Now Is the Time to Nail Member Relations

To motivate members to return to your health club when either they’ve lost the desire or have found other ways to fulfill health and fitness needs requires prioritizing members’ connections to your club. (Photo courtesy MADabolic)

One of our brand mottos says, “Life is not a marathon. It’s a series of peaks and valleys.” We all can relate. There will be days and weeks when we bring it and times when we lack the stamina to go hard, but we trudge through it. At MADabolic, we inspire that motivation in our members to make it through what can feel like thick mud on some days. Right now, leaders in the fitness industry must do the same. We have to collectively inspire a transformational rebound. Many of us are facing an uphill climb from this valley filled with obstacles. But, as we’ve seen, there is a way to emerge stronger and for brands like yours and ours to achieve peak performance.

So, what are the building blocks of igniting a surge as you face members who are concerned about their safety? How do you motivate them to return when either they’ve lost the desire or have found other ways to fulfill health and fitness needs?

My advice: don’t overcomplicate it. There are two core principles to follow from my perspective. First, get the little things right. These are the core operational elements of your business that define your brand and create loyalty with your members. Second, we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen. Don’t assume you know your members’ thoughts and concerns. Ask them what they are, and then listen and make the necessary adjustments and accommodations. Likewise, just be there for them when they need you to listen.

Getting the Little Things Right

Right now, we all face two opposing forces: government-enforced COVID-19 operational regulations and members who want their gym experience to go back to the way it was before the pandemic. However, your ability to nurture both forces and create a harmonious relationship between the two for your members is what will cement their trust. That trust will be the foundation of member loyalty no matter the challenge. They will be with you now; they’ll follow you to online/virtual training and they’ll stay loyal through their own peaks and valleys.

In our case, we’ve been able to provide safe floor patterns, even at full capacity. We’ve maintained our six to 10 feet between clients and have articulated these requirements to our members. Knowing that we have their health and safety as our top priority has kept our members loyal. In fact, at one-and-a-half to two times the size of competitors, our model is built to support retention, not volume. The bottom line is that the new regulations have been easy to enforce, as our members have always been socially distanced in our space—we’re just more vocal about it now, and always in a respectful way.

Staying Engaged

With a clear understanding between our trainers and members that member safety is our top priority, the door opens to focus solely on health and strength progression. Clarity is brought to the member experience through the confidence established, and COVID-19 distractions disappear when they are at MADabolic.

As a result, together, we hold ourselves accountable to go above and beyond expectations. Most importantly, the majority of our members have never wavered from the programming. Even at our lowest point during the pandemic, we retained more than 70 percent of members on our 12-month unlimited contract.

That retention is also a result of our ability to stay engaged with our members and to break through what may be cluttering up their lives. Every MADabolic location becomes ingrained in the lives of those we train; we are part of their weekly routine. A key to accentuating our relationship with them is our proprietary MADperks program. We create relationships with other lifestyle brands locally to offer benefits to our members. This keeps MADabolic central to their lives.

Additionally, each location cultivates a strong social media presence and engages with local and well-respected influencers. Our goal is to provide engaging content that shapes the lives of our members and potential member audiences. Showcasing the relationship that we have with our members, twice a month one of our leadership team execs will take over the brand Instagram story to answer questions about our workout program’s design, training methods and nutrition questions. It’s part of our promise to right the huge amount of incorrect information out there that people have accepted as fact.

Don’t Let Digital Platforms Outdo Your Gyms

Digital platforms are having a moment in the spotlight, but the reality is, no one can reach through the screen to correct your form and ensure that you are giving the workout your all. Yes, the digital fitness agenda is what’s hot right now; we understand that. However, the human connection of in-person training can’t be replicated online. Nothing digital will ever replace the value of the in-person training experience.

We inspire in our members a commitment to becoming the absolute best athletic version of themselves. So, it wasn’t a hard sell to get members to come back into the gym once it was safe to do so. With our extensive cleaning, adequate floor patterns and ability to trace every single item used in each training session, we’re able to conduct thorough contact tracing.

At the end of the day, we’re living up to, and often going beyond, what is required to maintain strong gym membership and an outstanding reputation. We’re leading our members, and our clubs, out of a pandemic valley and onto the peaks.

Stick to prioritizing members’ connections to your club and you’ll ride the rebound that is now upon us.


Brandon Cullen is the co-founder and chief concept officer for MADabolic, the first and only strength-driven interval training franchise. He launched his fitness career more than a decade ago. Before launching MADabolic, Cullen spent five years as a professional hockey player.