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Business Strategies for the Fitness Industry: Client Retention

Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to watch, and even more fortunate to assist some trainers as they have turned their dreams into reality and created a successful training business, built a new facility, or grew their business/facility to even greater heights. Seeing this success happen for those involved is extremely motivating and exciting. As a trainer or gym owner, or just involved in the industry, you know the hard work that goes into making these dreams a success and to see that success obtained is truly a great feeling.

In working with trainers/gym owners on business and marketing strategies in the past, I always kept my eye out for great articles and information from the business world that I felt could be applied to the fitness industry. I recently came across an article from American Express’ Open Forum on customer retention strategies that I found very interesting. While dealing with small business, the five strategies outlined by the author seemed to lend themselves to ideas that gym owners could use to help retain members and boost revenue at the same time. My thoughts on the five strategies and how to use them in the fitness world are below.

5 Client Retention Strategies for Gyms

1. Provide Exceptional Customer Service

In the article, author Charles Gaudet mentions an app designed to schedule and share content on social media. The app even has something called a “Happiness Report”, that shows the satisfaction level of customers.

While an app may be the route to take here, it may not be the best in my opinion. Customer service at the gym/facility level should really focus on keeping the clients happy and making them feel welcome. Having the people at the front desk (trainer Todd Durkin calls these folks the “Directors of First Impressions”) learn clients’ names, address them by name, and truly make them feel welcome will give a client a sense of belonging and keep them coming back. This mentality also speaks to the trainers in the facility. Being engaged in the session, not reading the paper or drinking coffee, will keep an athlete motivated as well.

Sharing in a client's success can also help keep them coming back. The service they receive in your facility will go a long way in determining whether or not they remain a client. Focusing on how to make them feel welcome and special is vital to retention.

2. Use Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great way to provide ROI for a business. In the fitness industry, it may also be a way to retain your clients. Sharing new products, classes, or trainers is a way to build interest and get clients back to the facility. You can also use it to share fitness tips, nutrition information and more via a weekly or monthly newsletter sent via email.  This digital communication keeps you on the minds of the clients and you can also track things like open rates to see if your message is reaching them.

With Cybex’s recently released Digital Marketing Suite, you’ll have access to new product information, programming and sharable social media content that you can use to populate your email and help interact with your clients in the hopes of keeping them as active members of your community.

3. Introduce a Loyalty Program

Loyalty programs can be great for a facility. Special rewards for check-ins each week or month will entice clients to frequent the gym. Workout programs that double as contests or challenges keep clients coming to the facility throughout the competition, and the camaraderie can continue post-event with people working out together afterwards - another key to keep people coming back.

Rewards for the loyalty programs or contests can be as big or small as you want. I’ve seen prizes range from water bottles and t-shirts to cash prizes or trips. Everyone loves free stuff, and a reward is always an added bonus, so using them as part of your loyalty program will definitely help keep your clients coming through the door.

Need ideas for rewards and prizes? Check out the Cybex Pro Shop for some great items!

4. Create a System for Complaints

You can’t please everyone all of the time.

How many times have we all heard that? There will be those who have an issue no matter how great your product or service may be.  For me, these are the clients I want to find, communicate with and find resolutions for. These are the clients who will tell people how special they felt and that their issues were solved, and this can be some of the best marketing for your facility possible!

There are several areas you can find their frustration, and while you need to monitor things like social media for complaints (and respond to them!) having a process for feedback is a great way to encourage clients to share theirs with you:

  • Use an incentive to get feedback, raffling off a prize to someone who fills out a feedback form (see #3 - Introduce a Loyalty Program)
  • Use your client email communication to solicit feedback via replies or surveys in the email

However you choose to get your feedback, an easy, clear process will encourage clients to provide feedback and (hopefully) keep the social media rants to a minimum.

5. Develop an Outstanding Product or Service

Having something that nobody else has, or doing something that nobody else does better, are both great ways to entice new customers to your business and also how to keep them coming back:

  • Your customer service could be that product. If you have a great staff and you’re the most engaging/welcoming facility around, that could be exactly what sets you apart.
  • Maybe it’s the equipment your provide…be it something new, like Eagle NX, or state-of-the-art like the Arc trainer, or even a feature on the equipment, like Cybex GO, that sets what you offer apart from the competition.
  • For most gyms, this product could lie in their programming. Are you running great classes? Do the best trainers around run these classes? Those are also products that will set you apart and keep clients coming back for more. Maybe your competitions and contests are the products that draw athletes into your door.

Whatever it is, own that product, program or service and work tirelessly to make it the best!

Following this list of five great customer retention strategies and customizing them to the industry and your facility will help you to keep clients active and engaged, but it is only a starting point. As gym owners you will always face the struggles of retaining clients because of lifestyle choices, workloads, family obligations and more. Keeping your facility in their minds with great social media and email communication, incentives and contests can go a long way to battling the elements and keeping them walking through the door.

Get Free Gym Marketing Tools on the Cybex Digital Marketing Suite