The one key lesson that COVID-19 has taught us in the fitness industry is that building rock-solid relationships with your members is one of the most valuable actions you can take as a gym owner. In March and April of 2020, a lot of gyms and studios from around the world were forced to close their doors and go online. The gyms and studios that established strong relationships with their members found it a lot easier to retain members.
The foundation of these strong relationships is effective retention strategies. By investing time, money, and effort into making sure the member wants to come to your gym at least 3 to 4 times a week, there is little chance they are going to get up and leave. And, when workouts moved to the less engaging setting of the person’s front living room, it was more likely they would stay in your business.
Now, as gyms and studios are beginning to open up in the coming months with the onset of a vaccine globally, it’s never been a better time to review and improve your retention strategy. This article will look at 11 ways you can do this from today.
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- Why You Need a Strong Membership Retention Strategy in 2021
- COVID-19: Challenges in Gym Member Retention
- 11 Strategies to Increase Member Retention Rates in a Post-COVID World
Why You Need a Strong Membership Retention Strategy in 2021
As a fitness business, learning how to increase your member retention rate is crucial for success. The importance of member retention cannot be underestimated. It’s what keeps your doors open and revenue coming in month after month. Even a small 5% increase in membership retention can result in between a 25% and 95% increase in profits. Something as simple as two interactions a month between health club staff and members can reduce membership cancellations by up to 33%.
It costs more to attract new customers than it does to keep your current members. With retention rates dropping across the fitness sector, many members are canceling memberships in these uncertain times. Whether it’s financial uncertainty or lack of perceived value, it’s harder than ever to keep hold of your members. Some of the most successful gyms and fitness centers quickly pivoted to a digital way of working to continue to add value and support their members. By doing this they can retain members and generate income despite shutting their physical location.
Like a lot of businesses, you’re now probably operating with a hybrid business model. This means that you’re running both digital and in-person elements of the business. Popularity in digital fitness is skyrocketing and competition in the digital marketplace is high. Your member retention strategy now includes your digital and in-person membership base. It needs to adapt and evolve with you. Keeping both your digital and studio members happy and loyal is essential.
The Fitness Founders Podcast explores this topic further with Dr. Paul Bedford. Paul is an industry expert in retention and owner of Retention Guru. In the episode on retention now and in the future, Paul talks about the fundamentals of a great retention strategy, and what you need to create and implement a fantastic customer experience in virtual and in-person settings.
COVID-19: Challenges in Gym Member Retention
As a membership-based business, you will already be well aware of the unique challenges it brings. Member retention is an ongoing battle and the coronavirus crisis has amplified the situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought some unique challenges for gym member retention.
The first obstacle is public fear from COVID-19. After spending months at home and being told to keep your distance from other people, heading back to the gym creates a lot of anxiety for some people. There’s worry about how gyms and fitness centers will keep equipment clean and COVID-free. Governments are telling people to be careful in public and communal spaces. You now face the challenge of regaining confidence in your members and reassuring them that everything is safe for them to return. You will need to support and connect with your members on a deeper level to win them back, build trust, and regain confidence.
The pandemic has created financial uncertainty for a lot of people. Members are now analyzing their finances to see where they can cut costs. For some, they will have no choice but to cancel their membership if they are facing job losses and struggling. For others, they are looking to see what value you bring. It’s time to show how your fitness platform is valuable and that staying fit and healthy is worth the price. That could be connecting digitally and live-streaming classes or offering one on one virtual health coaching.
For more advice, listen to an episode on the new normal for member experience and hear how the best are doing it post COVID-19. Industry experts talk about the value you need to bring to keep member engagement high and churn low.
11 Strategies to Increase Member Retention Rates in a Post-COVID World
Staying connected with your members is an essential part of your member retention strategy. But it’s not enough to communicate with them, you have to continue to show your value. Here are 11 strategies to help increase member retention, drive value, and keep members happy.
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1. Communicate Increased Safety Protocols
Whether you’re running at reduced capacity, reopening soon, or still waiting for the all-clear to open your doors, you want to provide complete reassurance to your members. No doubt, members have a lot of questions about hygiene and safety. Communicate and share all your increased safety protocols and hygiene guidelines. Just knowing that you’re doing your part to minimize the spread and take care of your members is comforting. You can show your new hygiene protocols in a quick Facebook Live or a more thorough IGTV. Create a video showing your staff cleaning and the additional sanitizing stations you have at your gym. This video from Orangetheory fitness is a great example to follow.
