What We Don't Know About Club Members

For Gym Operators

What We Don't Know About Club Members

According to Sports Marketing Surveys, the average health club member averages 100 visits a year (or about twice per week). Yet, clubs often know precious little about their members. In fact, the hotel and resort industries have better user information about very infrequent guests than the club industry.

This post was written by Rick Caro, President of Management Vision, Inc. and 42-year veteran of the club industry. For more information, check out "About the Author" at the bottom of the page.


Determining Your "Best Member"

An exercise that my company has used with clubs illustrates this glaring weakness.

The club assembles its General Manager as well as all of its department heads (sales, marketing, front desk, child care, fitness group exercise, personal training, retail, housekeeping, accounting, racquet sports, aquatics, etc). They are asked to define what they would call a “best member." Often, the criteria may involve 15 to 20 items, including a long-term member, one who spends a lot of money beyond dues, refers others to join, uses more than one activity, is a regular user, attends special club events, is part of a family membership, etc. The list could be much longer.

Assuming a club of over 3,000 members, this group is asked to list 100 of their “best members.” Often, they cannot get past 50. Then, they take the top name on the list. A series of questions ensue:

  • When did he/she originally join?
  • If not a family member now, was the spouse previously solicited to become a member?
  • Does he/she have children? Did they ever use the club’s services?
  • How often does he/she come to the club each month (over the last 12 months)? If not consistent usage, why the variation (especially in summer)?
  • Where does he/she work? Is his/her company a corporate member? Was it ever solicited to be a corporate member?
  • What were his/her goals? What are they now?
  • How satisfied is he/she with the club?
  • What does he/she do when he comes to the club? If routine changes, describe the patterns; what does he/she really do there? (Not just “work out”)
  • Does he/she refer prospects? Do any join? What is the data over the last year?
  • Does he/she spend dollars beyond dues? On what, specifically? If he/she paid for personal training, how many sessions? Is he/she doing that now?
  • Was he/she a club member before joining this club or a pure newcomer to the industry?
  • What is his total spend at the club in a year?
  • How can the club make him/her an even more “successful” member?
  • What additional programs or services might this member be interested in?
  • What is the likelihood he/she will be a member next year? In 2 years?
  • How can the club attract others like him/her?

The Challenge for Clubs

The challenge is, while most clubs have lots of pieces of data about its members, several clubs are weak in terms of technology. They simply do not systematically collect this data and make it usable. Until a club uses it, it is merely a wide set of disparate data. Once used, then it becomes information.

Clubs do not properly benefit from membership data. They know little substantive information, even for their regular members. Therefore, it is difficult for a club to have confidence that it is satisfying its membership, knows how to grow ancillary revenue, has an ability to confidently predict its membership retention levels and have success in reaching its intended bottom line.

In the long-run, committing more resources to really learning about its members will help clubs be successful.

Author Information

Rick Caro
Rick Caro's picture

Rick Caro is President of Management Vision, Inc. and a 42-year veteran of the club industry. Management Vision, Inc. is a consulting company specializing in market analyses, club valuations, expert witness testimony, club finances and club transactions; it is reachable at mgmtvision@gmail.com.

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