How to Engage Health and Fitness Club Members

Tara Massouleh

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November 17, 2020

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minute read

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November 17, 2020

Fitness Club Member Engagement: How to Catch (and Keep) Their Attention

While there’s much that goes into managing a gym business, your members are the single most important aspect of your fitness club. Without them, state-of-the-art equipment is left to rust in a corner. Fitness instructors are preaching to an empty room. And your passion for improving the health and wellness of your community is left unfulfilled.

Not only are your members your club’s most important aspect, they’re also your most important asset. In short, your club can’t exist without the revenue members generate through membership fees and upsells. Moral of the story: Your members are the lifeblood of your club and it pays to keep them happy.

To truly make your members happy, you have to understand who they are and what makes them tick. Are they motivated by group fitness classes? Do they like getting weekly email reminders? Or do they prefer texts? Why did they join your club in the first place?

Consider this blog the ultimate guide to perfecting member engagement at your club. You want to give your members the experience and attention they deserve, and we’re here to tell you how. This is your cheat sheet to attracting, retaining, and delighting your members. We recommend you go ahead and bookmark it now; you’re going to want to reference it for months and years to come.

Mapping the Member Lifecycle Journey


Mapping the Member Lifecycle Journey

The most important thing to remember about member engagement in your fitness club is that the job never ends. Much like parenthood, your relationship with your members is lifelong—or at least that’s the goal. It’s also important to note that your work in executing a top-to-bottom exceptional member experience begins far before your member tours your facility or even gets on the phone with a team member to request more information.

Building, growing, and maintaining a positive and meaningful member relationship takes constant nourishment. In an increasingly consumer-driven world, individuals have come to expect personal attention and exceptional service from nearly every brand or company they interact with. The one-size-fits-all model is dead and long since been buried. Instead, consumers seek brands and companies that not only understand but celebrate who they are as individuals.

In the age of the internet, consumers have access to more information than ever before, which means they’re more informed than ever before. They’ve likely done their research and will easily see through companies who use shallow marketing ploys and empty promises to attract a client base.

With so many options for places to direct their time, money, and attention, there’s simply no room for companies that underperform. Potential members will be looking for companies whose values mimic their own. Not every individual who hears about your health club will be a good fit.

By investing the proper time and attention into attracting the right type of members for your club, you’ll ensure a positive and valuable experience for both you and them in the long run.  

Honesty and authenticity are of the utmost importance along every step of the member lifecycle journey. If we continue the parenthood analogy, you’ll note that a parent’s duty to their child never really lessens, but rather it changes and evolves over time. The same can be said for your relationship with your members. In the beginning, they may need more attention as they settle into a new environment as part of your club community. As time progresses, their need for care doesn’t disappear, but instead it shifts. Instead of needing constant encouragement to attend group exercise classes, they might be looking for ways to deepen their connection to your club. Maybe they want to make suggestions about club offerings, or maybe they’ve become inspired to earn their personal training certification. Whatever they may be interested in pursuing, it’s your job to support them and help them reach their goals.

In the following sections, we’ll break down the five major milestones of the member lifecycle journey. You’ll learn to attract, convert, manage, engage, and delight in order to truly master the member experience at your club. We’ll discuss the importance of each phase in securing your member’s long-term commitment. We’ll also offer practical applications for delivering top care and engagement to your members along every step of the way. Think of it like this: Your members are the protagonists of the story. You’re the trusted guide who’s there to lead them to realizing their full potential.

Phase 1: Attract

Mastering each phase of the member lifecycle journey is crucial to achieving the big-picture goal of cultivating and retaining a dedicated member base. However, many clubs make the mistake of getting in the game too late. It’s easy to see why many believe the member lifecycle journey begins when an individual signs on as, well, a member. It is called the member lifecycle journey after all. So, what’s the problem here? The problem is the road to membership doesn’t just appear overnight. It takes careful planning and persistent pursuit to pave the way. Every member starts out the same way—as a non-member who is interested in joining a health club. The steps they take to become acquainted with a club and eventually join are all part of the journey.

So how can you be there for your future members before you even know who they are? Like with any successful relationship, it all begins with attraction. As a fitness club in a highly saturated health and wellness market, you often have one shot to capture a potential member’s attention. If you fail to make a good first impression, it’s all the easier for them to cross you off their long list of options.

