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10 Membership Retention Best Practices You Need To Know


Retention is so much more than creating a nice atmosphere and saying hello when a member walks through the door. Don’t get me wrong, both those things are really important, but just focusing on them alone won’t make your members stay. 

Some gym and studio owners overlook the fact that you need to have a clear strategy for retention that every staff member in your fitness business understands. It needs to be embedded into the day to day of how your business operates.

But before this can happen you need to know what makes a great retention strategy. As we have said, while it’s important to be friendly and welcoming to a member, there is so much more to it. You have to think of your retention strategy in terms of the journey your member goes on. 

From the moment they step in the door there needs to be a pathway they can follow to achieve the best results they can. And, you need to have protocols on place if you find that member straying from this path. 

In this article we will go into why a good member retention strategy is so important and explore 10 membership best practices you aren’t doing. 

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Why is a Good Membership Retention Strategy so Important? 

With the changing landscape of the fitness industry, especially in the last few months, it’s important to reflect on your retention strategy. As many brands have pivoted to a hybrid fitness business, your retention strategy needs to encompass this move in a way that allows you to deliver excellent customer service and member experience online and offline. 

An excellent membership retention strategy is at the heart of a buzzing and successful fitness business. It’s in everything from your onboarding strategy to the way you interact with your members at every point in the sales journey. Member retention is about more than just increasing the bottom line, it’s creating a stellar experience that not only retains members but attracts new ones. You need a systemized process strategy that takes a stranger to a paying and loyal member.  

Here are a few key reasons why it’s important. 

Improve Your Rate of Growth 

Increasing your membership retention rate can improve your rate of growth. With a more consistent member base, you’re more likely to develop meaningful relationships between members and staff. This can drastically improve the member experience as deeper connections help to create more personal interactions. 

New Members Cost More 

It costs about five times as much to attract a new customer instead of keeping an existing one. To build a successful business, you need to develop a base of loyal customers who renew their membership. If you put all your focus on attracting new members instead of nurturing your current ones, you will start to see your bank balance drop. Your existing members are incredibly valuable. 

Increase Your Bottom Line 

Statistics suggest that increasing your customer retention rate by 5% can result in an increase in profits by 25% to 95%. There’s a massive potential to increase your bottom line. Improving your retention rate not only boosts your bottom line but increases the entire member experience. 

More Referrals from Loyal Members 

Loyal members are happy members. Happy members are much more likely to refer your business. When you increase your retention rate, you may see an improvement in word of mouth marketing. Your members are your best brand cheerleaders and can do wonders for your business. 

10 Best Membership Retention Practices for Your Business 

Your membership retention strategy starts well before a member has walked through the door. In reality, there’s an entire process that takes place from the first touchpoint to a fully-fledged and paying member. The best retention practices think about every step of the customer journey and make data-driven decisions to drive value. Let’s break down 11 retention practices you can implement in your business. 

1. Discover Why Members Joined 

The longer you retain members, their lifetime value increases and they bring in more money to your business in the long-term. If you don’t have a good retention strategy in place, you’ll always be on the lookout for new members.  In general, people join your gym or fitness studio for a reason. Maybe it’s to lose some weight, make new friends, or they love the classes you run. 

Whatever the reason, find out what it is and continue to deliver on it. Stay true to your promise. The majority of members tend to lose motivation when they aren’t seeing results. Do what it takes to keep members consistent and hitting their goals. Keeping members motivated is a big part of retaining members. 

2. Design Your Onboarding Process to Encourage Member Retention 

The onboarding process plays an integral role in maximizing your retention strategy. It helps to ensure new members turn into loyal ones who continue to use your services and engage with your business. When it comes to member onboarding, there isn’t a blanket approach that fits everyone. You may be speaking to someone who has never stepped foot in a gym or perhaps an individual who is an avid gym-goer but is switching facilities. Each person needs a tailored approach during the onboarding journey.

Your team needs to be able to identify members that need the most support and provide the correct resources. By asking the right questions to new members, you can figure out the right onboarding plan for them and begin to nurture customer loyalty from the very beginning of the relationship. 

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3. Understand Member Churn 

Your member churn, or attrition rate, is the nemesis of member retention. There are reasons that are out of your control as to why members may leave such as moving away or a change in financial situation. However, you can actively reduce member retention by fully understanding why your members leave. 

The fitness industry is becoming increasingly technology-centered, so use that to your advantage. Maybe a member missed their monthly goal and then stopped attending classes the following week. If you know that motivation is a big factor in member churn, think about ways to hold members accountable and keep them motivated. 

