Four Questions to Determine if Your Club is Healthy Going into 2022
As 2021 disappears into the rearview mirror and we plan for what is traditionally the busiest month of the club calendar this January, there are all kinds of comments and conflicting theories about the state of club memberships. More people bought home gym equipment than ever before in 2020 and early 2021! That must mean clubs are doomed? Virtual fitness is still booming so classes in fitness clubs are dwindling! Not true. The fact of the matter is that, in rocky times or not, the same issues always matter for maintaining a healthy club business and a happy, retained membership. Instead of letting the headlines and industry pundits distract us from running successful businesses, let’s focus in on the four real questions to ask ourselves. The answers will undoubtedly lead to stronger member retention next year and beyond.
Are we focused on signing new members too much?
This time of year offers a lot of new business opportunities from member sign ups. The residual holiday season guilt over meal time indulgences and the dream of self-improvement in the year ahead together traditionally inspire more than 12 percent of all gym memberships to happen in January alone. While it’s tempting to drop everything and chase new members at this time of year, the question we should really be addressing is: am I focused too much on future members? What more can I do for current members and their fitness experiences? Make a point of very visibly and vocally thanking existing members at this time of year and realize member retention is even more critical than bringing new people into the club. A busy club full of happy, engaged members will always be attractive to those taking a visit and thinking about joining for 2022.
Are we providing the kind of experience members want?
Meeting member expectations will be more important than ever as 2022 unfolds. Some of the necessities health clubs put into place over the past 12 months or so have become firm member favorites. Reservable spots in busy classes with the click of an app that were originally introduced to control numbers now much improved member convenience. Same for court bookings and lap lane reservations. And of course digital, on-demand fitness classes and other content that health clubs originally provided in-studio for off-peak, in-club use is now a central part of how members interact with their club brands.
Consider how to better create a truly integrated member experience centered around convenience and personalization. In studio instructor classes that use on-demand form and technique content to help class participants get better at home. Live-streamed classes from your club instructors to grow engagement with additional members who may not be ready or able to join live, in-club classes yet. And the ability to provide all of this to members’ devices and screens wherever they may choose to workout.
Are we creating community for members?
More than 50% of new members are lost within the first six months. Surveys and studies show that those that do stay do so for one primary reason. Community. Being part of a group class, doing personal trainer sessions or working out with friends they make in the club are some of the main reasons new members become longer term club additions. Look for ways this year to promote evidence of community and opportunities for all kinds of members to engage with each other and other members. New member Monday happy hours in the club. Club-wide fitness challenges. Nutrition sessions with experts once a month, and more. Creating simple, inexpensive ways for members to engage, share and learn from each other and your expert staff is an easy way to grow community. Ensure this same approach is also replicated online and across club communications too: sharing instructor tips, promoting virtual contests and goals for the month and creating member groups across social media channels can all help.
What do members really want?
Let’s not pretend either that any of us have all of the answers. Gym member engagement, retention and experience may come down to quite simply listening to members and what they need. Understanding that can help shortcut any mounting frustrations over service, align class types with preferences, and identify new offerings both in club and online to truly engage members.
Create virtual suggestion boxes, short member surveys and high-touch engagement from your front desk teams that all are geared to understanding member perceptions and preferences. Finding out what is on any member’s wish list is a great start to improving overall experience, but also finding ways to make those wishes a reality and affecting change in the club will do even more to prevent fall out this year and beyond.