Most health club managers and directors recognize the need to not only attract new members to their club, but more importantly, keep the members they already serve. While committing time, attention and resources to the marketing ideas designed to attract potential new members to the club is critical, well-thought-out strategies to ensure the longevity of each current membership might be even more important.
Studies show that long-term retention can be attributed to three things: an exceptional, ongoing member experience; feeling a sense of community or accountability; and the achievement of results.
Member retention begins at the first point of contact with a friendly, welcoming and professional welcome. Whether via phone inquiry, email reply or face-to-face contact with the welcome desk staff, a great first impression is step one to building a long-term relationship with any member. Setting a standard of expectations for each type of contact before it occurs will help ensure every first impression is top-notch.
The second critical retention strategy results from a well-designed onboarding process. The purpose of onboarding well is to reinforce the client made a great decision by investing in a membership by educating, inspiring and encouraging them in how to make choices at your club that will lead directly to the accomplishment of their personal goals.
This is also a critical time to create a sense of community by helping the member become engaged in the participation of smaller groups within the club. This helps establish relationships and the ensuing accountability associated with the expectation of joining them again for the next class.
New members need to believe they will be given the tools, information and resources required so they can finally reach the goals they have been striving for. If the club fails in this initial direction, the member will lose interest, lose hope and ultimately choose to go elsewhere or give up on fitness altogether.
Automatic welcome messages for attending their first workout, personal welcome calls from a staff member or trainer, hand-written thank you notes and follow-up contacts from the membership advisor who signed them up, are all helpful in maintaining a positive impression of the club. Going a step further is even better with personal invitations to join upcoming social events or classes that suit them, or providing an unexpected gift like a free smoothie or guest pass for having reached an initial milestone like attending the club at least 12 times within their first 30 days of membership.
Long-term retention will be the result of a consistent customer service expectation from all staff members in every department. Company-wide training should take place for all staff members to remind them that every single experience with every single member will result with either a positive or negative impression left with the member. Understand that every member has a choice every day to continue with our community or seek one that may appear more positive, attentive, professional, or simply more interested in supplying their members with the finest, cleanest option available. Service never ends, so every interaction with every member will ultimately determine the length of their membership.
One last recommendation to improve retention is to create a plan to reach out to low users of the club. At Greenwood we proactively reach out to members who have begun to show a decrease in club visit frequency and encourage them with either a free article about motivation or a workout that might help them reach their personal goals.
Often simply noticing they have been absent from the club means more than we know and is enough to give them the jump start they need to come back in. If your club sells prepaid memberships or membership contracts that expire on a particular date, we recommend reaching out with non-sales related information or upcoming events or improvements that they don’t want to miss. This should be done with approximately three months left on the membership, as this is often when attendance begins to dip.
Well-planned, proactive communication that reengages the client at critical times lowers the risk that they will look elsewhere when their membership expires.
Ultimately, whatever strategies you choose to improve retention at your club, make sure they result in the club being so important to them that they would never think of leaving. Create opportunities for community, accountability and acknowledgement while helping your members to reach their goals will ensure long-standing memberships and long-term company success.
Sheri Warren is the director of sales and retention at Club Greenwood.