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Why do gym members quit? Improve gym membership retention

Daniel Lopez for Pavigym

Fitness Programme Manager at Pavigym

Why do gym members quit? What can I do to make them stay? Gym membership retention is a big issue for any gym owner. If you have a large core of faithful members in your gym, it’s because you’ve done a great job promoting loyalty and you might even be finding it difficult to improve. On the other hand, you will have experienced this problem at some point. What need to happen to attract and secure the loyalty of a client? What percentage of your gym members are at risk of quitting? In this article, you’ll find great solutions to help improve client loyalty and some tips to recognise the difference between obtaining members and retaining them.

Increasing gym member retention in the short terms greatly increases profit.

Focusing on gym membership retention is a reliable and profitable strategy. According to Harvard Business School, it cost 9 times more to obtain a new member than to retain an existing one. A 5% increase in member retention translates into an increase in revenue of between 25% and 95%. The principal focus is to encourage retention by increasing the income for the average member; in other words it’s important to aid actions that promote the creation of communities, and to bet strongly for group fitness sessions (annual report IHRSA 2017). Paul Bedford highlights the importance of a good induction process, with improvements of up to 75% in retention.

If you’ve ever read or heard about this data, you’ll be aware of the importance of being a “loyalty schemer”. But have you ever wondered what it means to increase the average member lifespan in the results of your club? Imagine that the average fee per member is €50 and your club has 3000 members. An increase of this half-life by 0.5 points (which is half a month more than the average member lifespan) would mean an improvement of €75,000 in the results at the end of the year in your gross profit margin.

Although we insist on denying it, all the clubs have a percentage of members that come and go. They’re the members who might spend a few months a year with us and we just can’t get them to keep coming. Ignoring this fact means losing an opportunity to improve your gross profit margin at the end of the year. And it’s a mistake to consolidate the data of all partners without differentiating between long-term and non-long-term partners. If you present data from these two different types of partners merged together, the facts become slightly “distorted”.

The objective of “fighting” retention is not to convert short-term partners into long-term partners. This is more expensive (and unusual) than we would like to acknowledge. The idea is to increase the average life of these members in the club. In other words, we want to get them to come one or two months more per year than they normally would. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re able to improve gym loyalty, do it. But if that’s not an option, try the next best thing – increase member retention for as long as possible!

Four solutions to improve the average gym membership lifespan of your members:

Taking into account the premises we’ve set so far, these are the main points to consider in order to improve gym membership retention:

1. Segment your members into types. Take the core of your business out of the equation and analyse what happens with the rest.

2. Deal with the issue before time. Once they’ve requested their cancellation, it’s already too late to act and try to regain them. You risk a traumatic “rupture” that can end up detracting. The IHRSA reports offer this interesting fact: the average permanence of “loyal members” is 22 months, while that of “non-loyal” is 4 months. It would be ideal to schedule a notice in your CRM when the third month starts in order to ensure you have a list of all the members that have just completed two months of membership. Doing this will allow you to gain a month’s margin before the anticipated cancellation request predicted by statistics.

3. Be, or at least seem, natural. Don’t fall into the comfort zone of sending an email or an automatic SMS to propose a loyalty scheme! Instead, create a notification so you can spontaneously provoke a conversation between the member and your specialists.

4. Finally, focus on the what. What can you offer to improve gym member retention? Keep this concept in mind: short-term motivation. Talking about long-term goals is usually useful for obtaining members; not in this case however. Propose a short-term objective that requires a “soft” commitment. For example, according to Europe Active, the average gym attendance is less than 2 days a week. You could propose a monthly challenge of 12 training sessions (involving 3 weekly sessions, increasing gym attendance and offering some guarantee of improving your profit). It would be interesting to evaluate those who are assigned the challenge before and after, as a way to encourage members to meet their goals on a weekly basis: “It’s only a month! You can do it!” If you grant a symbolic reward to those who engage with the challenge, you’ll get more engagement from your members.

These four ideas will hopefully inspire you to create schemes to implement during the first 6 months of your gym membership. This is a critical period and you can substantially improve your profit with very low investment. Measure, anticipate, be natural and motivate! Think short term where necessary, and improve gym membership retention throughout the year.