Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Member Retention In Your Club
by Tracey Bourdon
Head Marketing Coach at Susan K. Bailey Marketing
At times it seems that for any club, even their best members can start to lose their motivation. They visit the club less and less frequently, and horror, they may even cancel their membership. What has happened to them? Perhaps if we can begin to understand this gradual decline in their participation, we will be able to prevent it from happening. There are reasons why the member joined in the first place and just as many reasons they choose to leave. In most situations, if you have a strong member retention program in play, they can be encouraged to stay.
Why do members join fitness clubs?
Members more frequently give the following two reasons for joining a health club:
1. To stay healthy and stay in shape. 2. Approximately half (49%) join to lose weight.
(Source: IHRSA Trend Report).
The first questions you should ask are: is the member’s reason for joining being fulfilled? Are their expectations being met, and more to the point, being exceeded?
The second question: Are we giving them a good reason to stay?
How are your members’ value meters working?
You may have heard that it is easier to keep an existing member than to find a new one. In fact, you have to work just as hard at retaining existing members as you do at attracting prospects. So what exactly keeps a member interested in being a member at your club? If their attendance is declining, they are obviously ceasing to find value in coming to the club. From a personal perspective they may feel that they are not achieving anticipated results. Ultimately, this loss of perceived personal value translates into a perceived waste of money and they abandon their membership.
Keeping members on board in the face of competition relies on the quality of the relationship you have built with them. That includes keeping the rest of your house in order too, the condition of facilities and the caliber of services. It also relies on how well you know your competitors: how do you stack up against them in the marketplace and how do you rank in a competitive situation? Staying aware and evaluating your competition on a regular basis is a key element of maintaining your edge. It involves having the confidence to know what you do best and doing it, and also knowing whether or not to adjust your strategies to compete with factors such as price structure. If you have a well-constructed business and marketing plan in place, it is usually better to ‘stick to your guns’ and maintain it.
Do as you would be done by
Does your club have a good team of employees? Just as in any business, the quality of your staff and how fully they are engaged in the club will reflect and impact on the members. Just as the club should motivate its employees to succeed, so should it motivate its members. Set a good example and the resulting ambitious, positive and supportive atmosphere will be contagious. Members should feel encouraged to participate and bring forward their ideas to make a difference. The return for their input will be a valuable contribution to your club business and the potential to secure a committed member for a long time to come.
Offer fresh ideas
Fresh, new programs that support your profit centers, like group training (e.g. 3 months for $X), specialty (e.g. yoga, zumba) and nutrition (weight loss) programs that are results-driven will engage members. Member participation in these programs will encourage a regular pattern of exercise behavior and attendance at the club, making it easy for them to be invested in the club, which naturally leads to greater membership longevity.
All about the member
From the beginning, develop a member-centric marketing initiative. Members should receive regular communications from you right from the including special offers, nutritional recipes, new program announcements, and a rewards program. Keep it short and sweet. For instance, a punch card where a member is rewarded for achieving 20 workouts in 30 days. The incentives can be simple, focusing on club programs, signature products and services. A well-displayed in-club campaign will support the program and provide a positive message that also resonates with prospects touring the club.
If your members are keen and interested, take every advantage of their excitement by inviting them to refer their friends and family to the club. Another opportunity to keep members passionate about exercising is an offer to help them to amplify their results and with a special promotion that will also boost your profit centers such as specialty classes, nutrition and training programs.
A follow-up phone call from the club (preferably in-person) can make a significant difference to the member buy-in you achieve.
Make constant connections with members that inform, inspire and reward them. Send them emails on a regular basis. Make sure the messages are personalized and make the member feel special and important. Keep the messages simple and interesting—with plenty of "what’s-in-it-for-me’ news, "what’s new” club updates, photos and exclusive members-only offers. When asking for a referral, offer something of real value to show your appreciation like a $100 coupon for club services, or a limited-time discounted membership for a family member or friend.
Align your club with a charity or local sports or community effort and get your members involved with a great cause and an empowering opportunity to "give back” through their participation. It is great visibility for your club and instills a great sense of pride for your member.
The following Top 20 is a summary of things your club can be doing to engage and retain your members:
Top 20 Tips For Retaining Members
1. Give existing members a discount on membership or services – even if it’s just for the short term
2. Have your employees wear a personal nametag with a standard greeting message. For example: "Joe Smith welcomes you to the club!”
3. Stay alert to trends that might impact your members and the services you can offer them. Tell them about it!
4. Read market research studies about the club industry. Communicate what you learn!
5. Collect competitors' ads and visit their web site; study them for information about strategy, and compare the benefits they offer
6. Ask members why they joined and invite their suggestions for any improvement in the experience. Listen!
7. Ask former members why they left you. Listen!
8. Create a new service, technique or product you can offer to members. Be excited. Shout about it!
9. Redefine an existing product or service. Make it simpler, less expensive, smaller—or do the opposite, but in either case update your services. Be excited. Shout about it!
10. REWARD your members for everything they do from frequent workouts to referring friends and family. Programs using club bucks, retail, profit centers, proprietary programs and apps like Perx Advantage that works with the local business community to create a win-win-win scenario for the club, members, and local businesses. Recognize them!
11. Ask your members to come back again soon. Find a way to give them a reason to do so!
12. Set up an email system to quickly and easily respond to member inquiries
13. Ask members what you can do the help them
14. Create an interactive forum on your website specifically for your members to connect and share ideas. Let them know where to find it!
15. Host a member appreciation party once a month
16. Develop ongoing in-house campaigns that have some moxie, like frequent exerciser rewards programs and challenges that generate excitement within the club
17. Be a good citizen. Sponsor or host a special event or open house at the club in cooperation with a local non-profit organization or charity. Describe how the organization helped you. Volunteer to donate time or services.
18. Share the club’s successes and other member’s successes with your membership. Be outstanding!
19. Send handwritten thank you notes. Just because!
20. Practice ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ or ‘Pay It Forward’. The element of surprise, rather than a planned member appreciation events will be incredibly valuable. Make your members HAPPY!