How to Improve Member Retention by Delivering Extreme Value

According to a recent study from IHRSA, gyms and fitness clubs spend a median of $66.48 on sales and marketing costs for every new membership. While this has decreased significantly since 2012 where that number was closer to $100 per member, each member costs money to acquire. However, this is nothing compared to the money walking out the door every day when you aren’t focused on member retention.

Member Retention

For years, gyms and fitness clubs across the country have struggled to grasp how important customer retention actually can be for your business. Now, more gyms are focusing on member retention and while they can’t keep everyone from churning, have been able to significantly improve their retention rates.

The most important step you can take as a gym owner in today’s market is to put your focus into member retention. How do you do this? By delivering extreme value to your members at every possible touchpoint. Today, we’re going to teach you how to do that.

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Engage members from day one

Member retention is so essential to the success of your business that you should engage members as soon as possible, meaning day one. As soon as their membership is processed, you will want to engage them with an email or SMS welcoming them to your community. Nothing too complex, keep it simple and let them know you’re happy to have them.

Where some gyms and fitness clubs go wrong is trying to do too much too soon. If you fill up your new members’ inbox with onboarding materials before they have time to get settled, they will feel overwhelmed. Not only that, but they might miss something that could be more engaging later on.

Understand who your members are

Personalization is all the rage right now, but does it actually help you understand your members? Truly understanding who your members are and what drives them will take time, but will ultimately be the key to delivering extreme value through your engagement. Thankfully, there are a few different ways you can do this.

The wonderful thing about tracking your members from their very first day as your customer is that you will have a lot of data to work with. Analytics like this is one of the best ways to understand your members and what motivates them. However, even though data can help with crafting the member journey (more on that next), you’ll have to get to know your members personally in order to fully comprehend them and what drives them.

Other than talking with them when they come to your physical location, a good way to do this is through customer feedback campaigns. In order to consistently be improving your offering, ask your members on a regular basis how you are doing. If they say they love what you are doing, keep up the good word and ask if they want to submit an official review. If they aren’t impressed, use this as an opportunity to find out why and then seek to remedy the situation. This likely means that others are having the same issue but haven’t had a way to tell you.

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Create a member journey and monitor progress 

As we mentioned earlier, crafting a member journey is one of the best ways to deliver value throughout the entire lifetime of a customers’ membership. Your member journey should be clearly laid out in order to provide seamless engagement. By planning and then automating the member journey, you have a better chance of retaining the customer.

Once you start your members on their journey, monitoring their progress and looking for areas to improve should be your main priority. This will be an ongoing process as you see what works and what doesn’t.

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Key touch-points in member journey

Because this is such an important part of member retention, next we will take a look at each touchpoint along the member journey and review best practices for delivering value at every opportunity. In order to do this, you need to know what your client needs and the best way to deliver that to them.


By far the most important part of the membership journey, the first four weeks of their membership is the best time to cement yourself as a value-add in their lives. Here are just a few ways to prove this to them right from the start.

  • Educate, don’t inundate. You need to strike the right balance of educating your new members on how your company works without inundating them with too much material. Provide them with only what they need to move forward in their journey.
  • Give them opportunities to get involved. While you can provide value that helps members stay with you, getting them involved in your community from the beginning can truly set your club apart. Provide opportunities for gym-goers to interact and build relationships that will have them coming back again and again.
  • Track early member engagement. Since this is the time to set the tone for their account with you, track their engagement early on and make sure they aren’t falling off. They will be far more likely to drop off later if they aren’t properly engaged during this period.

First speed bump

Once you have onboarded your clients, the next step is to make sure they get over the first speed bump along their journey. This often comes a few weeks in and is common in fitness environments. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do at this point to keep them moving forward and make sure that this is nothing more than a small bump in an otherwise smooth road.

  • Use offers to keep them on track. If you know that members often drop off after their third week, set up a campaign to go out just as they reach that mark with an offer for a free workout class or exclusive perk.
  • Continual education: Even though the most important education will take place in the onboarding process, there will likely be more you want your members to know about your offerings. Send them reminders about classes and perks they can take advantage of to reinforce the value you are offering.
  • Remind them why they are here. At some point, your members decide to better themselves through physical fitness. Remind them of their goals and provide encouragement that they can do this to help them keep moving forward.