2. Support and Talk to Your Members
For a lot of people, heading to the gym keeps them accountable when there is someone that notices them. A quick phone call has the power to bring a member back from the brink of quitting. Perhaps they are having a tough time and not working out. If they don’t hear from you or feel supported, then why should they stick around? Continue to support and talk to your members. Depending on your members, they may prefer email over a phone call, or perhaps a social media direct message is better for them. Think about how your members like to communicate and reach out to offer your support.
3. Build Confidence with Regular Communication
Now is the time to overcommunicate. You need to stay connected to your members with open and regular communication. You’re not just showing that you support them, you’re proving that you have value. Regular physical activity is key to maintaining a healthy weight. Evidence proves that people who are obese are at a higher risk of hospitalization of COVID-19. Gyms, health and fitness clubs are an essential part of keeping people fit and healthy. Continue to demonstrate that and prove your value.
4. Offer Digital Fitness and Online Classes
If you haven’t already, offer digital fitness and online classes. In a time when physical classes are greatly restricted all over the world, digital fitness presents a huge opportunity. If you’re not running a digital fitness platform, you’re behind your competition. Online fitness helps you to add value and deliver a variety of classes. The digital fitness experience is a part of the overall fitness experience. It keeps members engaged and motivated. Consider online coaching, personal training, classes, and live streaming to connect with your members and add value.
5. Create Digital Fitness Challenges
Happy and motivated members are loyal to your brand. They have no reason to go elsewhere because of your excellent customer service and super results. Run virtual fitness challenges to supercharge your retention. With a digital fitness challenge, members can go at their own pace and join in at a time that is convenient for them. It helps to maintain motivation at home as well as encourage regular movement and exercise. There’s a huge variety of challenges you can offer like a 30-day yoga challenge, couch to 5K, and a mindfulness and meditation challenge.
6. Take Personalization to the Next Level
Personalization is crucial to the member experience. You want your members to feel like you are having a conversation with them, not just sending a generic email or message. You can up your personalization by segmenting your database. This allows you to send personalized and completely relevant content to the right people. Nowadays, personalization is a differentiating factor between businesses and plays a significant role in member retention.
7. Show Member Progress
When members stop seeing results, they may quit a gym or health club. The majority of the time, members join a gym or fitness center for a reason. Whether it’s to lose weight, increase their fitness, or build muscle, it’s important to find ways to show your members their results and how far they have come. You could track metrics and personal bests as well as use photos to show before and after. If you feel your members are lacking motivation and are missing multiple classes, drop them a message to check-in. Maybe you could offer a virtual personal training session to kickstart member motivation.
8. Reshape the Fitness Experience
Going forward, think about how you can reshape the fitness experience to adapt to the consumer mindset. This means creating contact-free bookings and reducing in-person contact points. As the consumer mindset changes and priorities adjust, you will need to adapt and evolve in line with this. No one wants to spend hours queuing for equipment or waiting to pay for a class. Improve your self-service capabilities and use software to simplify how members manage their accounts. This applies to both digital and in-person memberships.
9. Think About Membership Types and Pricing
As your business model changes, consider how your membership types and pricing fits in with your brand. Many people are facing financial uncertainty and might just sign up for your digital-only membership. It’s important to offer flexibility with your membership types and pricing. A lot of the time, price is a major pain point. It’s an obstacle that is hard to overcome. But when you can offer a variety of services and prices, you get over that hurdle. Digital fitness services can be a more cost-effective membership with a potentially global reach.
10. Focus on At-Risk Members
Your entire retention strategy will focus on numbers and data. Leverage technology so that you can make data-informed decisions. With membership management software, you can focus on at-risk members and swoop in before they hand in their cancelation notice. Understand how priorities are changing and pinpoint those who are at risk of leaving. Consider calling your members and talking about potential pain points. Find out what’s going on in their lives and get some member feedback. Maybe they have lost their jobs, or your membership is too expensive for them. Now is the time to offer your cheaper digital membership experience with an incredible mobile app solution.
11. Solidify Your Onboarding Process
Take a look at your member onboarding process and solidify the journey you take new members on. Start from the beginning and look at the first place you have contact with new customers. A solid and fool-proof onboarding process integrates members into your fitness community. Getting off on the right foot is vital to a successful relationship and building trust. Consider how you bring on both digital and in-person members in a way that reinforces what a great decision it was to sign up for your services.
Gym membership retention is crucial in the wellness industry. Retaining members is more cost-effective than constantly attracting new ones. The process of growing your business and member retention rates back to pre-COVID-19 levels will require careful planning and consideration of how the fitness industry has evolved. Put simply, your previous member retention strategy may not be as effective. That being said, you can boost your member retention rates that work for both the digital and in-person parts of your business.