Focus On Retention


A Year's Worth of Retention Programming

Member retention is always a hot topic when you get a group of fitness people together. It is a well-known fact that it is more difficult and expensive to recruit a new member than to retain a current one.

The activity pyramid-which follows the same logic as the food pyramid, with physical activities replacing the food groups-recommends structured activity several times a week supplemented by recreational and leisure pursuits for an active lifestyle. If we could get our members to understand and abide by this recommendation, none of us would have problems with retention.

The reality is that most people find exercise boring, so we must make it fun. Members stay more motivated if they are part of a group. Programming efforts should go way beyond group exercise classes to include year-round competitive, leisure and educational events such as the following:

Fitness Competitions
Most clubs offer racquetball, basketball, volleyball and bench-press tournaments. Consider adding a golf tournament, 5K run, disc golf (imagine golf played with a Frisbee), indoor triathlon, summer Olympics or fitness challenge. Target all age groups to get the most for your effort. Try scheduling one competition each month.

Member Incentive Programs
Spice up member incentive programs by varying length and activities. Often the only members who participate are those who already exercise five times a week. Try to reach your deconditioned market and at-risk members. Allow them to gain points by things other than regular exercise. Try scheduling one of these a quarter, some long and some brief.

Travel Plans
A good travel agent is helpful in planning these activities. Get your members talking about a group cruise to the Bahamas, a biking trip to Spain or a rafting trip. Even though these events aren't held at your facility, they do offer a great deal of exposure and make for happy members. Outings also offer members the opportunity to get to know one another and maybe find a new exercise partner. How about scheduling a winter trip for skiing, spring for biking, a summer rafting trip, and a fall cruise?

Nights Out
These events are fun and easy to plan. Think about how much you enjoy a football game, and multiply that by a bunch of fun-loving members. Nights out can be to games, plays, dinners, shows or a beach party (if you have sand volleyball courts). Consider a night out for parents and let the children play in the pool while the parents are gone. Try one of these a month.

Regular Activities
These activities are purely educational or social. Consider weekly coffee hours for seniors, classes on flower arranging, cooking, vacation planning or "The Doctor Is In" lectures (where physicians field questions from attendees). These offer opportunities for members of all ages to participate at your facility and learn new things. Try a weekly coffee club and one lecture a week.

Get members involved and help your community at the same time. Organizations such as the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association are always looking for help raising money. Rather than just entering an employee team, include your members. Shoot for at least two of these a year.

Now how does your calendar look? Remember, the more opportunities you offer, the more your members will think about you. The more they think about you, the more active they will stay. Make fitness fun and keep them coming back for more.

Year-round programming of special events, such as the following, will help keep your members active and coming back for more.

* Fitness Competitions

* Member Incentive Programs

* Nights Out

* Regular Activities

* Fund-raisers

Attention managers: Are your employees stressed out and ready to quit? If you want to retain them, consider the following tips, based on advice that Joan Lloyd, a management consultant, published recently in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

* Whenever you give employees a new task, help them prioritize their duties.

* Entrust employees with the ability to make some decisions that will affect their work.

* You can't do everything 100 percent perfectly on your own. Delegate responsibility and give people new challenges. Find out what their goals are.

* Ask people what part of their job adds the least value to the club. Maybe there's a better way of doing this task-or maybe it shouldn't be done at all.

* Give direction and training. People can't take responsibility for jobs they don't understand.

* Provide social activities. Let employees have some fun.

* Stay calm. Your attitude influences others.

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