4 Ways to Create a Member Experience that Keeps Them Coming Back
By Haley Heit
Whether you’ve recently opened up your doors or have owned or managed a fitness club or studio for years, the most vital aspect of your success is client retention.
The challenge to keep clients and members coming back is no stranger to those in the fitness industry, but is one that can become much more stressful when you have a physical location. After all, you rely on your members and the money they bring in to not only pay your own bills but also to pay the salaries of your employees, the bills on the studio, and for other expenses such as a hefty insurance policy.
So how can you keep your current members coming back and new ones walking through the door?
Ask your clients for feedback.
As someone working in the fitness industry, you know the importance of feedback. If you know what your members enjoy and what they would change, you have the power to keep them interested and coming back.
There are lots of ways to ask for member feedback—some formal, some more casual. For a fitness studio, one of the easiest ways to get the feedback ball rolling is to make use of existing member communication channels, like email.
In addition to the marketing newsletters you already send out, add some anonymous surveys to the rotation. It’s relatively quick and easy to implement, and because of the anonymous format, you’re like to get real feedback from members that they wouldn’t normally share in face-to-face conversations.
Don’t let this be your only method of collecting feedback, though. It’s also important to ask clients for their thoughts and opinions in person, too! When you ask someone personally about their opinion, they feel valued and recognized as an important member of your community. All of that can go a long way toward building strong relationships with your members—one of the many contributing factors to member retention.
Move away from rigid contracts.
Getting rid of contracts can be a very scary thought because of the stability they offer, but just think of the positive impact it will have on your members and staff.
On one end, your members will appreciate the flexibility, and if you’ve been listening to and make improvements based on their feedback (see above) they want to come back anyways.
On the other hand, you and your employees will be more incentivized to continue to listen to feedback and make more of a day-to-day effort. Without guaranteed monthly membership renewals, your entire business and team will need to double down on its efforts to connect with its members on a personal level, deliver outstanding services, and build a sense of community and brand loyalty. You can even set up a bonus type structure with your employees that allow them to reap the benefits of making their clients happy.
Dive into lasting technology trends.
Trends come and go, and unfortunately we all see these very specific trendy studios come and go out of business as well. How do you stay on the industry forefront and implement the hottest trends to keep members interested, while still staying timeless? It comes down to knowing what trends are worth investing in.
Technology is becoming more prevalent in the fitness community, and members now expect more than just the standard classes and old school gym equipment. With a little research you can find ways to bring that technology in-house–such as digital displays, heart rate training devices, a personal training app, wearables or smart machines, pushing you to the forefront of the industry while also adding real and lasting value to your members’ fitness experience.
One great example of a hot trend that can truly impact member retention (and isn’t going anywhere but up) is mobile club apps. Incorporating online fitness platforms and mobile apps into your club or studio allows members to stay connected to your business and your team even when they are not at the gym, plus it opens up your studio or club to new revenue from online, hybrid, and small group training or digital fitness challenges. Digital fitness apps can also be used to build deeper connections between trainers and clients or to market your services to members through in-app messaging.
Make your clients feel like they are included.
Showing that you value a person’s individual fitness journey is the most important aspect of member retention—especially at a fitness studio where members can easily start to feel like just a number in a system.
One way to promote inclusivity is by focusing on community. You and your staff should encourage new members to sign up for a program or class and welcome them with open arms. It’s okay to have a little friendly competition every once in a while, but it’s more important to emphasize that everyone is in it together.
An inexpensive yet impactful starting point is as simple as having a whiteboard in your studio where members are encouraged to write their goals, personal bests and anything else they want to share about their fitness journey. If you have a digital fitness app like I mentioned above, you can make these whiteboards digital by creating online groups where members are encouraged to post and connect with one another. You might be surprised by how far these personal anecdotes can go toward making the studio environment feel more like a community.
Everyone wants a fitness space where they feel welcome and that allows them to make a positive change in their lives. If you lead with that, listen to feedback along the way, and invest in trends and technology that will improve your client’s experience, then success will come (with hard work, of course). And if you only remember one thing, remember this: member retention always comes back to the people. Everyone is an individual and is important, so if you treat them that way you just might find yourself with a lifelong member.