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Increasing gym membership retention by up to 75%, is possible!

PRAMA Concept Development Manager at Pavigym.

According to IHRSA´s research, the first 90 days are crucial for a member in a fitness club as most un-subscriptions take place during also on those days. This implies that if you want to reduce your attrition levels, you should pay attention to what happens during the first 3 months after members join your gym.

Here are some key pieces of data that reinforce this idea:

“The failure rate for the most part of physical activity programs is generally 6 months after starting.” Club Industry.

According to Paul Bedford, an international leader in retention research studies stated:

Only 15% of members have the self-efficacy to succeed on their own, the vast majority, 85%, need specific support to succeed.”

What is the solution to this conundrum?

To have a good MIP (Members Induction Process) in your facility!

Paul Bedford´s research on retention shows that:

Only one effective induction session drives retention up 38%, guiding members through a MIP with follow-ups and appointments increase overall retention by 75%.

1. What is a gym MIP (Members Induction Process)?

It´s a planned process where new members are gradually integrated into the club so they can acknowledge various activities, services and everything the club can offer them. Considering the member’s goals and needs in order to avoid negative experiences, by supporting them in achieving their goals also improves their club experiences.

When done properly the MIP delivers results, without it, approximately 50 % of new members will leave during the first year. (Citation: Club Industry)

To have a MIP should be mandatory if you want to succeed as a business!

Let’s see what a MIP should pay attention to:

1.1. The rate of Member visits per week:

Members visits per week is a critical factor which will influence how long they stay. The IHRSA has stated, low attendance is one of the top reason why members leave clubs. This is the impact of members visits per week on extra months of membership, based on Paul Bedford´s research:

  • 2 visits per week: 7 months
  • 2-3 visits per week: 19 months
  • 3+ visits per week: 28 months.

Low visits per week of your members will also demotivate your customers due to no physical improvements, which is one of the main reasons for members to quit.

How can you encourage the increase in gym visits per week in your MIP?

Include a rewards program associated with visits per week during the MIP in which they will receive a gift monthly if they attend the club at least three times per week.

For example:

The first month 

12 visits, you get a nice club branded sports bag, which will also be a brand exposure marketing action.

16 visits, you get a heart rate monitor.

The second month 

12 visits, you get a 15 % discount on extra services in the facility.

16 visits, you get a 20 % discount on extra services in the facility. (Or you can limit the discounts to certain products or services)

This is just an example, and of course, you can think of what would be good rewards in your case.

1.2. What kind of activities do your members practice:

you can influence the member’s engagement using the activities planned during the MIP.

Group exercises vs solo workouts…

Members who visit once per week to take part in a group exercise class, are 20% more likely to be loyal members than those attending three times per week solo… Also, members who participate in group exercise regularly, as opposed to gym only users, are 84% more likely to recommend their facility to a friend or family member!

Citation: Dr Melvyn Hillsdon research with The Retention People.

This means that you want to make sure that group activities are an important component of your MIP and also encourage many of your member’s practice group activities. If you realise all boutique fitness concepts, which are supposed to have higher retention levels and visits per week, are based in group exercise.

1.3. Make them avoid negative training experiences:

Ensure your members don’t attempt any activity which is not appropriate to their fitness level. This is another typical case for clubs without MIP or any guidance for their members. Your members just commence activities that are not appropriate for them regardless of intensity or fitness level, in the end, their experience is inadequate and by participating in negative training experiences… they´ll finally decide to quit.

There must be clear guidance during the different MIP weeks regarding which activities they shouldn’t try until they are programmed by their MIP trainer. Member induction IS NOT a prescripted session, it must be a strategized process with a follow-up and appointments lasting from 6 to 12 weeks depending on your structure and possibilities.

2. What should the gym MIP include?

2.1. An initial questionnaire including:

* Understanding their needs. Goals settings.

* Understanding their lifestyle. (Job, schedules, family or not…)

* Emotional/phycological aspects to help people understand themselves. Example…

* Which habits prevent them to reach their goals

* What are the real reasons why they have bad habits

* Fitness questionnaire: PAR-Q, health-related questions, training related questions.


2.2. Appointments:

These arrangements should be drafted every 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the possibilities, at least at the beginning or during the first 3-4 weeks, weekly appointments would be better if possible.

The appointment will cover:

A Satisfaction questionnaire – The goal is to detect dissatisfactions in different areas to extend member retention and guarantee the member is coming to the club as planned in terms of visits per week. Any member detected as a potential loss should be passed onto Customer Service to work on the dissatisfaction topic. The questionnaire should be simple as the examples shown below:

The member came to the gym as planned? YES/NO. Number of sessions

What is your satisfaction level about our services? Very high/High/Medium/Low

What is your satisfaction level on our activities? Very high/High/Medium/Low

What is your satisfaction level on our facility and equipment? Very high/High/Medium/Low

What is your general satisfaction level at our club? Very high/High/Medium/Low

Do you feel you are noticing results or improving as expected? YES/NO

Your motivation to remain as a member is… Very high/High/Medium/Low

2.3. Strategize activities for the next 1 to 3 weeks depending on how often you set the MIP appointments:

It is better not to set a concrete day and time but including the activities, they should do and they can choose when. Giving them this flexibility will work better, the planning procedure for the different phases of the MIP must be very clear integrating new activities as members are ready for them. There must be clear advice on which activities they shouldn’t try.

2.4. Strategization of activities for the next MIP period:

Measurements/tests to be able to show results and progress. Weight and body composition should be included.

After the MIP you need to make sure that the member already recognises all club’s activities, services and knows how to use the club effectively.

Good luck with your MIP!!!

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