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.

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