Thursday, 1 December 2011

Begin With Retention In Mind

When opening a new club, gym or studio, member retention is probably far from your mind.  The business plan focuses on your unique selling points, marketing spend and sales projections.  A clean new space with shiny equipment will keep members coming back for ever, right?

If you also plan your retention strategy at this early stage, your business plan will be more accurate.  Imagine the possibilities for your business if you have 100% retention after 12 months.  You would be re-writing your business plan for growth rather than adapting it to stay open.

Begin With Retention In Mind - FitPro Business Article

Friday, 4 November 2011

Come Back to What You Know - Non-member Contact pt3

Ex-members are normally the most lucrative segment.  But before we hit them with an e-mail, let’s look at the process of becoming an Ex-member, as this is critical to future potential.

Simply put, the easier it is for a member to leave, the easier it will be to get that member back.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Second Chance Sales - Non-Member Contact pt2

This is part 2 of a series of 3 articles looking at contacting members outside your club.

Your prospect list is a ready-made database of people who were interested in your club, and almost joined.  They showed an interest, but gave you an orange light.  You need to try to turn that into a green or a red light.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Make Easy Sales - Non-Member Contact pt1

In this short series of 3 articles, we're going to look at contacting members outside your club - this focuses more on member sales than retention, but is driven by work we've been doing on member churn, and processes that can positively affect churn.

There are only a handful of clubs in the UK who currently have a waiting list for new members.  Most are working incredibly hard to bring in new prospects and trying to sign-up members with offers and promotions, and community and corporate outreach.

However, there are easier ways for you to bring in more new members.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lessons from Budget Clubs – Part 3 – Turning numbers into people

We’ve talked about how budget clubs (or low-cost gyms) are changing the rules on contracts, sales and service.  We looked at the power of data to motivate members and adapt communication.  This final article in the series explains how budget clubs manage to get more personal with their members.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Lessons from Budget Clubs – Part 2 – Data Motivation

Last time around we looked at how budget gyms or low cost clubs differentiate themselves on contracts, sales and service. Once a member has joined any type of club, they often turn into a number, probably more so at a low cost club. However, because of their business model, budget gyms capitalise on these numbers much better. Let’s look at how they gather, examine, and then use the numbers to their advantage.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Lessons from Budget Clubs - Part 1 – Ripping Up the Business Model

Budget clubs, or low-cost gyms as some prefer, are creating a paradigm shift in the leisure industry. Love them or loathe them, there are valuable lessons to be learnt. We’re going to summarise our insights in this series of short articles. Every day is a school day!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Programming for Retention

The exercise programme review is a key part of most clubs’ member journey or retention strategy. Despite this, very few reviews are being completed, which leads to poor member retention. One of our strategies is to offer every member a programme review, when they want it, but allow them to defer it.

A couple of award-winning clubs I know pride themselves on their exercise programme renewal, but analysis showed that over 70% of members’ programmes had expired at both.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Member Interaction on the Gym Floor

Many clubs are coming round to the idea that investing in member retention is at least as important as sales. The fitness team are the people that know your members best, and their interactions are key to member retention. Ensuring that the different types of member contact are effective really pays off. A 1,000 member club charging £35 per month can generate an additional £35,000 by extending member’s length of stay by just one month.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Unfair Contracts – Why Bother?

High Court rules that terms in thousands of gym contracts are unfair, following OFT action
On 27 May 2011, the OFT [Office of Fair Trading] welcomed a ruling from the High Court that minimum contract length terms and a number of other key terms in thousands of gym membership contracts, recommended and enforced by Ashbourne Management Services Limited, are unfair and hence unenforceable.

While this is clearly not good news for Ashbourne (even though their MD John Clayton-Wright called it a “slam dunk win for us”), it will help the fitness industry as a whole to change for the better moving forwards.

All clubs should have a ‘no contract’ option

Monday, 30 May 2011

Are Garden Centres the anti-Gym?

Have you noticed the great atmosphere in garden centres?  It would be fantastic to be able to bottle it up and release it into a few gyms and health clubs around the country!

I’ve found myself spending more time than usual in the garden centre lately.  Maybe it’s all the bank holiday weekends this year, maybe it’s because we’ve just moved from metropolis to the leafy suburbs.  There’s often a traffic jam trying to get into the car park, and occasionally some argy-bargy getting a space, but once you walk through the doors, all stresses and frustrations seem to leave you behind, and everyone else is a kindred spirit.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Member Surveys as a Retention Tool

A great way to engage more with your existing members and keep them coming back for more is to run regular member surveys.
Many clubs see surveys as a chore – the standard SERVQUAL questionnaires are printed out and 100 members are badgered to answer the questions.  However, if you make a member survey easy, quick, and interesting, it will reap retention rewards.

