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5 Reasons Why Gym Members Leave and How To Keep Them


Signing up your first couple of members can be one of the best feelings in the world. Getting a lead and then turning them into a prospect and finally into a newly minted member is a challenging but rewarding process that can take a while to get right. Once you get over that challenge though, your work is only really beginning. The next step is to retain them.

Previous studies have suggested that 50% of new members quit within three months of joining a fitness center. There is no doubt you have experienced the crushing disappointment of losing a member. Which is a stark contrast to the soaring high of signing them up. You aren’t alone as losing members is a common problem in the industry.

In this article, we will first look at why great retention is necessary for the success of your gym. We will then tackle the main reasons people give up their membership and more importantly, what you can do to tackle this. 

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Why Is Retention so Important?

There is a trend among a lot of fitness marketing and sales gurus to put an emphasis on leads. You need more leads, leads will solve all your problems, we will get you 100s of leads. While this all sounds great, and you do need a good flow of leads consistently coming through, the only way you are going to grow is through retention.  

Retention Cuts Acquisition Costs

It costs a company 5 times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. This is no different in the world of fitness. It’s quite simple, the more members that you keep loyal to your gym, the less you will have to spend on customer acquisition costs. The most successful gyms and studios invest in member loyalty programs. They also use the power of referral to acquire more members. There is nothing more powerful than word of mouth marketing. 

The Fitness Industry Is Changing

This will become more important as the industry pivots to a more boutique style of gym focused on classes. As we discussed in Why Boutique Fitness is a Change Not a Trend, the market has shifted rapidly to a focus on member experience. Focusing on retention has never been more important. Heres why: 

Gyms are getting smaller: The typical boutique fitness studio is not a sprawling Planet Fitness style complex in a suburban retail park. Usually, it’s just a single room or a couple of rooms with the focus being on classes. What this means is that you can only fit a certain amount of members into a certain amount of classes. What this also means is that if you have a small pool of customers, a sudden drop in members can really hurt your business. 

Pricing models are different: One of the most off-putting aspects of a big box gym was the way they signed up members. Once the person was locked into a contract, it was very hard for them to escape it, especially if they were unhappy with the gym. This would then lead to members likely leaving when their contract was up. Now contracts are more flexible, with members typically able to pay month to month and opt-out when they want. If you don’t prove to the member you are worth it, they will walk out the door. 

The member experience is key: The biggest impact boutique studios have had on the industry is to put the focus on the member and their experience. While this may sound strange considering the member should always be the focus, this wasn’t always the case. As other studios step up their game when it comes to providing a premium member experience, it is vital that you do too. 

In the next part of this article, we will look at some of the main reasons members might leave and how you can keep them.

5 Reasons Members Leave and How You Can Keep Them 

For gym owners, their big fear is their current members leaving. There a variety of reasons for this. Let’s go through a few of these and provide you with the solutions to stop them from leaving. 

1. They Aren’t Making the Progress They Hoped

Problem: People will join a gym with a goal in mind. This may be to lose weight, gain muscle or just lead a healthier lifestyle in general. A lot of the time they have tried different types of workouts with little or no success. They go from personal training to group classes, to the latest fad diet and then back in that circle again. It’s a common occurrence that most members encounter.  Getting yourself to the gym every day, working hard and not seeing the results of your efforts can be hugely demotivating for the member. 

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Solution: To prevent this from happening in the first place, you need to set goals with the member from day 1. Even during the sales process, you need to pinpoint where their past pain points have been with fitness and work on making sure they will overcome them. But it doesn’t stop there as studies have shown that 73% of people who set fitness goals give up on them. 

Make sure you are regularly checking in with the member and fixing any issues that are coming up. Diet is one of the most common hurdles for members so things like food trackers and food diaries can really help keep the member keep on the right track. MyFitnessPal is a popular free diet tracking app. 

