Chris Guaty: FISA West and IHRSA Round-Up

With a mission to connect with leading US operators, Chris Guaty, Keepme's Director of Sales for North America recently packed his bags and jetted of to FISA West and IHRSA. In this detailed recap, Chris shares his firsthand experiences from both conferences, offering valuable perspectives on the innovations and strategies discussed.
Chris Guaty
Chris Guaty
Chris Guaty: FISA West and IHRSA Round-Up

Want to know how to make < 3 months at a company feel like 2+ years? Throw yourself in at the deep end, and attend two staple industry events.

Joining Keepme at the start of 2024 as the newly appointed Director of Sales for North America, I was quickly whisked away to the UK for the company's kick-off week, which saw team members from all over the world fly in to plan for the year ahead. Since then I've had the incredible opportunity to attend two prestigious fitness industry events in the US, FISA West and IHRSA (Now known as, The Health & Fitness Association, but more on that later).

These experiences have been invaluable, allowing me to immerse myself in this wonderful community, connect with industry leaders, and gain valuable insights.


Taking place at the stunning La Quinta Resort & Club, about 127 miles outside of LA; known as a popular desert retreat for Hollywood stars, travellers, families, and most recently home to the Fitness Industry Supplier Association! Needless to say I was very happy to be headed here!

This was the first ‘meet the buyer’ style event I have attended, and what a first experience I had! Sal Pellegrino and the team sure know how to put on a show.

Health club operators from all over the country were in attendance, with the schedule packed with 1-2-1 meetings each day. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to speak to top operators and give them the low down on Keepme. Everything from our proprietary AI in the form of the Keepme Score™ or our smart lead scoring system - in both cases I'm always so delighted to see people's reactions to what they can achieve with these advanced technologies, without any tech skills.

Gym membership retention - Keepme at FISA West.Gym software - Keepme at FISA West.Gym membership retention strategies - Keepme at FISA West.

Key Highlights - Industry insights, group learnings and meeting our great customers

As the second day rolled round, I had the opportunity to sit through a wonderful breakfast keynote led by Sarah Marion, Syndicated Research Director for Murphy Research. Her session on “Voice of the Generations” gave an indepth, holistic look at how each generation is approaching fitness in 2024. There was a lot of great information to unpack, but a key takeaway for me, was:

“A good campaign speaks to both life-stage and generation. Generational differences shape how consumers shop for fitness. Their life-stage shapes their activities, needs, and barriers.”

It was great to hear Sarah deliver this insight, and learn about the studies that Murphy Research has done in this particular area. In that same area, I was able to discuss with operators how Keepme allows operators to segment their audiences by age, interests and other data points in order to hyper-personalize communications and make outreach more fruitful.

For any operators who haven't made it out to a FISA event, I can highly recommend it for these learning opportunities. Beyond the keynote, and 1-2-1 meetings there were a range of different discussion groups to choose from on each day. Rich pickings to say the least - you could choose from the following and the delivery offered great take-aways: 

  • Member and Staff Retention

  • Recovery, What’s in Demand? and How to Monetize?

  • Pickleball: What are the Opportunities and Challenges?

While it was an amazing opportunity to make new connections and hear about the great things operators across North America are doing, I was also lucky enough to get to check in with some of our current customers too.

Here we have one of my favourite shots from the event, with none other than Ada McKenzie, Owner of Cedardale Health & Fitness. She had a lot of great things to say about their experience with Keepme.

FYI - You can dive into their customer success story here 👉 Cedardale Health & Fitness

Keepme: Chris Guaty with Ada Mckenzie, Owner of Cedardale Health & FitnessChris with Ada Mckenzie, Owner of Cedardale Health & Fitness

Key Takeaways - Retention strategies are key & automations are not only for the 'tech savvy'

  • Retention is King (or Queen)

I learned a lot about the current climate for gym and club operators from the 1-2-1 meetings. One of the recurring themes in my conversations with operators was the desire to build out a cohesive strategy around membership retention. It seemed as though everyone had an understanding of the importance of mitigating member attrition, and wanted to have a gym retention strategy in place, but haven’t gotten round to setting anything up. Which I get (of course I do, that's what Keepme's retention features are for!) - it is easy to become lead focused, but when we come together at an industry event like FISA, with all operators saying the same thing, it really shines a light on how difficult it is to ignore the importance of retention.

Something that I'm always keen for operators to understand is, long standing gym members generate a lot more revenue than newly acquired ones. Retained members contribute to consistent revenue streams over time, whereas acquiring new members requires continuous investment in marketing and promotions. A strong retention strategy helps gyms maintain a stable membership base, reducing fluctuations in revenue and providing a foundation for sustainable growth.

