You Want Longevity in Members

Curtis Crocker, a retired businessman from Charlottesville, Va., is every club’s dream — a longevous member. For 11 years, Crocker has been a member of ACAC Fitness and Wellness Centers in Charlottesville.

Crocker used to be a road warrior, running 20 to 25 miles a week — he participated in six marathons. “I got to a point where my feet and joints wouldn’t tolerate the pounding anymore,” he said. Therefore, he sought out a gym where he could continue to maintain his health through exercise.

When Crocker began looking for a club, there were two choices. He had a free week-long trial at one facility that he tested. His experience that week wasn’t great — he didn’t like the locker room situation, the sauna was broken and the membership base didn’t suit him.

Everything was different when he walked through the doors at ACAC. “Once I walked in the door, I knew,” he said. “I fell in love with the place. It has everything you want. They offer everything.”

Now, 11 years later, Crocker is just as in love with his gym, if not more so.

Crocker is dedicated to his workouts. Waking up each morning without an alarm, he is at the club when it opens at 5:30 a.m., throughout the week, and when it opens on weekends at 8 a.m. “I enjoy the feeling I get from working out,” Crocker said. “From a practical perspective, it’s something that I can fit in my day that I enjoy.”

Those that workout in the morning with Crocker have a sense of community with the attendance running the gamut of professions from doctors to lawyers to teachers. He jokes that if you need any advice in those areas, you can just pull someone aside.

“We look out for each other,” Crocker said. “Recently, a couple wasn’t there for a few days. They are in their 80s, so I called to check in on them. I passed the word around that they were fine.”

Crocker hasn’t searched for another club because he has no reason. He values ACAC and he knows they value him in return. He has gotten to know staff members, in addition to other members — even saying hello to owner Phil Wendel, on occasion.

He remembers receiving a handwritten card from ACAC saying they appreciated his attendance and telling him he was in the Top 100 Attendance Club. On a member’s birthday, they receive a card with an offer for the club café. Basically, they are taking care of their members.

Crocker said the secret to retention is attention. “One of the things I’ve learned in business is that people love to get a pat on the back,” he said. “They like to be told what a good job they’re doing.” In the insurance business, Crocker said he always kept in contact with clients. Clubs need to do the same. “Clubs need to contact the person in some way. On their birthdays, or direct mail or e-mail. If they have erratic attendance, contact them saying ‘We miss you.’ People just love to get attention.”

Paying attention to members is almost a guaranteed way to keep them. When you consider the amount of money it takes to recruit new members, it may be worth the money to hire someone to contact your current members.

One gym lost out on a potential long-term member in Crocker by not impressing him in his trial week — an opportunity wasted when you’ve already got a prospect in your club. Make sure your gym is always running in terrific condition.

Take advantage of members using free trials to really “wow” them and make the decision of joining a no-brainer. Take your effort a step further and seek out trial members and let them know they’re appreciated. Don’t stop there though; keep it up during their entire membership. That’s how to retain loyal members for life! -CS

By Ali Cicerchi

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