Dr. Paul Bedford is an industry-leading expert on retention and the owner of Retention Guru, which helps independent gyms and larger international franchises with their business development strategies.
We’ve spoken with Paul many times before, and it’s always been an insightful and engaging conversation. There are very few people in this industry who know more than Paul. If you’re looking for someone to help you boost your business performance, he should be your go-to.
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5 Key Tips for Boosting Your Business Performance
1. Don’t Leave Gaps Between the Sales and Onboarding
It’s easy to think that the member journey starts when the person walks in the door. In reality, however, onboarding a member correctly has its origins in the sales process. The salesperson does a great job of building a relationship with the customer. In the long run, though, they will not be building a long-term relationship with the customer.
There is a gap between where the salesperson’s job ends and the onboarding person’s job begins. Within this gap, the new member can feel lost and the good relationship built up with the salesperson can lessen in value. According to Dr. Bedford, there needs to be an overlap so there is smooth continuity in the person’s journey from converted lead to fully onboarded member.
You need to take the time to introduce them to staff, familiarize them with your property, business hours, and events – without it, they could walk out the door and you may never see them again.
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2. Create a Watertight Onboarding Plan
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to a member joining your gym. Dr. Bedford explains the three types of members you would typically find signing up for a gym membership. They are:
- The New Member: A person who has never really joined a gym before.
- The Savvy Member: This person is an experienced gym-goer who largely knows what they are doing.
- The Yo-Yo Member: Someone who has been a regular member of a gym at least once before but has not committed to it long-term.
The mistake some gyms make is that the Yo-Yo Member is treated as a Savvy Member as they answer “yes” to the question “Have you ever been a member of a gym before?” when they really should be treated as a new member. Then they will get the support needed to ensure they don’t leave.
Dr. Bedford points out that your onboarding team needs to be able to identify who needs more support and who needs less. This means asking the right questions that make the customer self-select their category rather than the trainer. Then allocate the proper resources to back up each level of support.
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3. Map Out The Customer Journey
Getting the touchpoints right is so important to getting your customer journey right. Then one thing you should not do is bombard them constantly with sales messaging as they will quickly disengage. What you need to do is map out the touchpoints in the customer journey based on what the member is expecting.
Dr. Bedford gives a quick overview of what this playbook looks like in reality. First of all, map out the timeline of the journey from the sales process onwards. Then identify what the customer service is at each stage and what the emotional experience is at these stages. Finally, you need to think of means of communication, be it SMS, email, or a combination of both.
4. You Need to Develop Your Online Product
Something that has been echoed recently by a few of our recent guests is that the quality of your recording needs to evolve over time. In the beginning, current members will be forgiving about technical hiccups but may not be after day 20. Similarly, new members will not be as patient if your online product is not up to scratch. It’s essential to learn and develop your recorded workouts and figure out quickly what works and what doesn’t.
An example Dr. Bedford points out is that some instructors will be great on-screen while others are more suited to in-person classes. He also references an article by Life Fitness Director of Digital Experience Leon Rudge which says there are some things that you can get away with in a crisis but that can’t be your long-term strategy. You need to figure out how to get the best out of your team and resources to deliver an online offering that shines.
5. Implementing a Retention Strategy Across A Franchise
If you are the head of a franchise, it’s never been more important to make sure there is cohesion across all your locations. Retaining members in this new world is the key to survival so everyone needs to be on the same page. Once you have developed the playbook for retention, you need a way to get all your franchise locations onboard.
Dr. Bedford explains that you need to show them clearly the data that proves the value of your retention playbook. This is not just from a customer experience standpoint, but from a bottom-line standpoint. On top of this, franchise owners need to ensure that their managers understand and deliver on the process that has been mapped out.
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