Attracting a potential member is largely reliant on a good marketing plan. With so many facilities competing for the same target audience, it’s important to not only get your club’s name out there, but to build a strong brand that holds weight in your community. Potential members should hear your club’s name and immediately have an idea of who you are and what you value as an organization.  

The overarching goal of the attract phase of the member lifecycle journey is to capture the attention of qualified prospective members. A website is often one of the first ways a potential new member will interact with your fitness club. Because of that your website should reflect your club in terms of design, voice, and mission. Your website is a gateway for the public to learn more about your club, so obvious and plentiful calls to action are a necessity. The idea is to take prospective members from interest to action. Clear links that allow members to schedule a tour or talk with someone from your club are a must.

The other half of your online presence is all about search engine optimization. To optimize for lead generation and conversion, your health club needs to be a top hit in online searches. It’s clear digital marketing is paramount to the attraction phase of the member lifecycle journey. So how can you get ahead? If you don’t have an in-house marketing team, a comprehensive management solution can be a huge help in jumpstarting a digital marketing strategy that will attract members who will become lifetime members of your club’s family.

Phase 2: Convert

Once you’ve attracted potential members, the next step is for them to be converted into members of your club. This is the pivotal portion of their journey where you get to start making a positive impact on their life. To turn a prospective into a part of your club, you need to keep their attention as easily as you captured it—which is easier said than done.

In today’s environment, there’s so much vying for everyone’s attention. The last thing you want is to get drowned out by the noise of competition. However, you also don’t want to become a nuisance to your future members with endless messages. When it comes to the conversion portion of the member lifecycle journey, finding the perfect balance is key.

One thing that’s easy to agree on is that promptness always pays. After you receive a lead via your website or any another avenue, there’s no time to be wasted in following up with your future member. The best time to get in with a potential member is when you’re already on their mind.

In fact, studies show that prospects are 391% more likely to become members when they’re contacted with a minute of requesting more information. While a minute may be a hard timeline to meet, each passing hour or day your future member has to wait decreases the chance that they’ll sign on as your newest member.

With a robust club management system, you’ll be able to track and manage data from incoming prospects and then use the same platform to make first contact with them in a timely manner.  

But more important than how many times or how soon you talk to a potential member is the way in which you talk to your potential member. Whether it’s the first or fourth time you’re reaching out, or whether it’s 1 day or 1 week later, it’s crucial that all your correspondence is made personal. Your future members need to know that they’re not just a dollar sign to you.

They need to know that you value them and that you fully support their goals and needs. None of that can be properly expressed through a generic email or text. In fact, personalized emails are 26% more likely to be opened, deliver 6 times higher traction rates, and generate 58% more revenue.

Despite those staggering numbers, less than half of member organizations send personalized emails to members and prospective members. The data speaks for itself—it pays to personalize.

However, as your club grows and your number of viable prospects increases, personalization gets harder and harder. Luckily, there are a number of ways to get help with personalization through technology and software. Artificial Intelligence, for example, can be an effective tool in nurturing leads.

A member engagement assistant—like the one powered by Conversica—is ideal because it provides your club with the best of both worlds. You get the benefit of prompt and persistent responses via automation, but you also get the personalized touch that will convey to your members how much you care. After a member engagement assistant has initiated contact and gathered information from a potential member, you’ll be able to take over communications to seal the deal. In addition, having all your prospecting data and communications in one secure, easy-to-access location is just the thing you need scale your club to unimaginable heights.

Phase 3: Manage

This stage of the membership lifecycle journey is all about smooth transitions and effortless delivery. During phase 1 and 2, your focus was on getting potential members to give your club a chance. Now that you’ve gotten that chance, it’s your job to prove to them that they made a good decision. While it can be tempting to let up at this point in the journey and assume that your work is done because your member has signed on, now is not the time to curb your efforts.  

A new member’s first couple of weeks are critical to the rest of their journey at your club. You need to provide a seamless onboarding experience. The goal is to make your new members feel truly welcome and recognized as part of your community. Make their acclimation into your club processes and operations as easy as possible. By the end of their first week, they should feel like they’ve been at your fitness club for years not days.

Approaching this stage of the membership lifecycle journey has a lot to do with perspective. Think back to your early conversations with your new member. What did you learn about them and their motivations for joining your club? Are they new to town and looking to meet some of their neighbors? Are they nearing a milestone birthday and hoping to reach a fitness goal before they turn 40? Maybe they’re a new parent looking for a place to recharge and invest in a little self-care. Whatever a member’s self-assigned reason, they all have come to your club for the same thing: a positive change in their lives.

