AMASS GYM MEMBERS AND KEEP THEM!
Despite steady growth, mainly due to the private sector conjuring up more clubs, members and increasing market share, the industry’s main issue to contend with is retention of members. How can a Health and Fitness Club find new members and hold on to its existing ones?
According to The State of the UK Fitness Industry Report 2017 9.7 million people, or 1 in 7, who own a membership to a gym in this country. There’s no doubt about it we are generally a health-conscious nation, particularly at the start of the year when we dream of having the perfect ‘summer body’ and resolve to get fit.
That said, the industry’s operators have an ongoing headache with members often experience a gradual loss of interest and erratic loyalty as the year progresses, moving onto other fitness options at the drop of a hat or giving up altogether.
EVERY MEMBER COUNTS
The cause is not lack of space nor shortage of facilities. The Mintel UK Health & Fitness Report 2017 claims “there is still room for growth as many operators’ member numbers currently fall below the expected average per site.” But as much as 50% of joining members are lost by clubs each year. Why is this?
- There are several impacts on longevity of regular fitness club attendance.
- The emergence of alternative fitness fads such as road cycling, ‘tough mudders’ and boot camps.
- An increase in wearable tech, exercise apps and the abundance of free fitness content online.
- A lack of member interaction.
- Staff indifference.
Whilst the size of budget available will always dictate the type of fitness regime undertaken, as shown by the emergence of budget gyms in recent years, it appears we are a fickle bunch when it comes to sticking with our membership choices. In the same Mintel report, 47% of survey participants said they would cancel their membership if they became aware of a perceived ‘better exercise option’ elsewhere. The pressure is therefore very much apparent for fitness clubs to keep their clientele satisfied offering new or improved options periodically. Added to this is the draw of convenient and less costly ‘home based’ workouts and Virtual Reality immersive technology which claims to remove ‘the pain from the gain’ of exercise.
For many, exercising creates opportunities for socialising and interacting with others of a like mind; the sense of belonging and being part of a community. This sense of community is so important that members expect to be treated accordingly by staff and particularly by personal trainers who accompany them on every stage of their fitness journey. This is good news for businesses too, as gym members who make friends whilst exercising are more likely to stay put and not cancel their membership. So great is this need for interaction that a large proportion of new members will search for the right treatment in alternative establishments if they do not feel valued or appreciated where they are.
What can gym operators do to keep their customers happy?
IMPROVE CUSTOMER SERVICE
Every time a customer visits the venue they should be made to feel welcome and part of the ‘family.’ Staff will need to be trained in this regard and encouraged to take on a less formal, more considerate role in which they are ministering to the client, not the other way around. Greetings should be on a first name basis and an offer of assistance made on arrival. Build the fitness community by arranging special events for members to get together and make friends; for instance, you could arrange a club anniversary party, or a trial evening for referred friends and family. Advertise these around the premises using posters or outdoor banners. Issue all members with a loyalty card and generously reward their loyalty, increasingly so as the length of membership extends; a free t-shirt or water bottle always go down well. Talk to your customers regularly to enquire about ways to improve the service you offer and listen carefully, adopting suggestions where possible. The happier they are, the more likely they are to talk all about the amazing gym they attend! And the more friends they make at the gym the more loyal customers will be.
To keep the members interested add to the diversity of classes and offer these at times most convenient to the customer. Come up with incentives to try out new activities and classes, trial a personal trainer or to introduce others to the gym. Always reward referrals generously; a one-month free membership will have more of an impact than discounted offers. Arrange an online trainer course for existing customers or a course for new customers to trial the gym and advertise these on large banners in reception or directly via email.
It’s always good to note that to retain a current member is far more cost effective than to search out new members from scratch, so look after those loyal associates!
However, to stay healthy your business still needs new clientele, so how can you draw in new fitness club members?
MARKETING STRATEGIES FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
Enticing new customers through your door takes effort and ingenuity. Allowing your existing customers to do the work for you with word of mouth referrals will certainly get the ball rolling and is an effective way to get people to try out the classes or facilities on offer. You could also try:
SM presents a good starting point for making your name known locally. Promote ‘a weight loss challenge’ on all sites encouraging everyone to come onboard. The incentive is free membership for a year for the individual who sheds the most pounds. The desire to become fitter, leaner or healthier is never far from peoples’ minds and a little motivation in the right direction works wonders. An added benefit is the fact that as the challenge catches on, news about your club will spread like wildfire!
Keep trying out new media as you never know how well it will work – ‘It’s not about getting in front of as many people as possible, it’s about getting it to the right people.’
Write a regular blog to post on SM sites or on your website telling everyone about the great offers, events and activities taking place each month. You can also include tutorials and videos on how to train certain parts of the body, how to eat healthily and to hone in on new exercising techniques and equipment.
Advertise special membership offers both externally on outdoor banners around the site and internally in reception on desk roller banners and posters in changing rooms. Use large format pop up stands to relay information to customers about forthcoming events, new classes, free class or exercise trials or even charity competitions.
Reuse promotions that have worked in the past, perhaps with a different slant or theme to save time spent on planning and designing new ones.
Leave referral cards for members to complete with friends or relatives contacts in all public areas highlighting the incentives on offer.
Ask a local doctor to refer your health club with the aim of encouraging patients to lose weight or reduce the risk of Diabetes or heart disease. Design leaflets promoting your brand and offers and arrange to have these left at the surgery.
Once you have the name and mobile number of a contact you can use this to announce classes and programs, to acknowledge the client’s visit to your club, encouraging them to return and to invite feedback at any time. In this way, rather than just using this contact as appointment reminders you can build a rapport and the client will feel they are dealing with real people who care about their fitness.
Joint Promotions and partnerships
Reach out to other local businesses unconnected with the fitness industry to offer incentives promoting both companies. As an example, someone books a specific hire car and they receive a free class of their choice at your club. In return if a customer takes up a monthly gym membership they receive a free tank of petrol with a hire car. Don’t forget to offer corporate rates to staff advertising your business.
Can we help?
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