How Do You Retain Gym Members?

Ways to keep your members happy where they are

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If you are a brand new gym, then your focus should be on gaining brand new gym members. New gym members bring in more money, increase overall gym membership (and therefore financial security), and represent a marketing approach that is successful. But how do you retain gym members? This article will look at this crucial issue and help you to succeed.

Retaining gym members requires high levels of customer service, customer interaction, and the establishment of a community feel among members. Treat your members like family, and keep your gym well maintained.

In this article, we will take a look at what large gyms can do to help retain gym members, and we’ll also take a look at smaller gyms – who have an obvious advantage in this respect. We will also take a look at why retaining gym members is just as vital as finding new ones.

Why You Need to Focus on Gym Member Retention

According to this article by Glofox, 50% of new gym members will leave your gym within 6 months, over the course of a year, most gyms will lose around 30% of their members.

Think about what this means. Let’s say that your gym membership works out at $50 per month. In January, you attract 100 new members, worth $5k in monthly revenue. Within 6 months, your monthly revenue from that 100 new members is worth just $2.5k.

Whatever your marketing strategy, finding new members is often an expensive endeavour (up to 9x as expensive according to this article). Facebook advertising, flyers, Google adverts, or even referral schemes. Most gyms would be very happy to spend $50 on a new member, and many gyms would be prepared to spend even more.

But if you can reduce the number of members leaving your gym, then you will earn just as much money as you would from bringing in new members, but it will cost you much less to do so.

The problem that affects many gyms is that gym owners tend to think of current members as secure income. This guy has already been sold to and will therefore be a member forever. His monthly income is guaranteed.

With 30% of members leaving within a year, this is clearly not the case. Ideally, gyms would treat every single monthly payment as a new sale. Ensuring that the member feels appreciated and valued as a customer each time. But this is not realistic, particularly not for larger gyms.

Extending the Average Lifespan of a Member

According to a 2016 study by the IHRSA, 67% of gym members retain their gym membership for at least 12 months. This may have changed in the years since, but let’s assume it hasn’t. That same study found that the lifetime value of members who are 55+ years of age is $1,440 (at $60 per month). Two years to be exact. While 16-24 year olds were worth around $1K.

There are therefore two obvious ways to increase revenue for your gym. Either increase the average length of time that a member stays with your gym. Or increase the number of members who stay for two years.

Ideally, a combination of the two would be the best option. Increasing the number of members who stay at least 12 months, and also increasing the length of time that these members stay. Both can be achieved by improving the customer experience, and by making your members feel valued.

How Do You Retain Gym Members?

Now that you understand how increasing the lifespan of your average gym member can save you money in member acquisition, and increase the value of each member, let’s look at ways to retain your gym members.

Start Early

If you really want to retain members, then you will want to start as soon as possible. While the studies mentioned earlier do not talk about when most people stop turning up, there will be a large percentage who stop after just a week or two!

There are many reasons for this, many of them out of your control. But one of the biggest is not feeling comfortable. Gyms can be intimidating spaces, and if you don’t know what you are doing, then it can be difficult to relax.

Most gyms know this, which is why they offer inductions. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. What if you talk with your personal trainers and get them to provide a free session for all new members, that can be scheduled in immediately after the induction?

What about a welcome pack? Or a series of emails that answers FAQs, walks new members through their first week, and talks about issues that new members might have:

  • Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and how to treat it
  • Help them to design a simple program
  • How much rest should they take between sessions?

Offering a second induction after 6 weeks is another good idea. This will help empower members, make them feel comfortable and valued, and it increases their likelihood of continuing to train regularly for at least 6 weeks (by which time a habit may form).

Remember Important Dates

This next one needs to be approached carefully. There is a fine line between showing that you are caring and coming off as a bit creepy. But remembering certain dates such as:

  • Birthday
  • Gym Anniversary
  • Religious Holidays

And sending out texts or emails, or even a gift, are great ways to engage your members and can go a huge way to improving your member’s impression of your gym.

This information can all be gained during your initial consultation, let them know upfront that if they supply the relevant information, you will use it for this exact purpose. A merry Xmas text to most members isn’t going to wow them. But a Happy Diwali message to a Hindu member? This could really leave an impression.

