Wednesday 8 November 2023

People Power - culture as the cornerstone for great retention

Great member retention is only really possible with great staff. There are lots of strategies, tools, and systems that help, but without good people, they are just not as effective.

A whole chapter is dedicated to people in the book Stick Around (strategies to keep your gym members motivated). Staff is also a recurring theme discussed by many guests on the YourDreamGym podcast, and is often prioritised above certain equipment, spaces, or types of gym.

Motivating and inspiring staff is also one of the hardest nuts to crack, in any industry. There’s a wealth of articles on this across the internet, so we’re going to focus on three key areas that you can look at in your business, that will help with your member retention.

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Are Dormant Customers Healthier? (for business)

On health club membership retention, the age-old debate endures on the value of dormant members - those who have memberships but rarely use them. Are they a burden or an opportunity? In this article, we explore the concept of dormant members, highlighting the potential benefits for both gym and member. We'll discuss the art of re-engagement, optimal timing, and strategies to transform these sleepers back into active members.
Discover why it's not only ethical but also a smart business move to prioritize these members, reshaping the fitness industry into a healthier, more sustainable business.

There’s been some discussion in health club news recently about how ‘sleeper members’ of gyms and health clubs still get ‘real benefits’ of being a member despite not visiting. Some feel it will motivate them in future or enjoy the fact that they can [could] go when they want to, while others 'feel good' about having a membership they don’t use.

Do the right thing – ethical business practices

With this debate going on, lots of people have asked me what I think about sleepers. I have always advised clubs to re-engage with as many dormant members as possible.

Almost 10 years ago, I presented the view of Running an Ethical Health Club at The Retention Convention. Key to the talk was encouraging absentees to return.

At the time of the COVID lockdown closures, nearly all clubs experienced significant membership losses, many of whom were previously sleepers. Since then, I’ve doubled down on my views on dormant members, and ensure that the clubs we are working with do the same.

If a customer is paying for a service, but not using it, they are more likely to cancel than to come back, particularly if you take no other action as their service provider.

Getting Back to Normal

Several recent conversations and debates have talked about clubs wanting to return to ‘normal’ post pandemic. I’m shocked and saddened that so many clubs have returned to normal in terms of dormant members, as discussed in this June article… Absentees are Back!

Many clubs have returned to their normal ‘strategy’ of working far too hard on chasing new members and trying to hit sales targets, rather than focusing on the members they already have. Here’s a prioritised list of what a good, ethical club will focus on to improve membership retention and growth.

Key strategic focuses for growth:

  1. New members
  2. Active members
  3. Dormant members
  4. Ex-members and prospects
Your dormant members are worth more than your hot leads and prospects. They’re already paying you, you don’t need to offer ‘no join fee’, just get them back into the habit of visiting regularly. They’ll buy more… whether it’s secondary spend, or just one more month!

Won’t they cancel?

The big fear for most clubs is that you wake the sleeping dogs. Here's another note from the archives... Communicating with Absent payers.

Firstly, timing is critical, as we’ve discussed many times. It’s easier to recover members in the 21 to 45-day window of absence. Some clubs go much longer, with multiple contact channels, and 5-7 attempts. But if you start with a first call or message to members who’ve not visited for over 100 days, it’s not going to go well.

When contacted promptly, three or four members (per 100 contacts) will cancel, in our experience. The rest are grateful for the call, SMS, or email, and 65-80% return within 10 days. Most popular keywords from absentee calls are OK, Back, Busy, Sorry, Thanks, Holiday, and Soon. At clubs that offer Suspension, 6% of calls mention this keyword, but fewer take up the option. This starts another process of encouraging them back, for both suspended and cancelling members.

How do we get them back?

What options to entice absent members back into the club?

  1. Re-program – the classic “let’s review your gym programme”, appointment to discuss your goals/aspirations, and reset and remotivate you. If you offer some form of induction/activation/welcome session, this could be the same, or rebranded as a re-activation. Enter the new member challenge to get back into the habit
  2. HealthCheck – could be included in the above, or a standalone body composition measurement (worth £X). Why not bring a friend or family member for a check-up too. No need for them to join the club…
  3. Book a class – get your mojo back with a group exercise class. Let’s tell you about the new classes on the timetable, and book you into a starter class.
  4. Coffee and chat – more informal meeting (booked appointment time) to talk about options and remotivate/support the member.
  5. Suspend – not for every club, but better than letting dormant members drift towards cancellation

If you can build a ‘book it now’ button for some of these options into your digital comms, you can re-engage with more members more effectively. But many members will really benefit from the call and conversation, as will your club, because you’ll get more feedback and be able to adapt your re-engagement strategy.

View from outside the industry

Only yesterday, someone (outside the fitness industry) suggested to me that the ‘gym business model’ is to sign up lots of members that don’t ever visit. It’s amazing how slow it takes for the public perception to change! We still have lots of work to do!!

In summary:

Dormant members do present a conundrum, and it’s interesting to hear their views on why they keep paying for memberships. But they are not healthier by paying for a membership and not visiting, just poorer. As an industry, we should not accept absentees as part of ‘normal’, but prioritize re-engagement, timing, and innovative strategies to actually improve all our members’ health. There is hidden value in reviving dormant members, both for their health, and the health of our businesses and industry.

