Re-engaging with Inactive Members

When it comes to gym membership, the job of retaining members is often harder than the job of getting new ones. It’s inevitable that some members will become inactive. They’ve not cancelled yet, but the chances are, if their inactivity continues, they soon will, whether it’s next month or next year.
November 7th, 2019
Re-engaging with Inactive Members

Updated - June 30 2023

Re-engaging with members once they've signed up is hard. Unless you're actively canvassing members or utilising human intelligence (your staff) to find out what members are doing, you have no visibility of how they're using your facilities.

That's a problem when it comes to inactive members because you don't know what's of the greatest relevance to them to get them re-engaged. Lack of relevance is the primary reason customers in any industry churn. In an industry where there is often a lack of trust and hard-to-quantify value exchange, proving relevance isn't easy.

There are also external factors to consider. So motivating members isn't as straightforward as incentives. If a member is working long hours, caring for a sick relative or has childcare issues, free access to the sauna isn't going to win them back.

Rather, you need to understand what is relevant to each of your members and re-engage with them on those terms. It makes it much easier to bring them back into the fold as they will feel heard and understood.

While it’s inevitable that some members become inactive, re-engaging with members significantly reduces their risk of cancelling. But first, you need to understand the reasons why members cancel, and what you can do about it. What makes Gym Members Inactive?

For many members, the value exchange isn’t always as clean-cut as it is for others. Often this is because they lack a clear objective or, conversely, they’ve set themselves unrealistic targets. 

Once you understand why your members are becoming inactive, you can then create a strategy for communicating with them and winning them back.

Various factors indicate at-risk members, such as:

  • Members who work out on their own rather than in groups

  • Members who haven’t attended in over a week, but have attended in the last 2 weeks

  • Members who haven’t interacted with staff members

You can prevent a lot of these at-risk members from becoming inactive by overhauling your gym retention strategy.

Should I stay or should I go?

A proportion of your membership will be inactive. Their money’s turning up each month, but they’re not. 

Although there’s a temptation to just ignore inactive members and take the money, there will come a point when the member realises and cancels their membership.

The damage to what relationship remained will be damaged irrecoverably and you will never win that member back. And chances are you’ll miss out on potential revenue from friends and family as well. 

There’s the fear that contacting them will increase the chances of cancellation. But, according to the IHRSA, any form of communication with an at-risk member can reduce the likelihood they’ll quit by almost 10%. 

You need the ability to split the non-attenders, into those that are at risk of leaving and those that have churned. This allows you to re-engage members that you could potentially save, without waking up the ones that are nearly gone. Being able to separate your members into these categories enables your messaging to be on point and you have confidence in your campaigns.

When to Re-engage with inactive Gym Members

Once you have identified which of your members you can re-engage with, you can build a strategy around them. The challenge lies in reaching out to members who may not be actively attending. You need a multichannel approach, combined with robust training for your staff.

While research shows that if gym staff interact with gym members more than twice, then the chance they will churn decreases by 33%. However, staff members need to catch these members before they start to disengage. 

Noticing signs while on a busy floor isn’t easy, especially as staff have plenty to occupy their time. Member data however can flag a decline in attendance and include factors such as not showing up to classes.

Your CRM tool should be raising the alarm so your team can get on the floor and engage on a personal level. 

That personal touch can be all that’s needed to reinvigorate a member’s enthusiasm for fitness. As it could be they’re not confident on the machines or they need guidance on a fitness plan. It could be something more personal that needs a more pastoral approach.

If, however, members are reluctant to engage with staff or their attendance has dropped off, you need an alternative approach.

How to Communicate with Inactive Gym Members

Whether the human touch has worked or not, you should be utilising first party and zero party data to communicate. 

Assuming you have a record of who your disengaged members are, you already know who you’re talking to. 

More to the point, you know how often they’ve attended, what they did and their stated preferences. 

You can use this information in re-engagement campaigns to entice members by creating segmented cohorts. Take advantage of the data you have to create campaigns that are relevant to each segmented list. 

Engaging with members in this way can deliver 14% higher open rates compared to a generic re-engagement communication.

Using AI membership retention software re-engagement campaigns can automatically trigger when a member disengages. 

Gyms can try the human touch first by reaching out on the phone. But if the member doesn’t pick then staff can set the re-engagement campaign in motion by scheduling a follow-up email within that campaign.

The automation takes care of the rest, using the member’s preferred communication channels prompting the relevant staff member at points when human contact is required. 

The Right Channel for Re-engagement

Your members should have been allowed to specify which channels you can use to market to them. If you’re lucky they ticked at least two as this gives you options.

But the channel you’re communicating with requires a different approach and even vocabulary. This is because the expectations from members vary from channel to channel.

Members, will not want to scroll more than once when receiving a text message but expect emails to be something of substance.


Despite what you may have heard, email is alive and well. It’s still one of the most heavily utilised communication tools in the world. It’s also the most likely channel your members will allow you to communicate via. 

This is because it’s the least interruptive and members don’t feel the same kind of pressure to read an email compared to an SMS or WhatsApp message. 

The other benefit of email is you can share considerably more information. Providing that information is relevant to each member, your openness and engagement rates should be strong. 

An email strategy should be part of your wider marketing/communications strategy. Using member data you can personalise newsletters with content each member will find most relevant. 

Remember, members don’t have to know about everything going on in your gym. Only the things that they care about. If a newsletter doesn’t contain anything of relevance for specific members it's arguable as to whether they receive it at all. 

This in itself can reduce churn.

Creating an automated email flow to keep in regular contact with your members can help to reduce drop-off. 

Build flows around when members miss a booking or if they don’t rebook after a session. The more touchpoints you create the more engaged members become. 

If engagement starts to drop personalised incentives and promotions based on activity and purchase history may be enough to entice members in.

Alternatively, you could send a feedback campaign with a simple survey to identify any problems that members may be experiencing.

However, it’s important that you act on the feedback and then inform them of the steps you have taken.


If your members have opted in to text alerts, these can be an effective way to reactivate members. More than that they can be used for reminders or a text timed to send after missed bookings. 

As with email, regular touchpoints that remind members that they matter to the gym can help to reduce churn.

While promotions and offers can be used to re-engage with members, it has limited applications. Especially if you don’t have any sales data to lean on. By using zero party data and attendance history, you can send SMS messages to members at risk of churn inviting them to relevant classes happening that week. 

Including a booking link makes it more likely that they’ll take action.

Phone calls

One-to-one contact can be a great way to engage members where possible. So it makes sense to use phone calls to get members active again.

When doing this you must know exactly who you’re speaking to. Have the member profile in front of you so you not only know their name but what their interests are.

This allows you to tailor the conversation to make it as relevant as possible. Equally, you need to know when they last attended the gym, what they did before they stopped and if they interacted with any staff.

You can’t rule out the human factor as to why members lapse. A bad experience with a colleague can be enough to deter some members from returning. A phone call is one of the most effective ways of addressing this issue, if not in-person.

Making the member feel heard and understood validates them and builds trust. The more positive an experience you can create - especially from a negative situation, the more robust an affinity the member will feel.

Again, use the data available to you to assist in the conversation and make notes against the customer profile. Notably where members are clashing with staff.

Engage with your Members

Many of these measures, while effective in re-engaging with your members, can be preventative too.

Utilise first party and zero party data to create relevant, personalised communications to reduce churn and increase engagement. 

To learn how Keepme’s AI-powered customer engagement and CRM platform can help you, get in touch to request a demo.

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