What to Do About Memberships During COVID-19
By Katherine Wernet
The current coronavirus pandemic has left many businesses with no choice but to temporarily close their doors. Without a chance to offer their usual services or classes, many business owners and their teams are struggling with a very important question: should they continue to have clients pay for their usual memberships?
Memberships are an important part of the health of your business. It’s a revenue stream that you count on each month. Before you do a mass suspension of autopays, remember that your clients still need to work out, and there’s plenty of opportunity for your business to help. Plus, they'll want the sense of community they get from your business more than ever before.
First option: Keep memberships as they are
This is likely the best solution for your business, but you must ask yourself: how can you provide the same value they get from their traditional memberships in a new way?
It’s likely so much of your membership value is the sense of community and commitment your business provides. More than ever, your clients need this as they may face isolation at home. And you’re probably already working hard to keep your clients engaged. You might be creating a Facebook group for members with daily workouts or encouragement. You might even still be offering classes or workouts through live streaming or video on demand (we’re got tips to perfect your video skills here). Maybe you’re offering small-class workouts outside where clients can be spread out? Some studio and gym owners are even making sure that clients get the equipment they need for an at-home workout (even if that means delivering their own studio equipment for clients to borrow or rent). All of this is providing value to your clients. Many of your members also believe in the intrinsic value that small businesses bring to the community and will be open to continue their memberships through this time.
Make sure you are clearly communicating the new benefits you’re bringing to your members. This will make it easier for clients to make the decision to stay on with you.
Second option: Give members the choice to suspend or let it roll
Maybe you would rather give clients an option. You can do that, too. When Stephanie Stackhouse of SLO Yoga Center emailed her clients to let them know the studio was temporarily closing, she gave members the option of continuing. Stackhouse shared why the support was important and how the studio plans on continuing to provide class through a live stream. She gave two options members could click on: “Yes, continue my billing in support of Yoga Center” or “No thank you, please suspend my membership for now.” She was able to reinforce how important the membership fees are to the studio right within the button choices!
If clients at your studio have already reached out about wanting to continue paying for their memberships, mention that in the email. A little social proof goes a long way. A simple statement will encourage other studio members to do the same.
Be sure to let clients know that, if they do cancel, they won’t have access to all the cool things (like live streaming) you’re doing.
Pro tip: You can set up your live streaming through Mindbody so that only paying members and clients with current class passes can access them. Learn more about setting up live streams in Mindbody here.
Third option: Offer a discount
Another option is to offer a discount. This option is not as favorable as letting the memberships ride, but it might provide enough relief to your clients that they wouldn’t be enticed to reach out in order to terminate. As a show of good faith, since many are affected by the closures and “work from home” nature of the current crisis, you could offer a discount on their next month(s) Autopay fee. This feels like a win for your clients, who want to continue to support your business but may be running into financially tough times themselves. This help suite article provides step-by-step instructions on how to manually adjust an upcoming autopay.
Pro tip: Be aware that if you're discounting the last autopay before the contract auto-renews, the system copies the last autopay when scheduling out the future autopay schedule on a renewed contract.
You have fixed costs. Rent isn’t socially distancing itself from you anytime soon. But remember this: your business is an important part of your clients’ lives. They wouldn’t be paying you every month otherwise. When things return to normal, they want to be able to return, too.