June 27, 2019 Beth Cadman
How can gym owners communicate successfully with their members? This article explores the different methods and discusses how gym owners can ensure appropriate, relevant and effective communication is delivered every time they reach out to both current and potential clients.
When it comes to ensuring member retention, communication really is critical. In fact, those who are able to consistently and effectively communicate with their customer base enjoy stronger relationships and increased sales success. As notable psychiatrist Milton Erickson pointed out, “the effectiveness of communication is not defined by the communication, but by the response.”
It is the way that gyms communicate with their members, not just initially, but over time, that nurtures and strengthens the business-customer relationship, promotes customer loyalty, creates a sense of emotional connection, and can help members feel valued, appreciated and motivated to continue to use their gym membership – and even encourage others to do the same.
Communicating with members can take place via many avenues and analysing how members are communicated with, as well as the types of content that are delivered to them should be part of any smart gym owner’s retention strategy.
It is essential to understand how members prefer to receive communication, as well as the types of messages that motivate them to act. The forms of content that help to develop brand loyalty or encourage members to react in a particular way and the timing that the communication is sent out to ensure the greatest effect are all hugely significant considerations that gym owners should be aware of and actively trying to improve.
However, developing an impactful and successful communication strategy is no mean feat. Controlled experimentation, research, and data analysis often concludes that there is still no ‘one size fits all’ approach, and instead, it is through the development of flexible, malleable and ever-changing communications that the most significant improvements will be seen.
Different types of content and messaging require different communication formats. A competition announcement will require a distinctive tone and message, for example, when compared to a new member discount. A business announcement or press release will need to be shared via different communication channels to general newsletters or social media messaging. Whatever makes it necessary or timely to communicate with customers, the one thing that is patent, as Technogym neatly summarises is the: “biggest mistake that can be made is to approach the communication strategy of the centre in a purist way.”
So what are the different types of communication that gym owners can use to reach out to their members, keep them motivated, create brand loyalty and reduce the likelihood of them becoming at-risk? What are the factors that they need to consider when devising a communication strategy? Let’s take a look.
Face to face communication takes place whenever a member attends the gym. This could be when they first enter and are welcomed into the gym, during their workout on the gym floor, and before they leave the gym too. Fitness instructors and other staff members who make an effort to be welcoming and friendly will be rewarded with loyal customers. As Lifetime training points out in their client’s workbook, “Instructors who work hard to build rapport and form good working relationships with their clients are likely to be rewarded with a good retention rate.”
SMS text messaging is a communication method that gyms use when they want to provide members with short, direct pieces of information that they can respond to quickly and easily or that don’t require a response at all. Smart text messaging is all about delivering a message that will capture interest and motivate customers to act without feeling pressured or hassled into it.
Email is usually the preferred communication method when gym owners want to provide more detailed content, so business news, announcements, fitness, and motivational tips, as well as promotions and offers. Emails should be personalised and engaging both from a content perspective as well as visually.
Some members will also use call lists to collect the phone numbers of members, so when their membership is coming to an end, or if they suspect them to be at-risk staff members may choose to call them to see if they can persuade them to renew their membership or stay on.
Less personalised communication methods come in the form of social media where members can opt-in to follow and therefore receive news and updates. Social media advertising is another way gym owners can try to target particular groups of people with specific messages via advertising campaigns.
When it comes to creating a smart communication strategy that your members will appreciate it is only through experimentation and data analysis that you will be able to decipher which kinds of communication are most successful, being aware, of course, that this may change over time.
Considering the context, taking into account the predisposition to technology that members have, and researching the types of media and content marketing that competitors are employing are all critical. It is also essential to bear in mind additional parameters such as age, gender, location, hobbies, and interests. These parameters will all need careful consideration when deciding how to present different messaging and when choosing which communication formats to employ. Ensuring that the tools are in place (such as capturing engagement, using the NPS method for detailed insights and so on) to enable gym owners to then measure the success of each type compared with sets of measurable objectives will influence their communication strategy going forward and help to to reform and refine it based on the historical data.
As competition between gyms becomes more intense, it is now more critical than ever for gym owners to communicate with their prospective and current members in an appropriate way. If communications are well received, appreciated, and thought to be valuable (by being entertaining, informative, timely, beneficial, etc.) the higher the likelihood that the recipient will act as directed (to sign up, renew, share, recommend, etc.) and the communication will, therefore, be successful.
Just as timely, considered communication can encourage members to promote and feel an affinity towards the brand, to become loyal to the gym, to feel as though they are part of the community, and feel as though they receive value for money and excellent customer service, poor, ill-timed communication can do quite the opposite. If customers feel bombarded, pressured, confused, hassled or overwhelmed by the communication they receive this could make them react negatively towards the gym, and leave them disengaged, demotivated, isolated and at worst actively frustrated or angry, which could quickly lead to them becoming at-risk.
