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Customer Retention

Try These 6 Fitness Incentive Ideas to Reduce Member Churn

At the crossroads of incentives and motivators is a well-crafted retention and loyalty program that offers multiple ways your fitness business customers can stay engaged with you over time and feel rewarded and appreciated for their efforts. This is known as a positive feedback loop. Here’s how to keep your members engaged and motivated with 6 fitness incentive ideas every gym should try.

August 2, 2022

Fitness incentive programs are an often overlooked strategy deployed by many super-successful fitness businesses.

There are two big reasons why fitness incentive programs work: brain science and retention rates. 

When you consider that acquiring a new gym member is five times more expensive than retaining an existing member, and that you are up to 70% more likely to sell to an existing customer than a new one, you cannot ignore retention’s impact on your fitness studio’s bottom line.

Pair that with the proven effects of outside incentives to motivate people into action – working out more and feeling the pleasure of recognition and reward for doing so, you’ve got a golden combo that can measurably boost your fitness business’s long-term success. 

Check out these eye-opening consumer engagement and loyalty stats from SmallBizGenius:

  • 82% of companies agree that retention is cheaper than acquisition. 
  • 75% of consumers say they favor companies that offer rewards. 
  • 56% of customers stay loyal to brands which “get them.” 
  • 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers. 
  • Increasing customer retention by just 5% boosts profits by 25% to 95%. 
  • 58% of companies pursue personalization strategies for customer retention.

Yet, turnover is a huge challenge for fitness business owners.

If you’re struggling to understand why so many of your customers fail to come back despite the quality of your facilities and instruction, it’s important to note that one of the biggest reasons members drop out of the gym is a lack of motivation.

Research shows that about 50% of members will quit the gym after the first six months

This might not be shocking information for you.

The good news here is that you can stop banging your head against a wall trying to figure out why everything you’ve done to improve your space, staff, programming and customer service seems to have little effect on new student acquisition and retention.

Fitness Incentives are Rooted in Science

Stop taking turn-over personally.

Sometimes it’s not you.

Sometimes, customers just need the right combination of motivation and feedback.

The reason fitness incentives work is because they’re based on the science of human behavior. 

Research has shown that human brains are fueled into action, including repeat actions, by outside incentives, especially those that trigger the release of dopamine, the feel good hormone.

Your gym can capitalize on this science with a fitness incentive program that both motivates and rewards your members. 

At the crossroads of incentives and motivators is a well-crafted retention and loyalty program that offers multiple ways your fitness business customers can stay engaged with you over time and feel rewarded and appreciated for their efforts.

This is known as a positive feedback loop. 

Here are 6 fitness incentive ideas every gym should try

(Perhaps not all at once though. Remember our golden rule of testing 1 variable at a time and measure, Measure, MEASURE!)

#1 Make It a Game

There’s a reason teenagers (and even adults) get addicted to video games.

Yes, the phone apps are still considered “gaming.”

The brain is continuously incentivized to repeat actions that yield rewards – especially those that include recognition by an outside source. 

For fitness studios the opportunity is to make working out more fun, competitive and rewarding by creating fitness incentive challenges.

Fitness challenges typically involve:

  • A set time frame
  • A clear goal or levels of goals
  • Valuable prizes,
  • and positive, public recognition. 

Fitness challenges can come with both group and individual rewards.

Here are a few challenge ideas to get your creative juices flowing

#1.1 Turn Your Introductory Offer Into a Challenge Game

If you offer a two week or 30 day specially priced intro offer, boost participation (which will increase your likelihood of converting these new trial members into long-term paying customers) by adding an element of challenge and reward.

For example, for every new student who completes 20 workouts during their 30 day trial, give a branded t-shirt and a percent discount (15-20 percent) off the purchase of a membership or punch pass.

Congratulate the winners by listing their names on a bulletin board on giving a shout out on social media. 

#1.2 Host a Fitness Challenge

A few times a year, especially right before slow seasons like Summer and the Winter holidays, launch a fitness challenge.

Again, these challenges have a set time frame like 30 or 60 days and motivate members by asking them to try for a goal like completing a certain number of classes or workouts within the given time period. 

You can offer individual prizes and team prizes.

Participants can solicit sponsors who pay out when they achieve certain milestones or if they complete the ultimate challenge goal, and your fitness business can offer to match. Make sure to offer valuable prizes and publicly acknowledge participants progress with a leaderboard, celebration and lots of love on social media and other communication channels. 

#2 Set Up a Rewards Program

Yes, most of our customers know this one but they get stuck on the “how?”

With 75% of consumers saying they favor companies that offer rewards, setting up a loyalty program for your fitness studio is bound to bear fruit.

There are companies that offer customer rewards programs for gyms and fitness studios that will integrate with your fitness business software to make it easy to keep track of customer activity, or you can create your own. 