2. There Is No Sense of Community

Problem: As we said at the beginning of this article, community has been one of the defining aspects of the boutique fitness revolution. So much so, that members now expect some aspect of community from their gym or studio. As people grow older and stop playing team sports, the idea of being part of a like-minded collective focused on fitness is appealing. However, building a community is easier said than done. Gym owners have the best intentions of trying to do this. Creating a community, though, takes a lot of different elements and often times more important tasks takeover, leaving it to fall by the wayside. 

Solution: Building something like this takes time and there has to be a buy-in from members, trainers and the rest of your staff. Achieving this is an integral part of your member retention strategy. But how do you do it? 

A very simple way is to set up a Whatsapp or Facebook group for all your members. Keep them up to date with the latest goings-on in your studio. Also, encourage discussion about the workouts and any challenges they are on. Another great way to build community is through events. Team challenges are the perfect way for members to show off their progress while a night out for food and drinks can be a good way for members to get to know each other outside the gym. 

3. Members Aren’t Championed

Problem: People like to be recognized for their achievements. This is especially true when it comes to working out. Putting in all that effort into hitting fitness goals is great but it’s even better when the person is recognized for their achievements. Not only does it boost morale, but it gives the member the extra little bit of motivation they need to succeed. While this may not be a huge issue for some people, when they see other studios champion their members online, they might begin to lose interest in hitting their goals.  

Solution: Champion your members! It’s simple really. The most obvious way is through social media. Showcase members training hard at early morning sessions through Instagram Stories. Give shout outs on the studio Whatsapp group to the people who are consistently hitting 3 classes per week. One great outside the box idea was given to us by Stuart Brauer on a recent episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast. According to him, starting a weekly podcast for your gym where you interview your members is a great way to champion members. There is also the added bonus of spreading the word about your gym. Think about it; if the member shares the podcast episode on the social pages, their followers will notice giving you some great inbound leads. 

4.The Gym Is Unorganized

Problem: There is nothing that will drive away members more than un-organization. This could be things like bad booking systems, substandard facilities, and equipment, poor communication with members or ineffective payment methods. Even if a gym owner is running solid classes, they will be tripped up if your gym isn’t managed properly. The blame doesn’t total with the owner or the staff either. They could put in all the effort world but if the right systems aren’t in place, the rate of members leaving could go into freefall. The only way to solve this is to have the right systems in place – both analog and digital. 

Solution: Another big change that boutiques brought in was innovating with the latest technology. To deliver that premium member experience they have gone all-in on the latest workout and gym management technology. Any gym or studio worth their salt now runs a gym management software system to take payments and manage their members and staff. More importantly, it is connected to an app where members can book into classes easily and stay connected with their gym. This is vital in a world where most products and services are available on a smartphone.

5. The Classes Aren’t Engaging

Problem: The one thing that you need to get right is your classes. This is the foundation of any good business. It doesn’t matter how good your facility is or how fantastic the story is you sell the member to convince them to sign up. The reality is if your classes aren’t engaging, there is nowhere to hide. This will also be a contributing factor to the member not hitting their fitness goals. While you as the founder may be able to put on a great class, the problem can arise when hiring new trainers to teach classes.

Solution: Be rigorous in who you hire. As your business grows you will become too thinly spread across different roles to take every class. Therefore you need to make sure the quality of class stays high, no matter who you hire. And to make your class experience unique to other fitness studios, classes need to have a consistent style across the board. Playbooks and in-depth onboarding are key to this. While this may seem like a drain on time, in the beginning, it ill bear fruit in the long run. 

In Summary

There is no doubt that the fitness industry is pivoting towards a more premium member experience that the big box gym or health club is not providing. As health and well being becomes more central to the lives of those with greater disposal income, they are inundated with more choice. For the gym owner, this means you need to deliver the best member experience possible to ensure they aren’t here one day and gone the next.  

The Customer
Engagement Playbook
for Your Fitness

Customer engagement is the way in which a brand
connects with its customers on a deeper level than a
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