The bottom line is that there are numerous factors to consider when determining how to communicate with gym members and defining these can only be done through trial and error, and by asking members directly. Capturing this data is essential if gym owners hope to create a personalised communication plan that members will be receptive to dependent on their interests, desires, and problems at the time.
It is worth remembering that the landscape of the fitness industry has changed dramatically over the last few years, and will continue to do so. The types of people who use the gym have also become more variable. With these changes, there will no doubt be more opportunities to communicate with members in creative and innovative ways and to keep testing and pushing the boundaries to devise a communication strategy that members will appreciate. Doing so can not only help to boost member retention but could also lower the number of at-risk members by applying the right kind of communication at the right time to capture members attention and deliver the sort of comms they would value to make them reconsider staying a member of the gym.
If you want to learn more about our smart AI-powered retention tool that could keep your retention rates high, why not request a demo today?
June 20, 2019 Danni Poulton
1 in 5 people say that personal trainers (PTs) are the most important factor when it comes to sticking with their exercise routines.
Personal training studios have 80% average retention rates, compared to 71% for traditional health clubs.
A study from Stanford University showed that by receiving just one motivational phone call per week, gym members increased their activity levels by a sweat-inducing 78%.
Gym members often face a mental battle between the desire to work out and that little inner voice that tells them to binge box sets after a hard day’s work. But if they have a personal trainer they have another person to help keep them motivated and committed.
Often the mere fact that a person has made an appointment with someone else is enough to encourage them to keep their commitment to working out at the gym. And after the session, their trainer can ask them if they want to set up another appointment, ensuring that they attend regularly. This regular attendance makes it more likely that members will stick and not churn.
Often gym attendees can get demotivated because they’re putting in lots of effort but they’re not seeing the results they wanted. Having a personal trainer they can train with at your gym, will help them draw up realistic and attainable goals and will help ensure that their workouts are the most productive. This will give members a greater sense of personal achievement which will help them form positive associations to working out at your gym. This can be a very powerful factor when it comes to retaining your gym members for longer.
Research has shown that the more interactions gym goers have with staff the more likely they are to stay. It can be hard to coordinate this kind of engagement for individual members because it means tracking their attendance closely and allocating staff to interact with specific members (although you can use KeepMe to automate this process). So having personal trainers working at your gym means you will be giving members quality engagements with highly trained staff. This will have a positive impact on gym retention.
Let’s be honest, a lot of gym members are not willing to pay for additional personal training on top of their membership fees. Only the most dedicated gym members are going to fork out for personal training so you won’t necessarily be able to deliver retention on scale this way, although this is of course a great way to develop a small but loyal segment of customers.
There are lots of reasons why your gym might lack the resources to offer personal training. It might not be viable for your gym, and that’s ok. When it comes to increasing gym member retention there are lots of ways you can do this and using personal trainers is just one of them. Although if you can find the resources to offer this service it can really work wonders in terms of keeping members coming back for more.
A high quality personal trainer can be an incredible asset for your gym and is a great way to retain customers and generate positive word of mouth recommendations.
But it can be hard to properly assess the quality of trainers and it takes a lot of time and knowhow to pick the right candidate for the role. Some qualities to look for:
This should give you an idea of the kind of qualities that are needed for your personal trainers to help improve gym retention. If you can’t ensure that you go through a thorough vetting process then using personal trainers in your gym may not be for you.
Despite the cons of personal trainers there is no doubt that if you work with the right professionals they can do absolute wonders for membership retention.
If you’re considering this approach, why not try out a few PTs on short term contracts and monitor how effective they are. If you do start using personal trainers, make sure you tell all your members about them and how working with PTs can transform the quality of their workouts and make them more motivated. It will do wonders for your fitness retention rates.
Want to see how improving gym retention can supercharge your revenue and improve your marketing ROI, book a Keepme demo today – it will be worth your while.
June 13, 2019 Faith Christine Lai
Engagement is key to increasing member retention, and gym owners should focus their marketing efforts on nurturing relationships and communicating with members in the ‘right’ way to help lower membership cancellation rates.
Member retention continues to be an important focus for gyms and other fitness facilities and is one of the most significant considerations in terms of impact on revenue and ability to make reasoned projections for future earnings.
It’s reported that 67% of health club members in the U.S. and Canada retain their memberships for at least 12 months while that figure is even more troubling at 52% in the UK. This leaves considerable scope for improvement and gym owners are now investing both time and resources into exploring their options to help increase member retention rates.
