Member Retention: Establish a Sustainable Relationship with Exercise

For Gym Operators

Member Retention: Establish a Sustainable Relationship with Exercise

The importance of improving retention is generally top of mind for club owners. It is one of the single biggest challenges facilities face. Why, after all the expense and effort taken to attract new exercisers, can retaining them pose such difficulty? Certainly, competing against the allure of the new studio that just opened with special membership offers and promotions is worth it. Or is it?

Retaining members is a much more cost-effective way to grow membership. The Harvard Business Review writes, “Depending on which study you believe, and what industry you’re in, acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.” There is also a significant benefit to a club’s bottom line when members stay. According to a study by Bain & Company, even a five percent increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits of between 25 percent and 95 percent.

Those are two compelling reasons why club owners continually look for strategic ways to keep the members they attract. Here are some key strategies to implement to help boost member retention within your facility.

Sustaining a Positive Relationship with Exercise

It’s relatively simple to provide access to exercise. Buy some cardio and strength equipment, place it on the fitness floor, schedule group classes, hire trainers, and voilà, you have a club “open for business.” Yet, we know it’s not that straightforward, or else every club would be as successful as the next with many loyal, fit members.

The reality is that, to the average exerciser who walks into your club, it looks like every other club.

A comprehensive strategy to improve retention is to focus on the “net growth” of the exerciser.  Personalized delivery of their workouts, their engagement with fitness, honouring their efforts, and rewarding their improvement can all impact an exerciser’s relationship with exercise.

Beyond providing a safe, clean, and secure environment to exercise, gym operators need to nurture in members a lifetime commitment to sustaining a positive relationship with exercise. A club owner’s engagement with members on their path to fitness and well-being will ultimately increase retention and the lifetime value of a member.

Here we’ll look at key ancillary aspects of providing access to exercise: community, space planning, technology, and programmeming to help build the “net growth” of your members.

Communicate To Build Trust, Integrity, and Community

How do you communicate with your members?  Do you talk with members about their interests and goals, their current fitness levels, how often they plan to visit the club, and how much hands-on help they would prefer from your trainers?

A strategic member communications plan can help improve retention rates. It should clearly define the different methods and touch points a facility uses to connect with its members, like social media, email marketing, events, onboarding, staff, etc. Elevate the member experience through segmentation: millennials, active ageing, families, and so on to delivery communications that reinforce a personalized connexion with each member.

Develop, modify, and implement member engagement programmes based on data cultivated internally as well as from outside sources, such as IHRSA, industry associations, and experts. Internal data from club management software and equipment technology can track a member’s activities, likes, habits, and number of visits, and identify those with a high risk of leaving. Data collection allows operators the ability to proactively intervene with programmes designed to reactivate member engagement.

Responsive Space Planning

Focusing on the “net growth” of an exerciser includes a holistic look at the club environment. Create designated spaces within the club appropriate to the intention and function of engageing a member and creating community. The club environment is not only a great place to get a workout, but also fulfils the need for people to connect.

It’s about designing the types of spaces to meet your members’ needs. A good tactic to create connexion and community is to define exercise zones. To motivate exercisers, you’ll want to consider where to position equipment within the facility. Prominently placing cardio or functional training equipment creates lots of activity and can create impact in the facility. Make group exercise studio space flexible to accommodate events that influence greater member connexion.

Consider repurposing spaces. Turn a racquetball court which no longer gets any use into a functional-cardio zone with group heart rate display technology. Outside of fitness, look where you can create lounge areas or small alcoves for members to interact. Perhaps even consider making a community workspace that provides an added value of convenience for those members coming during lunch or fitting their exercise in with worktime.

Stay flexible when space planning. Listen to members and analyse activity data. Don’t hesitate to reallocate areas and equipment within the facility when the needs of your members change.

Technology: Beneficial Intelligence Delivered How Members Want It

Technology continues to play a major innovative role in fitness. Remember, the key to the “net growth” of an exerciser is personalized delivery of their workouts, their engagement with fitness, honouring their efforts, and rewarding their improvement. Networked fitness solutions help exercisers measure, track, and share their fitness experience. It allows trainers to connect directly with them to support their progress and provide encouragement. A digital platform within your facility can also effectively target communications to members to share training tips or promote an upcoming event or special offer.

Technology software that syncs apps, wearables, cloud platforms, and club programmes keeps members engaged with all of their fitness data, which is an encourageing motivator. Equipment consoles with Near Field Communication (NFC) tagging or Bluetooth® pairing technology can now capture a member’s profile data and sync their details such as calories burned or speed and distance from workouts inside or outside the club.

Despite the ever-changing tech landscape, exercisers’ concerns over health and fitness, weight loss, and stress are constant. With greater choices of wearables, apps, and software, determine what form technology should take in your facility to build the “net growth” of a member. People want information to make their lives amazing. They desire information and education that will improve themselves or their lives. Clubs need to develop beneficial intelligence and the means, using technology, to deliver it to their members how they want it.

Programmeming to Deepen Community

Successfully implementing community-driven ideas doesn’t happen overnight, but steady work can produce serious improvement in member retention. Small group training (SGT) is one of the most powerful tools for club operators to communally drive the “net growth” of members.  

Small group training programmes create an intimate environment that naturally develop support and closeness among participants. When designing small group training, capitalizing on the commonality of members – group types, age, and activity interests – will more easily facilitate community building.

The design of the space is important to the experience. Create flow for dynamic movements to enhance interaction between participants. Build in predictability to the workout in a way that each participant knows what to expect from a programme perspective, such as with the warm-up. Programme predictability fosters the interaction of participants with each other and the instructor. By not having to concentrate on the warm-up, social interaction and conversation happen easily, creating those relationships.   

Fitness trainers are the epicentre of the shared experience. Trainers help create the community within the small group environment. They not only make it personal for each individual, but also play upon the motivations and human nature to bring the group together.

Your club members and staff are your best asset, so don’t hesitate to invite their feedback and listen carefully to their interests, questions, and concerns. If you can figure out how to enhance their experience, you’ll be well on your way to building a deeper sense of community in your facility.