Friday, 16 October 2015

How clubs need to be making better use of sms, email and letters (The Fitness Network)

Here's a transcript of my interview with Dan Holt of the Fitness Network (an excellent B2B resource of articles, advice and information for fitness businesses)


With a background in IT systems, marketing and data analysis, Guy Griffiths is regarded as one of the industry’s leading experts in maximising retention rates for health clubs through data mining/processes and targeted communications. We met with Guy to learn how clubs could make use of SMS, email and letters to enhance their member engagement and reduce levels of attrition.

What are the common mistakes with their member communications?

Clubs are either not communicating at all or they’re depending on one channel, usually email. Much of the communication budget is spent on marketing to prospects, rather than existing members. Clubs simply fail to appreciate the payback of retention communications.

The other mistake is sending out the wrong kind of content. Either they are too aggressively promotional or repeat the same content over and over again which can actually increase your attrition rather than reduce it. Good, interesting, useful and varied content keeps members engaged.

Clubs simply fail to appreciate the payback of retention communications.

Which is the most effective; email, SMS or letter?

They each have their pros and cons:

  • Email is cheapest, which is why most clubs depend far too heavily on it,  
  • Letters and postcards are typically the most effective but also the most expensive
  • SMS is middle of the road in terms of cost and generally provides a strong ROI,

Ultimately the right channel depends on the objective. On average, email open rates in health and fitness are just below 25%, so only 1 in 4 emails will be opened. You can get a lot more information into an email, but need a compelling subject line to get your message out there. Clubs should be using a mix of all three channels. Letters on the other hand make a far stronger impression. As Nik Roope – Founder of Poke once wrote "On your 100th birthday, you’d be disappointed if the Queen only sent you an email!". Clubs should be using a mix of all three channels.

On your 100th birthday, you’d be disappointed if the Queen only sent you an email!

So what tactics should a club use for these different channels ?

There are lots of retention communications but here are some of the most common examples:

  • Welcome - clubs should initiate the relationship around 3 days after joining. The purpose of this is to say thank you and to give the member useful information about class times, opening hours, etc… This should come via email, or post if you don’t have email details/permission.
  • Congratulations – send a congratulations message at the end of the member’s first month. We suggest leading with an SMS as this is quick and 99% will read it. This also opens the channel for future SMS comms.
  • Absent 21 - if someone does not attend for, say, 21 days, then they should receive a communication encouraging them to come back. (SMS text where possible, or email/letter/postcard depending on preferences/permission) 
  • Absent 30 – If a member is still absent after 30 days, contact them again but through a different channel with a clear call to action. You don’t have to stop at 30 days absent… keep contacting members as long as you dare!
  • Exit surveys - when a member leaves, you should always perform an exit survey. You need to understand if there are common dissatisfaction reasons that you can address, but this communication can also try to keep them engaged for future contact... Have them complete a form on your website, perhaps a hidden link sent via email.
  • Ongoing ex-member communications – Ex-members should receive regular communication, say, each quarter (email or SMS). The style must be engaging rather than promotional and the goal is simply keep your brand in their mind. A quick survey about current exercise habits is good, perhaps with an offer in return for completing the questionnaire.

Have you got any other final tips for clubs that want to start making better use of these communication channels?

  1. Sell the benefits of correct data (to staff & members)... When people are joining you must ensure they want to give their correct email address and mobile. This data is critical to maintaining retention, so good for members as well as staff! Train and measure staff on data collection, not from a promotional/sales perspective, but with a focus on improved retention and customer service.
  2. SMS is particularly good for ensuring members attend appointments such as inductions and reviews. These are key retention interactions, so increase attendance, and you will increase club usage and length of stay.
  3. Try to keep members on your website – use integrated forms or surveys in your content management system where possible. If you use third party platforms for your communications (Survey Monkey, for example) then integrate them properly into your own systems and website so you don’t lose members on the web.

Click here to read the original article and other great content on The Fitness Network

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