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Building Gym Member Retention from the New Year’s Rush - Keepme Blog

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Building Gym Member Retention from the New Year’s Rush
January 16, 2020 •

January can be the busiest time for gyms as new members flock to join. By preparing for this influx of new customers and adapting your retention strategy to care for both them and your existing members, you can hope to prosper in the new year!

The new year brings with it many things. It is a time for fresh starts, a time to reassess, and a time to set new goals. This is true not just for individuals but for businesses as well. The beginning of 2020 is the perfect time for gym operators to evaluate their performance over the past twelve months and consider how they can celebrate highs, learn from the lows, and move forward with a smart, effective retention strategy for the new year that will see their facility prosper.

Why do so many gym members join in January?

As we’ve mentioned, the new year is all about fresh starts. It’s about taking stock and then creating a better, brighter, more brilliant version of yourself in the year to come. Getting fit and healthy and losing excess weight is a massive motivator, especially after the indulgences that tend to go hand in hand with the festive season. 

In a survey conducted by NPR and The Marist Poll , 44 percent of the 1,075 American adults asked said they were likely to make a New Year’s resolution, and the most common resolutions are around getting healthier and losing weight. However, despite the high number of people making resolutions, about 80% will fail within the first 30 days – which is why people joining and then quickly leaving the gym around this time of year is so common.

What factors influence member retention rates in the New Year (for better or worse?)

The weather 

In the UK, the weather during January is usually pretty abysmal. If we’re lucky, we might get a flurry of pretty winter snow, that has everyone giddy on mulled wine and building snowmen for 24 hours. Still, the reality is we can probably hope for nothing better than freezing temperatures and grey skies. This has both advantages and disadvantages for gym owners. Bad weather means that people are on the lookout for indoor activities, and working out is one of them. However, bad weather can also mean that people don’t much like leaving their houses at all, so your new gym members must feel motivated enough to head out in the dark and the cold before they lose motivation and have the potential to churn. On the other side of the world, of course, the opposite is true. Places such as Australia are scorching at this time of year, and the desire to get beach body ready could see members flocking to the gym. On the flip side, however, many may ditch their memberships in favour of outdoor pursuits. Changing the seasons can affect member retention and is something that operators need to factor into their marketing efforts. 

Bank balances

Another important consideration is how the festive period could affect the perceived value of a gym membership at this time of year. For existing members, they may have resolutions to cut back, to save for a particular event, or to be more frugal with their money this year. If they are not fully engaged with the gym and do not perceive the value of their membership to be worth the spend, this could be one of the first things to make the cut. 

Conversely, those who are feeling more abundant in the New Year because of financial gifts might decide to splurge on a gym membership. Then, later in the year, they could start to feel the tug of their purse strings once more and decide that they can no longer justify paying for their membership.

Neglect

Understandably, gym operators and their teams may find most of their manpower is reserved for new gym members who rush to join the gym during January. However, it is essential to remember that this can have a knock-on effect when it comes to those existing members who may start to feel neglected at this time. If, for example, you roll out special offers and discounted rates to new members to entice them to join, loyal members could feel disgruntled, and this could motivate them to start searching for a better deal elsewhere.

According to the IHRSA, 12% of all new gym memberships occur in January. This signifies the immense potential for gym operators to expand their businesses. However, without considering the reasons why a member might leave or join the gym during this time, this potential can quickly become an opportunity wasted. 

How can gym operators prepare for the January rush?

December is the time to put effective strategies in place to ensure that you are fully prepared for the January rush. By implementing fresh retention efforts now you can go into the New year feeling confident that your existing members aren’t going anywhere, then refine your focus to ensure that the new members you achieve in January also turn into loyal, spending, brand-loving members who never become at-risk.

Smart retention strategies to keep your January gym members for good!

By investing in a smart retention tool, such as KeepMe, you have the immediate ability to identify members who are at risk of leaving your gym. After the dust has settled from the January stampede, you can isolate those members who aren’t committed to the gym, who look as though their motivation is waning before they even know it themselves. This gives you tremendous insight and the ability to communicate effectively by delivering personalised and meaningful engagement at precisely the right time. 

Staff should be prepared to help members meet their goals, offering a welcoming space, excellent facilities, opportunities for feedback, and focus on making every member feel valued. When it comes to making a purchase, 64% of people find customer experience more important than price. Focus your retention efforts on providing fantastic customer experience and building robust relationships, and members will be less likely to feel as though parting with their hard-earned cash to pay for a gym membership isn’t worth it. 

The new year can be a prosperous time for gym owners. However, it is important not to get a false sense of security. For it is only if the large cohort of members who decide to sign up for the gym in the post-Christmas and New Year rush turn into loyal members, that your recruiting and retention efforts have really paid off.

It is through a combination of smart, effective marketing to your new members, while also continuing to nurture and value your existing ones that gym operators can hope to get this balance right. Teams must be able to send out successful communication that will engage members, motivate them, and ensure their continued membership. Tools like KeepMe are designed to support this work, and by keeping on top of your member data, being alerted to at-risk members, and having the ability to send out automated communications, this process can be streamlined, robust and genuinely useful.