Any gym owner knows, when it comes to business success, member retention is the name of the game. This is not only because the cost of acquiring new members is much higher than retaining old ones. In addition, clients who are happy and motivated are much more likely to recommend a gym to their family and friends and therefore also help to generate revenue. But as plausible as the idea of member retention for business success is today, as intangible solutions seem, because determining “fragile” members and the causes of why they want to leave remains difficult. Yet, there are a few member retention strategies to keep in mind which can help you to keep clients in the long run.
1. Know your market
The first step toward increasing member retention is to identify your market. Who is using your gym? Vegan yoga-queens? Body-builders on a paleo-diet? Middle-aged bankers, who want to stay in shape or senior citizens, who want to do something about their back pain? For each of them exercise, fitness and health have different meanings.
In determining age-, gender identity as well as their socioeconomic situation, you will be able to design your gym in a way that engages your specific audience, according to their needs. For example, if you realize that many of your customers work from 9am to 5pm, a switch to longer and more flexible opening hours would make it easier form them to integrate gym-time into their daily routine. Or if you discover that most of you clients are senior citizens, instead of a new HIT training session, you might want to offer workouts based on functional training or yoga classes, which are more appealing to them.
Therefore, understanding your market can help you finetune and redesign your concept in a way that is meaningful to your clients.
2. Create a lifestyle brand
Branding, without a doubt, it is one of the best ways to increase and at the same time retain your client base, because ever since the rise of boutique fitness we’ve witnessed that once people have committed to a lifestyle, they stay loyal, sometimes even without contracts. And let’s be real, nowadays fitness and healthy living are lifestyles.
Still, the idea of branding might be intimidating at first. But in the digital age many of the resources you need are more accessible than ever. You can for example create your own website and blog with a few clicks and share your ideas on various social media channels with the world, without paying a cent.
Actually, the hardest part about creating your brand is asking some tough questions like: What is our vision? How do you set yourself off from your competitors? What makes your gym unique? Who is your primary audience and how can you engage them effectively?
Once you have determined that, get creative! Design you own logo, write down your brand messaging and find your voice that reflects your gym’s philosophy. Keep in mind to be consistent with your messaging and be true to your brand. This is also where knowledge about your customer base comes in handy (see point one) as you, for example, don’t want to overwhelm people in their mid-forties and fifties by using too many hashtags and flashy graphics. Adjusting your tone according to your audience is essential as it also forges a more personal connection with your clients, which in the end is an essential factor that drives member retention.
3. Sharing is caring: use social media to build a community
As mentioned before, social media is a great tool you can use for branding your gym. But it can be used for more than just putting your logo out there. You can build your own community using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and change the way you communicate with your members.
There are a few things to keep in mind, when it comes to social media. The first is to understand that no matter which ones of the many social networks you’re using, it’s all about communication and communication isn’t a one-way street. This means that your channel should not just bombard your followers with ad after promotional video, after new discount etc.
You actually want to engage your audience by posting about things that matter to them, ask questions and facilitate exchange.
Maybe you want to curate pinterest boards about new exercises, nutrition or sports wear, which your members can pin? Or maybe the right way for you is to set up an Instagram account and document #fitnesslife in your gym? You can even create your own gym-specific hashtag and encourage your members to post about their workout routine. Or maybe you want to create groups on Facebook and organize post-workout-meetups for members to facilitate community building? The possibilities on social media are endless and with the right strategy, you will not only increase the loyalty of your clients, but also attract new members.
4. Honor milestones
Everyone loves gifts. Milestones and anniversaries are a perfect reason to celebrate and keep your clients motivated. A member completed three months of training and didn’t miss a week? Maybe that’s the right time to bring their partner or best friend for a free workout together. As an alternative you could hand out a free towel or water bottle. Another simple way to honor your client’s commitment is to offer discounts on your online merchandise or membership fees for a month. No matter what you do, it will communicate that you value your members and pay attention.
5. Motivation through new technologies
As you’re running a business in the fitness and health industry, one of your main goals is to help your clients live healthier and better lives, while also running a successful business. Thus, keeping your members motivated is at the heart of all successful member retention strategies.
So why not benefit from some of the new insights and technologies of the digital age?
In 2015 UC Berkeley published a study that suggests the “gamification of fitness” will change the way people exercise through integrating “collaborative and competitive games” into workouts. The study points out that creating “motivating fitness games” could make long-term fitness engagement more attractive for people who are not intrinsically motivated.
Now, you’re probably not an app developer, but you can nonetheless benefit from some of these findings. You can, for example, invest in modern motion-capture technology and interactive circuit training, which lets your clients track their own success and compare and share it with others. That way you could have monthly competitions about who exercised the most, or who was the most consistent. In any case, staying up to date and considering new ways of keeping your clients engaged is essential for boosting retention.