Persuasive Tactics to Retain Health Club Members for Life

Member retention is one of the most challenging aspects of running a club. Each year, 15 million people join clubs while 12 million leave through the back doors.

To retain members, many club owners focus on external factors, such as sending greeting cards and having top-notch facilities, but the internal factors that boost retention are often missing.

Most members see their club only as a place to exercise. They have no strong emotional connection to it, which makes it easy for them to leave at anytime.

By using these three persuasive strategies, club owners can boost retention:

1. Why vs. How. Have you heard of the Iceberg Theory? Ninety to 95 percent of an iceberg is hidden under water and only 5 to 10 percent is visible above the surface. The human mind operates in much the same way, scientists have determined. Our mind consists of two parts: the conscious mind (above the surface) and the subconscious mind (below the surface). Too often, we think that the 5 to 10 percent (conscious mind) is governing our decisions, but really it is the 90 to 95 percent (subconscious mind). People have the best of intentions about getting healthier, but many still struggle to do so because of the powerful subconscious mind.

Action Step: Hold regular goal-setting sessions with new and existing members. Work with them to establish why they are getting fit, set specific goals and determine the tangible results they wish to achieve. The more emotional the goal, the better, as it will get them back in your club week after week. Spell out some of the costs of remaining unfit, such as lower energy levels.

2. Create Early Wins. The biggest reason members come to your club is to get results, but many people find it challenging to maintain an exercise routine. You can have the best health club on the planet, but if your members can’t find the motivation to get themselves through your door, they won’t renew their memberships.

Action Step: Establish goals that excite your members emotionally. Once these goals are established, break down these goals so members can experience small “wins” each week. Their goals could be losing an inch off their waists, sleeping through the night or eating fruit in place of junk food five days per week. Your trainers should work with members regularly to create goals and keep track of their progress.

3. Combat Out of Site, Out of Mind Thinking. Your members have a distinct separation between their club lives and their lives outside your club. Once they leave your facility, they probably rarely think about it. All it takes is a week-long vacation, sick kids or a stressful event for your members to get out of the habit of coming into your club. If they don’t go to your club, they get frustrated about wasting their monthly dues and they cancel. You must create a persuasive link between members’ lives outside and inside your club. Just sending them a newsletter won’t cut it. The key is engagement.

Action Step: Get your members involved by holding regular club events. Host product evenings where members can socialize and sample products and services of benefit to them. Think outside the box. Offer samples from alliance partners who are willing to extend great deals to your members. For example, invite in a local spa to give sample facials and mini massages and work a deal with that business so that your members can get a special rate later by showing their club card. This simple, persuasive technique will keep them loyal to your club.

At club events, pair members with a club buddy who has similar goals so they can hold each other accountable. This emotional bond is a powerful persuader as people dislike letting others down. Suggest that they call each other regularly to make sure they go to the club, perhaps meeting there to work out together. It’s more effective if you pair them up rather than letting friends pair up.

Both ideas enable your members to engage outside of your club but also through your club. They also add value to membership in a way that other clubs don’t. The more unique you make the club events and the more added benefits these events offer, the more loyalty you will garner.

By working the above tips into your club, you can start to see changes in your membership retention. It really is the small changes that subtly persuade members to stick with your club.

Nalisha Patel is an industry consultant helping clubs increase member retention. She has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and psychology and uses psychology and persuasion to decrease membership attrition. Patel can be reached at [email protected]. She offers a free white paper, “7 Critical Mistakes Most Clubs Make that Encourage Members to Leave and What You Can Do About It to Increase Profits.” Go to to download.

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