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Customer Retention

How to Win Back Gym Members: 6 Re-Engagement Strategies

There’s a more efficient - and lucrative - way to grow your fitness business’s membership: by re-engaging and retaining existing customers. Let’s take a look at why retention is such a mission-critical stat for fitness businesses and explore ways you can win back gym members to improve the health of your studio.

May 2, 2022

In today’s highly-competitive fitness industry getting new members is likely one of the top concerns keeping you up at night as a gym owner. But consider that there’s a more efficient – and lucrative – way to grow your fitness business’s membership: by re-engaging and retaining existing customers. 

Let’s take a look at why retention is such a mission-critical stat for fitness businesses and explore ways you can win back gym members to improve the health of your studio. 

According to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the average health club has an annual attrition rate of 28.6%.

For personal trainers the annual client turn-over rate averages 80 percent.

Additionally, the research firm Invesp found in a recent survey that:

  • Acquiring a new customer is five times more costly than retaining an existing member
  • There is a 60%-70% success rate of selling to a customer you already have compared to selling to a new customer
  • Increasing retention rates by 5% increases profits from 25%-95%

That last statistic bears repeating:

Increasing retention rates by 5% increases profits from 25%-95%!

So how do you win back gym members you’ve lost to the pandemic or through gradual attrition?

How do you re-engage current gym members to ensure they stick around? 

Know Your Numbers

When was the last time you took a look at your attendance and membership records to find out what your retention rate is?

Do you know which of your pricing packages has the highest attendance rate?

If you don’t know or can’t remember either of those numbers, it’s time to start digging under the hood of your business.

Here are some key stats to measure and monitor on a regular basis so that you know how well your fitness business is doing at getting members to stick around:

  • Overall annual retention rate (All customers, all pass types year-over-year). Are you keeping at least 71.4%, the IHRSA’s fitness club average? 
  • How many workouts or group fitness classes do your members attend per week? 
  • Which of your pricing packages – class passes, monthly unlimited memberships, annual passes – attends the most sessions per week? 

A good fitness business software platform like Punchpass will make it easy to run reports and stay on top of these numbers. 

Once you know where you’re fitness studio is performing well and where you have room for improvement, you’re ready to move to the next step in how to re-engage your gym members. 

Find Out the WHY

You’ve run reports on attendance, pass sales and membership attrition. Now it’s time to read the tea-leaves and ask deeper questions about why certain groups of members are working out less or have left your gym completely. 

Instead of deploying a blanket “we miss you” email campaign, which will mostly likely be ignored, a more effective strategy to win back gym members who’ve stopped working out or left completely is to examine your fitness businesses operations, value and culture over the past six months to a year. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself when creating gym-member reengagement ideas:

  1. Are you offering classes at peak attendance times? Could you offer more? Would it make sense to get rid of poorly attended classes at off-peak times?
  2. Have you had turn-over in your instructor ranks? How can you improve attendance and member engagement by hiring instructors with a proven ability to pack classes or putting your most popular trainers into prime-time class times?
  3. Are you communicating regularly with your customer base? Sometimes, lack of engagement can simply be a result of “out of sight out of mind” thinking.
  4. How flexible are you with your customer’s needs and preferences? What is the #1 reason clients come to you? Are you delivering on this desire? How can you make it easier for customers to get what they want, with the least restrictions?
  5. Have you made big schedule, pricing or staffing changes recently?

If you’re still scratching your head about some of these questions– don’t play the guessing game.

Survey your membership and ask them to rate your services and their satisfaction level. The more specific your questions the more valuable the answers you’ll get. 

Use this information to inform the creation of your gym member reengagement plan. 

Successful Gym Member Re-engagement Strategies: 

1) Show Them WIIFT (What’s in it for Them)

One mistake many fitness business owners make is to design their offerings around what they think their customers want or need instead of giving the customer exactly what they want.

In other words, you’ve got to clearly demonstrate value. Here are a few tips on how to communicate mad value to your customers as a way to win back gym members and re-engage your existing ones:

  • Share customer testimonials
  • Leverage competitor comparisons
  • Collect and apply feedback
  • Provide outstanding customer service
  • Gather and share social proof
  • Create classes types and schedules based on customer feedback
  • Build a customer community

2) Communicate Regularly and Consistently

One way to stay top-of-mind with existing and former gym members is to constantly be in communications through multiple channels.

Make sure that you are sending out email messages at least once a week letting your contact list know about schedule changes, pricing promotions, new instructors, seasonal specials and with tips and tricks for staying healthy. Post regularly on social media.

Be interactive. Monitor your inbox, social accounts and Google My Business listing so that you can respond in a timely fashion to questions, comments and reviews.

Building a regular online presence is not only re-assuring to your customers but quickly establishes you as a living, thriving fitness business that cares.

Many times reengaging a lost member is simply about being seen in the right place at the right time and being seen enough times that finally, when they’re ready to come back for a workout, they can’t help but think of your brand first. 

3) Build a Relationship Beyond Selling

Sure, mentioning your latest membership deal and making it easy for customers to click and buy is essential. But long-term the gyms that have the highest retention rates are the ones that build meaningful relationships with their customers. 

It’s well worth the investment to go above and beyond by reaching out to your customers through personal emails, social media comments, and by taking time in-studio to talk with your customers about their lives. 

One way to cultivate community and build stronger relationships with your customers is to host after-class or outside the gym social gatherings.

These can be as simple as taco Tuesdays, a green juice demo or a picnic in the park.

It’s the thought that counts and by simply providing the space for socializing you give your customers the gift of knowing that who they are matters to you and your staff and, the opportunity to make friends with fellow members – a great retention motivator!

4) Be Flexible

Post pandemic some fitness enthusiasts are hesitant to commit to a long-term contract or even to go back to working out indoors. You’re now competing not just with other gyms and studios but with a plethora of online training options as well as home gyms. 

The good news is that by being friendly, approachable and asking your customers what would work best for them, you can win back members who will stay loyal for the long term. 

Here are some ways to increase your flexibility that may help win back gym members:

  1. Ditch the 6 month or year-long contract for membership
  2. Consider dropping any requirements for advance cancellation notice (such as a 30-day notice)
  3. Don’t charge for pausing a membership
  4. Allow longtime customers to join again at pre-pandemic rates or offer an incentive discount 
  5. Offer a combined in-person and online class membership

5) Promote New Instructors and Classes

If you’re like most fitness businesses, the landscape has radically changed at your studio and in your market.

Your customers may not recognize your current team.

It’s time to re-introduce everyone as you work to re-engage your membership. 

Plus, by promoting your instructors, classes and class schedule, you have an opportunity to reach out with helpful information that’s not salesy to let your current and past customers know that you’ve not only survived the pandemic, but are back and thriving and have exciting new programs and people to share! 

Give your community an excuse to come check you out – or check you out again. 

6) Upgrade Your Group Fitness Class Schedule

As we mentioned previously, if you’re thorough about surveying your customer base and looking for telltale signs of why your customers have strayed, you will likely now have some valuable information with which to upgrade your programming. 

You may need to change your class lengths, intensify or reduce the challenge level of your classes, add more of a certain type of class and get rid of less popular options all together. 

You may even be making some staffing changes. 

Lastly, use these new improvements as a great excuse to reach out and communicate through your website, email and social media channels to your current and past members. There’s sure to be a buzz generated, and many grateful customers who can’t wait to come back and get re-committed to getting healthy and fit.