How to retain members

No more saying goodbye to your members; find out the best ways to retain your members and keep helping them achieve their goals.

In previous articles, we've spoken a lot about how to market your business to prospective clients. But once you get those new members through the door the real work begins; making sure they keep coming back. Retaining members is key to ensuring the long-term survival of your fitness business. In this article, we'll explore why people don't renew memberships, and how you can retain your members.

Members of CrossFit 13 assemble for a group photo

Photo credit: CrossFit 13

Read on and find out how to keep your new members coming back to your classes

Find out why your old members decided to move on

When you leave a job, it's pretty normal to have an exit interview with HR. They want to know what positive experiences you had working there, and more importantly, what negative experiences you had and whether they impacted your reason to leave.

The same can be applied to members cancelling their membership. When they leave, ask them if they would be willing to complete a short survey of why they left. If they say no, then thank you and goodnight. But if they say yes, follow these basic principles:

  1. Make your feedback form an online survey. Former clients are less likely to be straight with you about their reasons for leaving if they have to say it to your face. Send them an email and assure them it'll be anonymous.
  2. Keep it short and relevant. There's no point asking page after page of questions. Make sure you're asking them questions specific to your business, but make sure the completion time is around the five-minute mark. Much longer than that and they'll get bored and just not do it.
  3. Don't take it personally. Remember this is for you to improve your business and that's not going to happen if everyone tells you about the good stuff. You need to know what people didn't like so you can make the necessary changes to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Make sure you let your members know they're important from day one

Welcome newcomers as if they've come home

The first few touch points are the most vital in your long term relationship with a new customer. That first impression really counts. Make sure you:

  • Genuinely welcome them - make sure that they find it easy to slot into the community and know what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Pair them up with an experienced member. This is a powerful way to connect the community and that relationship will give them a way in to different friendship groups.
  • Make sure they are on course to get results.

Members come back time and time again predominantly for two reasons.

  • Firstly, the results they get and achieve during their time with you.
  • And secondly, the community connection they get out of their membership.

As a PT customer, the relationship between you both is invaluable, and they choose to meet with you one to one for a reason, starting with trust. For customers who prefer group classes, the main reason they come back for more is the social connections and friendships they have made in class. The encouragement exchanged between peers motivates them to keep coming. It's always a combination of these things but sometimes focusing too much on one over the other weakens the relationship and hurts retention.

With that in mind let's explore some ways to build retention into your customer experience.

Reduce buyers remorse

Buyers remorse; it's a real thing and it can really harm your business. We've all done it. We've bought something or signed up to something and then almost immediately regretted it and then returned an item or cancelled a membership. A large amount of gym and fitness club memberships are cancelled because of it.

Maybe the person in question feels like they won't use it enough or that the value for money just isn't there. You need to make sure they don't have those doubts, especially early on in your professional relationship with your unsure client. But how can you do that?

Glad you asked because here are some tried and tested methods you can use:

Send a personalised message after sign up

A personalised message is easy to set up in your TeamUp account, and it's perfect for reassuring your newly signed up member that they have made their best decision in ages; to get fit and healthy with you and your business. In this message, be sure to include:

  • A brief introduction explaining who you are. Tell them about your fitness journey. Quite often showing clients we all have to start somewhere and that you weren't just born as a fitness expert, you had to work for it is reassuring. Tell them, I set out to achieve my goals and together you will too.
  • Really highlight the benefits that your client will now enjoy that they are a fully paid-up member. What do they get that a non-member doesn't? Show them that what they've signed up for is value for money and they won't regret their decision.
  • Sharing your resources on your website will keep them engaged with your business and give them a focus for their fitness goals. If you have any on-demand content, make it a member's only perk. If your non-member clients want to enjoy your classes outside of official class times, they know where the sign-up page is.

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  • Tell your new, now incredibly excited members, what they can expect going forward. Show them what types of classes they can look forward to and maybe include photos of your current crop of clients enjoying them. Don't forget to reiterate how easy it is for them to sign up for classes and sessions.

