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.