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All Aboard: Onboarding for Success


Starting in January, clubs will be packed to the brim with new members committed to make this year the year they achieve their fitness goals. This busy time can be overwhelming to club owners, so it’s important to prepare to onboard the copious amount of members your club will be receiving.

Joel Tallman, the CEO and president of MÜV Brands, said real success in onboarding a new member comes at the point of the sale.

“We looked at the guiding processes we saw would get people onboard,” said Tallman. “It really has to do with making it clear at the point-of-sale exactly. Number one, understanding their goals and what they want to accomplish — but then plugging them into our processes that are already in place, to make sure they don’t get overlooked.”

Once a member joins, MÜV then establishes a baseline for them based on their goals — because member results are a huge part of the MÜV brand. “I think for us, it’s cultural to what we try to do,” said Tallman. “When I formed the MÜV brand, one of the really strong distinctions I emphasized was results for the member, and looking at that and understanding attrition numbers — whether it’s January or throughout the year.”

After determining the member’s current level of conditioning, staff may decide to take the new member through a functional movement screening to better define their current condition, which leads them into what Tallman calls “custom success plans.”

“Within the first 72 hours, we try to get people to book and complete that first success plan,” said Tallman. “And, in the next 48 hours, the next one. And then we offer a 30-day program to all members.”

Tracy Matthews, the executive director of member services at GoodLife Fitness, agreed it’s important to book members for an assessment immediately after they join. “The best time to get their commitment is right after they purchase the membership,” said Matthews. “Have starter appointments available that get new members in within 24 hours of them signing up.”

While Tallman said he tries to encourage new members to try one-on-one personal training, MÜV offers a wide variety of onboarding training programs. “Some of them are small group training, which is very focused on functional, high-intensity interval and cardiovascular training, all in a MYZONE heart-rate environment,” said Tallman. “Then we have a very strong Group X program underneath that for the membership.”

GoodLife Fitness also offers a variety of starter programs to interest new members. Matthews said it’s important to have intro classes or small group orientation sessions for the areas of your club you are promoting. “Create a fun and easy learning experience for your newcomers,” she said.

Along with programming options, GoodLife Fitness similarly works to promote personal training upon integrating new members to the club.

“At GoodLife Fitness we promote a full training program to all members, however there are a variety of free options as well for those who want to try it first [before committing],” said Matthews. “These are all focused on the individual needs of the member and how to best get them feeling comfortable. The focus before they finish that appointment is to get them signed up and scheduled to another appointment.”

But, integrating a member into your club goes well beyond programming. Allison Flatley, the CEO of Allison Flatley Consulting, believes it’s vital to make new members feel like they are part of the club’s community. “It is essential new members form relationships with as many staff and members as soon as possible,” she said. “It is much harder to quit a relationship than a club.”

Flatley added there are a variety of simple ways to make new members feel like they have become a part of the community, starting with greeting them by their first name every time they come through your doors.

“Take that a step further and greet members with their name and a handshake or a high-five when they come into the club,” said Flatley. “Then, take that a step further and mention something personal about the new member. Use technology to follow-up each club visit with a summary of activity or a thank you for attending, along with a healthy tip of the day. Giving new members a club t-shirt or something they can wear also makes the new member feel a part of the club community.”

And, during such a busy time of the year, Tallman said it’s important to guarantee all staff are dialed-in and following up with members — to make sure they showed up for their appointments and got what they needed out of the one-on-one meeting.

“It’s easy to get lost in the first quarter,” said Tallman. “So many workouts, so many new members, so much going on, so many people that are already members recommiting themselves — the gym gets much busier.”

While it’s an overwhelming time for club owners, it can also be a really overwhelming time for new members of the club due to the crowded environment. GoodLife Fitness realized that, and made it a priority to individually work with members to find what area of the club would motivate them to keep them coming back.

“We find out if they are a competitive or a solo athlete,” said Matthews. “We ask questions such as, ‘Are you the life of the party, or do you prefer to seek quiet time or zen?’ And from there we recommend what communities within our club will work best for them, and integrate them with other like-minded members. This helps build strong relationships and long-term memberships.”

Flatley agreed it’s important for club owners and their staff to meet with new members, to better understand where the new members are in their physical journey. “When club trainers, coaches and staff understand the new member’s stage, exercise history and goals, they can create personalized plans to help the new member become successful,” she said. “For example, it takes time and effort for effective exercise, so if the trainer or coach understands the new member’s support system, they can supplement where needed.”

Flatley finds it crucial to focus on health and happiness to measure member success, rather than just club visits.

“The most crucial factor is to show the new member that they can be successful,” added Flatley. “I also believe we need to communicate to our new members that physical activity or workouts at home are also acceptable and will help them on their journey.”


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