Why retention is just as important as sales this New Year

Sales, sales, sales

After the hush of December comes the rush in the New Year. Sites plan, prepare, promote, sell, chase, prospect, sell again in the hope of smashing that elusive sales target. But is your attention too focused on the conveyor belt of new sales rather than looking after those new and existing members who’ve been with you through the chocolate-enticing, turkey-filled December?

Does your New Year promotion brief mention retaining these new customers? A member’s lifetime value is heavily affected by their experience during the first month after joining. And that starts on their very first visit to have a look around. This is a great opportunity to show the customer how you will support them on their quest to achievetheir health and fitness goals. Member testimonial displays and ‘meet the staff’ boards will give them confidence that your club really can make a difference.

So what happens next? A compulsory group induction for health and safety reasons or a 1-to-1 personalised appointment asking the right lifestyle questions to uncover their likes, dislikes, exercise history, barriers, exercise habits, reasons and goals. You decide which sounds more enticing!  Remind your fitness team that goal setting is more than accepting ‘get fit’ or ‘lose weight’ as a goal, and that SMART goals are the way forward. Take some measurements,  where appropriate, to define a starting point and set clear, achievable and enjoyable objectives.  All customers should be then be booked a second appointment to start their member journey and receive their personalised exercise programme. A welcome letter, guest passes for friends, advice on other facility activities all help to make that welcome a little more special.

But what if the customer throws in the towel before even starting and doesn’t come back for that second appointment? Having a customer contact strategy that identifies these customers and does something about it is essential. Regular contact with members is not a bad thing (despite rumours of waking sleeping members). Yes, we wouldn’t want to particularly contact a customer we haven’t seen in 6 months but why have we left it so long anyway? Identifying your ‘at-risk’ customers on a daily or weekly basis will help lower your cancellation rate if you contact them to get them re-started.

And for those customers making the repeat visits let’s not forget how important interactions are – not just with the fitness team but with all members of staff they come into contact with. A fantastic interaction is one that causes the customer to make another visit within 7 days, ideally using a fitness challenge to encourage them to do so. There are many excuses for interacting with customers; gym challenges, referral incentives, re-programme opportunity, technique correction, spotting, new exercises, class suggestion, new member introduction. Your fitness team should have a bank of these tools so they can never say they don’t know how to approach a member.

So finally, let’s not just concentrate on the gym. How are you looking after your class members and swimmers? The industry knows that encouraging visits in the early weeks of membership delivers longer length of stay, so how are you incentivising these groups to come back? Suggesting which classes best suit the individual and then booking their first 2 or 3 might encourage a few more visits than they had planned that week. Offer your swimmers a swim clinic drop-in session where they can get advice on technique or a personal programme setting. Set challenges that reward on attendance and get all your staff promoting length of stay and not just the initial sale.

January is a great month for new sales and February is just as good, so don’t miss the opportunity to keep these new members longer than last year. Would you rather have 100 new sales who stay a couple of months or 100 new sales who are still with you in 2016? Look after your existing members, motivate your new customers to keep up the new regime and identify those who are most at-risk of dropping off. Good luck.

JL