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Retention, Retention, Retention

There were a lot of sessions at this show on the hot topic of retention. I happened to sit in on one of them, "Dramatically Increase Retention and Referrals," offered by Jeff Masten of Sales Makers. I wasn't sure what to expect from this session as I know Masten, but I've never attended one of his presentations. He's always struck me as a quiet person, but when he stepped "on stage" this afternoon, he really came to life. He excitedly showed the 50 or so participants some industry statistics about retention, such as that people 45 years and older have an annual retention rate of 71 percent and people 16 to 25 years old have a retention rate of 48 percent. The annual retention rate for family memberships is 15 percent higher than a single or joint membership. In the third month, 40 percent of members fail to visit their club once a week. Thirty percent of members visit less than once a week in the first month. There is a close relationship between the frequency of visits in month one and the 12-month retention rate.

I thought the most important point of his presentaiton was that each club should have a retention manager--someone whose job is to focus on retaining members. In an uncertain economy where some club owners are already cutting expenses, the thought of hiring a retention manager might sound like an unnecessary expense, but Masten is a huge proponent of it. As we've all heard, it costs less to retain a member than to get a new one. If you can retain more members, you don't have to work so hard to get new members.

Masten drove home the point that your sales managers must sell the value of your club to potential members. If at the time of close the potential member objects to membership because of price, then your staff hasn't done a good enough job of selling the value of your club to them.

So, how do you sell the value of your club? You have to find out what is motivating that person to come into your club, and then show them how you can help them with that goal. Masten's company has a whole form that they suggest their clients use to track the potential members who come into the club, and that form should include their aims for joining. That way, if someone other than the initial contact person contacts that potential member, they know how to approach them about joining.

One thing that Masten said that surprised me (even though it made a lot of sense) was the importance of sending thank-you notes after a visit by a potential member. Masten suggested sending thank-you notes to members for their referrals, to people who visited for stopping in and to people after they join. In a day and age when thank-you notes are uncommon, that little extra touch can mean a lot. Maybe even to a new member. --Pam

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