Pat Rigsby is the co-owner of several businesses in the fitness industry, including the Fitness Consulting Group. He also serves as an industry consultant focusing on the development of profitable personal training departments. To learn how you can improve your club’s retention, referrals and profitability, go to: www.healthclubretentionsystems.com. Pat can be reached at pat@fitnessconsultingroup.com.

Do you know the key to health club business success? My guess is that it’s not what you think. The key to health club business success is a simple three-letter acronym: LMV.

What does LMV stand for? Lifetime Member Value.

So why is LMV the key to health club business success? Two simple reasons:

  1. The amount of competition for new members is growing each and every day.
  2. The cost of acquiring a new member is significantly higher than the cost of retaining a current member.

There are several ways that you can maximize the LMV of each of your members, but the foundation of this concept is retention. You must keep a member “staying and paying” to be able to use them as a referral source, sell them in-club services or have them as a retail customer.

By now, you probably see the value in focusing some of your efforts on retaining your current members instead of focusing entirely on chasing new members, so here are four strategies to help in your retention efforts:

1. Provide a quarterly meeting with a fitness professional. Health clubs typically provide new members with one or two sessions with a personal trainer when a new member enrolls. Although this is a good tactic to help the member get acquainted with the club, it typically means that after the first week the member is enrolled, they have no one-on-one contact with a staff member unless they purchase personal training or have an issue with the club. By offering quarterly meetings with a fitness professional and providing body-fat assessments, as well as fitness tips and strategies, you are keeping the member more engaged and providing the fitness professional four separate opportunities to sell back-end offerings if the member needs them.

2. Send a monthly e-mail newsletter. By having each member subscribe to your e-newsletter, you are providing them with useful health and fitness information each month, staying in regular contact and making them aware of any services or offerings that might be of interest to them. This is also a great opportunity to recognize member success stories and promote referral campaigns.

3. Send members greeting cards. This strategy is perfect for small clubs that want to position themselves as more personal and member oriented. With more businesses contacting customers online, it seems as though the only pieces of mail people receive anymore are bills. By sending greeting cards around the holidays or cards to remind members of their upcoming quarterly meeting with a fitness professional from your facility, you can make your club truly stand out. And, the best part is that there are now automated services that will create and mail cards for you at a nominal cost so that you don’t have to invest any time while still reaping the benefits.

4. Hold member appreciation events. Member or customer appreciation events are an old standby for many successful businesses, and for good reason. These events not only allow you to express your gratitude to those who have chosen to do business with you, but they are also a great opportunity to ask your members to bring guests and for you to invite former members back to the club. Remember, everyone loves a party.

Member retention should be at the core of your long-term business strategy. By implementing any, if not all of these strategies, you’ll not only see your attrition numbers significantly decrease, but you’ll also see an increase in referrals and in sales of your facility’s complimentary services and products.