The job of a gym owner is no joke.
Your seemingly unending list of responsibilities—especially during the first two years—can become massively overwhelming.
You have so much to do, so much to focus on. It’s difficult to decide where your energy should go. There are tons of pieces to your gym business puzzle, and you can drive yourself mad trying to figure out what matters most.
But we have a little secret for you…
There’s one metric that you’ll never feel badly about spending an abundant amount of time/energy on. One component of your gym business that you can know, for certain, needs consistent TLC. One piece of your gym business puzzle that you don’t have to wonder: “Do I need to focus on this right now?”
And that one thing is member retention.
Member retention is to your gym business what good sleep is to your health: If you choose not to focus on it, everything else will needlessly suffer.
The ability to delight and retain your current members is, by far, the most critical component in building a strong fitness business. Without excellent member retention, your dream of gym ownership will swiftly turn into a nightmare.
We’ve got 11 ways for you to address your gym’s member retention, and we know they’ll make a positive impact.
Choose the option(s) that work best for you and your situation—every gym and every circumstance is different.
1. Write Down Their Goals
When a new member signs up at your gym, make sure you get more than just their credit card information down on file. Find out what their specific goals are, and then connect with them regularly to see how their goal-achievement is going.
|When you find out what your member’s goals are and ask them about their progress, you show them that you care. You show them that you were listening, and that you’re genuinely interested in their improvement.|
You also have an authentic way to reach out to them if, in the future, their attendance dwindles. You’re armed with info to remind them why they started, and you can use that knowledge to help them get back into the gym.
A quick text (something like “Hey, Krista! How are your box jumps coming along? I know you said you wanted to do a 20” box jump by the end of the year—getting closer?”) will remind your new athlete that you care about her goals and that it matters to you whether or not she shows up.
2. Host LOTS of Events
One of the biggest ways you can impact your member retention is through the cultivation of a strong, connected community of members. When folks come to your gym just as much for the workout as they do for the social connection, you’ve got a recipe for excellent member retention.
A huge part of creating an awesome community is hosting fantastic community events, both one-time and ongoing, both free and paid. Think holiday parties, watch parties, book clubs, workshops, outreach events, happy hours, competitions, sporting events, game nights, ladies/dudes nights, etc. Get as creative as you’d like! (We’ve even seen a gym member help host a swing dance tutorial for his fellow athletes!)
If you create a place where people can come and see their friends in addition to getting a great workout, you’ll get very few of those horrible “I need to pause my membership for a few months” emails in your inbox.
3. Be Supremely Welcoming
When a member walks through the doors of your gym, help them feel a true sense of belonging. Within a few seconds of stepping inside, your member should be greeted warmly by at least one member of your staff.
And a “Hi!” is not nearly enough—make sure you use their name to show them that they’re important.
A high five or fist bump upon arrival is also crucial—it helps them feel like they’re part of a team. In fact, we like bunches of high fives/fist bumps throughout the group class/personal training session. It’s a simple gesture that allows you to quickly and meaningfully connect with your members.
New folks can feel especially overwhelmed/intimidated by the gym, so come up with a game plan to help your newest members feel like they’re already part of the circle of trust…
Coaches sometimes assume that once a member has been around for a few weeks, they know everything. Don’t make that mistake. Stay abundantly engaged with your new folks.
4. Upgrade Your App Experience
An excellent app experience is a simple way to increase member retention and satisfaction. When members can do things like RSVP for classes, check into classes, record workout scores, and make gym purchases all from one app, it makes the entire gym experience so much more enjoyable.
In contrast, clunky apps that make things more difficult for your members can have a negative effect on member retention.
Assess whether or not your gym mobile app is working for you or against you. If you find that it’s doing the latter, it might be time to make the switch to software that can actually help your business grow.
5. Have a Strategy for New Members
When a new member joins the gym, make sure you have a strategy in place to help get them nestled into your community.
For some gym owners, the “PT-first” model works best.
For others, the “straight-to-class” model is more effective.
But no matter how you choose to on-ramp new members, make sure you don’t make the same mistake so many gym owners make: Don’t let fate determine whether or not your new member becomes a long-term, loyal customer! Stay connected. Stay engaged. Help your new folks feel both welcomed and accountable. And regularly stay in touch during those first three months—this is a critical time period for new member retention.
