Retaining the members you already have requires a concerted effort by you and your staff. That effort is vital since the expense of closing a single sale is higher than retaining an existing member. As fitness professionals, we are responsible for teaching members the physical and emotional benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

The following points describe a comprehensive retention plan.

FOCUS ON YOUR TEAM:

  • Think diversity. Your team should reflect your membership.
  • Educate your staff on goal setting and exercise adherence.
  • Create an ambassador program to meet each new member within the first week of his or her membership.
  • Train your team to consistently give friendly eye contact and address members by name.
  • Encourage your staff to engage members in casual conversations.
  • PROGRAMS FOR MEMBERS:

  • Create demographically varied classes to meet the needs of your diverse membership.
  • Schedule classes to accommodate various work and social schedules.
  • Determine your members' interests through annual and quarterly surveys.
  • Offer demo classes for unsure members.
  • Offer an adequate number of beginner classes.
  • THE SOCIAL SCENE:

    Many clubs were designed so that members could exercise, shower and leave. However, providing a place for members to socialize is imperative to member retention.

  • Review your lobby's layout. Does it provide a place for members to hang out between classes? (A few well-placed chairs and a side table can create this area.) Providing tea and coffee encourages people to relax, socialize and come back more often.
  • Host quarterly socials. This sets the tone that your club is more than a place to work out. (Some clubs partner with local restaurants for these events.)
  • Set a standard for your staff to introduce members to one another.
  • Track and reward the staff members who make the most introductions.
  • Provide new member group orientations to create immediate connections between members.
  • Create an annual competition for charity to bring members together and increase positive publicity about your facility.
  • IN TOUCH THROUGH INTERACTIVE TOOLS:

  • Connect members to the club from their work or homes with an interactive web site that includes health-related chat rooms, schedules and check-in options.
  • Use an activity-tracking program to provide members with a fresh workout at every visit.
  • Use the data from the activity-tracking program to encourage continued participation.
  • Ask trainers to e-mail articles and/or motivational messages to clients once a week.
  • Keep members excited about future activities by e-mailing and posting a monthly calendar of events.
  • Provide an e-mail comment box for convenient member feedback.
  • Leah Kleinberg, general manager for the Columbia Association's Columbia Athletic Club, has been in the fitness industry for more than 16 years as a personal trainer and a club manager. She holds a bachelor's degree in sports management from Towson State University and a master's degree in counseling from Loyola College.

    Member Integration

    The Columbia Association Member Assistance Program began in November 2002 and was adapted from The Courthouse Clubs in Oregon. Its goal is to ensure that members become long-term users of its facilities. At point of sale each member is assigned to an assistant who will make contact within 48 hours. An initial appointment allows for introductions to other members and staff. The member assistant will assess the person's “exercise independence” and interests and evaluate how best to integrate the member. The assistant will request a commitment for weekly contact. Weekly contact will be made in person, by phone or by e-mail for the first eight months of membership. An assistant will spend 10 to 30 minutes a week with each member ensuring integration.