4 Visits Per Month : The Key To Membership Retention

Dr Paul Bedford is known in the global fitness industry as The Retention Guru (www.retentionguru.co.uk). A little background information about Dr Bedford:

In 2015 he presented a study of the North American fitness market for IHRSA, which involved one million members! In this same year he completed a retention presentation tour of Australia as well as presenting and hosting a sold out European Retention Convention.

In 2014 Dr Bedford completed a four-year research study on the UK fitness industry, which involved 340,000 members. In this year he also completed a study of the New Zealand fitness market and during the years 2001 to 2003 he was a researcher on the UK FIA Retention Report Dr Bedford is also the author of the book Why People Join, Leave And Stay With Health And Fitness Clubs.

In June this year, Life Fitness Australia and the Life Fitness Academy hosted Dr Paul Bedford’s tour in Australia. Some key findings shared during this tour included:

  • In the very first month of joining a gym, 28 per cent of members train less than one day per week.
  • In the first four weeks of your client’s membership, you need to get them in for four sessions. By doing so, you can increase your retention by up to 12 per cent.
  • If over a 12 month period, you can get your members to train on average 1.2 sessions per week (or approximately four sessions per month) you can reduce their risk of cancellation by 29 per cent.
  • Beyond that first month some facilities have found that 31 per cent of members train less than one day per week, while 11 per cent never turn up at all!

What was very evident was the importance of having your members visit the club for a minimum of four times per month. And it was made clear that our goal should be to engage with that 42 per cent of our membership who are currently training one day per week or less, to try and boost their attendance to four times per week.

Dr Bedford stated that the strategies to achieve this need to be specific to your clientele and should involve identifying what their emotional and psychological needs are, so you can effectively meet them where they need to be met, rather than where we want to meet them.

There was however, one strategy that was deemed universal by Dr Bedford, and this he called “the Interaction Effect”. Simply put, this involves your staff talking and interacting with your members. I have been a member of a large gym and for the entire two and a half years not one person on the gym floor has ever spoken to me. That club was lucky that I wasn’t one of the 42 per cent “at-risk” clients, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be a member!

Dr Bedford’s figures confirm that the interactions a member has with staff, are directly related to the likelihood they will visit again next month. For example:

  • One interaction per month = 20 per cent more likely to visit next month.
  • Two to three interactions per month = 50 per cent more likely to visit next month.
  • Four or more interactions per month = 80 per cent more likely to visit next month.

Now these interactions can be as simple as saying “hello” or complimenting a client on a lift they just did, or their technique. It can be a conversation, but it does not have to be. It is important to understand, an interaction that has an impact can be as short as “Hi, how are you?” Or “Hi, my name is Gavin, it’s great to see you today. Let me know if I can help you in any way.”

Additionally, interaction with reception staff is also good but quite often this is expected; so it’s really the gym floor staff, managers and personal trainers who floor hold the key to your retention success when it comes to interaction.

Here’s an idea: why not undertake a quick and easy exiting survey of your members. When they leave the club, find out from them:

  1. Did a gym floor member of staff speak to them today?
  2. How many interactions did they have with other staff members today?
  3. What type of interactions were they?
  4. Do they know the names of any of the trainers or managers who were in the facility today?

As an industry we sometimes forget the simplest of things, which can often have the greatest impact. That is, simply “Speak to me!”

Article written by Gavin Aquilina and Justin Tamsett for the What’s New in Fitness Magazine – Summer 2015 Edition

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