When you look at membership through that lens, it should color every decision and interaction you have with your members for months and years to come. You’ve been given an incredible opportunity to change someone’s life through fitness, community, wellness, you name it—now it’s your turn to deliver on the promises you made in the first two phases of their journey.

Much of the work that goes into managing a member’s experience with your club goes on behind the scenes. This means that your members may not see these efforts as clearly as they would a shiny new elliptical, but they certainly feel the negative effects from clubs who don’t make member management a priority.

There are dozens of ways members interact with your club that go beyond just walking through your doors. They set up payments for membership fees. They check class schedules and sign up for group exercise. They read email and text reminders about upcoming events and programs. They follow you on social media. They check-in at your front desk. They buy club-branded apparel. They time their visits to coincide with their favorite instructors and staff members. They recommend your club to friends and family.

With all those interactions in mind, a comprehensive club management software solution is an absolute must for modern fitness clubs. A good club management solution should serve you as it serves your members. It should make your job easier and create a seamless experience for your members, removing obstacles that could deter them from using and benefiting from your club to the fullest.

When looking for a club management software for your club, make sure it includes the following elements:

  • Front Desk Management – Manage facility access, check-ins, notifications, and point-of-sale functions directly for members.
  • Member Management – Easily automate everyday tasks, build lists for email and SMS, and manage member contact and documents to centralize membership information. With all your member data in one place, you get a clearer picture of each member’s individual habits and preferences so you can better serve them.
  • Scheduling – Create and organize an easy-to-use class schedule, complete with instructor names, times, descriptions, customized pricing that lessens the burden for members. Track class attendance and build recurring programs.
  • Online Services – Offer a branded member portal that allows members to manage their account information and club activities from anywhere. A branded mobile app with the same functionalities is also a huge convenience to members.
  • Full-Service Billing – Offload the difficult duty of managing billing and payments to a trained team that will provide your members with a first-rate billing services experience.  

A member’s relationship with your fitness club contains multitudes and is ever-changing. To fully manage their experience at your club, you need a club management solution that is as nimble and multi-faceted as your members. With a club management solution taking over a lot of the work that fills your day, you’ll have time to focus on those intangibles that make the membership lifecycle journey at your club the world-class experience it is.

Phase 4: Engage

Management is just one half of the equation when it comes to successfully onboarding and retaining your new member. The other side—and the one that’s often left to the wayside—is engagement. Did you know that engaged members retain their membership for an average of 4 years more than non-engaged members?

Set your members up for success during their early days in your facility and watch your investment pay in dividends for years to come. Your member’s first three months at your facility will set the tone for their future engagement. It’s important to do all you can to foster relationships between your new member and other members, as well as with your staff.

Studies show that people are more likely to attend fitness classes when they’re influenced by an element of accountability. Whether that’s an instructor who will check on them when they’ve missed a class or a new friend who’s looking for a workout buddy, the more connections your new member makes, the better.

Here are some ways to promote engagement during your members’ early days at your club:

  • Host a new member mixer to give new members the chance to embark on their membership lifecycle journey together. This gives an opportunity for built-in accountability and community among new joins.
  • Introduce new members to key personnel on your team, including a point person they can reach out to with questions or concerns.
  • Schedule check-in meetings. Start your new member’s journey with a baseline meeting where they detail what they hope to achieve at your club. Then, at each renewal, you can refer to their goals to keep their engagement.

There’s a common myth that it takes only 21 days to build a habit. In reality, studies have shown that it takes a minimum of 66 days to create lasting change and sometimes up to 250 days. In order for a member to become truly engaged, your club has to become a part of their daily routine. Their daily or weekly visits to your club need to become second nature. If they skip a group exercise class or personal training session, they’ll miss it. When they leave town for vacation, they’ll be excited to come back to your facility.  

So how do you make sure your health club becomes an integral part of your members’ lives? There are several easy strategies and offerings that can go a long way in encouraging members to keep coming back:

  • Hold openings for new members in popular classes
  • Enroll new members in club seminars and workshops
  • Allow new members to participate in group fitness programs for free and bring a friend.
  • Help new members create a 4-week and 8-week plan, then schedule conversations with them at each period to check on their progress and feedback
  • Give incentives to return to your club, like complementary spa treatments or café cash
  • Create a calendar of events based on your members interests
  • Design a new member checklist or bingo board that encourages members to explore all your club has to offer. When they get a “bingo” or complete the checklist, offer a benefit or bonus.

