5 Mistakes You Should Avoid When Using Membership Marketing

You have things sorted out pretty well so far. The marketing strategy you have implemented as part of your business is starting to generate a little buzz and your brand is becoming more and more recognizable. Membership numbers are starting to rise, but you’re not exactly seeing the progress you had originally expected. 

Plus, you’re also seeing some members who previously signed up starting to leave. Why is that? Is your business doing something wrong? 

Not necessarily.

Attracting new members is one thing, but it’s a whole other thing to make those members want to stay for the long term. This is why having a membership marketing strategy is incredibly important for your business. 

But why is this the case?

Because when it comes to membership marketing, and member retention in general, you’re not just selling one service. You might have members that sign up with one goal in mind, but providing additional benefits and as much value as you can is what’s going to keep them around. 

If your business is regularly seeing a cycle of members that only sign up for the short-term it’s extremely difficult to continue to grow your business and get to the next level. To help, we have put together a guide that breaks down membership marketing, its impact on fitness businesses, a few benefits, and common mistakes to avoid moving forward. 

Keep reading to find out more about how you can take your own membership marketing strategy to new heights. You’ll see steady membership growth and be able to continue to provide as much value as you can. 

What Is Membership Marketing and How Is It Different? 

With marketing in general, the main idea is to highlight the features and benefits of a product or service and get it in front of the right audience to help drive sales. When a business is built around or wants to start a membership program, there are some varying elements to introduce and implement compared to a traditional marketing funnel. 

One of the biggest parts of membership marketing is that it needs to have consistent member growth to be successful, and one of the most efficient ways to do this is to keep members engaged. Not only does this help keep members around for the long term, but it’s an effective way to turn right back around and continue to provide extra value to your existing members. 

At its simplest, membership marketing is a type of sales method that you can use for your business to either gain new members or retain the ones you already have. It’s a practical way to turn single buyers into repeat customers. 


Why Is Membership Marketing Important? 

You might have the most state-of-the-art fitness facility in your area that has the best equipment, top-notch personal trainers, and excellent customer service. Yet, if no one knows about it, how are you supposed to get them to sign up and experience everything you have to offer? 

Instead of a typical sales pitch that can be dull, membership marketing is a great way to highlight who you are as a business, the services you offer, the resources you can provide, and the difference you can make in someone’s life. The creative possibilities are endless. 

It’s a powerful way to get your brand messaging out to a wide range of potential customers while still focusing on your ideal customer base. 

How Does Membership Marketing Impact Fitness Businesses?

For most gyms, health clubs, and fitness center marketing, the primary revenue generator is membership sales. Without a steady membership base, it’s extremely difficult to stay profitable and provide everything that your members need. 

The success of your gym is only going to be as good as your membership marketing plan. Why? Because having a great gym is only a portion of the challenge. You still need to make sure that people know about it and are encouraged to join. 

Not only is membership marketing important for generating new business and increasing the number of members you have, but it’s also a way to establish a relationship with your customers. 

Membership Marketing Strategies

Here are a few of the most effective membership marketing strategies that can positively impact your fitness business:

  • A rewards program. Implementing a rewards program at your gym is a great way to provide a little more motivation and incentives for your members. Having them promote your gym across social media can come with receiving a free gift bag, for example. Whatever it is, the idea is to incentivize your members to help market the gym.
  • A referral program. Similar to a rewards program, a referral program is another effective way to give your members extra benefits. For example, you could offer members a discount on their next month’s membership dues if they get a friend to sign up for a membership. Or, you could offer something like a free personal training session every time a member refers a new client. 
  • Community events. Putting on an event in your community with other businesses can help your gym gain more visibility and inform non-members about the services you offer. It could be an event surrounding health and fitness where you provide healthy food, fitness challenges and competitions, boot camp workouts, live music, and other types of giveaways. You can engage and build relationships with other people in the community who might not know about your gym. 
  • Customer service. This might seem like a no-brainer, but having exceptional customer service is an integral part of any membership marketing strategy. If you are regularly bringing in new members but they aren’t being treated with respect or encouragement, they probably won’t stay too long. Making your members feel as though they’re part of a community, valued, and comfortable is key to member retention. 

These are only a few of the strategies you can implement at your gym as part of a membership marketing plan. But the important thing to remember and recognize is that no gym will be successful without members. 

Benefits of a Strong Membership Marketing Plan 

Before getting too far into a strong membership marketing plan, it’s important to have a solid business marketing plan in place first. This will help set the foundation for everything you’re going to do when it comes to how you market your business and who you market it to. Think of a business marketing plan as a type of guiding light for your membership marketing plan. 

Instead of having several individual tactics laid out to create brand awareness, having a comprehensive membership marketing plan will bring more benefits. So what are some of the biggest benefits your gym will be able to see with a strong membership marketing plan?

  • Increased number of members
  • Better member retention
  • A larger community
  • More opportunities to grow
  • Higher profitability 
  • Less member attrition 

But, how does a membership marketing plan lead to those benefits? 

  • It allows you to tailor your marketing efforts to the industry you are in and against the relevant competition that you have 
  • By using a set and defined budget, you can ensure that any paid tactics you’re using don’t go outside the scope 
  • It helps make sure that any marketing efforts you put into place are geared towards the specific, growth-oriented goals your business has set 
  • It ensures you are able to target the right audience and highlight the features and benefits that appeal to them most
  • It creates a streamlined message about your brand identity and limits the possibility of having irrelevant messaging 

Clearly defining and developing your membership marketing plan and having a solid foundation is going to pay off in the long run. You will be able to stay focused on the right target audience but also be able to continue to provide value to your existing members. 

