Life After January: A Data-Driven Approach to Preventing Dormancy

Delve into the complexities of member dormancy and explore actionable, data-driven insights to engage and retain members throughout the year. Stay tuned for strategies to keep the fitness momentum alive!
Matt McCallum
Matt McCallum
February 6th, 2024
Life After January: A Data-Driven Approach to Preventing Dormancy

Beyond New Year's Resolutions

January has passed us by for another year, and hopefully with it you’ve enjoyed a surge in new gym memberships - the excitement and commitment of fitness enthusiasts is palpable for one magical month. However, an emerging challenge looms large for gym operators - member dormancy. While the influx of sign-ups is a boon, sustaining engagement beyond the initial enthusiasm becomes pivotal. Many new members go on to dormancy after the initial burst of motivation, posing a retention challenge for gym operators. 

In this blog, we delve into the complexities of gym member dormancy, exploring its impact on clubs and providing actionable insights to not only attract but also retain members throughout the year. Stay tuned for strategies to keep the fitness momentum alive!

Data is always the answer

Fitness is a dynamic landscape, and leveraging marketing data is instrumental in combating member dormancy. Understanding member behavior, preferences, and engagement patterns empowers gym operators to tailor targeted campaigns and provide personalized experiences. 

Marketing data unveils insights into member interests, allowing for the creation of compelling content and promotions that resonate with diverse audiences. By harnessing data-driven strategies, gym operators can proactively identify at-risk members, implement retention initiatives, and foster ongoing engagement. 

In essence, marketing data serves as the compass guiding gym operators towards proactive measures to enhance member experiences, and ultimately reduce dormancy for a healthier retention rate.

All good on paper or screen, but how do we begin to put this into practice? We start by asking some questions about your relationship, or your gym’s relationship with data, and evaluating how you answer. 

How do you collect data?

If every action your members take, or don’t take, is a data point, how many are you recording and how? Your membership management system should be doing most of the heavy lifting for you here, but this in turn becomes a question of how much of that data you can extract, and how much you are extracting. Outside of members’ details and behavior within your MMS, what other data is readily available to you and habitually reviewed? Do you know which members are opening your emails, and better yet acting on them?

How good is your member onboarding process?

Always remember that data is only as good as the questions you ask. A robust onboarding process that’s taken seriously by your whole organization is the first step towards high quality membership data. 

So, what have you got?

Simple question, but tough answers. Ask yourself what data you’re already collecting (whether deliberately or as a by-product of other processes) and what you’re using - the spectrum will range from the minimum of details needed to sign-up a new member, to a record of every visit and transaction your members complete or miss. How you use that data spans an equally huge range of possibilities, from greeting your members by name, to offering personalized promotions or messaging based on preferences and behavior in real-time. 

Do you really know what you’ve got?

Clive Humby OBE (famed British mathematician and entrepreneur in the field of data science and customer-centric business strategies) said “Data is the new oil” as far back as 2006. That opinion might be old enough to vote this year, but the passing of time makes it no less true. Looking at your member data from this perspective should tell you that you already have within your possession everything you need to reduce dormancy, and extract greater value from January’s success. 

What if time wasn’t an issue?

When you begin to see the possibilities, they cannot be unseen. Offers that align with members’ interests will perform better, patterns of behavior will align with outcomes, both good and bad - you might start to recognise the customers more likely to make purchases or some of the tell-tale signs of a customer you’re going to lose. While there is a great deal of good you can do, the question that rises to the surface has to be, what would it look like if you could consider all the data and act accordingly? Membership retention software could help you treat your members like never before. 

"Within 60 days of setting up Keepme automations our member dormancy dropped by around a quarter - and it's stayed there. That's another 500-600 members each month back and active in our clubs."

Gareth Bacon - Head of Product, Wellfit
Gareth Bacon
Head of Product, Wellfit

New Plan

Like your excitable January sign-ups, you need to start anew. Now that you know everything your members do represents an actionable data point for your gym, fighting dormancy becomes about mastering your gym’s data. 

Enhancing gym retention necessitates moving beyond guesswork and actively mining member data to inform a tailored retention strategy. Unfortunately, many gyms focus on data analysis after the fact, leading to challenges in comprehending a member's journey over time. The trick is to get ahead of this, by adopting a proactive approach, initiating data collection, analysis, and action from the very beginning

👉 If you haven't already I recommend you dive into our article: One Source of Truth - Consolidating Data in Fitness for Better Engagement.

