There is one thing that is inevitable in running a fitness business: losing members. For a multitude of reasons, members are going to leave your business, forcing you to find more.
In this guide, we’ll show you exactly how to keep your members engaged and committed, significantly reducing churn and, more importantly, boosting your revenue.
On average, 67% of health club members in the U.S. and Canada retain their membership for at least 12 months. In other countries like the U.K., only 53% of members keep their membership for over a year.
Essentially, this means that in the U.S. and Canada, you need to replace a third of your members every year.
In the U.K., you need to replace almost half your members every year.
But what if instead of trying to solve the symptom, you focused on the actual problem instead?
Customer churn isn’t actually the problem – the real problem is unengaged members.
Customer engagement starts the second your members walk into your studio or gym, and it should be a continuous, standardized process.
Many companies are great at the intro and onboarding process – getting the member involved and educated in everything that the business has to offer.
However, a major failure point is the transition from onboarding to becoming a regular member.
We spoke with the Retention Guru himself, Paul Bedford, about this issue: essentially, you need to ensure that there is always a point of contact between your staff and your members, making sure they’re never feeling lost or unheard.
Why is Gym Member Engagement Important?
Building a strong foundation for gym member engagement is more important than ever. One report found that members at risk of canceling their membership were 45% less likely to quit the following month if they received a “successful commitment interaction” than those who didn’t.
What is a successful commitment interaction?
This can be anything from a quick text from you to the member to a more sophisticated automated email response, depending on the size and nature of your business.
Need help developing more successful commitment interactions?
However, it’s important to remember that a successful commitment interaction doesn’t happen because of the email, it happens because you’re giving the member something to commit to.
Having a more engaging class, a passionate fitness community, or even just a more accessible class booking system can create a significant boost in your member engagement and retention.
Member Engagement Touchpoints Explained
Every business is different.
Boxing Studios and Spin Studios are going to have a completely different method of interaction with their members, just in the same way that a major franchise and a small studio will.
When analyzing your business’ engagement methods, you need to look at your member engagement touchpoints and where they’re most effective.
Typical Member Engagement Touchpoints Include:
- Social media (Instagram/Facebook groups, private messages)
- Email (newsletters, personalized outreach emails, promotions)
- In-person interactions (at reception, out and about in the world)
- In-app messages (booking queries, merch purchases)
- Private messaging groups (Whatsapp, SMS, etc.)
- Physical Media (letters, contracts, flyers, coupons, etc.)
All of these require a different nuance or approach, and many of these perform exceptionally well for one type of business, but not for others. In analyzing your engagement touchpoints, take your time in seeing which has the best payoff for you. You’re a business owner, you have a million-and-one things to do: make sure you’re spending time on the right tasks.
8 Ways to Increase Gym Member Engagement and Drive Retention
The first thing you need to do as a business is ask yourself one simple, yet vital question:
“Who am I trying to attract?”
Every business has an Ideal Customer Profile, a demographic that is perfectly suited to their type of workout, exercise, or activity. If you’ve noticed you’re getting a lot of people in the door and they’re not sticking around, it may be that you’re not appealing to the right customer base.
Take a look around your area: if there are other businesses similar to yours in the area, try and find out what demographic they’re aiming for.
Once you have a better idea of the people who want to be a part of your community, you can create a more solid member engagement program.
Then, when that’s built, you can focus on these 8 Key Methods for Boosting Member Engagement.
1. Build Group Exercise Programs
As a fitness business, you need to be giving your members a sense of pride, progression, and accomplishment.
By creating a more collective workout experience, you can significantly improve all of these sentiments in your average member experience.
Additionally, group exercises are the core of the most important element in any modern fitness business: community. In the modern fitness industry, community is one of the most powerful retention tools out there.
One of the main reasons fitness programs like CrossFit have had such a big impact is the communal atmosphere that’s created by group instruction. According to IHRSA’s researchers, the risk of canceling a gym membership was 56% higher among members who just used gym equipment as opposed to those who exercise in groups.
2. Regularly Communicate With Your Members
Having a clear communications system is vital to any fitness business, regardless of their size.
6 Keys to Building a Loyal Fitness CommunityDiscover more
From the moment you open your doors, you need to know exactly how you’re going to communicate with your members. But, and this is the step so many fitness business owners forget – you need to know how to scale it.
When you’re running one class of 15-20 students, you can manage personalized messages and send out a few texts every week. However, what happens when you’ve opened up your second location and you’re dealing with hundreds of members? Your phone would explode if you personally reached out to each member, and leaving customers without any point of contact can be a major reason for churn.
