Sean Ironside, the VP of global marketing and brand for EGYM, shares what operators can do to combat the persistence gap.
Every operator is familiar with the acquisition spiral: members join, members churn, repeat. Marketing dollars are spent and staff hours are wasted onboarding new members that will show up regularly for a few weeks and then quietly disappear into the night.
What explains this phenomenon and what can clubs do to combat it?
Let’s start with the psychology of motivation. Motivation has three core components: activation, the decision to do something; persistence, the ability to stick with something; and intensity, the energy invested into motivation.
In the case of fitness, this translates to something along the lines of:
- I know I need to work out.
- I can develop a routine and stick to it.
- I will give it my all each time I show up to produce the best possible result.
So why are members churning and where are they failing?
In a recent McKinsey study on fitness consumer habits, 68% of survey respondents reported that they prioritized their health more after the onset of the pandemic. 40% of the general population surveyed now consider wellness a top priority in daily life. Based on these stats, we are not facing an activation problem. Exercisers are highly motivated and want to work out.
The real problem? Persistence. After an initial swell of motivation, gym members fail to develop long-term routines, lose faith in their workout regimen as well as trust that their gym can deliver on their health goals. So, what can operators do to combat the persistence gap?
- Mix it up. Doing the same thing, again and again, will lead to boredom. Design your facility’s workout experience to provide variety and keep exercisers engaged over extended periods of time.
- Time it. Understand the behavioral patterns of your members. When are they churning, and for what reasons? Gaining a better understanding of behavior patterns will enable you to target them with promotions, access to new workout programs or areas of your facility, or a simple follow-up with a trainer.
- Automate engagement. Leverage a club app or other digital tools to schedule recurring challenges, use motivating push notifications or other member engagement campaigns to help members stick to their commitments. Going digital is a great way to increase engagement without increasing costs.
- Start a game day. Design community events or capture workout performance and activity to drive healthy competition amongst gym members. What about setting up a club ranking challenge as an example?
- Show progress. Nothing is more motivating than results. Use regular check-ups, body analyzers, and other tools to demonstrate progress every step of the way, especially early on when results might not be visible yet.
These ideas are not a silver bullet. Every operator needs to understand the unique challenges of their members to design their approach, but understanding the persistence gap will help improve your decision-making. Maybe you will even develop some of your own persistence to retain members longer than three months in the future and escape the acquisition spiral once and for all.
Are you ready?