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Strategies To Keep Members For A Lifetime
There are probably as many reasons people join health clubs as there are members. Every one of your members has a story to tell, and a reason why they enrolled at your facility. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at your workout floor and you’ll see the 63 year-old teacher who needs to do strength training to help her with osteoporosis, the 42 year-old bank executive who needs to lose 25 pounds and reduce his blood pressure, the 26 year-old fiancée who wants to firm and tone up to fit in her wedding dress, and the 33 year-old mother of 2 who needs to increase her energy, and strengthen her lower back muscles to keep up with her kids. Each one of these people has a specific need that prompted them to walk through the doors of your club, and ultimately decide to become a member. Now that you have them as a member it’s up to you and your staff to keep them as one for as long as possible, while continually looking for ways to enroll new members each month to replace the ones you lose.
As there are endless reasons people decide to join a health club, there are also infinite measures clubs can take to keep their members and have the highest retention rate possible. The fitness industry retention rate average is about 65%. The retention rate is figured on an annual basis, so you need to base this number off of how many of your members are still enrolled on the thirteenth month of their membership. This means most clubs must replace one-third of their members every year! As we already mentioned, there are a number of areas clubs can focus on to help keep their members. We’ll focus on 4 key strategies that every health club or fitness center should be doing to connect with your members, and keep new members coming through your doors.
People will be much more likely to seek out your facility if your club is regarded as the “expert facility” in your town. We want to go to places that can best solve our problems. If your car needs service, you want to take it to a reliable mechanic. If you need a kennel for your dog or cat, you want to take them to a reputable provider where you know they’ll be taken care of in a safe, clean environment. The same holds true for your health club in that people want access to the most knowledgeable and educated fitness professionals in your area to assist them in reaching their goals. They want to know that your staff is on top of their game by staying current with all the latest health, exercise and nutritional information. Sponsor seminars each month with other area health experts like chiropractors, physical therapists, registered dieticians, or your own personal trainers. Write articles for your local paper, have your staff volunteer to do seminars at the local schools in your area, host CPR and First Aid Certification courses. Anything you can do to put your club name and staff in front of people by educating them is a great way to quickly become health and fitness expert in your town.
This also goes hand in hand with being considered as the expert in your town. Get your staff and members excited by sponsoring tons of fun and healthy activities within your community. Blood drives, food drives, 5K runs, and other fun events get your club recognition and exposure that is invaluable. This allows your staff to connect with many people who are not members, and may not have ever considered joining your club before. Donate memberships, hats, or t-shirts as prizes for winners and create some excitement in the community about your club. Have members of your aerobics team or personal training staff lead the warm-up for any athletic events or runs in the community, and always try to have your club as a major sponsor at these events. If money is a concern, try to barter short-term memberships whenever possible. This is a great way to keep your costs down, and you’ll also be able to convert many of these short term membership prizes over to long term memberships once they expire.
Keeping members for the long-term is always a challenge, but you’ll have a much better chance if you and your staff attempt to build relationships with your members. The number one reason people leave a health club is a lack of relationships with your staff and other members! Try to know your members by name. Find out who your members are. Take the time to talk with them and learn about them on a more personal level. Ask them if they need any help with their workout routine. Have a follow-up system in place, and call them when they haven’t been in to work out for a couple of weeks. Make sure each member gets a birthday card. Have a monthly member news letter. Have contests for your members to participate in where they can win prizes. Weight loss, referral, and group exercise contests are huge hits at clubs. Throw fitness parties at least once a quarter, and provide some complimentary snacks and refreshments for your members. Have free blood screening, and other discounts and giveaways. This creates a real sense of excitement and fun for the members, and breaks up the monotony of just coming in for another workout. These activities will also go a long way towards building more meaningful relationships with your members that can last a lifetime.
This won’t be easy to do for all members. There will always be a percentage of members who come in with their ipods on, and want to get in and out as quickly as possible. You just may have to be a little more creative, or try a little harder to interact with these folks. If you don’t get to a more personal level with your members, what’s to keep them from leaving and going to your competitor down the road?
Up to 75% of your new members come from your existing membership, so why would you not want to always have a member referral system in place? Let your members know that they have some limited guest pass privileges. Give all new members several free guest passes that are good for the first 30 days of their membership. Give them a free month (on the end of their original membership term) for every new member that they bring in during the first 30 days of their membership. People are always much more likely to help your cause if there’s something in it for them. Free membership time is one of the easiest things to give away, and it’s of very little extra expense to the club. Other popular perks you can offer include free shakes, hats, gym bags, t-shirts, personal training sessions, meals and movie tickets. You can offer one or several of these as incentives for your member referral program. It’s also nice to have a big member referral contest at least once or twice a year. You could run the contest for a month, or over a longer time period, like a quarter. Create excitement in the club by advertising and having everyone on your staff become involved in hyping up the contest. You can trade for several prizes, like a new laptop, flat screen TV, or ipod. The grand prize needs to be something very nice to give people the incentive to participate. Many clubs will give away a cruise or vacation for two, a mountain bike, or something else of equal value. You can make it as fun and creative as you want!
These are just a few methods that are quick, easy and fun to implement. They bond relationships between your staff and members, while giving everyone a deeper sense of belonging to your club, rather than just being “another” member. Try them and you’ll be assured to see some great results, while making your health club the premier facility in your town.
Rob Killen is a 20-year veteran in the health and fitness industry. He received his Bachelor’s in Education from Wayland Baptist University in Texas, and his Master’s in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Rob served in the U.S. Air Force from 1988–1992, where he was awarded The Air Force Achievement Medal for helping make the Reese Air Force Base Athletic Program in Lubbock, Texas one of the most effective and successful in the Air Force. He regularly consults with health clubs. Rob is a Certified Personal Trainer with the American Council on Exercise, and a former competitive bodybuilder. He attends Williamsburg Community Chapel, an interdenominational faith based church in Williamsburg, Virginia.