“When a member leaves, particularly a long-tenured member, it may take years to replace the revenue lost from that account. Historically, long-term members typically pay more in club access as they not only pay monthly dues but may also purchase non-dues services like personal and small group training, spa, and sport-specific instruction. According to Profiles of Success, leading clubs generate a median of $674 in annual revenue per member” - IHRSA - The Cost of Replacing a Health Club Member

  • Accessible Automation

It came to light that most operators have basic automations set up such as:

  • Welcome emails

  • Thank you for purchasing emails / texts

  • Member milestones journeys

  • 30, 60 & 90 day onboarding journeys (sometimes) 

This is awesome, but what is evidently lacking, is a more sophisticated and comprehensive automation strategy that enables the sending of communication, based on interests and behavioral triggers. Most operators I spoke with, currently create their automations from their existing MMS, but it sounds like there are a multitude of limitations that these platforms incur when it comes to segmenting data, making it difficult to tailor and hyper-personalize communications.

It was clear to me that some operators have stayed away from the advances in technology that would allow them to set up smarter automations, deeming themselves ‘not tech savvy’. But our mission at Keepme is to create accessibility to, and education around, what is available to ensure that operators are engaging their members in a way that makes them want to stay healthy and stay exercising!

A quick Keepme technical terminology breakdown from my colleague Amy:

IHRSA (The Health & Fitness Association)

I didn’t have long at home in Texas before I was back on the plane, L.A. bound, for the largest gathering of fitness industry professionals of the year. IHRSA is world-renowned for its bustling Trade Show, expert keynote speakers, and valuable networking opportunities. The event is famous for having huge international draw, and I can attest to the fact that this was true for 2024. If you want to rub shoulders with the best in the industry - this is where you want to be!

I was lucky enough to have Keepme’s Director of Customer Success attend this one with me, Michelle Thavasi. Michelle is a founding Keepme team member so it was fantastic to have her at IHRSA as she was able to introduce me to some of our long-standing customers.

Gym membership retention - Keepme at IHRSA.Gym membership retention strategies - Keepme at IHRSA.Key Highlights - Brand realignment & thriving Keepme customers

What has been known as IHRSA since 1981, will now be known as ‘The Health and Fitness Association’ It was really cool to be there for that moment in history. It was inspiring to see such an iconic association shift its direction to advance the changing needs of the modern fitness industry. The Health and Fitness Association wants to now move the industry from ‘surviving (post- covid)' to 'thriving’. This nicely aligns with Keepme's goal to empower operators to engage with their members, drive revenue at every stage of the membership journey, boost retention and increase profits.

Keepme customer, Jacob Thomas from Razor Sharp Fitness, delivered an amazing session on the first day of the event, on 'Building a Culture of Engagement & Connection'  featuring how he leverages Keepme's smart automations. He spoke in depth about how Keepme's automations have helped them personalize messages to new members based on behavioral patterns in their first 7 days and beyond.

Gym automation - Keepme at IHRSA.Not many other events would allow us to meet so many current customers in the one spot. The cherry on top of an amazing event was definitely being able to check in with operators who have been leveraging Keepme over the past few years. It helped me better understand how the platform has improved, and continues to improve, member retention, lead prioritization and member engagement in their facilities. 

One of those customers, was Brent Frueh - General Manager at Rochester Athletics Club who, like Jacob, is loving utilizing Keepme's automations within their facility.

"Our favorite feature is the Automations. Every new member receives a series of emails designed to guide them on their journey toward wellness. What used to be a manual process for our Personal Trainers is now automated and the results have been better with much less work."

Brent Frueh - General Manager - Rochester Athletic Club
Brent Frueh
General Manager - Rochester Athletic Club

Michael Thavasi with Matt Remick, Steve Boring, Sarah Stille & Brent Frueh from Rochester Athletics ClubPictured: Michael Thavasi with Matt Remick, Steve Boring, Sarah Stille & Brent Frueh from Rochester Athletics Club

AI for gyms - Keepme at IHRSA.Pictured: Chris and Michelle with Mike Rucker & Carey White from Active Wellness

Key Takeaways
  • The convergence of health clubs and healthcare in the US has arrived. Following IHRSA's rebranding as the Health and Fitness Association, every facet of the industry is actively refining strategies and infrastructure to support the shift towards healthcare integration.

  • Community emerges as the victor. Brands are recognizing the benefits of fostering community, including accountability, mental wellbeing, joy, and stronger brand equity. Whether in-person or digital, the consensus is clear - finding ways to bring people together is paramount.

  • Keeping your community engaged and satisfied has never been more important. When gyms invest in their current members, the new ones will come.

To wrap up..

It has been a whirlwind start to my Keepme journey, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Now that my feet are firmly back on Texas turf, I have plenty to be getting on with. But if you missed me, or weren’t able to attend either of these events.. Book 15 minutes with me and we can have a chat about if Keepme might be a good match for your facility.

Ready to learn more?

Grab 15 mins with Chris and he'll answer any questions you might have. Want to see behind the scenes of how the platform works? He can do that too with a whistle stop tour of the dashboards and features.