Most fitness facility managers and gym owners look forward to the annual rush at new year of new gym members. What they might not be looking forward to is the wave of disappointment coming from new gym members who didn't achieve their goals within their own personally defined timeline, and therefore give up before the year has truly begun.
In this article, we aim to guide you towards successful practices that will help you support new gym members and keep them motivated and engaged beyond February.
Give New Gym Members the Right Programme
It might seem to be a basic point to start off with but it's a crucial one to get right. You should have an induction in place for anyone who joins your facility as a new member for health and safety purposes. You may even use this initial "welcoming" or "onboarding" phase to guide your new members through the facilities.
A perfect welcome for any new member will include the standard induction, some kind of tour around the facilities so they know where to go and a discussion on a personalised training programme. Setting up a 6-week plan as standard with any new customer will give them a focus for these coming weeks, and will give you a good reason to check in with them to see how they are getting on.
A new member in the gym without a plan, a timeline for their goal or someone to hold them accountable is much more likely to cancel their membership than someone who’s been given the appropriate encouragement and guidance.
Part of the new induction process can also give you the opportunity to assign a member of staff to each member. That way they have a familiar face they can approach when they have workout questions, and your staff know which members need checking up on from their team, ensuring no member gets left behind. Choose this pairing wisely based on who is most likely to be on shift at the times this member plans to visit.
Realistic Goal Setting Is Key for New Gym Members
There is no surer way to lose someone's trust as a business than to over promise and under deliver. New year's resolution members come to the gym with an aim, and sometimes this can be a long way from reality. It is the job of you and your staff to strategically analyse their goal and consider whether this is realistic or not.
Letting a member get on with their training while expecting unrealistic results within their first six weeks is a definite way to ensure a disappointed member leaves your gym. What's worse - if they blame their failure on you, they may prevent other potential members from coming to you as you did not fulfil this member's expectations.
During your first meeting, have them explain their goal (and if possible the reasons behind it) and work with them to create a realistic programme to achieve this within their means. If their goal is too ambitious or seems to have the wrong focus, discuss this with them, and always explain why. Nobody wants to be told what to do without understanding the reason behind it.
So when you have your initial induction with your member, don't only set up a workout programme for them; explain everything they might want to know about the programme. Why are they walking on an incline intermittently instead of steadily jogging? What is the benefit of kettlebell swings if they want to increase their running speed?
Explaining the method behind their programme will help them understand why it is important that they stick to what they’ve been given and will also make them see that they are responsible for their own success.
Read our article about SMART goals to learn more about the art of setting the right goals.
A large part of keeping new gym members comes down to the interactions they have with your staff every time they come to the gym. It is important to make sure your staff have meaningful interactions with the members.
By meaningful interactions, we mean that the members are approached with a purpose suitable to that particular member. Every member of your fitness team should be speaking to members on a daily basis, whether this is focused on fitness or not.
Meaningful interactions will give the staff the chance to build a relationship with the member and gauge any potential issues that could impact their fitness motivation or the source for their newly found interest in fitness.
These insights and a stronger bond between new gym members and staff will not only improve the member's experience while on-site, but it will allow the gym staff to foresee any potential clues that could lead to the member quitting the gym and take steps to avoid this.
This information could be shared with other fitness staff on the facility to make sure staff are aware of any issues the member is having, allowing them to support the member while their assigned fitness staff is not available. This will also help increase the sense of community within the gym, a point we touched on in our post How to prepare your gym for the January Rush.
A helpful tool for your team members could be to create a colour coding system once you have divided the members up amongst your staff. Members categorised under red are in danger of leaving, orange members require more interactions but are not fully in the danger zone, and green members come in regularly and are in no danger of leaving anytime soon. This can be based on whatever criteria you feel are most appropriate but common ones chosen include frequency of visits and responses to any feedback requests.
Creating groups like this will allow your team to focus their energy exactly where required and give the members the amount of attention they require to continue training with you.
Creating the Right Habits
Psychologists are still a little divided on exactly how long it takes to create a new habit, but it is safe to say that within 21 days you have a good chance of instilling a rhythm into your new member's daily lives. It is vital to make your new members aware that attending regularly (recommended 3-4 times a week, but this is always tailored to each user) is the key to their success and achieving their goals.
If a member does not make a habit out of working on their goal and attending your facility to do so, the likelihood of cancellation vastly increases.
You could implement a reward programme for those attending at their recommended intervals to promote their sense of achievement when their first six weeks review comes up. This could include winning a prize, receiving a discount on a popular item, points reward systems every time they come in - the options are limitless.
A popular motivational tool to keep members returning is to get them training with an existing friend through referral systems.
The beauty of implementing referral campaigns is the win-win scenario. They receive a discount on their membership as does a close friend who motivates and trains with them - you receive an extra member and an increases chance of both of them staying with you for an extended period of time.
Running referral schemes will also increase the community feeling within the gym, as members are more likely to be relaxed when they come to train with someone they already know. In case you have a member who feels a little intimidated by other members or even the fitness staff who come and speak to them, having a friend by their side will increase their confidence and potentially make it easier to bond with staff and other members.
Always make sure you have a realistic insight on why members join your facility. In a way, they trust you to help them achieve their goals so you need to show them that you care about these as much as they do.
There will always be members that leave for reasons beyond your control, but hopefully keeping an eye on the points above will allow you to maximise on the January rush year upon year.