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A Member Engagement Guide for Gyms and Fitness Studios


January and February are typically the most profitable months for gyms and studios. While this year may be different due to closures around the world, there is still predicted to be some growth in 2021 with things hopefully returning to normal in 2022. There has been a renewed interest in fitness due to at-home workouts so people are willing to sign up for gym memberships, even if the offering is virtual for now. 

A big issue gyms and studios encounter is that a lot of the memberships purchased at the beginning of the year are left unused when the “new year, new me” motivation wears off. In fact, presented a startling statistic on the topic. According to their findings, an incredible $1.8 billion is spent on unused memberships every year. In other words, 6.3% of 82.1 million gym-going adults don’t bother using their bought and paid for memberships. 

Now, while there have been accusations that larger gym chains like it this way, the reality is that the unused membership will likely no longer be a membership and then that person is lost forever. A 2016 report by Dr. Paul Bedford found that 67% of people kept their memberships for at least 12 months. 

One of the main reasons memberships become unused and then eventually canceled is a lack of engagement. It’s simple really. If the member signs up and is never spoken to again about their progress or the goals they want to hit, then they will eventually leave. Dr. Bedford spoke about this and more on an episode of our podcast which you can check out here.   

As a gym owner, engagement with your members needs to be a priority. We know that its a lot tougher now with restrictions, lockdowns, and virtual training but it’s also never been more important. Let’s take a closer look at what member engagement is and how you can put some member engagement strategies into practice for your fitness business.  

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What is Member Engagement? 

Member acquisition and member retention are the two actions that keep your fitness business running and, if done well, keep your business growing. Both require different approaches and skillsets and both are equally important. If you want to learn a bit more about what acquisition is – start by reading here.  

But we are going to talk about retention, specifically the engagement aspect of it. Member engagement is the lasting interaction between a service provider and the consumer (member) that results in a positive member retention rate. In other words, it’s the effort you put into the relationship that you have with your clients to remind them that your service plays an important part in their lives. 

Why is Member Engagement Important?

Engaging members can be challenging and time-consuming, but it’s one of the most essential parts of your business. Firstly, with a solid engagement plan, you won’t have to deal with a significant outflow of members. And secondly, the effort you put in engaging members will be one of the top reasons people recommend you to everyone looking for a good gym.

Many fitness clubs tend to neglect their member engagement strategy. Others simply don’t even take time to consider making an engagement plan. And the funny thing is that the key component of a successful member engagement strategy is daily efforts. 

5 Things to Know Before You Make an Engagement Plan

You need to remember that your engagement plan isn’t something you’ll put into action only once. To increase member engagement, you’ll have to work hard and daily. 

Your role inside the gym should be that of a mentor. And the relationship that you have with any member should be lifelong (or as long as possible). Building and maintaining such a relationship takes a lot of effort. And especially so in the consumer-driven world that we now live in. 

Every individual member expects special attention and top-notch service for the value that they’re paying. And the generalization of any kind can lead them to think that they aren’t appreciated enough. Nowadays, customers seek and opt for businesses that celebrate their uniqueness and individuality. And this is something that you need to take into consideration when working on your engagement plan.

But before you start any work on your engagement strategy and ways to improve it, you first need to understand each member of your gym’s journey and the phases that they go through. 

There are five phases that each member goes through when joining your gym:

  1. Attract
  2. Convert
  3. Manage
  4. Engage
  5. Delight

And now we’ll take a closer look into each of them.

1. Attract

The first phase of your member’s journey starts before they even visit or call for the first time. It begins with their desire to join a gym and realize a specific goal in life. That’s the moment where your gym must stand out from all others.

The best way for a new member to be attracted to your gym is to hear words of praise from other members. Becoming a valuable and sought-after business inside a certain community can be the best type of commercial. You can also invest in social media marketing as well as creating a welcoming and informative website page. 

2. Convert

Conversion is perhaps one of the most important phases of the entire relationship with your members. In this phase, you must do everything possible to turn someone who’s only interested into a member. 

To begin with, you must ease the process of joining the club. Whether it’s via the website or at the desk, the process shouldn’t be long and boring. Ideally, your member could make a payment online and have a membership card delivered via e-mail. Moreover, if you do have a reception desk, make sure there’s always someone behind it. 