Basically, customer rewards programs operate on the same core principles: give customers points for specific actions and then offer rewards for increasing levels of point accumulation. 

The most common structure for gyms is to offer customers a specific number of points for attending a group fitness class or workout, workshops, and special events. Prizes typically include discounts off class pass and membership purchases, branded merchandise giveaways (t-shirts, water bottles, towels) and free passes for friends and family. 

Another popular fitness incentive for existing members is to offer an early renewal discount for those who re-up their annual membership plan or purchase a new class pass before their existing card has run out of punches. 

#2.1 Give Rewards for Referrals

A great way to boost retention while also attracting new members to your gym is through a client referral program.

These programs incentivize your current customers to invite friends and family to try out your studio by offering them a reward.

The benefit is twofold: existing customers are more likely to keep coming into class if their friends do too, building community and engagement, while new customers are more likely to buy from you because they were referred by someone they know and trust. 

For details on how to set up a customer referral program as a fitness business owner check out our blog post: How to Use Client Referrals to Bring in Lots of New Students

Basically, these fitness incentive programs work by rewarding existing customers with a free class pass, a discount off goods and services or valued merchandise for bringing in a specific number of new customers who try out your gym.

You can set the reward to trigger for each new student who tries out your gym, or only for those new students who become paying customers. 

#3 Celebrate Key Milestones

Make sure your customers know that you are paying attention to their progress and care about them beyond class by celebrating meaningful moments like birthdays and gym anniversaries. Send an email with a free class pass to everyone on their birthday, and/or their one year membership anniversary.

Reward your most loyal 3-year and 5-year customers with bigger prizes. 

Reward big fitness milestones like 50th, 100th or 150th class with public praise and a fun prize. 

Host member appreciation days with a fun event like a live-music class with healthy snacks and drinks and give out branded swag. Consider hosting a family-friendly picnic in the park. Get creative!

#4 Give-aways and Sweepstakes

There are lots of ways to host give-aways and sweepstakes online that bring an element of fun, surprise and additional reward to your fitness studio community.

Social media is a great platform for hosting sweepstakes.

Through a post with a special link, fitness studios can invite users to enter to win a juicy prize – like a Summer pass or new high-end yoga mat – in exchange for actions like giving their email and sharing the post. 

You can also create a photo hashtag contest where participants post pictures of themselves working out – for example, doing the workout of the week or move of the day – and tagging your gym and their post with a special hashtag. Reward the post with the most engagement or the photo you like best with a prize. Be sure to congratulate the winner in a new post. 

#5 Wellness Programs

Capitalize on the trend of adding on complimentary wellness programs like meditation, nutrition and stress-relief to your customer’s programming choices with a wellness fitness incentive. These programs can be set up as a challenge, for example a month of yoga with meditation and a special diet where participants are rewarded for attending special classes and sticking with their nutrition program. 

Offer a month of special 30 minute sessions before or after big workouts where members get to try new warm-up moves like stretching and conditioning. 

Or simply add complimentary wellness services to your regular class schedule and give members or long-time members an introductory discount to try them out. 

Track program participation and give rewards for those who complete the program goals. Wellness programs are also a great way to get customers to engage in community building online with a private Facebook support group or public posts where participants encourage each other or show pride in their progress and results. 

#6 Partner with Business who have Complimentary Services

Another great way to add value to your fitness business’s membership plans is to layer on complimentary services from other area businesses. This way you don’t have to venture outside your core knowledge and product base, but your customers get access to a much wider array of goods, services and benefits all in one convenient place. Bundling services or offering co-branded discounts for referrals is a great way to build brand awareness and customer satisfaction while standing out from the competition. 

Here are some examples of how to partner with complimentary service providers:

  • Pre-made meals for pick up for your new wellness program challenge. Partner with a nearby restaurant, healthy foods brand or nutritionist to have meals or smoothie kits made and delivered to your studio.
  • Mutual discount programs. Create a list of partner venders – from massage therapists and chiropractors to restaurants and sports apparel stores – where your gym members get special discounts and visa-versa. Be sure to include marketing materials like posters or punch cards, list program details on your website (and theirs) and post on social media.
  • Partner with other boutique fitness studios where your services and theirs compliment, not compete with each other, like rock climbing gyms, swimming pools, run clubs, cycling gyms or wellness offerings like float tanks or acupuncture clinics.

When creating your fitness incentive strategies, it’s important to remember that no one program will be the silver bullet for your fitness studio.

Just like you have customers of different ages, walks of life, fitness abilities and who have joined your fitness community for different reasons, they will be motivated by different types of incentive programs. 

Also, remember to layer your programs and stagger your bigger fitness incentives like challenges and sweepstakes throughout the year to maintain a sense of fun and surprise while making sure there’s always an element of reward going on. 

Vary your prizes and get feedback from your customers on what they like or don’t like about your fitness incentives. 

Most of all, remember to have fun!