Let's get into the detail of how you’re collecting your data:

Your Member Management System

If you’re comfortable with how it works, great, and if you aren’t then it’s time to embrace the discomfort. You need to understand what information it holds about your members from demographics and interests, to attendance, purchases and renewal dates. 

Your Marketing Platforms

  • Email - If you’re using any tool that lets you automate or bulk send offers in newsletters, such as Mailchimp, FloDesk or similar, some level of reporting will always be included, and in many cases you can customize reporting to focus on the metrics that matter most to you.

  • Social Media - When it comes to paid social media ads, reporting will always be more detailed and easily accessible when compared to your organic social media. It should give you a clear picture about what works and excites different audiences and interest groups, especially if you’re advertising to them as a closed segment and measuring the results in your gym.

    That said, you can still monitor the performance of your organic content in a range of ways, from low-tech approaches based around manually recording engagement from the platforms and corresponding uptake in your facility, through more technical solutions such as tracking the performance of your organic social media through Google Analytics.

  • PPC - If you use Google Ads or Bing you will again automatically have access to a raft of reporting according to what your ads aim to achieve, which could be anything from a visit to your website to a phone call.  

  • Organic Web Traffic - If you aren’t paying for PPC advertising, that’s not to say you can’t access data about your web traffic and organic marketing efforts. Tools like Google Analytics (GA4 in its latest iteration) and Search Console can still provide meaningful insights around traffic sources and search terms that you can measure in conjunction with your gym’s performance. 

To succeed in avoiding gym member dormancy (and the risk of attrition) and ultimately improving retention, it's crucial to establish this data-driven foundation, ensuring a strategic and timely response to the evolving needs of gym members. Combining your member data with your marketing data is the key to deriving actionable insights.

The new signup journey

Understanding the customer journey is paramount, beginning with the new signup process. A solid member onboarding process is crucial to making members feel at home and empowering them to maximize their gym experience. By tracking detailed demographic information, gyms can create a comprehensive retention snapshot for each member. You should be capturing age, gender, location, and interests - what activities do they enjoy and what are their goals or objectives in the short and long term? 

These along with many others will be obvious essentials to you, in some cases even just for health and safety reasons, but what else are you capturing? In marketing terms are you getting more than a phone number and email address - what social platforms do they spend their time on?

This data becomes instrumental in identifying and engaging with members at the moderate risk stage, where an openness to positive interactions is still in place, before they reach a ‘high-risk’ status where contact is only likely to make them cancel.

If we consider the first month or months of any new gym membership something of a ‘honeymoon’ period where motivation is higher and attendance benefits from this, then it’s important to remember how these same effects and seemingly inevitable fall-off are amplified for January sign-ups. The jump from moderate to high risk is therefore even smaller, and robust retention strategies for this cohort even more important. 

So, what do you have? 

Even if you were doing a mediocre job of collecting your membership data this could still be a long list, done right with the advice above it really could be endless. Let’s look at data under a few key areas - at what you might have, and what value or insights it could hold. 

Onboarding - The “what

With the right demographic information recorded, you will immediately have opportunities to appeal to your new members with personalized messages and offerings. This is everything from addressing people by name, to aligning your messages with their interests and goals - choose who you include in different campaigns according to this data and it will significantly improve your results. You might even consider using persona sequencing to really upgrade this approach.

Marketing - The “how

If your demographic data tells you what will constitute a personalized approach to your members, your marketing data will tell you how best to reach them. Start of course with member preferences here - if your members prefer to hear from you via WhatsApp, don’t ignore their wishes, but across all your marketing channels the data can tell you how best to approach different segments of your membership based on previous successes and failures. You might have found that members with an interest in strength conditioning responded best to emails, you might even know what send time works best, and the more you experiment the more you’ll know. Similarly you might have observed previous organic social media efforts did a great job of attracting older members to classes, but worked less well for other age brackets. The key is to rely on the data in your marketing platforms to inform your decisions and approach, not to make assumptions. 

Membership Behavior

Your membership management system should cover the why and when of your member engagement efforts, and will often paint a more accurate picture than even information achieved directly from source at onboarding. A new member might tell you they plan to visit 4 times per week, your data might tell you that’s more like three. Members’ visits below their own targets are absolutely something you could use as a message to encourage them to engage more, but equally this data could become all the more pressing when it tells you those visits are averaging more like 2.5 per week - perhaps it’s time to act. 

