Here at BEAM virtual game system, we hear a certain story from gym owners over and over. You spend time and money on your gym marketing. You run campaigns to get people to sign up for memberships. And then your hard-earned members stop coming after a month or two. They don’t stick with their plan, gym member retention drops and you lose their monthly fees. Gyms try to overcome this problem in many ways, but we wanted to focus on its root causes. What’s going on and how do you fix it?
We looked at the top 5 gym member retention killers for gyms below:
Lack of engagement from the gym. Many gyms consist of a hangar filled with exercise equipment. Members who come to work out alone gradually lose focus, lose track of their goals, feel like nobody cares and drop out. Let’s face it, fitness is a long-term commitment, and when results are slow to come after an initial period of improvement, the short-term reward of relaxing on the couch can outweigh the prospect of grinding through another anonymous workout with no immediate benefit.A strategic follow-up from the gym can tip the scales and get the customer motivated to come back. A phone call, email or an in-person conversation the next time the customer is at the gym might be all it takes to make the difference. Of course, in order to time this follow-up right, you have to track members’ attendance patterns and catch them when they begin to ratchet down attendance.
No sense of community. This is the flip side of the first issue. Gym members tend to fit into a segment. These segments have similar needs, goals and preferences. A 20 year old male college student trying to get stronger and more physically imposing has a different profile than a 45 year old mother of four trying to stay slim, healthy and attractive. They don’t share a natural connection. You might have dozens of members who fit a particular segment, each working out in isolation, vulnerable to discouragement at lack of progress.By creating a community for each segment, through classes or just informal introductions, you can make something beautiful happen for each member. Rather than being an isolated atom, he or she can now have workout partners, mentors and students who care. Showing up at the gym is a lot easier if you have someone depending on you to come. Crossfit’s success, for instance, is partly based on community-building. Call it the Alcoholics Anonymous principle.
No fun. In the long term, people tend to stick with activities that they enjoy, with an intrinsic reward. This is sort of a no-brainer. It’s behind the popularity of sports and martial arts, and is completely missing from most workout programs. Many more people are willing to put up with suffering and exertion for a series of small victories than for a big gratification experience which will be delayed for months or years. This is exactly the flip side of the logic behind smoking and overeating-the painful health effects are delayed, and the rewarding effects of the nicotine or food are immediate.Gyms often build a reward into their workout programs through achievement boards where they feature members’ achievements, but since these boards can only feature a handful of members, this doesn’t fully solve the need. Gamification, making a workout a competition against a member’s previous results for the same workout, competition-these tactics all go a long way towards making workouts fun and maintaining membership. Not coincidentally, this is another big part of Crossfit’s success.
Lack of results and a clear path to progress. An effective workout program includes realistic goals and atransparent path to meeting them. Most new gym members don’t have a background in physical training. They set unrealistic goals, don’t have a clear understanding of the path ahead, start reading bro science advice online and then get discouraged and quit when their improvised workout routines don’t yield results.
10 Fitness, a chain of Arkansas-based fitness clubs, overcomes this by focusing on the member’s personal results. “We focus a lot on personal training, because that’s where people are going to get the best results,” says Eric Buckner, President of 10 Fitness. Another approach, where modular workout regimens are recommended to users and customized based on their goals, condition and background can also be productive as a roadmap for personal development and achievement of realistic goals.
Lack of support for kids. Many members have children who are too young to be left alone. Many gyms have a no-children policy for liability reasons. Of the ones that do not, most do not offer a cohesive set of activities for children to enjoy while their parents are exercising. They generally have a “kids’ area” halfheartedly thrown together, out of the way. The kids’ area typically has some pastel-colored tables and chairs, maybe some toys and movies, coloring books, etc. The typical child’s reaction at being taken from their home, their toys and movies, to sit around a lame pastel-colored room in the gym and watch someone else’s movies? Not positive.Any gym that does not offer a cohesive set of fun and healthy activities for young children while their parents work out is making its members choose between their workout and their kids. In the long term, this struggle ends up going in favor of the kids and against the gym. To successfully retain customers with children, a gym needs to provide those children age-appropriate, interactive and fun activity. This turns the kids into motivators for their parents to work out rather than obstacles.In a typical gym, staffing and space are bottlenecks, so when considering how to set up a kids’ area, a gym needs to find equipment that does not require a lot of room, maintenance and supervision. It needs to be compact, intuitive, hygienic (preferably only requiring a brief wipedown or mopping daily), and safe (so that a staff member doesn’t have to stand by it at all times). And of course it has to have lots of variety to engage the kids and keep them occupied. “It’s easy to cancel your gym membership. It’s much harder to fire your childcare provider, especially if the kids like going there,” says Eric. This is the set of requirements to which we design our interactive virtual playgrounds, and we’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from our customers along the lines of “parents tell us that their kids will ask them if they can go to the gym.”
What are your thoughts on the reasons behind the gym member retention challenges that gym owners face?
Why do members lose motivation and start showing up, and what can a gym owner do to help?
Drop us a line and let us know!