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.

Good member retention is a factor of many variables; you need the right staff, with the right attitude, effective systems, appropriate contracts, and the right kind of members, just for starters.  Retention strategy is often broken down into three areas; initial journey, ongoing journey, and then absenteeism.

Initial Journey
The first few weeks or months of membership are key to retaining your members.  Record initial interactions, whether they are inductions, check-ups, first reviews, etc.  Make sure you and the member write down the reasons why they have joined and the progress that they expect.  If you have a record of all the first appointments, it should be simple to check how many of those members have had a second, third or fourth contact.  Some more experienced members might not want appointment 2 or 3, so consider making these optional.  The fourth appointment could be the transition in your internal process where the member is no longer a new member, but moves onto the ongoing journey.  Be aware of how many members make it to 4, and how you will act to help those who don’t.

Ongoing Journey
Now onto the bulk of your members; identify those at risk of dropping out.  There are several systems that help do this, or you could develop your own to look at visit frequency, membership length and results, for example.  Once you’ve identified who is at risk, you need to interact with them, ideally face-to-face, or by phone to check their motivation, and see if they need additional motivation or help to move towards their goals.  Your goal is to try to stop them from going to the next stage.

Once a member has been absent for a few weeks, you have to use your best efforts to get them back.  Call, text, e-mail, use a mixture of communications, or send them an energy drink, banana or taxi!  Anything other than sitting and waiting for them to cancel.

Retention is hard to think about in the early lifecycle of a club – you hope everyone will join and stay for ever.  To quote Zig Ziglar, “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst”.  When people join, they don’t want to leave, but somewhere down the line many will try to end their membership.  If you help to change their minds, they’ll turn into your best promoters.

This is an extract from FitPro Business Magazine Jan 2012 - click here to read more

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