Friday, 6 May 2011

BHF Tower of London Jog 2011

Another wonderfully sunny day welcomed joggers of all abilities to the Tower of London on the first Wednesday in May for the 33rd year of the British Heart Foundation Tower 10km Jog.

Team GGFit, represented by Guy, Zoe, Nigel, Rich and Alistair were joined by friends and colleagues from rom Santander (fka Abbey), Co-Op Bank, and Bottomline (fka SMA).  Nadia Sawalha gave us all a great pep talk, and two guys from Fitness First ran the warm up, as well as a couple of laps of the race!

Monday, 2 May 2011

External Communication for Member Retention

One of the easiest ways to improve your member retention is by enhancing communications outside your club. Sending e-mails, texts, letters or cards is a great way of keeping in touch with your members, especially those who have not visited lately.

A Friday evening text reminding a member that they’ve not been all week can be very powerful. It will no doubt be shown to friends or family, and hopefully persuade the lapsed member to visit over the weekend or early the following week. If the text is personalised, it shows you care, and that you’re trying to help with their exercise motivation.

Ideally, your members will be used to receiving various communications from your club. They should be able to opt-in or out of different types of message, and understand the benefits of your communication. Regular newsletters should hold their interest with offers and challenges. Confirmations of classes or promotions can be sent by text, and event invitations or special occasion cards will always be well received in the post.

E-mails are great for signposting your website, facebook page, or other web links to engage your members further. E-mail works really well if you have a lot of members, as it’s effectively free, costing only the time to set-up and manage templates and lists. However, open rates, read rates, and click-through rates are typically low, which is why you need hooks, offers and prizes in there too.

SMS text messages cost more, although prices reduce when you buy in bulk. If you have problems ensuring your classes are full, or if members are dropping out at a certain stage, a text reminder can be money well spent in the grand scheme of things. Again, it’s important than the text is right, especially if you’re limiting yourself to one text of 160 characters. Sending the message from the member’s trainer, and making it personal to the member is a key factor in getting it right.

Postal mail-shots and cards are more expensive of course, but you should be able to weigh up the cost against the goodwill value. Sending a member a 5- year anniversary thank you card is a small price compared to what they’ve spent at your club. And extending a membership by one month is surely worth a stamp. Nearly everybody enjoys getting mail; the trick is ensuring that it is well received, and not perceived as junk mail.

At the end of the day, nothing beats a phone call or face-to-face interaction, but when these are not possible because of timings or volumes, other methods can have a good effect, as long as you get the message right.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Rewarding Member Retention

Who should be rewarded for good retention? When we talk about rewarding retention at GGFit, we talk about rewarding club staff, but also about rewarding members.

Staff rewards can be tricky because a lot of people equate rewards with money. Of course, research shows that money does not create long term happiness or job satisfaction, and “motivation by pizza” does not work. Sure, some clubs employ sales staff and pay commission for new members, but the sales people are rarely interested in members after they join.

Most often, the staff best placed to affect retention are the instructors working on the gym floor, and good fitness professionals are motivated by seeing their members achieve results. And guess what, if members are achieving results, they stay longer.

As well as member results, instructors tell us they have a more interesting day by interacting with more members. Competition with each other for number of contacts made, or effectiveness of contacts is rewarding, when it is measured. For some, good motivators are being top dog on retention metrics, or getting a number of lapsed members back into the club. I’m not saying that a financial bonus is not rewarding, but it’s not going to be the prime driver for member retention.

The other person to reward for good retention is the member, of course. A few clubs fix prices for long term members, or have discounts or gifts when the member reaches a milestone, but again, the best motivation comes from achieving results.

Nuffield advertise a fantastic member retention scheme. You have a health MOT and design your personal action plan with your instructor. When you improve your personal health score, you get one month’s free membership. Your club is actually going to help you to get results, and when you do, they will also reward you with something of value, rather than a free (branded) bag.

This kind of offer is starting to shift the public perception of our industry towards clubs that want to invest in the member and make them stick around. Social rewards also help – clubs or instructors congratulating members on their goals, and supporting member by commenting on, or liking their fitness status updates.

Working towards results is what matters to both the instructor and the member, so you can reward retention by simply measuring results.

This is an extract from Workout Magazine April 2011

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Newham 10k - March 2011

A "Great Run" this weekend around Newham, taking in the Olympic Park developments.  It was great to get up close to the Olympic stadium, Velodrome and Aquatic Centre, as well as the new Westfield in East London.

It was a super well organised event, with nearly 4,000 runners taking to the streets around Stratford.  The mens winner ran an incredible 31.22, and Sonia O'Sullivan came second in the ladies race.  I was happy with a 50:21, coming in 618th overall, 82nd in my age/gender group.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Social Media for Member Retention – Strategy tip #2, Engaging

Once you’ve done some listening (and not before), it’s time to engage with others across the social networks that you have identified as being right for you.

