Want to keep your gym locations full and your members motivated all year? Follow these tips from other fitness center owners to keep your community consistent and retain more members.
You’ve been in the fitness industry for a while, and you’ve gone from one location with a small, close community to multiple locations with a wide range of members.
Retaining members is difficult enough at one fitness center, and the pressure builds every time you open another location.
When you’re spinning a lot of plates, it can be challenging to keep that spark that attracted people to your first location.
Not only does this weaken your brand, but it makes it harder to retain members in an already challenging post-COVID environment.
So, how do you keep your members not only committed but excited to come to work out week after week?
I found dozens of stories from gym owners facing this same dilemma and noticed two themes in their solutions: consistency and community.
Here are the top six strategies and tactics you can learn from them to build a consistent community across your gym locations.
Most guides you’ll find on the subject of helping your gym thrive (financially and otherwise) rely on dreaming up a big promotion or sending everyone a t-shirt.
Long-term member retention, though, comes down to soft skills and smart messaging, not hard sells. Here are some ways to put these principles into practice this year.
Simple “You can do it” messages or one-size-fits-all fitness tips aren’t enough to make your fitness center stand out. In fact, messages like those might come across as cringe-y and inspire members to look up a yoga flow or HIIT class on YouTube and work out at home.
This is where you’ll need to get creative — and personal. A 2020 study found that 54% of consumers would be more likely to buy from a company if they receive a personalized text.
For your gym, this means using information members have given you (like their name and which location they frequent) to personalize your text or email blasts.
Most email and text messaging services give options for customer data collection and segmentation (or, at least, they should).
Data collection allows you to gather information about your members with a series of questions, and segments help you group your contacts according to things they have in common, like which of your locations they frequent or their personal goals.
Armed with that information, you can:
Using segments as in these examples and creating an automated drip campaign will help your team maintain a culture where every member feels like they’re part of the community.
Encourage class instructors and personal trainers to follow up with members they interact with. It’ll feel more personal than receiving a text or email from a corporate address.
Plus, if someone frequently attends classes or personal training sessions at your gyms, it’s a good bet that they have specific instructors or trainers they’ve made a connection with.
I know I do. There are three instructors at my favorite yoga studio whose classes I love. Often, if they’re not teaching on a certain day or week, I just won’t go to a class at all.
That’s the kind of devotion you can use to keep members coming in consistently. All you have to do is get your instructors involved so they can invite members to events or simply check in on their progress.
Here’s a perfect example from a yoga studio in Lakeland, Florida:
Any gym can get members in the door with a flashy promotion, but you’ll find that real, personal interactions make members feel valued and will make them much more likely to stick around.
There was a story recently from a climbing gym that frequently managed to get its visitors in the door in the morning and keep them there until late in the evening.
How did they do it?
They made their facility so much more than a climbing gym.
This gym also featured a cafe, indoor and outdoor spaces where people could hang out, weight lifting equipment, a ping pong area, and space for events like small concerts.
This layout meant people could come in to climb, sit somewhere and work for a while, take a fitness class in the afternoon, meet friends at the cafe, and then stick around for some entertainment in the evening.
Can you imagine what it would take to get one of those all-day attendees to leave and sign up for another gym? They just wouldn’t do it.
Making your gym or fitness center locations into places to socialize does three important things:
Part of making your gym locations into thriving social spheres is making sure you’re not just shouting event invitations into a megaphone.
Let people know about your special events and get-togethers, but pass the microphone to your members and let them share their own events. After all, even if your gym attendees see your event announcement, they may hesitate to sign up if they don’t know anyone who’s going.
A dinner out with the people they talk to at the weight machines or go to class with every week is often a lot more attractive. At the end of the day, people will be eager to return to a gym where they’ve built up real friendships and community.
You have a few options for creating such a space:
When COVID came onto the scene, we all had to resort to working out in our own homes. Even now, with the world starting to open back up, online fitness classes are still very much a thing.
Given the choice to stay home, some of your members may feel that it’s the safer option. Rather than try to convince them to come in anyway, cater to those who bought a Peloton or a full set of dumbbells and want to work out at home. Introduce a hybrid model for the best of both worlds.
You can set up online events and advertise your online classes with targeted messages based on the classes they’ve attended before and the workouts they’re interested in.
To keep the community spirit alive in your gym, you can encourage online attendees to try an in-person class or attend a virtual event.
The other reason members may choose to work out at home is that they’re not sure what you’re doing to keep them safe when they come to work out in person, so let them know.
Send out updates to your contact lists about how you’re sanitizing equipment and how frequently, as well as any rules you have about social distancing, masks, and other COVID precautions.
You can also gather this information using data collection. Simply include a question like, “Would you like to attend a class that’s mask-mandatory?” or, “Do you have any concerns about COVID safety when visiting our gym?” in your messages.
Once you know which of your members needs reassurance, send them targeted texts with these offers and reminders.
The fact remains that people are much more likely to stick with a gym that has something unique to offer them.
So, when you’re creating your marketing plan and setting up programs, events, or classes, put the spotlight on the thing that makes your business stand out.
Do you cater to competitive athletes? Send out texts advertising an exclusive session for anyone participating in the next jiujitsu tournament or CrossFit competition. Got a lot of busy parents as members? Offer daycare and host family-friendly events for the community.
I referenced my favorite yoga studio earlier. The biggest reason I go back week after week, besides the fantastic instructors, is that they offer a specific style of yoga that I haven’t found anywhere else in the area.
Given that I’ve seen the same group of people in class week after week for months, I’d say their retention rates for yoga classes are pretty high.
Base your marketing messaging around the thing that makes your gym different from others. Your members will be much happier to hear that you’re doing more of the things they love instead of getting mundane workout tips.
Tip: The best way to find out what people love about the location they visit is just to ask. Make a habit of texting out requests for feedback, or ask members what they’d love to see your gyms offer in the future.
The benefits of regular exercise can feel abstract to some members. Make it worth your members’ time and effort to come in consistently by offering incentives.
In one gym owner’s account, they detailed how they establish membership milestones to motivate members and increase their loyalty. To do this, they pay special attention to members at the end of their onboarding process, and then at one, three, and six months — the milestones when members tend to drop off.
If you notice your members disappearing after a certain amount of time, there are a few things you can do.
This specific gym manager also offers discounted packages for six-month and one-year memberships to encourage a longer-term commitment and make it easier for members to invest.
As we head into a new year, keeping people in the gym for more than three months or so is top-of-mind for fitness professionals.
Fortunately, you’ve already got what you need to make sure new and existing members stay tuned in and present all year long. Just follow these tips and watch your community get closer and stronger than ever.
Lily is a content marketing specialist at SimpleTexting. She specializes in making helpful, entertaining video content and writing blogs that help businesses take advantage of all that texting has to offer. When she’s not writing or making TikToks, you can find Lily at roller derby practice or in a yoga studio in the Seattle area.More Posts from Lily Norton
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