3. Manage

For some businesses, getting through phases 1 and 2 is the goal. However, for a gym or a fitness club owner, phase 3 is the one that will show the members that they have made a good choice. 

The Customer
Engagement Playbook
for Your Fitness

Discover more

The first two weeks are crucial. You must make a seamless onboarding experience so that the new member feels welcome in your gym community. 

For this phase to be successful, you have to gather as much information as possible during phase two and learn some things about that member and what drives them. Use questions like: How did they hear about the gym? Do they live in the neighborhood? What are their motivations for joining, and how often do they plan to come?

4. Engage

Engagement is the fourth phase of your member journey in your gym. After they have adapted to the new surrounding and you’ve made them feel welcome, now it’s time to keep them engaged. 

Keep your members engaged by setting milestones or offering daily reminders and updates on their progress. Organize weekly feedback sessions and ask them about things that need improvement and things they hope to achieve. And this is only to name a few possible strategies. 

More on these later.

5. Delight

The last phase can be considered a separate phase or an active part of phase 4, the Engagement Phase. This is the delight phase or the phase that convinces the member that you and your gym are exceptional. 

In this phase, members separate you from all other gyms because of the special treatment they receive as part of your gym community. 

5 Tips to Increase Member Engagement

There are many ways in which you can increase member engagement. Mostly, it depends on your members and their individual wishes and goals. Below, you can find some tips that can prove to be useful in the long run.

1. Have Analytics on the Activity of Each Member

It’s difficult to remember everything there is about a member. That’s why you should take notes about their age, weight, and goals. Make additional notes (virtual or with a pen and paper) whenever something changes, like their working schedule or if they are on vacation. Having a strong analytics system can help members who like to see their progress now and then. 

2. Constant Member Communication

It’s crucial to discover in which way you can communicate with every member. Some members will prefer texting, and others will be more inclined towards emails or social media messaging platforms. Older members of the gym might even prefer a phone call. 

The bottom line is that you must always reach out to your members, especially in cases like having to cancel a training session or other such inconvenience. 

Through good member communication, every gym-goer will feel like they can address you with anything that’s bothering them. So, even if they aren’t satisfied with their progress, they won’t just quit without any notice. They will tell you their issue instead so you could help them deal with it. 

3. Group-Exercise Programs

Building group exercise programs will help the members get to know each other, and it can form the mindset of belonging to a certain group. Forming a community inside the gym can inspire people to connect but also continue with their training sessions. 

According to IHRSA’s findings, over 55% of gym members are more likely to end their membership if they have only been using the equipment without participating in group training sessions. People like socializing, and a gym is a perfect stress-free place for this. Even if you have a member who exclusively comes for individual training sessions, you can suggest they join the group session at least once a month.

4. Informative Website and Social Media Pages

Be up-to-date on your website and social media profiles. Most people will turn to those for any kind of information. That includes your old members and future ones. Building your online community on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even TikTok, can be crucial for attracting younger generations to your gym. 

Communicating with your online community can even be a full-time job. So if you’re considering expanding and fortifying your Internet presence, maybe the best way is to hire someone else to do it for you. 

5. Don’t Underestimate Old Members and Staff

Your staff members are your right hand. Whenever you’re not present, everything should be running as smoothly as if you were. And this is how inspired staff members should behave. If you show appreciation to your staff members, you’ll get their respect and loyalty in return, but also the admiration of gym visitors who can see your relationship.

And lastly, but most importantly, never take old members for granted. Just because they have been a part of your gym for years doesn’t mean they can’t get disappointed or attracted by someone else. Always remember the member journey. Every relationship begins with someone attracting someone else. And just as easily as you have gained a new member, you can lose an old one. 

In Summary

Including an engagement plan in your business strategy can bring many benefits to the table. Keeping your gym members engaged will positively impact the member retention rate,  your revenue, and your overall reputation. 

If you lean on the new customer swarming into the gym because of great Instagram or Facebook pictures or due to a membership discount, you must know that those numbers won’t last long if you don’t keep them engaged once they become your members. Every lasting relationship requires constant nourishment. And the one between you and your members is what keeps your gym alive. 

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Mehdi Elaichouni
Owner at Carpe Diem BJJ

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