While listening, you have hopefully seen some interesting content that means you want to keep in touch with those people or companies, or you might want to share their thoughts or generate your own content for your own followers.

So set-up the relevant accounts (perhaps taking it one or two at a time), and connect with the people/companies that interest you. Depending on the network you are looking at, you might need to request a connection, or sometimes you can just follow others without their approval. Some will follow you back as a courtesy (or automatically), and this will start your fan base.

Next you need to tell all your members/clients/friends/contacts to find you on your chosen networks, and ask them to connect to you too. Do this by any means possible; verbally, e-mail, noticeboards, flyers, etc. Tell them why they should; they are becoming a member of the club within the club, and will get exclusive offers, inside news, connect with other members. If you have the resources, give something out to the 100th, 500th, 1,000th fan to get everyone to talk about it and sign-up.

Now you are set-up and are following and being followed, start sharing. Engage with your fans by posting and talking about events, set-up those exclusive promotions, publish ‘internal’ news articles, and mention your members, staff, affiliates and partners.

One final word on this part, before we get onto influencers... Don’t go from just listening to just talking. Communicating over social media is still communicating, and if you’re all output and no input, people will soon lose interest in you. Keep listening, you will find out even more interesting stuff, and it will make creating your output easier and more inviting to others!

Please feel free to follow GGFit or guygriff on twitter, or join the GGFit facebook fanpage, or follow or connect to me on LinkedIn

Read part one of our Strategy tips - listening

Monday, 28 February 2011

Selling Retention to New Members

Last month’s article was about using marketing tools for retention, now we look at how your sales processes can drive improved member retention.

Believe it or not, retention is one of the main problems that new members bring to your club. They want to maintain an exercise regime, and will feel good about keeping it up, but are looking for help to do so. Prospects that have been to a gym before will sometimes refer to this as the reason they are moving, and new users may mention ongoing motivation as a concern. Either way, they are presenting you with a problem that they want help solving.

A lot of the time, this problem is put aside by the sales person; the tour starts and the equipment, pool, and class timetable are ‘sold’ to the prospect in the hope that these will motivate them to exercise. This might work with a few people, but it is much better to sell your retention processes, systems and tools to show how you will help.

Tell the prospect how you can track them through their initial journey, with extra touch points to ensure new gym users feel comfortable. Let them know what their options are for regular ongoing reviews after the induction phase, and explain how this will help keep them coming back for more. And if they want it, tell them how you’ll give them a call or send an e-mail or text if they’ve not visited for a few weeks. In short, you’re saying “we have a number of member journeys, and will do everything in our power to keep you motivated and coming to the gym regularly.”

Of course, you’ll need to have the processes and measurement systems in place to track your members. If you want to take it to the extreme, share your retention figures with new members to demonstrate how your journey works. When they are offered a review in the near future, or get an ‘absent call’, they’ll recognise that your top priority is helping them to maintain their exercise regime, and will respond positively.

Handle the prospect’s motivation concerns at the start, offering support if they join. Member retention begins before the member signs up. So make the promises, and then make sure you deliver, and you will be successful.

This is an extract from Workout Magazine March 2011

Workout Magazine March 2011 - Selling Retention

Monday, 14 February 2011

London Love Run 2011

We had a great time at the London Love Run in Finsbury Park at the weekend. The event was organised by Action Duchenne, to raise money and awareness for this serious muscular dystrophy, with three races, held in London, Cardiff and Manchester.

There were over 1,000 runners present in Finsbury Park on Saturday morning, with around 700 taking part in the 10k category according to raceplus. Our team included Zoe, Carly, Leigh, Alistair, Richie and Guy, and everyone was pleased with their times, ranging from 53 minutes to just over the hour. A special shout goes out to Carly who ran 10k in under 1 hour for the first time! times here

Thanks to all who supported us, especially Jasmine and Amelie. Looking forward to the next 10k on our calendar, around the Olympic Park in Newham on 27 March 2011. Join us here

About Duchenne 

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (Duchenne) is a severe recessive X-linked form of muscular dystrophy characterized by rapid progression of muscle degeneration, eventually leading to paralysis and early death. This affects one in 3500 males, making it the most prevalent of muscular dystrophies. In general, only males are afflicted, though females can be carriers. The disorder is caused by a mutation in the dystrophin gene, located in humans on the X chromosome. The Dystrophin gene codes for the protein dystrophin, an important structural component within muscle tissue. Dystrophin provides structural stability to the dystroglycan complex (DGC), located on the cell membrane.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Monday, 31 January 2011

Social Media for Member Retention - Strategy tip #1, Listening

Thanks for the e-mails, comments and re-tweets on the Social Media for Retention article here and in Workout Magazine. As mentioned, the golden rule of social media engagement is to plan before you start, rather than jumping in and making it up as you go along.

