Creating a deeper connection with your members is an important step in increasing the lifespan of their membership at your club. Showing interest in their personal life and health goals displays your club’s dedication toward being a part of their fitness journey. It creates a community they want to be a part of.
For the latest Thought Leaders digital roundtable, Scott Gillespie, the president of Saco Sport & Fitness; Mark Miller, the COO of Merritt Clubs; Robert Rudder, the COO of Francos Health Clubs; Christopher Montoya, the president of Valley Fitness; and Ben Ludwig, the COO of Traction Group LLC, an F45 Training Company, sat down to discuss the importance of investing in members.
Forming a strong connection with members begins at the onboarding process. This period is a great time to not only introduce them to your facility and staff, but also emphasize all the social and community building events you offer. Positioning yourself as more than “just a gym” is the first step of creating a lifetime member.
“We have to make sure all of our member base is in a place where they feel they’re a part of a community,” said Ludwig. “They’re in a place where they enjoy what they’re doing, and they’re getting the results they want. If we can provide those three things, we’re winning.”
Along with fostering community, onboarding is also a great time to advertise your club’s full list of amenities. Doing so promotes usage, and members can better understand the value of their membership from the jump.
“The discovery process is a huge component of member onboarding,” said Rudder. “If our guidance during the discovery process is strong, we’re going to understand exactly what the customer needs. Then, we’re able to point them in the right direction and tailor their journey to them. When someone joins our club, they’re immediately connected to multiple areas of the club. As a result, the average life of the member extends along with an uptick in our ancillary services. It’s been a game changer for us.”
However, you should always be reminding members of the perks through various touchpoints. When there’s a greater value that outweighs the cost of membership, customers will stay. Finding ways to improve amenities — and offering new ones — are other ways to engage members and help them see the expense as an investment.
“We’re working on adding extra value to membership,” explained Montoya. “Besides our regular membership, we have a higher level, and they get even more value. We’re working with a partner on health-related amenities — like blood paneling — because their popularity is going through the roof. The possibilities are endless right now and we’re adding quite a bit.”
Besides amenities, many participants shared how hosting fun events for members adds value to membership. One example Miller gave was a St. Patrick’s themed member appreciation day. If a member found a gold coin around the facility, they could turn it in at the front desk to get a scratch off. Merritt Clubs also gives back to the greater community through charity which members love to get involved with.
“We have marketing dollars and what I call ‘retention dollars,’” Miller explained. “We take part of the marketing money, which is typically used to try and get new members, and we invest the money in our existing members to try and make them want to be here longer. We create a lot of fun social events which can lead to referrals.”
Implementing a rewards system where certain behaviors like referrals will earn points is a popular trend within clubs to increase member lifetime. Members can trade in points for raffles or other prizes which incentivizes the actions. Ultimately, these systems are fun and successful in encouraging engagement. However, they shouldn’t be handled with a heavy hand.
Gillespie warned about the potential pitfalls of these systems and how it can be easy to fall into bribery. Staff are also susceptible to marketing these programs instead of creating connections with members.
“If we use the bribery of incentive concept too much, staff default to ‘here’s the offer, here’s the incentive’ opposed to ‘here’s how to build value,’” said Gillespie. “I love the idea of creating interest and rewarding desired behavior. There are so many ways to do that through charity involvement, engagement and making people feel good about how their dollars or time are being invested. The foundational piece of offering amenities is giving people what they want to build value.”
Overall, keeping members engaged and improving lifetime value is an ongoing effort, but it’s also a great way to incorporate creativity and foster belonging in your club. Showing different ways members are investing in instead of buying a membership to your club is the full-proof way to keep them in your community.
Watch the full conversation, below.