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Fitness has never been bigger. In fact, it's now the world's biggest sport with 61 percent of people who exercise regularly doing gym-type activities, according to the Global Consumer Fitness Survey 2013. But retention remains the club industry's biggest problem, with the typical fitness facility losing 50 percent of their members each year, according to the TRP 10,000 Survey 2014. And where previous acquisition of new members could fill the gap, new levels of competition and industry segmentation have made gaining and retaining members harder than ever.
With these increasing pressures on club operators, it is more important than ever to focus on retention as well as acquisition to protect your club and membership base. The answer for how to do this is already there – it's your members. If you help your members fall in love with fitness and your club, you'll be able to tackle these challenges and make your business more resilient. It's time to build a stronger business.
The Difference Between Working Out and Walking Out
Fitness is hard. That's the inescapable truth. And to keep going, people need to see results. So when members don't see a difference over time, they drop off. In fact, it is not uncommon for clubs to post membership attrition rates of 40 percent-50 percent in a given year according to IHRSA’s 2015 Profiles of Success report.
This truth has driven club operators to focus on acquisition and getting as many new members through the door as possible. Many club owners know the benefit of focusing on retention, and some have succeeded, but the reality is that most have found themselves selling their facility – not exercise – and unfortunately, losing members has become the industry norm.
Results Are at the Heart of Retention
The key to getting results is building and sustaining an exercise habit. This is hard work for members to do on their own, but as part of a group, with the club helping them along, anybody can fall in love with fitness and make it part of their lifestyle.
If you can motivate your members and help them love fitness, they will fall in love with your club, recommend it to friends and never stop coming back for more. This means new member acquisition will become much easier as well. To achieve this, every aspect of the member experience needs to be considered and enhanced. Follow this approach to get started:
- Engage members from day one.
- Focus on giving people the motivation, results and experiences they want.
- Use attendance as your No. 1 key performance indicator.
- Adopt a zero tolerance approach to lapsed members.
Create Relationships Beyond Memberships
It sounds so simple: members who love fitness love their club. By giving them the motivation they need to keep going – so they see the results they're longing for – you can keep any member on track. This process starts from the moment somebody becomes a member. The more motivation you can give people from the start, the more likely they are to exercise regularly, see results and fall in love with fitness.
Once a member is hooked on fitness, they are more likely to visit more often and stay for longer, according to the Global Consumer Fitness Survey 2013. It's all about maximizing your memberships and creating more meaningful connections to your club through group exercise, that way your members will never be tempted to go elsewhere. In other words, it's about focusing your approach on building relationships beyond memberships.
A lot goes into building a relationship. It takes time, resources and the right support from the right partners at the right time. To get started, focus on your group exercise workout experience first, then the group studio experience and then the overall club experience. Use this checklist as your guide:
Your Workout Experience
- Do you have high-quality instructor training?
- How frequently do you refresh your group exercise program content?
- Does the music in your classes keep members engaged?
- Are your classes available when and where members want – live, virtual and on-demand?
- Is your class schedule designed using a best-in-class, member-centered approach?
Your Group Studio Experience
- Do you offer equipment that differentiates your facility and helps members maximize the effectiveness of their workouts?
- Is your studio designed to inspire and motivate?
- Do you incorporate visuals that compliment your programming and brand?
- Do you have a leading-edge AV system that energizes your members?
- Do you manage your business using robust group fitness management tools?
Your Club Experience
- Does your membership team speak to the benefits of group exercise programming in their club tours and sales discussions?
- Do you share insights and tools during the member onboarding process to help members achieve their goals?
- Do you provide members with on-going insights and research that motivates them to work out more often?
- Does your marketing stand out against your competitors and make a great impression?
- Do you provide your team members with on-going business education and support that helps them grow and provide better service?
If you can answer yes to all of the above questions, then you're well on your way to building bonds that can't be broken. More than likely, this list has helped you identify areas where you can make improvements.
By selling exercise instead of a facility, encouraging members to engage in assisted group exercise and creating relationships beyond memberships, you can combat the intense competition facing your business – from both inside and outside the industry – and create a healthier and stronger business.
Motivate your members or somebody else will.
Trever Ackerman serves as vice president, marketing for Les Mills, where he oversees all marketing and communications for the United States. Ackerman focuses his efforts on connecting marketing and communications with both top and bottom line growth. He is passionate about building high-performing teams, helping people move more and providing opportunities to give back to our communities. Ackerman holds an MBA from Georgia State University and a BSBA from the University of Denver.