Not only do you want to put your best foot forward from the outset, you’ll want to carry that momentum into your long-term member engagement plan. After a member celebrates their 3-month anniversary, there shouldn’t be a noticeable drop-off in your relationship. At this point in the membership lifecycle journey, you should already have laid the foundation for a strong relationship with your member. Now it’s time to build around that foundation to create a strong house that will withstand whatever challenges and changes may face your members for years to come.

Strong relationships are built on trust and nourished by open communication. The key to communicating with your members is that it goes both ways. While it’s important that you have an array of avenues through which you can reach your members, it’s just as important that you open the lines in the other direction. Your members deserve to be heard and want to know you’re listening. Adopt an open-door policy that encourages members to share their candid thoughts and feelings with you on a regular basis.

Here are some ways to easily get member feedback:

  • Schedule regular check-ins
  • Send quarterly surveys on overall satisfaction
  • Prominently display a “feedback” form on your website
  • Talk to your members! It’s surprising what you can learn from an informal conversation at the water fountain or check-in desk.

However you choose to tackle keeping your members engaged, the important thing is that it remains a top priority.

Phase 5: Delight

The final portion of the member lifecycle journey is what separates your fitness club from the pack. It’s what will transform your members from customers to family. The delight stage is all about that “it” factor. How does your club go above and beyond to make your members feel special? How do you show your members how much you value them? These are the questions you should aim to answer when approaching the delight stage of the member lifecycle journey.

Delighting your members starts with small actions that remind your members that you care. A birthday email or text is always a nice gesture. A personalized birthday message from a staff member who has a strong relationship with your member is even better.

Another big set of milestones you’ll want to celebrate with your members are their anniversaries at your club. Show your members you appreciate them with a small gift—think club swag or credits to your club’s amenities like your café or spa. It doesn’t hurt that anniversary dates often coincide with renewals, either.  

Never underestimate the power of a freebie. Contests and giveaways are a fun way to build excitement and interest in your community. Schedule periodic giveaways on your social media to encourage members to follow your accounts. Contests also can be a huge source of delight for your members. They’re also a great tool to drive engagement. A big prize at the end of the year for your club’s most active member is mutually beneficial. The contest drives engagement in your club which increases member retention. And your member benefits by having the chance to win an awesome prize.  

The mark of a truly engaged member is one who wants to share their experience with the world. Ideally all your members are so happy with their experience at your club that they want their friends and family to have the same. A referral program is a great way to offer another benefit to your current members, while gaining qualified leads who have a high chance of joining your club. You can offer levels of discounts or incentives to club members who refer friends and family and then throw in an extra bonus if their referrals end up signing on as members. The more connections between members of your club, the strong the community becomes.

There are endless ways you can delight your members—all it takes is a little effort and creativity. Here are a couple more to get you started:

  • Send personal letters or give your members a “just because” phone call
  • Host a Member Appreciation Week
  • Host free workshops, seminars, or certification classes
  • Partner with related vendors to offer freebies and discounts
  • Create subgroups in your club community for members with varying interests
  • Start a member hall of fame
  • Partner with local nonprofits to create club-wide volunteer opportunities for members

All in all, the best way to delight your members is to get to know them. Once you’ve crossed the threshold from business acquaintance to friend, it’s a whole lot easier to determine what will delight them.

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Communication is Key


Communication with Health Club Members is Key


If there’s one thing that’s certain to ruin your member engagement, it’s a lack of communication. Communication is central to every stage of the membership lifecycle journey, and it’s what drives your relationship with each and every member who walks through your doors. Almost 90% of club members say they value communication from staff members. If communication means something to your members, it should top your priority list.

Outside of bolstering your member relationships, communication is, at its heart a tool. You have a myriad of benefits to offer your members, but they won’t know about them unless you find a way to tell them—that’s where communication comes in. If your members aren’t aware of what value you’re offering them, you can’t capture their attention, convert them into members, or engage them as trusted members.

It’s helpful to have a dedicated team member to manage your communication efforts. If that’s not in the books, a good club management solution can go a long way to keep your messaging organized. The more in sync your communication program is, the more effective it can be.

