining members. Most clubs are providing access to exercise, rather than engaging members in a conversation to support them in forming and sustaining a positive relationship with exercise and developing a habit of it.”

Group X programming, such as Les Mills, puts the focus on not only results, but fun. Les Mills even developed a philosophy called “Relationships Beyond Memberships,” which encourages facilities to concentrate on building stronger relationships with their members. Gagne suggested having usage be your key business metric, not new member acquisition.

The Health and Wellness Center at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel has experienced first-hand the impact that Group X has on its membership numbers. According to Linda Harris, the group fitness manager at the Health and Wellness Center, they originally started out with three Group X classes, but added more as they grew in popularity.

Currently the Health and Wellness Center offers eight Les Mills programs such as BODYPUMP, BODYCOMBAT, BODYFLOW and CXWORX. Harris, who is a long-time instructor of Les Mills programming, said she thinks they have been so successful because of the consistency in quality. “Consistency is so important,” she explained. “In general, people like to know what they are going to get. When you go to a more freestyle class where the instructors pick their own music and choreography, it can be very hit or miss. But with Les Mills, you can go from club to club, class to class, and you know the format. You know exactly what you are going to get.”

Just as the Health and Wellness Center has experienced, offering a robust Group X program will only help your membership grow. “From my past experience, [Les Mills specifically] will definitely grow your group fitness membership because of that consistency and how well the instructors are trained,” added Harris. “They don’t just go to one training. They have to go through a whole process that takes about three months to get certified in each program. So it is the quality and consistency that is great.”

Here are a few additional tips for a robust Group X program: 

Institute a comprehensive onboarding process. Forget your basic tour that simply shows members where the equipment is located. It is essential to also put an emphasis on Group X programming. This is why Les Mills developed an initiative called SMART START. “Engaging members in a conversation about their goals, likes, dislikes and barriers to exercise will help create a plan and most importantly, the motivation to utilize your club more often,” said Gagne. “Members need to feel and see results of the work they put into their exercise habits. By focusing on member engagement, we believe there is an opportunity for fitness clubs to differentiate themselves by building stronger, longer-lasting relationships with their members.”

Get creative with your programming. Not only is it important to offer classes at various times throughout the day, but it is also crucial to offer a wide variety of class types — cardio, strength, mind-body, dance, etc. Offering classes of different lengths is also a great way to keep members engaged. Your members live busy lives, and it can be challenging to make time for a trip to the gym. As an increasing number of members are looking for maximum results in the minimum amount of time, launching express Group X classes — around 30 minutes — can keep those busy members inside your facility.

Emily Harbourne

Emily Harbourne is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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