What you need is an automated messaging system.
Creating an automated messaging system that triggers specific responses for members reaching certain milestones can be an absolute game-changer in your business’ success.
Even something as small as congratulating a member on their 10th workout gives a feeling of recognition, awareness, and reward – significantly boosting their chances of completing another 10 workouts at your business.
3. Have a Strong Analytics System
We’ve mentioned this already, but we know that fitness business owners and managers have a very limited amount of time. Between managing staff, members, and your property, taking the time to sift through spreadsheets to find the best-performing outreach method can be an absolute pain.
To save yourself time, money, and stress, find yourself a fitness management platform. There are platforms specifically built to help show you your busiest times, your highest-performing outreach methods, and even the behaviors of each individual member of your business.
In need of a fitness business platform that gives you unique insights into your member behavior?
4. Have a Stellar Member App
In the modern fitness industry, it truly pays to have your own app.
People are using their phones more than ever, and they have an instant need to solve problems and acquire services directly through their phones.
If you have a simple-to-use, easy-to-book app in place, you can significantly boost your member engagement and experience.
Along with making it significantly easier for your members to book sessions, it also makes it far easier for them to learn more about your business, renew their memberships, and even buy merchandise from you – significantly boosting your revenue flow.
5. Don’t Take Longtime Members for Granted
Spending all your time focusing on new members is going to lead to problems down the line.
You need to focus on your current members and how they’re experienced and enjoying your business.
Along with easy-to-implement programs like referrals, don’t forget to ask for feedback.
Send out surveys, set up feedback boxes, and create an environment where members feel as if they’re part of the decision-making process.
By creating this sense of inclusion and involvement, your members are far more likely to stick around. These members, often called brand advocates, can be one of the biggest pillars of growth and member retention. Along with promoting your business on their own social media platforms, they also become excellent assets for inspiring newer members. If you have passionate and involved members, they are far more likely to welcome newer members and create a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
6. Make Onboarding a Priority
It might be an obvious one but you should have an induction in place for all new members. The first six weeks can be very important when building a new relationship with a new member. Be sure to have a solid onboarding program in place for new members and keep them engaged throughout the whole process, making them more likely to renew their membership.
Don’t forget the basics. Give them a tour of your facilities, let them know who’s there to help and the best way of reaching them, and remember their name. Even just a quick hello at reception can go a long way toward making your members more open to asking questions and giving feedback.
As the owner of your business, it can sometimes be hard to remember that not everyone lives and breathes your profession. For some people, it’s their very first time even trying your style of workout or exercise. Make sure that the basic instructions and elements are there in the onboarding process, otherwise, members will churn far faster than you realize.
7. Be Loyal to Staff
Your employees are essential to member engagement. After all, they are the ones who will be interacting with your members daily. Frequent staff turnover may harm member engagement and member retention. If your employees don’t stay around for very long then they are unable to grow their relationship with your clients. Keep your employees motivated and focused on interacting and engaging with members.
A major part of keeping new gym members comes down to the interactions they have with staff members. It’s important to make sure your members are having meaningful interactions. Train your employees to communicate well as members value communication from staff members. Every member of your fitness team should be speaking to members on a daily basis, whether it’s fitness-related or not.
Remember, you need to do more as an employer than just pay your staff.
You need to provide growth and training opportunities that allow them to engage their talents and passions. People get into the fitness industry because of a strong passion for health and wellness – let that flourish in your staff.
After all, there will come a point when you want to open a second location, and you won’t be able to manage both at once. Creating a loyal team of constantly improving staff is the only way to make sure that you have someone there to help you expand your business.
8. Track Member Performance and Results
There’s a high chance that your members have joined your gym for a purpose, so help them meet that goal by tracking their workout and fitness progress. Work with your members to set realistic goals that they can achieve, with your help obviously. Letting a member work towards a completely unrealistic goal in their first six weeks is a sure way to land a very disappointed client.
Allow your members to track their progress and show them they are getting better and fitter. There’s nothing more disheartening than putting a ton of money and time into an activity and not seeing the results. By showing them how much progress they have made, it helps to keep them motivated to continue and drive member retention.
Here’s how Spartans Boxing Gym created a more solid member experience
Community and Achievement is Everything
In short, everything you do in trying to engage and attract your members should be focused on creating a sense of community and sense of achievement.
You need to make your members feel like a part of something greater than themselves, and that their life is better because of it.
Automated messaging systems, referral programs, and group initiatives are some of the most effective ways of boosting your member retention rate, but there are far more methods that can help you and your business.
Need more insight into how a fitness business platform can help you?