Send semi-regular tips and ideas for staying fit and on target

You don't have to stop at the one email either. We're not suggesting that you start bombarding your members with unrelenting spam emails telling them to go to the gym or come to class or sign up for a session. Apart from anything else, there's only so much alliteration one person can stand.

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Sending a bi-weekly or monthly email with workout tips reminds your members you're thinking about them. Including links to your new on-demand content demonstrating a workout and the correct way to do it doesn't just help them in a functional sense, but it also reminds them of that members-only perk we mentioned earlier. Don't let them forget that non-members aren't getting that with their non-members' package.

Don't stop encouraging your members to chase their fitness goals

Show your members how far they've come

There is one email that can be regularly sent; the progress report. After each workout, you can use the reports feature on TeamUp to show your clients how far they've come in their attendance and dedication to their fitness journey and to tell them to keep pushing. Showing them that they're making the most of their memberships by attending regular classes and sessions lets them see the value for money is absolutely there. That, along with their Fitbit, will give them tangible evidence that by sticking to their goals they will see real results. Tap into your members' egos a bit and remind them that...

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Build an online community to foster support among your members

Get them to join your online community. Of course, you have your Facebook group and Instagram poised and ready to go to keep your new members focused on their goals and their minds off the dreaded buyer's remorse. Encourage new members to follow your pages. Instagram is obviously a great place for your promotional content. High-quality photos and reels of your classes will really push what it is you do while inspiring your new clientele to get involved.

Having a Facebook group is a good way to push the idea of a fitness community. Not only can your members see your promotions and content here, but it's a chance for them to interact with each other. One idea to get a community feeling going is to set challenges, be it weekly or monthly, something we'll expand on later. The point is it's a good way to keep your members engaging not just with you but with each other outside of class. Clients building a rapport is a good way of getting people to keep coming back, and you'll even find certain groups always booking sessions together.

Set some fun challenges to keep engagement outside of class time

Your Facebook group, as we have established, is a place your members can use to keep building a rapport with one another. A way to maximise this is to set occasional challenges, especially during peak times for new sign-ups, namely the New Year resolutionists and the September rush contingent. It allows current members to enjoy some friendly competition, and it shows your new members that keeping fit is not just another task for the day, it's something fun that can be shared. It's a great motivator knowing that you're all taking part in something like a fitness challenge and you'll see your members encouraging each other all the way.

Avoid long contracts: don't give your new members a lengthy sentence

Nowadays, people are less inclined to sign up for anything if they think they're going to be tied down to a long contract. Be it a phone deal or a gym membership, they need to know that there is a realistic release date. People don't want to feel as though they've signed on the dotted line and now the judge has brought down the gabble on what is no longer a fitness program. Instead, they're now facing an indeterminate sentence and the weight room doesn't feel like a workout zone but a prison yard.

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Constant encouragement encourages members to return

It's always daunting starting a new activity, especially if you're surrounded by people who have been at it for a while. You're going to have built a rapport with your long-standing clients and that will inevitably be noticeable to your new clients and members. It's important to remember that you have to be equally encouraging to those new to your class. They know that their first few classes won't be their best, but it's important that they don't feel defeated and discouraged from coming back. Give them tips about form as they go without singling them out, but definitely give them a shout out during a workout letting them know that they're making progress. Massaging the ego every now and again is something we all need when chasing our fitness goals.

Final thoughts: never reach the point of no return

Ultimately the best way to make sure your members don't cancel their memberships is to make sure that you never reach that point in the first place. When it comes down to it, once someone decides to cancel their membership for anything, the ship has already sailed and the chances of them being persuaded to change their minds are slim to none. The task of maintaining your members starts as soon as they sign up for your services, not when they've decided to go elsewhere. Ensuring that you have done everything you possibly can to give your members the best possible experience at your gym, studio, or fitness centre is the best way to anchor them at port and to prevent that ship from sailing off to new shores.

For more tips and advice on managing your business and keeping your members coming back for more check out these articles:

How to encourage your customers to come back to class

How to motivate your personal training clients: top tips

Thanks for reading!