There are, of course, many reasons why a gym member might decide to cancel their membership. Some are out of a gym’s control such as injury or moving to a different location; others are well within, such as motivation and provision of exceptional facilities.
One of the most important aspects to consider when analysing member retention rates is engagement. How engaged members feel can have a significant impact on whether they decide to continue attending sessions, how much they enjoy coming to the gym, how motivated (or demotivated) they become, their loyalty to the gym, and how they view the business and brand overall.
Engagement is all about communication, providing it’s the right kind. Bombarding customers with meaningless, impersonal information delivered in a way that they don’t like to receive it is akin to a pushy door salesman who keeps his foot over the threshold when you’ve politely told him you are not interested.
The importance of creating a strong, personal, emotional, positive connection with each member takes commitment. It takes research and resources and more often than not trial and error too. However it’s well worth doing, and the figures are there to prove it.
In one IHRSA report, the data suggests that members who received a “successful commitment interaction” were 45% less likely to cancel their membership in the subsequent month than those who had no such interaction.
Work the floor
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to engage gym members is by training employees to communicate with them during their workout sessions. Gym members who are on friendly terms with staff members, who feel as though staff have a vested interest in their health and fitness and who receive encouragement, tips, and enjoyable conversation when they go to the gym will feel more motivated to keep up their fitness regime and achieve their goals. IHRSA’s Guide to Health Club Retention found that almost 90% of club members say they value communication from staff members, so encouraging employees to be friendly and familiar faces can improve customer experience and lessen the chances of them cancelling their membership.
Offer group exercise programmes
Group exercise can be another beneficial way to encourage engagement and communication between staff and members as well as between members themselves. Group exercise has been proven to offer many benefits relating to retention as exercising in a group can encourage healthy competition, heighten accountability, and make exercising more fun.
Encourage peer to peer interaction
Members who feel that they are part of a community when they come to the gym are much more likely to continue to renew their membership year upon year. If members meet like-minded people and make new friends, they are more likely to look forward to their gym sessions and view them as an opportunity to socialise. Having social spaces in the gym and encouraging community hangouts and events either physically or virtually can help strengthen member to member connections and build lasting relationships between them, which, in turn, will improve their relationship with the gym and how they view the brand as an entity.
One aspect that stands out when it comes to member retention is progress. A gym member who fails to see results can quickly become demotivated and disengaged. Therefore, gyms need to provide information to members to enable them to track their progress. Delivered alongside motivational messages, this could be a powerful retention tool. Workout tracking that allows members to set goals (and shows them getting closer to achieving said goals) will remind them why their workouts are so worthwhile.
Follow a consistent onboarding method
When a new member joins a gym the initial six weeks are crucial. According to the 2017 Club Industry Show Member Engagement and Retention report, without an effective onboarding process over half of your new members will terminate their membership within 12 months. Onboarding is a process whereby a member is gradually introduced to the fitness centre via a dedicated personal coach who works with them to ascertain their goals and develop personalised strategies for achieving them.
Keep employees happy
Happy employees can have a significant effect on the atmosphere in the gym, and a good atmosphere is contagious. If employees are invested in the gym and enjoy the role within it they are more likely to feel motivated to do a good job, therefore engaging with members more positively, and committing themselves to provide an excellent member experience.
Regularly reach out to members
Communicating via various platforms with gym members should also be an integral part of any engagement strategy. However, it is essential to get the balance right. Social media, email, TV advertising, mobile messaging, leaflets, surveys, case studies, and videos are just some of the content types you could use to promote the gym, your brand, increase trust and loyalty, and offer incentives to keep your members active and interested.
Use your data
Remember that having several software systems in place to capture and analyse data around member behaviour is vital. Programmes can provide a wealth of information to give valuable insights into how customers prefer to be communicated with, which marketing campaigns have been most successful and can help to identify at-risk members based on their behaviour too. These members can be flagged up and measures are put in place to encourage them to change their minds.
To implement the above gym owners need to fully commit to member engagement and be willing and able to filter instructions down to their employees as well as put resources behind them to ensure that they are consistently and properly carried out. Investing in member engagement and continuing to improve and explore engagement opportunities is imperative if gym owners want to see their member retention rates increase.
Do you want to take control of your gym’s retention? Request a demo of our AI-powered member retention tool to see how you can improve your retention rate the smart way.
June 6, 2019 Danni Poulton
A lot of hard work, research, and strategic thought goes into developing ways to improve gym retention. But knowing the theory of how to retain members is one thing, and actually implementing that knowledge effectively is quite another. Let’s take a look at how to do that.