Continual engagement  

Although optimizing the initial steps of the member journey will help with retention moving forward, the best way to keep the ball rolling is through continual engagement over the lifetime of their account. Now that you have proven your value to them, this is when you can really build your community and show what sets you apart from other gyms. Here are a couple of ideas on how to do that.

  • Ask for referrals. By proving your value early on, you are now set up to ask your members for a referral to expand your community. Ask them if they are looking for a work-out partner and offer an incentive to help make that happen. You’d be surprised how excited they will be to get their friends involved!
  • Personalize their experience. Use the data you have collected so far to provide a personalized experience for your members. Simple engagement like birthday messages and membership anniversaries can show how much you care.
  • Let them take the lead. We’ll talk more about this next, but after guiding them this far, you want to give them the autonomy to make their own decisions. This is a great opportunity to gather feedback and data on how they want to use their membership. It’s likely that others will share these sentiments, so take notes.

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Ask for feedback on different aspects of their membership

Once you have your process down to a T for the member journey, now comes the time where you put the ball in the members’ hands to make the most out of their membership. By now, they will know what they like about your gym, what they don’t, and what they would like to see improved.

This is the perfect opportunity to gather feedback and continue improvements. If members feel like a valued part of your community, they are more likely to give you honest feedback. Treat this feedback like gold, as it is incredibly hard to come by and will do you a world of favors.

Feedback on equipment

In order to get the best possible feedback, you will likely want to break up how much you are asking for to not overwhelm them. Our suggestion is to ask about equipment with one survey and feedback on classes and personnel with another. Since equipment is more rigid, you’ll likely use this one less often, but it is still important to make sure you aren’t missing any blind spots.

Here are some basic questions to ask to get the best possible insights:

  • From 1-5, what would you rate the diversity of machines in our club?
  • Which machines would you like to see added?
  • From 1-5, what would you rate the cleanliness of the machines in our club?

While asking these questions doesn’t mean you have to add new machines to your club, it gives you the opportunity to learn how your members think. This will be incredibly valuable as you look forward to the future of your business.


Feedback on classes and trainers

Along with asking for feedback in reference to equipment, you will want to run campaigns asking your members how your personnel are doing. This can incredibly inciteful, but going about collecting the feedback can be complex. Since you are asking for members to rate your employees, you’ll want to be as open and transparent about the process as you can.

Here are a couple of tips for writing out your feedback request in regards to trainers and classes:

  • From 1-5, how would you rate your class experience?
  • Which class is your favorite that you have attended? What made it special?
  • From 1-5, how would you rate the diversity of classes offered?
  • From 1-5, how would you rate the professionalism of your trainer?

These types of questions will get the ball rolling with your members, which is why you should give them the opportunity to later leave long-form comments. From here, it will be up to you to review the results and communicate what needs to change with your team. The goal is to make sure that any client, no matter who they are, has a consistent and stellar experience.

Increase self-service capabilities

The final area that we will review in terms of improving member retention involves self-service capabilities. These will look different for every gym and fitness studio. But the more that you can put in your clients’ hands when it comes to improving their own experience the better. Here are a few ideas for automations that can improve your members’ experience.

  • Set up inbound campaigns. Whether through email or SMS, automated inbound campaigns allow for you to set them up and let them run. For example, you could have your members text your business to refer a friend and then send an automatic message to the friend, asking them to join.
  • Checkin kiosk. At the front of your club, you can have your members check-in using a scanner or iPad. Not only does this allow them to quickly get started on their workouts, but you can keep track of when they are coming in and send them messages when they haven’t been in lately to keep them from dropping off.
  • Class booking. With so many different scheduling tools available, you can easily automate your class booking. Giving members the option to set their schedule will make them more likely to show up and engage fully with your classes.

Final thoughts

Again, member retention isn’t one large project or campaign. It’s a lot of small touchpoints where you provide the best possible service. Over time, your members will become so involved in your processes that they will have a harder time leaving when their contract needs to be renewed.

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