Gyms and the art of retention
In a competitive fitness industry that just keeps growing, ‘retention’ is a buzz word for good reason. Secondly, we are undergoing subtle shift away from the traditional gym experience involving machines and bulky equipment. It’s more important than ever for gym owners to secure the loyalty of their existing members through a strong retention strategy.
With the rising popularity of ‘gym free’ training, such as outdoor boot camps and park sessions, it’s time for gyms to focus on what they can offer those who still prefer to exercise in a well-equipped, structured fitness facility. Efforts must be taken to ensure your members don’t get restless and look elsewhere within this expansive sector. If they do, it’s pricey. Industry experts now advise that it costs 5x more to attract new members than it does keeping existing clientele happy. To avoid the churn cycle that sees many gyms constantly recruiting without ever establishing a consistent membership base, adopt these habits to grown and nurture retention.
Client is King
This adage continues to bear resonance within the fitness world. Happy members are likely to be loyal members, able to set in motion the kind of positive word-of-mouth that can truly influence the hanging balance when it comes to membership numbers.
When you’re in the client-orientated business of gym-ownership, it’s simple but essential that you get to know your members. Show genuine interest and remember details to make each member feel like you’re getting to know them. Welcome any kind of feedback and make changes to prove you’re listening and know that small gestures go a long way – how about leaving a small freebie on the front desk every Friday for members to grab on their way out?
Complacency is dangerous in this industry and pursuing a consistently exceptional level of customer service will keep your fitness centre ahead of the game. From your front of house staff through to PTs through to management, you need to welcome your members and provide them with a sense of belonging that will prevent them from moving elsewhere.
Create a community
Dragging yourself to the gym before or after a long day at work can be tough, and it’s all too easy for some members to tell themselves that they will ‘go tomorrow’. Many people find it easier to exercise when they are motivated by others, so creating an environment where your members feel connected to both your staff and to other members can help you achieve this.
This sense of community should begin at the front desk where your staff can welcome members by name when they scan in. Something as simple as ‘Thanks Sarah, have a great workout’ will suffice. Continue that approach in the gym where your extrovert team will actively interact with everyone to make them feel comfortable.
You can also facilitate your member community by creating groups and group challenges within the gym, as well as hosting non-exercise related events outside the gym. Examples of group-focussed classes could be beginners, dads, women only etc. Encourage members to get to know one another at first and then this sense of ‘community’ should take care of itself once people start training together. You may also want to engage the social media sphere to encourage your clients to share motivation and workouts online.
Think about why your members have made the effort to join your gym. Do they want to lose weight? Tone up? Get fit? Prepare for an event? There is a correlation between members who leave and those who are dissatisfied – not noticing any progress, whatever form this may take.
Try to learn about your members’ goals and encourage your gym team to do the same, particularly those members who don’t have PT sessions. Working hard one-to-one with a PT is perhaps easier than a member pushing themselves on their own, so take it upon yourself to motivate this sector where you can.
Think about offering all members a free programme so your team can guide them in the right direction towards achieving their goal. Followed that up with a reassessment and new programme three months later. Maybe you can create some inter-member competitions regarding weight loss, or 5k times to keep morale high? A motivated member is certainly less likely to consider a change of scene.
Invite feedback and be proactive
Any customer service industry will contend that it ‘welcomes’ feedback, yet more often than not we see a disparity between what the customers are saying and the action being taking. There is no point leaving ‘Feedback’ forms at your front desk unless you read and address the feedback itself. Try to anticipate general opinion, identify recurring problems early and apologise if and when things go wrong! Your members will value honesty and transparency. If a mistake has been made, say sorry, and let people know how you are dealing with it.
You can also turn to your members for ideas – what would they like to see in their gym? Have they got any ideas for improvements? If you’re too familiar with the ins-and-outs of your own fitness facility, you may benefit from some fresh insight. Here you can reward your members for their input, and remember to thank them; gyms are not difficult to come by and it is wise to never forget that a member has chosen your gym.
Our lasting piece of advice to all gym owners is to analyse dropouts. Even the best retention strategies won’t be able to overcome dropouts altogether, so when a member does choose to leave it’s important to find out why. Be wary of hassling – you want to create a quick, straightforward and accessible survey that is carefully thought out. You’ll need it to generate the answers you need by getting to the heart of the issue(s). But remember, try doing it without burdening the ex-member with lengthy, pressing questions. Offering an incentive for responses is also smart; how about 5 free passes or a month’s free membership for a friend?