4. Offer Solutions and Drive Value 

For many businesses, it’s now more important than ever to retain existing members. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many fitness brands pivoted to a digital fitness offering. They were able to continue to drive value to members, despite closing their doors. Providing added value to your members is a good retention practice. 

The majority of people are looking for a solution to a problem. When you want to lose weight, the main obstacles tend to be nutrition and exercise. If you package solutions that solve problems, they are so valuable. Maybe you provide nutrition consultation and meal plans as additional services. When you combine digital and in-person services, you can offer solutions and really drive value to members. 

5. Personalize the Experience 

Personalization isn’t new to the scene, however, it has been developing in the last few years. A key part of a businesses’ success is that it can keep customers coming back again and again. Technology makes it easier than ever to personalize the member experience. Address your members by their names in all forms of communication and use technology to personalize the fitness experience. 

When you speak directly to your customers, it makes them feel special. Members are more likely to pay attention to your communication channels if you address them directly. It also helps to develop a closer relationship between your business and members. The aim is to create meaningful personal connections both online and offline. 

6 . Engage with Members 

A great retention strategy creates an engaging customer experience. To do this, you need to map the customer journey. This means getting the touchpoints right. You want to engage with people throughout the member lifecycle but you don’t want to constantly bombard them with your sales messaging. It will quickly disengage members and end up having the opposite of the desired effect. 

To map out your touchpoints, think about the customer journey from the beginning of the sales process onwards. You want to find what your members expect at each stage and what kind of emotions they will be experiencing. When you combine this with your communication strategy, you can create an engaging environment that nurtures members. The last thing you want to do is keep pushing a message either too often or to the wrong person. For further insight, listen to the retention guru, Dr. Paul Bedford, who explores the topic of retention now and in the future on the Fitness Founders Podcast.  

7. Leverage Data and Technology 

Technology can have a big impact on retention in the fitness industry. With advances in technology, you now have access to a ton of data that was previously untouchable. Membership management solutions give you the opportunity to access data that gives you an edge when it comes to member retention. It allows you to develop early intervention strategies and make better decisions. This leads to happier and more engaged members. 

Early intervention is a massive contributor to member retention. You don’t need to wait until a member hands in their notice. You can step in early on in the customer journey to prevent future member churn. For example, if you have a member who attends a class every Wednesday and religiously goes to the gym at the weekend and you notice a change in their behavior, you need to question it. Missing classes and regular workout sessions is a signal that a member is losing motivation. Take the opportunity to follow up and make sure everything is going well. Maybe you could offer a personal training session or free meal plan to help a member get back on track. 

8. Automate the Renewal Process 

Another way to use technology to your advantage is to automate the membership renewal process. The last thing you want is for a member to slip through your fingers because of forgetfulness. Gym management software will save you hours of time by automating tasks that benefit your business. 

You can automate the whole renewal process by sending out automatic emails to members a week or so before their renewal period. Make it as easy as possible to renew memberships and manage their account. By including different payment options and automating invoicing, a simple booking and renewal process is part of the digital fitness experience

9. Deliver Excellent Customer Service 

Excellent customer service and experience go hand-in-hand. Great customer service helps to boost sales and member retention. A positive attitude and the ability to go above and beyond for your customers helps to provide the kind of service people are willing to pay for. 

Your customer service will help to build your reputation, increase word of mouth marketing, and improve the overall value of your business. Although it may sound obvious that good customer service is part of a good retention strategy, it’s so important. Consistently delivering fantastic customer service will create happy and loyal members. 

10. Send an Exit Survey to Members 

Gaining and losing members is part of the business. If someone does choose to leave you, take the time to find out why. Use the moment as a learning experience so that it doesn’t happen again. Some members leave for valid reasons, however, you could step in to stop others leaving. 

If early intervention strategies have failed you, it’s still a good idea to find out the reasons why a member has left. Surveys are a great way to find out information directly from both your existing and previous members. You can also send out surveys to existing members to find out any pain points or potential reasons someone may quit. Your members are an incredible source of data. Use that data to step in and change the situation before you lose a customer. 

In Summary 

As your business evolves and develops, your retention strategy needs to reflect those changes. In the fitness industry, member retention will always be important. It’s essential that you create a solid retention plan that nurtures and engages members. Use data to intervene early on, create a watertight onboarding process, and transform your retention strategy. 

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Mehdi Elaichouni
Owner at Carpe Diem BJJ

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