Put it into Action

Acting on this data can only come from exploring the gold mine of information you’re already sitting on, and again assumptions are to be avoided. Let’s work through the example above to see how it might look, and how to get to the good stuff. 

If you look at your previous year’s January sign-ups, you can quickly paint a picture of how they contributed to dormancy in your gym. Identify the following:

  • How many were dormant from the start?

  • How many became dormant within the first month?

  • How many fell dormant over each quarter of the year? 

If we consider each of these a group, you can check for commonality in the membership data you hold, it could be anything from where they first came from as a lead, to interests or goals in common, or simple things like age bracket or gender. Where you find commonality, you have identified which groups to target and when, to reduce the number in each group succumbing to dormancy. 

Taking this a step further, you can use similar information combined with your marketing data, to know how best to target or segment these groups in communication terms so that you approach them via the most effective channels. 

Finally, regular reports from your membership management software should be used to track the efficacy of your efforts - how does dormancy for new members compare to last year, overall and per each of the segments you identified? Similarly, reporting across your marketing channels can tell you what your members are engaging with best. Reporting is essential to track what is and isn’t working in your fight against dormancy, and to learn how to improve as you go along. 

The simple example shows what’s possible with data you almost certainly already have, but a quick exploration of the relationship between the number of your sign-ups who fall dormant, and the number of same who don’t renew, quickly identifies the huge value of employing effort in this area. 

However, even at this fairly simple level it can tie up a lot of resource to extract the data, build the reports, understand and identify the opportunities, and take action. Equally, the nature of this data is such that the more we explore it, the more possibilities we unearth. Removing the complexity is where AI software comes in, utilizing machine learning to examine millions of data points you already capture in your MMS, and learning from your members’ every interaction with your gym.

Data Driven, AI Powered

Enter Keepme, creating smart insights for your business and automating the arising tasks. Keepme continually analyzes the data in your member management system to identify risks and predict the future, making accurate predictions to increase engagement and stave off dormancy and churn.

Identify at-risk members

Keepme Membership boils down every report you could ever need into a dashboard that gives you all of the insights you need, with no reporting for reporting’s sake. By segmenting at-risk members based on their gym activities, purchases, and demographics, live data identifies members who are at-risk, providing a score, and advising the best course of action to re-engage and retain. More than this, Keepme stratifies these members, warning you of high-risk individuals where your intervention will do more harm than good, so you can concentrate on those who still represent an opportunity. 

Keepme Membership Dashboard stratifies your members with at-risk scoresPersonalize your member outreach

Keepme helps you to remind members why they joined. Nobody signs up with the intention of slipping into dormancy, Keepme can keep you one step ahead of this slip with targeted intervention. By segmenting these at-risk members based on their score, gym activities, purchases, demographics, etc. Keepme’s interaction is geared for success because it personalizes your output at a level no individual could ever manage. 

Automate your communication

Better yet, the automation goes far beyond recognizing and segmenting, but can be employed in such a way that outreach to these at-risk members is triggered automatically, in a timely manner, with no opportunities missed or overlooked. You can even craft compelling messages in your brand voice within Keepme’s incredible AI powered content generator, keeping you involved in the message, but without the need for hours of content creation.

Unlock Long-Term Retention

Reducing dormancy is a critical first step in increasing retention. Member engagement stands as the linchpin in combatting dormancy within gym memberships, and by extension increasing retention, thanks to a sense of belonging and investment in the fitness journey. Engaging members through personalized communication strategies ensures that they feel valued and understood. By addressing their needs, preferences, and challenges, gym operators can cultivate stronger relationships and loyalty among members.

Data-driven strategies play a pivotal role in this narrative, enabling gym operators to understand the preferences, behavior, and patterns needed to craft these personalized experiences that resonate deeply with each member.

Embracing a comprehensive data approach isn't just about short-term gains; it's about fostering long-term member retention and satisfaction. Creating a fitness community where every member feels valued, motivated, and empowered to achieve their goals is a hugely worthwhile undertaking. Unlocking your members’ data with AI and automating your communications to support this ambition means achieving incredible results without the need for endless resource. 

Ready to explore Keepme?

Book a 15 minute discovery call for a time that suits you and we'll show you how to unlock the power of your member data.