Since planning and strategy is where a lot of clubs struggle, we want to give you a few pointers, firstly with listening, and secondly on how to identify influencers.

Listening is an important starting point, because it will help to define your strategy, and to find out more about the channels you need to be active on. Most of the tools are free, but you will need to make time to listen. Either assign (or employ) someone to do this, or set some time aside in your work week to do this regularly.

Start with a list of key words, phrases, and brands that you want to listen for. Consider information that would be useful to you to share, comment on, or just hear about. Think about your business, your customers, your partners, suppliers and your competitors.

Now check out some of the tools that you can use to listen to the web. It’s no surprise that Google is a good place to start, particularly Google Reader and Google Alerts. Alerts can be sent to your e-mail, but we use Alerts to listen out for key phrases, and then forward to a feed on Reader which can be reviewed when we’re ready.

There is a plethora of other listening tools; we like howsociable, socialmention, and netvibes to name but a few.

Please comment below if you find this article helpful, or if you find other tools or techniques useful.

Friday, 28 January 2011

(How to use) Social Media for Member Retention

Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are part of many clubs’ marketing strategy. The focus is often on getting more members. However sites like Facebook can also play a big part in member retention, or getting your existing members more active, more often.

The golden rule of social media engagement is to plan before you start. You should educate, encourage and acknowledge your members on the channels that they use.

Educating is relatively simple; let members know about classes, challenges, events and the like. To get the most from social media and extend your reach you need to identify the influencers and amplifiers among your members. These are the ones who forward invites onto their contacts; both existing members and prospects. Then reward these influencers – a thank you is a good start, and for some members will be all the reward they need to continue spreading the word.

Encouraging members towards their goals and congratulating them on reaching a goal is another great use of social media for retention. While all goals are individual, achieving a goal is something every member can do. Whether it’s visiting once a week for 2 months, running 20k a month, or bench pressing 10 x 100kg, a Tweet or Facebook message saying “well done” goes a long way, especially if 10 more of the members friends ‘like’ it.

Publishing members’ photos when they achieve something (as individuals or as a team) can have a really positive effect. This can serve as a reminder of their achievement, particularly with ‘before and after’ photos. When you ask for a testimonial, ask to take a quick video as well. This reminds the member of the value they’re getting, and strengthens their bond with your club.

Location-based services like Foursquare are a great way of identifying and rewarding members who shout about your club. There’s more to it than the Gym Rat badge (awarded if you visit a gym more than 10 times in 30 days). Acknowledge or reward your ‘mayor’ (user who checks-in the most), and give specials to members based on number or frequency of check-ins.

These are just a few ideas of how to use social media for member retention. Many tools are free (check out Socialoomph, Cotweet, Howsociable), but they take time and resource to manage. Find out more, get some examples, or add your own thoughts as comments below. Most importantly, ask your members which channels they use and what interactions they would like.

This is an extract from Workout Magazine - February 2011

Workout Magazine Feb 2011 - Social Media for Retention

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Member Journey - video

a quick 2 minute video in case you don't want to read the 400 word article

Member Journey - how to keep your members on track

A member journey is for life, not just for the induction. Research shows that the induction is a major factor in retention, but the ongoing journey is also critical.

Many consider the journey to be the induction process, or first 6-12 weeks after joining. When considering your member journey, you should start from the day a prospect first makes contact and plan right through to what happens after the member leaves. If you like, split it into stages, but take in the whole membership lifetime.

Have a few standard new member journeys, for example based on previous workout experience; ‘brand new gym user’, ‘new experienced member’, and ‘returning member’. Each journey should have a number of contact points or milestones to check the member’s progress. Check the member is coming as many times a week as they pledged to and support them with their goals. Think from your members’ viewpoint when planning your member journeys.

It’s more important to ask your member what kind of journey they would like as they join or renew their membership. Building a bespoke journey around the member (or adapting one of your standard journeys) will help their buy-in and show your commitment to helping them toward their fitness goals. Some new members won’t know what they want; ask if they want to choose the standard journey, and they will generally be happy.

Your ongoing journey may also differ for different members, based on membership type, for instance. A common milestone for ongoing members is the exercise programme review. The standard 8-12 week programme review does not work for everyone, but is a good contact point, and you should adjust the timeframe for your average member. Rather than an exercise programme review, try a general review, and again, ask each member when they would next like to check their progress, review their goals, and perhaps modify their exercise programme. Getting their buy-in to the process and tailoring it to them will help them agree to the review, and help to motivate them.

Finally, know where members can drop out of the journey, and plan to catch them, or get them back on track. At any point in time you should be able to say where the majority of your members are on the journey; if you can’t, then you need to redefine the journey. Start with your new and returning members, and then move on to those members who are due a review.

This is an extract from Workout Magazine - January 2011