This strategy can be as simple as weekly texts, and as robust as full-on new member programs. In fact, there's a Triib gym owner who just instituted a 90-day accountability program for new members and saw great results. You can hear all about it on our Triib Podcast.
6. Communicate Often
In any relationship, business or personal, communication reigns supreme. If you’re communicating thoughtfully and regularly, there are rarely any surprises.
For old and new members alike, send texts, emails, snail mail, instant messages, etc. on a regular basis. Use these messages to check in, to ask questions, to celebrate personal records, to hold folks accountable, to say “happy birthday!”
In-person communication is also pretty darn crucial. Plan for at least one coffee date per month with one of your veteran members to check in with them. Find out what they love about your gym, what they wish were different about your gym, how their goals are coming along, how you can help them more, etc.
Done consistently and intentionally, this open line of communication will significantly improve your member retention. Your members will know that you’re always around, that you’re always open to talk.
7. Track Attendance Diligently
Attendance tracking is a vital component of member retention. This is a metric that you should check several times per week.
When you perform regular attendance tracking, you get to see who’s been showing up, and who hasn’t. From there, you can reach out to those ‘caution-members’ (members who haven’t shown up to the gym for several days in a row) and do a quick check-in.
Quite often, all that member needs is an encouraging call or text or email to let them know that you care, that you noticed that they haven’t been at the gym lately.
But if you don’t reach out, if you allow them to go another several days without showing up to the gym, you’re likely going to get a “I need to cancel my membership” email.
And don’t forget to use the attendance tracker to celebrate (either publicly or privately) your members who have been super consistent!
A quick “Hey everyone! Give Harper a high five on your way out today! This is her 5th day in a row at the gym!” at the end of class is super meaningful.
(Does your gym management software easily and effectively track your members’ attendance? Our software allows you to run several reports to check your gym’s pulse. Reports like ‘Expiring Membership Report,’ ‘Attendance Tracking Report Over Time,’ and ‘At Risk Members Report’ are all reports you can run with ease.)
8. Connect Connect Connect
If you want to increase member retention, then you’ve got to build meaningful relationships between your members.
When members feel connected to one another (and to the staff, for that matter), they’re more likely to continue their membership at your gym.
The gym becomes a sort of “third place,” a gathering spot where friends can not only train together, but forge lasting relationships with one another.
The best way to get your members connected to each other is to train your staff on the art of connection.
During staff meetings, talk about ways that coaches can be the connector between members. Coaches should:
9. Show Improvement
Your members are much more likely to stick around if they can see marked improvements.
Measure progress in lots of different ways so you can show your customers how much your gym has made a positive impact in their lives…
Remember: Have an intentional strategy about measuring progress. If you don’t re-measure and re-evaluate (aka you take a before photo but never get around to taking the after photo), your members won’t be able to see the value in your program.
10. Provide Value. Then Provide MORE Value.
“How can we add more value for our members?” is a question worth pondering often. You’ve likely got a ton of competition, so it’s imperative that you show your members what your gym is doing differently from the one down the road.
Value-adds like weekly blogs, quarterly workshops, holiday celebrations, a podcast, daily video tips, complimentary shopping lists, complimentary bathroom toiletries, and monthly community events, to name a few, will show your members that you really care about their experience at your business.
11. Maintain Your Facility
Number 11 is, quite possibly, the lowest hanging fruit on this list. When you maintain a spotlessly clean facility with well-kept equipment, you show your members that you care about their safety.
On the contrary…
If your floors are dirty and your equipment is grimy and you’ve got broken machines among working ones, you’re signaling to your members that:
You don’t have your s*** together
You’re not worried about their safety
While “Maintain Your Facility” is the last recommendation on this list, it’s probably the one you should tackle first. Without an impeccable facility, the other stuff doesn’t matter all that much.
Okay! We did it! You’ve now got 11 things to think about, 11 new ways to significantly improve your member retention.
Choose one or two of the above strategies and take action. After you’ve solidified those first couple strategies, add more. Eventually, you’ll have tons of different ways in which you address member retention at your gym.
And if you’re serious about making some huge improvements in your member retention, check out A Gym Owner’s Guide to Member Retention. This ultimate guide will show you, step by step, how to delight your current members and unlock sustainable growth for your business.
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