Best Channels for Communication

When it comes to communicating, a heavy hand can be your best friend. Everyone has a different preference when it comes to communication, so it’s necessary to cover all your bases. Repetition is also a powerful tool in messaging. If a member sees a bulletin board for a new exercise program and then they get an email about the same program, they’ll be more likely to remember the program and have a higher chance of signing up. If they get a text reminder when registration is due, all the better.

Your members represent a diverse population. They have different backgrounds, are from different age groups, and have different interests. They chose your club because of the incredible variety you offer to suit their unique needs. Your channels of communication should reflect and celebrate that diversity.

Make sure your club is communicating to its highest ability by utilizing these channels:

  • Email – Emails are ideal when for situations in which you want to provide news or detailed content. Whether it’s a list of fitness tips, a holiday schedule calendar, or news about a new promotion, an email is a good mode of transportation.
  • Text Messaging – 81% of American have smart phones, making this form of communication highly effective. It’s a great solution for pressing matters. For example, if inclement weather will cause your club’s hours to shift, a text is often the best way to alert your members.
  • Social Media – If you’re looking to take your club community outside your facility, social media should be central to your strategy. Between Facebook (which 71% of Americans use), Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Snapchat, there’s nearly unlimited potential to connect to members outside your club. As your members are scrolling through their feeds at night, your posts will serve as subliminal messages encouraging their engagement in your club.
  • Online – A strong online presence is crucial to success for businesses today. A website that represents your facility is especially important for attracting and informing individuals who are considering joining. Many elements work together to make your website effective, including a clear mission statement, contact information, optimal keyword usage, and an obvious call to action.
  • Face-to Face – In-person interactions with your members are what you got into the business for. So, when you have the opportunity for facetime with a member, make it count. These are the interactions that your members will remember and associate with your service.
  • Printed Material – Visual reminders of things you want to communicate with your members shouldn’t be overlooked. Flyers and handouts may seem old school but if you consider your older clientele, they may be more comfortable and responsive with printed materials.
  • Phone Calls – Though not appropriate for everyday communication, a phone call is often the best fit when you need to communicate about sensitive subject matter like payment questions or renewal discussions. 

The sign of good communication is action. Try out a few modes of communication and then record which worked best to achieve your desired outcome. There’s no secret formula to perfecting communication, so it’s important that you keep your efforts nimble. As communication evolves, you’ll need to combine old and new approaches to fully serve your member base.

The Case for Customer Service



Health Club Customer Service

It’s easy to communicate positively when it’s on your terms, but customer service can be a different story. As much as you may hope, your members won’t always be in perfect fitness club bliss. There will be times when your members are unsatisfied with something about your club. How you react to their concerns speaks volumes about your integrity and character as an institution.

When a member has a problem, concern, or suggestion, take it seriously. Be an active listener, be respectful, and be open-minded. Taking notes is a good way to show your members that you’re truly listening and that you fully intend to resolve the matter. No matter the issue, it’s your job to make problems right in your members’ eyes. If they are upset or the situation caused them to lose trust in your club, you need to do everything in your power to reassure them and restore that trust.

After you’ve resolved the issue, it’s not time to put the matter to rest. Follow up a few weeks later to see if there are any lingering negative feelings. Showing your members that you value their opinion and are concerned with their long-term satisfaction has a huge impact on member retention. You want your club to be known for its excellent customer service and that all depends on your staff. When onboarding, make it clear that top-level customer service is a non-negotiable. Set clear parameters for how staff are to treat members. This way, when problems arise, there’s no question about the level of care members can expect to receive.

Customer service goes beyond just handling sticky situations, though. Each interaction you have with members inside and outside your club makes up the totality of your overall service. Even for clubs with sky-high net promoter scores, there’s always room for improvement. Complacency can be the downfall of your customer care. One way to reinvigorate customer service is by utilizing artificial intelligence with a member engagement assistant. A system like Conversica can be a powerful tool that better connects you with your members. Whether you want to get their honest feedback on a new club offering or gauge their satisfaction with your front-desk staff, a member engagement assistant can lead point.

Top customer service leads to high member engagement. High member engagement leads to happy members who make your club their home. Don’t overlook the small stuff, and the big things will follow.

Conclusion

Keeping your members happy and engaged is a big task, but transforming the lives of members is what the fitness club industry is all about. The member lifecycle journey is ongoing and constantly developing. As your members grow and change, it’s your duty to meet their needs. A good club management solution could be just the thing you need to master member engagement. You’ll know you’ve done your job when they continue walking through your front doors.

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Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

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