4 Essentials to Retaining Fitness Memberships

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This article is taken from the Build Your Queue podcast below, Episode 32 with Loud Rumor’s Brittany Welk and Corbyn May.

Your fitness studio works hard to bring in new members, but then still has handfuls of people stop coming. Why do so many people choose to back out, and what can you do to keep them committed?

We’ll start by looking at these four topics:

  • Why do so many people back out of fitness memberships?
  • How can you use an onboarding plan to help new members set proper expectations so they stay?
  • How can you bring the most value to the members you retain so they champion you?
  • How can texting help you engage and retain more members?

We’ll help you answer these questions so you can increase membership retention, create effective marketing strategies within your pool of existing customers, and put yourself in a place to grow without straining your resources.

1. Why do so many people back out of gym commitments?

80% of New Year resolutions fail by February, and only 8% of people stick to their resolution by the end of the year.


The average person is not as motivated as a fitness industry professional like you. That’s why you need to create touchpoints with members, so they get extra motivation and have something holding them accountable beyond just themselves.

These touchpoints can come in the form of weekly events to keep things from getting stagnant, including:

  • Contests
  • Brag boards
  • Unveiling new routines or equipment

You most likely already do events like these, but the key is keeping them ongoing so you have as many opportunities as possible to actively connect with members and check in on their progress. You can advertise these events via social media or text message  (which we’ll talk more about later) with a call-to-action like:

"Hey [Fitness Studio] member! Our next class will feature [event]. Let us know if we'll see you there!"

Your goal is to hold new members accountable during their first 30 days of membership, so they feel tethered to your fitness club or studio.

Within those first 30 days you also need to educate members on how staying with you will help them. The average person doesn’t understand that they won’t see changes within the first month of going to a gym. Sometimes it can take three or even eight months for real progress to start appearing. If members don’t understand this, they can become frustrated and quit. That’s why it’s your job to break down on day one that it may take multiple months for them to see results (not just four weeks).

We’ll break down when and how to do that within a 30 day onboarding plan next.

2. How can you use an onboarding plan to help new members set proper expectations so they stay?

Too many trainers and fitness business owners sign up members and then forget about them (even though that’s easy to do when you’re in a tight spot and looking for new revenue). But the real value comes after you get someone in the door.

Having a 30 day onboarding program can help you set up planned moments where you can learn more about your members and implement a retention plan and expectations around their fitness goals.

A solid onboarding plan could look something like:

Day 1 - Ask new members what their goals are, so you can help them set reasonable expectations on how they’ll reach those goals.

Day 7 - Check in to see if they have any questions and remind them of their goals.

Day 14 - Send them a text inviting them to a special themed workout you know they’ll like.

Day 21 - Offer a reward for them inviting a referral (so they bring along a friend who could encourage them).

Day 30 - Ask if they want to opt-in for text updates for ongoing events, so you can perpetually establish touchpoint with them.

During the first day especially, you want to learn your new members’ specific pain points and understand their why.

Why did they decide to come to your gym and what are they hoping to accomplish by being there?

Figure out what success looks like to them by asking them directly. Then tie that back to what your program can offer as far as getting them to that destination with a tailored fitness plan.

This is the basis for consultative selling, or selling that guides the person toward the solution that works best for them, rather than trying to sell a specific product. From there you can further adjust your 30 day onboarding plan to meet their needs and avoid churn.

PC: Badger

3. How can you bring the most value to the members you retain so they champion you?

It’s easy to get caught up in paid advertising and forget that you can reach out to your customer base to generate free leads.

In fact, your current members are your most valuable resource. It costs at least 5x more to bring in a new customer than it does to keep or resell an existing one. That’s why a 5% increase in your customer retention rate can lead to a 25%+ increase in revenue.

Selling gym memberships is all about being able to fish for asks, and that includes fishing within the pond you already swim in.

There’s no reason to be afraid to directly ask your customers if they’re interested in upsells or referral programs (especially when the worst they can say is “no”).

So how can you create opportunities to generate leads and sales from those members?

Using the touchpoints within your 30 day onboarding program we talked about earlier is one way to start. You can include planned moments during their first 30 days to increase their lifetime customer value, including:

1. Ancillary products (heart rate monitor, spin shoes, yoga mat, ect.)

2. Retail items (hoodie, t-shirt, water bottles, ect.)

These kinds of items work great as milestone upsell triggers. For example, your kickboxing gym could have a promotion during your members’ 2nd class where they are offered gloves once they cover the basics of kickboxing.

Trainers and coaches can also reach out to members outside of their gym time to ask things like:

“Would you like to change someone else’s life? Refer a friend and we’ll give you both free swag!”


“We love that you’re coming in so regularly! Leave us a review at this link and we’ll give you 20% off your next class: [link]”

Reviews can lead to more generation of sales, which can lead to more generation of referrals!

4. How can texting help you engage and retain more customers?

You have to keep members engaged and that's tough when there's so much noise, so much going on around them.

Texting is a great way to cut through the noise because it’s the number one way people prefer to communicate with small businesses, and 99% of text messages are seen!

Start by taking your cold lead list and re-engaging them with one text once a month.

If you send a text to 3,000 emails and get 10 responses, that’s ten free leads that have just been sitting around that you have an opportunity to sell to. You can essentially generate revenue out of thin air!

Send one mass text, then personalize the next interaction based on who responds.

Some a group of Loud Rumor’s studios have made $800,000 during the week of Black Friday using this strategy!

You text could be as simple as:

“Hey [Name], it’s [Trainer] from [studio/gym]. I haven’t seen you in a while, and was wondering if there was anything I can do on my end to help get you back in? You were doing so good!”

When personal coaches reach out over text, it just hits members harder and can encourage them to try again.

Related: Text Request Featured Company - Loud Rumor

Focus on individual member relationships vs. groups.

Maintaining individual relationships with all your fitness or club members sounds impossible, but you can create automations that encourage touchpoints at scale.

For example, you can schedule one mass text message in advance, then connect on an individual basis with the members who respond. Essentially your sales opportunities are on the front side of scalable automations, and your personal, one-on-one relationships are on the backside.

Creating time to maintain those personal relationships is what will increase your gym member retention and custom lifetime value!

It’s not how you sell your membership, but who you sell them to.

Celebrating small victories along the way with individual members is a huge part of this. For example, just stepping into your fitness center or gym is a big deal. Every time a member comes in you need to resale them on coming back the next day by celebrating how far they’ve come so far.

Related: [Podcast] 4 Essentials to Growing Subscription Revenue