We could also take pressure off new member sales and still meet revenue goals. As a business our product is a service — the opportunity to have a healthy lifestyle and improved quality of life. Why would anyone choose to walk away from our product?

To better understand how to retain members, let's look at some common reasons why club members may leave:

  • death
  • a move
  • financial
  • injury
  • time
  • interest
  • competition
  • home gym
  • unhappy
  • With the exception of moving and death, what one element do the remaining reasons have in common? They indicate our failure to deliver value for (or return on) their investment in us. In each case, a reason for leaving can be turned into a reason for staying. What if we had a system that could assure that most, if not all, of our members receive meaningful coaching and support from staff in a way that would demonstrate that we are passionate about making sure they receive return on their investment in us? Wouldn't members be less likely to lose interest, not have time to exercise, go to another facility, exercise at home, or to not be able to afford us?

    What is the return on their investment in us? When members make a decision to join a facility, most don't make it casually. They are serious about making improvements to their health and fitness. Losing weight or body fat; toning or building muscle; increasing flexibility, energy or endurance and stamina; and decreasing stress are common reasons members site for joining a fitness club. Is it good enough for us to simply show them how to operate the treadmill and give them a strength training circuit? Don't we do this for everyone? We know these things will lead to improvements in areas that are important to them if done consistently. How can we create a customized experience for new members and demonstrate a measurable progression so they will perceive value for their investment in us?

    We help them set goals. Goal setting teaches members how to break down their important but vague desires for improvement to specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed tasks and outcomes.

    Train your staff to coach your members by conducting goal-setting appointments that include agreeing upon and documenting specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed (SMART) goals. Examples of SMART goal setting include:

  • Weight loss: Lose five pounds in 30 days.
  • Build muscle: Add two pounds of body mass/muscle in two months.
  • Attend the club: Go to the club six times in the next two weeks.
  • Documenting the steps the client agrees to take to achieve these goals such as walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes or completing a strength circuit three times per week provides measurable goals and client progress. It also demonstrates value for the member's investment, provides the member with direction, support and accountability, as well as provides program referrals (nutrition, personal training and wellness programs). And, it helps us retain our members.

    Liz Dumont Proctor is success director and certified lifestyle and weight management counselor for Maryland Athletic Club and Wellness Center. Contact her at ldumont@macwellness.com.