Monday, 2 September 2013

Recession, Recovery and Retention - time to refocus!

Times are still tough in the leisure industry. Sales are always hard through the summer, but many clubs have struggled to hit targets in the current financial climate, and the recent glorious weather hasn’t helped either.
On the plus side, it’s great to see more focus on member retention in the industry as a whole; from clubs implementing or discussing retention strategies, to news articles and features in the industry press throughout 2013.

Some green shoots, yesterday (by Jeff Derbys on Flickr)
While economic recovery is starting, we are told that it is going to be measured rather than rapid, and that we could be facing austerity until 2019. The rise in food banks just goes to show that people are really struggling with their budgets at the moment. Unfortunately, most will put their health and fitness low on the scale of leisure must-haves; below entertainment subscriptions, holidays or one-off leisure treats. In the health & fitness industry, we believe this to be wrong, but it is up to us to educate, persuade, or sell the health benefits of gym membership.

In the same way that there are many ways to sell a gym membership, there are many different ways of improving retention of your members. Defining (or redefining) your member journey, increasing member engagement by staff in club, or sending more member communications based on visit patterns can all have a significant effect on your retention or attrition rate.

You will have an influx of new members in September, but you should already know how you are going to affect or boost your sales, whether it’s an amazing member referral offer, renewed focus on your ex-member database, or targeting the student market with a deal they can’t miss. At the same time, you need to boost your retention efforts in order to keep the extra members, otherwise you will be pouring more water into a leaky bucket, which just makes the problem worse.

Sales are going to get even harder, and if this brings a shift in focus towards retaining members, we will have a better chance of winning the retention battle. And the more we manage to focus on getting members to stick around, they will be fitter and healthier, becoming better ambassadors for the fitness industry.

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