If you want to discuss member engagement, or want to add to the debate, please comment below, or get in touch.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Measure your members progress to get them to stick around longer

Progression is key to keeping people engaged in any activity, particularly one that is hard, or part of a choice. Measuring progress through school with assessments, exams, or reports, music exams, colour belt gradings in martial arts, or levels on a computer game keeps us motivated to continue.

So, when fitness industry veterans ask, “remember when we used to measure everyone as they joined”, the response is “why don’t we do it so much anymore?”

This is tip 11 in a series to celebrate GGFit’s 15 years in business. We discussed progression briefly in tip 3, but want to expand on this important topic now. Read all the tips here.

There are so many better ways to measure progress now, without using scales, tape, or callipers. With body composition, we have medical grade devices providing so many stats on people’s health and fitness, and 3D (and 4D!) body scanners to show how people’s body shape has changed as they progress.

Saturday 5 August 2023

HealthSeeker Stories

Conversations to encourage the health and fitness industries to share, collaborate and grow together. 

Guy Griffiths talks with fitness and health professionals about HealthSeekers. Can we improve the health of the population, whilst giving the fitness industry a boost. 

Hosted on The Collective, and in partnership with WhySports, this series can be found on all good podcast platforms via or YouTube  

Friday 4 August 2023

Time to tap into your ex-member data to boost September Sales

August is a great time to try to re-engage with your ex-members. We know that September is the second peak joining month (after January), so now’s the time to put your club in the front of people’s minds with a compelling ex-member campaign.

This is tip number 10 in a series to celebrate GGFit’s 15 years in business. Stay tuned for more, or read the series here.

We’ve been talking to lots of clubs about ex-member campaigns lately. Many businesses haven’t done much with ex-member data since re-opening post-pandemic. There are almost certainly some big improvements that you’ve made since then, or since those members left, so tell them what’s changed.

The ex-member database is a vastly under-utilized resource at many clubs. We find that most ex-members (over 50%) are not currently exercising, and they all know your club, so asking them to re-join will yield results, and ROI is clear compared to trying to recruit new members.

Thursday 20 July 2023

Saving Cancelling Members - The Downgrade Save

Maintain engagement and payment on some level with members who want to cancel.

The panel debates around the Xplor attrition report have brought leavers into focus again for the industry. This is great timing, given we expect more members will to be looking to cancel in the coming months. In addition to seasonal trends, the war on attrition is likely to step up a gear as the financial crisis intensifies and people look to tighten their financial belts (and loosen their physical belts as a result!)

We’re going to cover some of the data you should be collecting on leavers, particularly reasons and feedback, and then look at ways of saving members who want to cancel.

The Attrition Battle

We’ve talked about bringing absentees back in the last article (8/15). If you ignore your absentees, they’re more likely to leave, so the key message was to do something to try to bring them back. Even imperfect action is better than perfect inaction.

However, when members cancel, lots of clubs still stick their heads in the sand. If nothing else, it’s important to look at why and how members cancel. And to state the obvious, why and how are separate questions. Why is the reason (or excuse) that a few of your leavers tell you, or you find out through a call, cancellation form, or survey. How is the method, often cancelled at bank or payment failed, occasionally by letter, message, phone call, or in club.

Monday 17 July 2023

Independent Gyms: 24/7 & Unmanned Opening

A Gym Owners Panel debate about unmanned and extended hours opening.

The opening panel debate at the Independent Gyms conference is designed to get delegates thinking, asking questions, and networking through the day. There is a wealth of information from all the talks at the conference, but all delegates (clubs and suppliers) get heaps of value from hearing what other gym owners are doing, and there are always great questions and engagement from the opening session.

Three gym owners joined host Guy Griffiths to talk about one of the hot topics that is talked about in the Independent Gyms forums every week, namely 24/7 opening and unmanned gyms.

The shift to unmanned or 24/7 opening is driven by competition with local budget clubs who offer extended opening hours, but also changing work habits, and the stress of running a club. It was also interesting to hear the panellists views around staffing, community, and growth. We discussed the concerns and realisations that they had before and after making the change.

Monday 12 June 2023

Absentees are back!

Dormant memberships were mostly wiped out in the COVID Pandemic. But old habits die hard, and the member absentee problem is back to normal. How do we affect this new normal, in new ways?

This is tip number 8 in a series to celebrate GGFit’s 15 years in business. Stay tuned for more

What is an absent member?

Cut-off times vary from business to business, but the typically accepted benchmark is that if a gym member hasn’t visited for the last 30 days, then they’re an absentee. Setting a cut-off time is important so that you can set KPIs, then measure and try to improve your active member percentage.

Sunday 14 May 2023

What do Communities mean to your members?

There’s lots of talk about building communities around your club, but what are the best ways to do this, and how can it help with member retention?

This is tip number 7 in a series to celebrate GGFit’s 15 years in business. Stay tuned for more...

What is a Community?

The difference in definition between a club and a community is that a club is a group of people who come together for a common purpose, whereas a community is a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

So, a club is not necessarily the building or venue

Wednesday 8 March 2023

Challenge your members – to stay longer!

Once you’ve onboarded all your new members (and returning members) at the start of the year, you’ve hopefully looked at upselling, referrals, and rewards. By March, the motivation of some members will start to wane, so it’s time to challenge their fitness.

This is tip number 6 in a series to celebrate GGFit’s 15 years in business. Stay tuned for more

What makes a successful challenge?

A great challenge is one that most of your members take part in.

Contrary to what many fitness instructors think, a hard challenge is not a good challenge, since most of your members either won’t take part, or will, and then will never join a challenge again.