According to Dr. Paul Bedford, the director of Retention Guru, only 67% of members in the U.S. and Canada retain their memberships for at least 12 months. With a statistic like this, the first 30, 60 and 90 days are vitally important to ensuring a member’s long-term success and commitment.
GoodLife Fitness is aware of how important those first 30 days are.
“As part of our Happy Members program, we monitor members very closely in the first 30 days and have a set of criteria we like to see them meet,” said Jason Sheridan, the senior vice president of operations at GoodLife in Canada. “One of those criteria, for example, is checking in at least eight times in the first month. If we see a member is not meeting the criteria, we give them a caring phone call to check in and see if we can adjust their plan to something that works better for their needs or schedule.”
GoodLife isn’t the only club that knows the importance of onboarding new members.
“Industry statistics show us many members do not utilize the facility after the first 30 days,” said Preston Petersen, the vice president of fitness at Genesis Health Clubs. “We focus on new member integration and measure not only how many members use the club and our programming, but also how frequently.”
Genesis achieves this by using a comprehensive onboarding program to encourage members to try the club and get them in the habit of exercise.
“We invite members to complete a personal training package included in membership, which consists of a personal fitness assessment, personal training experience, a recovery session and nutrition consultation,” said Petersen.
Additionally, Genesis members are encouraged to try several group classes to help them get into the habit and become socially integrated in the club. They also introduce other programming, such as Pilates, tennis, All-American Training and more. The key is to get them using the club and seeing results as quickly as possible.
For GoodLife, the most important thing when it comes to onboarding is a personal conversation with all new members.
“We want to learn about their needs and goals, and what their exercise and lifestyle history is,” said Sheridan. “We encourage our associates to ask people what sorts of areas of exercise interest them and what areas they find a bit more intimidating. Our people also seek to understand what has and hasn’t worked for them in the past.”
GoodLife has various programs to help onboard members successfully, like their Group Fitness Starter Program. “We schedule them into their first group fitness class, meet them when they arrive, walk them to the class and introduce them to the instructor and fellow members,” explained Sheridan. “We also encourage members to try out virtual fitness as well, so they can try a variety of classes in a smaller group setting, get to know the moves and then eventually move into the exhilarating live group fitness classes.”
New members at GoodLife are also given a free session with a personal trainer to discuss their options, and learn about the great level of accountability and expertise that comes from working with a personal trainer.
“We have found new members who decide to invest in personal training often find it can reduce the intimidation, because they are gaining in-depth knowledge of the club and the different machines and exercises,” said Sheridan. “New members are also given two free team training sessions so they can learn about boot camps or PEAK, our state-of-the-art exclusive team training program.”
While GoodLife and Genesis Health Clubs may have different offerings, there is one thing they both agree on: the importance of workout buddies.
Sheridan explained having a gym buddy is an excellent way to ensure long-term success, “whether that’s meeting someone at the gym or bringing a friend you already know,” he said. “We don’t typically introduce members by their goals, but more so their areas of interest. If we know someone is really interested in group fitness or personal training, we might introduce them to someone who has experienced those elements of the club.”
According to Petersen, most behavior changes occur with human interaction. “By integrating members into our programs, and consequently with each other, they will make that human connection and feel a necessary obligation to adhere to the lifestyle change they set out to make,” she said. “Oftentimes other members, specifically our long-term ones, are the best source of motivation for our new members. They have endured the same journey the new member is embarking on, and can provide experience-based feedback on overcoming obstacles.”
Additionally, members will be happier while working out with a partner. According to a study by the University of Southern California, those who worked out with a friend enjoyed it more than when working out alone — another motivator that can keep members coming back through the doors.
Above all, keeping new members in the gym is not only important for their health, but also your club’s revenue.
Petersen gave this final piece of advice for other clubs when it comes to onboarding: “Our owner, Rodney Steven II, teaches our teams, ‘persistence prevails when all else fails,’ and this is definitely applicable when onboarding new members. Many of our locations have been acquired and the focus on new member onboarding wasn’t a large part of the existing culture. New member integration is an endeavor that takes persistence to be successful. Some members will not get integrated as well as we would like, but we have to focus on the next one and ensure their onboarding experience is second to none. Work hard daily to move the needle of the percentage of new members who try personal training, group fitness or other programs your club has.”