By looking at how hard gym retention can be, we can start to find more creative and actionable ways to improve gym retention. So let’s start at the beginning…
We’ve probably all got experiences of the difficulties involved in going to the gym… many of us will be all too familiar with the struggle to stay motivated, or even find the time in our busy lives to hit the treadmill. And when budgets are tight, extra “luxury” spending like gym memberships are often the first to go.
Here are some of the main reasons people quit the gym:
Time constraints; finding that magic hour before work (fighting the snooze button) or after work can be tricky, especially for busy people
Cost; research has shown that income is the biggest predictor of weekly levels of physical activity, suggesting membership costs can be a major source of attrition.
Delayed results; we are surrounded by media telling us that we can sculpt rock solid abs in no time at all, and there are lots of unrealistic expectations of how quickly people can see results. It’s also possible to put in lots of effort in an untrained way and quickly get frustrated that nothing appears to be happening. This can easily put member off.
The commute; if people don’t have local gym memberships they can easily be demotivated by having to commute to the gym, especially if this involves battling rush hour traffic.
The atmosphere; the gym atmosphere can be make or break for gym members. Overcrowding can cause a lot of people to quit, poor or dirty facilities or a competitive or unfriendly atmosphere can easily lead to people dropping out.
Isolation; lots of people go to the gym on their own or can’t find a regular gym buddy to go with. It has been shown that people are much more likely to quit the gym when they exercise on their own. In fact one study found that 95% people who joined weight loss programmes with friends completed the course.
Given the difficulties in retaining gym members it’s all too easy to fall back on customer acquisition as an alternative to solving your retention problems. People often join the gym powered by a rush of enthusiasm that “this time they’ll make it” and get that new more shapely body, or lose that weight, gain more energy and so on.
It’s much easier to generate initial enthusiasm for joining the gym than it is to keep that enthusiasm going week after week, month after month and (hopefully) year after year.
Take New Year for instance: people ride high on a rush of motivation fuelled by Christmas excess and a sudden collective interest in self improvement. But studies have shown that 70% of people who join the gym in January quit by May.
It can be tempting to think that most people quit the gym and so it’s a losing battle to focus on retention. However, it’s widely known in business that it’s actually 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an old one.
Despite this, more companies focus on customer acquisition than customer retention. Why is there such a big gulf between our knowledge of the benefits of retention and our actual business practices?
Let’s take a look at an analogy: let’s say you own a shop that sells widgets. So you pay for a sign that says “20% off all boots”. Sure enough, people start to come into your shop to check out your wares. They fall into three groups of people:
Group 1: customers who leave instantly without buying anything.
Group 2: customers who will buy one or two things and then you won’t see them again.
Group 3: customers who will come back time and again.
It’s no surprise that the members of group 1 and 2 outweigh the members of group 3. But that doesn’t mean there’s less value in nurturing group 3. For a start, group 1 may be the largest group but they’ll bring in no revenue at all. Group 2, might not even bring in enough to cover the cost of advertising to them over a sustained period of time. The cost of getting them through the door is much higher than for the loyal customers who already know and trust what you have to offer.
Retaining members, essentially means marketing to people who are already familiar with your fitness offerings and are more likely to buy what you’re selling than a random person off the street. Not only is it cheaper to retain existing gym members than recruit new ones, but improving fitness retention can actually bring in much more money for your gym.
Across most industries, boosting retention leads to a significant lift in profits. In financial services, a 5% increase in retention can increase profits by 25%. That’s because repeat customers tend to buy more products in their lifetime than one-off customers. That means that over time the operating costs of serving them decrease. And you also get a kickback when those customers refer you to their friends and family.
One study found that 60% of customers will recommend brands they are loyal to to friends and family. That’s a lot of unpaid marketing that you’ll get from focussing on improving retention and increasing your Net Promoter Scores. That’s why gyms are increasingly turning to customer retention tools to automate and streamline this lucrative process.
Repeat customers are also less likely to be tempted away by your competition because they have become familiar with your offerings and feel committed to your brand.
The benefits of gym member retention aren’t just financial, there are also significant marketing benefits as well.
A major aspect of effective advertising is knowing exactly what kind of audience you are serving. I.e, who is your ideal customer? But with member retention strategies, you already know who your customers are because they are already coming to your gym. This removes a lot of the guesswork from your marketing efforts. Research has shown that the success rate of marketing to existing customers is around 60-70% compared to just 5-20% success rates marketing to a new customer.
Some business are even focussing exclusively on retention. Here’s a quote from the founder of eCommerce seller Zappos:
“The number one driver of our growth at Zappos has been repeat customers and word of mouth. Our philosophy has been to take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and invest it into customer service and the customer experience instead, letting our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.”
If you want to see how improving gym retention can supercharge your revenue and improve your marketing ROI, book a Keepme demo today – it will be worth your while.