One Simple Tip to Recession-Proof Your Club


Times are tough. Will your clients let go of their gym memberships or stop personal training to save money? Some might be tempted, especially if they are not seeing returns on their investment. Acting on this simple tip can help safeguard your business:

Add value to your members’ club experience.

1) Interact with your members. It’s YOU that the customers want! What clients appreciate most is your hospitality and expertise. The best part is that adding value by enhancing service is simple, and it doesn’t cost anything extra.

A colleague of mine just returned from the IHRSA convention in San Francisco and shared some incredible retention statistics that she heard in a session by Paul Bedford of the Leisure Database Company. Bedford helps companies with member retention and attrition management.

Bedford cites that if members are spoken to (in a meaningful way!) every time they come to the club, they are much more likely to continue their membership and/or refer a new member. If they are only interacted with occasionally, the likelihood of them continuing their membership drops by 60%. If members are rarely or never spoken to, the probability of them continuing their membership drops by 70%.

Bedford goes on to correlate member retention to the number of times a team member interacts with a member in any given month:

  • 1 interaction: the member is 20% more likely to come back again.
  • 2 – 3 interactions: the member is 50% more likely to return.
  • 4 or more interactions: the member is 80% more likely to continue at the club.

    It just goes to show the value of a personal connection. Sometimes we forget that the simple things, like smiling and introducing ourselves to members we don’t know, looking for guests who need help and calling members by name helps build relationships that our clients will be less likely to abandon.

    2) Facilitate strong member-to-member connections. We know that club members who participate in group activities, like group exercise, basketball leagues or tennis, have higher retention rates than individuals who experience the club in a solitary fashion. John McCarthy, IHRSA’s executive director emeritus, makes a distinction between “group fitness” and “machine” members. He explains that “machine” members often interact only with the machines they use and are therefore “deficient in both member-to-member connections and member-to-staff connections.” They are not as loyal to a club because they see it merely as a fitness warehouse.

    Creating social space in your club can also promote member-to-member interaction. Clubs with cafes, lounges or other places where members can chat or have a cup of coffee together tend to have higher retention rates than clubs without social space. At ACAC, where I work, there is a sectional sofa arranged in our HealthQuest circuit training area. It is a popular place for members to catch up or to talk informally with a team member.

    One last suggestion. . . leverage your most valuable resources (your team members!) within the community to capitalize on relationships that already exist. Most group exercise instructors, for example, spend the majority of their time outside the club. The group instructor staff at my club includes full-time teachers, nurses, moms, bankers, realtors and small business owners. What a great opportunity to reach out to multiple markets! Finding ways for instructors to carry your club’s message into their other spheres of influence can extend your marketing reach significantly. And the best part about these leads is that a strong member-to-staff connection is already in place.

    Increasing staff-to-member interactions will not only build personal connections, it will reinforce to the members how much the company values their business. Member-to-member interactions build a network of social support and create a sense of belonging. Strengthening these relationships makes your club a community instead of just a gym. It’s easy to quit the gym, but who wants to leave their community behind?

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