Sending a text or email to acknowledge their gym anniversary is another smart move. Letting them know that you see them as an individual. Depending on the size of your gym, this could either be done manually (really nice touch) or it can be done using software. Either way, it’s a nice and easy way to make a member feel special.

The trick is to make sure it doesn’t feel invasive. The personal touch is hugely beneficial but not always practical.

Listen to Members

Keeping a gym in pristine condition 24/7 is a Sisyphean task, and you’ll never please 100% of the members 100% of the time. But often, many gyms fail to listen to their members, and it can lead to drops in retention rates.

Suggestion boxes, customer surveys, or getting staff members to log complaints when they are made, are all ways to see what your members are thinking. This may feel like a really obvious point to many gym owners reading this, but it’s something that affects way too many gyms.

Kettlebell character holding clipboard and pencil isolated on white background. 3d illustration
Regularly surveying your members might open your eyes

Spending a fortune on new spin bikes when members have been crying out for the squat rack  to be fixed (for example) frustrates members and makes them feel like they are being ignored.  

Whens the last time you had your members take a survey?

Build a Community

This can be very difficult to do, but if you can manage it the rewards will be huge. Finding ways to unite members can help to increase socialisation, communication, and cohesion. Members who have friends in the gym are more likely to turn up, and to continue being a member.

There are many ways to build this community:

  • Private Facebook groups (excellent option for smaller gyms)
  • Organised events (fun run, charity bake sale)
  • Gym-based competitions
  • Apps that log workouts, allowing members to compete with each other
  • Organising talks to be held at the gym by fitness experts
  • Selling clothing with the gym’s branding
  • Staff who are friendly and talkative

Some of these options are super simple, some are very difficult to set up. But all of them will help you to build a community with your members. Which can go a long way to increasing gym member retention. 

Constantly Improve

This isn’t specific advice for how to increase member retention, this is something that you should be doing anyway. A business that stops trying to improve itself and grow will soon begin to stagnate.

But if you are always striving to improve your business, then you may well see member retention increase. Members love to see new equipment, improved service, and more knowledgeable staff, so investing in this will really help to keep them happy.

Offer Something Different

If you offer something that other gyms don’t, then you will make it harder for members to justify leaving. For example, our MoFit app was designed to help gym members to track their fitness using the machines in your gym. This is very unique and is a service that will help you stand out from the crowd.

This gamification can help members to enjoy themselves more when they attend the gym, but it also provides them with the data required to track their progress. Leaving the gym after having this information would be harder than if your gym has not offered them anything special.

How Small Gyms can Retain Members

Small gyms rely on member retention just as much (if not more) as large gyms. One of the benefits of being a smaller gym is that you have fewer members, so can afford to provide a more personal touch. As we mentioned earlier, private Facebook groups is a good way to build a community.

Organising events such as Assault course runs, running clubs, fitness competitions, and the like is amazing for member retention. Charity events are fantastic, not only do they help your members feel part of a community, but you can actually make positive changes outside the gym.

It’s easier to listen to member input and putting effort into talking to as many members as you can (in a natural way) will also help a lot. Doing something different from your competition is a lot easier as a small gym. Which is why CrossFit boxes are so popular.

How Large Gyms can Retain Members

With large gyms, you can’t really get to know every member, that’s way too challenging. But you can use the benefits of large gyms to your advantage. You will have a bigger budget for spending on events and for improving the customer experience.

Automated software that can remember birthdays, gym anniversaries, and the like, is a great shout. You also have more staff, and more opportunities to wow your members.

Theoretically, you could hire a staff member whose entire job is reconnecting with gym members who haven’t turned up in a month or so. Or they could be texting members on their birthdays and offering them a free protein shake (or whatever).

Considering the amazing value in increasing member retention, that staff member would easily justify their salary.

Final Thoughts

So much of fitness marketing is directed at people who aren’t yet a member of your gym, but your best marketing audience is the people who have already signed up. Increasing how long they stay with you by providing an amazing (and personal) service, is more likely to work, and is much more budget friendly.

Investing in your gym and investing in your members is only going to become more important in a post-COVID world. Make sure that you are ahead of your competition in that regard.


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