5 Tips to Improve Fitness Member Retention

In our last fitness blog, we looked at membership retention statistics that may surprise you. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the cost of recruiting a new fitness member is more than twice the cost of retaining an existing member.

Keep reading below for tips and strategies on how to increase customer retention and, in turn, increase your profits.

1. Engage Members as a Staff

Don’t underestimate the power of a simple interaction. IHRSA’s 2017 Member Retention Report found that “every two interactions fitness staff has with a member in a given month results in one extra visit from that member the following month.” And those extra visits add up. The report also found that every additional visit by a member in a given month decreases the risk of them cancelling the next month by 33%.

Not only do interactions with staff make members feel seen and connected, they also personalize the experience. The same IHRSA report found that almost 90% of members say they value communication from staff.

2. Properly Onboard Members

Putting yourself in the mindset of your members can be a telling exercise. When new members come on board who aren’t comfortable in the gym or haven’t used certain equipment before, it can be overwhelming trying to figure everything out on their own. In the book “Why People Join, Leave, and Stay with Health /Fitness Clubs: The Ultimate Handbook of Member Retention,” authors Stephen J. Tharrett, MS, and Paul Bedford, Ph.D., studied what could happen when people are onboarded well when joining fitness facilities in the U.K.

They studied 1,000 new members — half were given a standard hour orientation to the facility and equipment, and the other half were given the same standard orientation in addition to three follow-up onboarding appointments with a coach. Within 6 months, 87% of those who had received the three additional coach appointments were still active, while only 60% of those who had only received the standard hour-long orientation were active. After a full year of membership, the gap between the two groups grew further, with a 70% retention rate for those with the additional coaching and only a 38% retention rate for those with the standard orientation.

It seems like a no-brainer when you think about it. New members who are given support and help in setting realistic goals and how to accomplish them are more likely to stay engaged longer.

3. Develop Community

Almost anything can be made more fun when you have friends along for the ride, and that’s never more accurate than when it’s time to work out. Creating a community at your fitness center is huge when it comes to member retention.

Community building is even behind the growth the fitness industry has seen in boutique studio concepts. The 2017 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report showed that “membership in boutique studios climbed from 15% from 2015 to 2017, while multipurpose, fitness-only, and corporate/business clubs suffered a decline of 3% during the same time period.” Fitness centers that find a way to build a community among their members and offer group classes and experiences will have an easier time retaining members.

Group Working Out for Fitness Blog

4. Invest in Technology

Throughout COVID-19, the fitness industry was forced to change and adapt new technologies and trends. Now as we move beyond the pandemic, many of these changes are here to stay. Fitness centers, studios, clubs, and gyms who can offer high-quality virtual classes will stay ahead of the curve compared to centers that don’t have digital offerings.

There are also many new technologies available for fitness centers to elevate the customer experience. Having a system that can display metrics and statistics and allows members to track their progress motivates them to continue working toward their goals. Indoor tracking systems have also been developed that can show owners which machines are being used the most. Maybe a certain machine is always in high demand, while others aren’t. This helps owners invest in equipment more wisely, but also makes the customer experience better by tailoring the gym, studio, or center to the wants and needs of members.

5. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

It’s one thing to say that increasing member retention is a priority; it’s another thing to actually put in the work to increase member retention. While many fitness centers, studios, clubs, and gyms have dedicated staff to sell memberships, the same can’t usually be said for staff and financial allocations to member retention.

In an article published by IHRSA, they say, “If membership retention is as important as everyone affirms, and if it is measurable, and if it is a responsibility that can be allocated, then there is no reason not to provide financial incentives to those who are accountable for improvements in this arena.”

For many fitness centers, having staff dedicated to member retention isn’t enough. It’s also an important goal to keep in mind when hiring for any position. Like IHRSA says, “every hiring decision is a retention decision.” High turnover in front-line personnel is connected to the rate of customers who cancel their memberships, and every staff member either progresses a center’s culture or detracts from it.

The key is to keep your eye on the prize. An article published in the Harvard Business Review, showed that, in some industries, reducing customer defections by as little as 5% per year can double profits. Implementing changes to increase customer retention isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort and can pay off in the long run.

About United Leasing & Finance

United Leasing & Finance is a customer-focused and growth-oriented leasing and finance company committed to providing custom financing solutions to businesses across the U.S. and Canada. For almost 60 years, United has partnered with clients to achieve mutual success from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies and has been lending in the fitness space since 2000.