What Are Some of the Most Common Membership Marketing Mistakes to Avoid? 

So, you have started to put together a membership marketing plan but are still curious about what to avoid. How can you make sure that the work you put in doesn’t contribute to your retention rate spiraling out of control? Here are five of the most common marketing mistakes to avoid so you can push forward with the most effective tactics. 

1. Overlooking Member Retention 

It was said above, but just getting members through the door isn’t the biggest challenge you’re going to have at your gym. Keeping them as members is. This is why it’s incredibly important not to overlook or underestimate the value of member retention. 

With any membership business model, one of the main goals is to obtain recurring revenue. Focusing on member retention is going to create the stability your business needs to do that. Having members stay as long as possible is always much better than a member that joins for a month and then decides to leave. 

When member retention is done effectively, your members basically become an integral part of your marketing strategy to get new members through the doors. They can post to their own social media and refer friends and family to join. 

The key here? Don’t overlook the importance of member retention.

2. Not Getting Actionable Feedback from Customers 

How are you supposed to know what’s really working and what isn’t if the people who are actually using your services don’t have a way to provide feedback? One of the most valuable forms of feedback you can get is from a member who decides to cancel their membership. 

You can find out what the exact reason was so that you can try and address it in the future to ensure you don’t lose more members. But if you do this with a member that’s canceling, make sure to keep it short and optional. This way they won’t feel pressured into it, but if they do then they’re more likely to provide open and honest feedback. 

It can work in the opposite way, as well. Not hearing from members who love some of the services your gym offers can lead to missed opportunities. Maybe it was something you weren’t aware of that members loved. If that’s the case, you can use this feedback to create events or fitness classes to help engage more members and provide more of what they enjoy the most. 


3. Making it Difficult for a Member to Cancel Their Membership 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to cancel something, and all you wanted was to be able to click a button and be done with it? But instead, you have to fill out a few forms, call the company, or go through a 10 step process just to confirm that you actually want to cancel. 

It can be frustrating. 

Think about this, for example. Let’s say that a member is deciding to cancel because they need to use next month’s membership dues for something else. They have every intention of coming back to your gym at some point but they’re not sure exactly when. 

If you make the cancellation process more difficult than it needs to be, they could get frustrated and discouraged and decide that they’re never going to come back. 

So, instead of making the entire cancellation process hard, try and make the original choice to cancel difficult instead. When you provide a great experience and add value to your members they’re going to be more likely to stay. 

That all said, sometimes things are out of your control and a member can need to cancel for any number of reasons. Making the process painless can heighten the chance of them coming back again.

4. Having Special Offers that Aren’t Adequate or Relevant 

Sometimes you can sell new memberships to people who aren’t necessarily looking for one. However, more often than not a membership is going to be something that people are seeking out. This is why special offers should be tangible and relevant to encourage someone to join your gym. 

For example, offering a new member a one-off incentive that doesn’t provide long-term value will likely lead to them canceling after they receive the incentive. But if you offer something more relevant, it will have more long-lasting effects and contribute to member retention. 

5. Punishing Members for Deciding to Cancel 

Everyone has something going on, and the cold hard truth is that people can choose to cancel for any number of reasons. And, at the end of the day, it’s their choice.

Some businesses that rely on memberships will charge re-joining fees or put in place a probationary period before someone can join again. It can be understandable to want to do everything possible to stop members from canceling, but punishing them even further for it is a sure-fire way to ensure they never come back in the future. 

A member’s priorities or circumstances can change quickly and require them to make some changes. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a great example of how this can happen, and how it can happen quickly. 

So instead of punishing members for leaving, try and do everything you can to make sure they know that they are welcome back at any time. They might just need to cancel for a few months due to any number of reasons, so making the process as easy as possible can contribute to them changing their mind and coming back again. 


Member retention is going to be one of the key elements of any membership marketing plan. It was said a few times throughout this article, but just getting members through the door isn’t enough. You need to do everything you can to keep them. 

And when you get member retention right, your entire business will reap the benefits from top to bottom. You’ll be able to stay profitable for longer, but you will also be able to continue to provide as many benefits and as much value as possible to your members. In turn, this will contribute to enticing new members to join. 

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • Not focusing on member retention will lead to losing more members 
  • Make cancellation as easy as possible to increase the likelihood of those members coming back again at some point 
  • Gather as much feedback as you can, both positive and negative, so you know what’s working and what isn’t to make necessary adjustments 
  • Don’t punish members for wanting to cancel their membership, as this can be due to any number of personal reasons 
  • Put together a campaign that focuses on bringing back members who have canceled or have had memberships lapse, you never know who might return 

As well, it’s worth mentioning one more time that before putting together an in-depth membership marketing strategy, it’s important to have a business marketing plan first. This will act as a compass for your membership strategy so you can stay on point, attract the right customers, and keep the existing customers you have for years to come. 

Are you ready to take your marketing and sales strategies to a whole new level? Gleantap has everything you need to help you grow your fitness and wellness business so you can deliver a faster and more personalized customer experience.  

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