Why is member retention so important?

When you think about marketing your boutique studio, your focus immediately goes to attracting new members.

You want to get as many new members through the doors as you can. As you get more new members, your business can grow even more. But don’t forget that your success is also built on your existing members.

We’ve put together 8 comprehensive strategies to help you focus your membership retention efforts, each packed with tips and tactics you can put in place now.

1. Enhance your members’ in-person experience

The first step to a better retention strategy is to make sure that your members have a great time whenever they visit.

It sounds simple, and in many ways, it is. Most of your members don’t want anything complicated. They just want a simple, efficient, enjoyable way to workout. Make every visit a great one by focusing on the small details and little additions that can improve your members’ experience and put a smile on their faces.

Here are a few simple ways to improve your member’s training session:

  • Keep it clean: Make sure your cleaning procedures are thorough and effective, and show your members how much you care about outstanding hygiene in all areas.
  • Say hello: A little acknowledgement goes a long way. Your members will recognize that they’re valued and value that they’re recognized.
  • Ask about goals: Unrealistic goals see members struggle, and that often leads to cancellations. If your team can help members redefine their goals and see great results, they’re more likely to have a great experience and stick around.
  • Reward success: It might be attending 5 days in a row, or trying a new class for the first time. A well done—or a little reward like a free towel—can make a huge difference.

The more you can use technology to streamline processes and support your members’ workouts, the easier their visits will be. When a training session is easy and hassle-free, your members are far more likely to keep coming back. Bringing more technology into your equipment and into members’ training sessions will also enhance their experience—especially if it helps them reach their goals. If members can’t track their progress, they’re less likely to hold themselves accountable to their goals.

Finally, a member’s experience in your studio is only as good as the equipment they use. Broken machines are a top reason for members to report bad experiences. Be sure to check all your kit regularly, act fast when equipment breaks, and keep your members informed of repair progress.

2. Improve their online experience

When your members are training, they can see, feel and experience all the benefits that come from their membership. But when they’re at home, it’s easy to forget.

That’s why you should make it as easy as possible for your members to stay connected with you. The first place to start is your website, ask yourself:

  • Does it deliver a great user experience for your members? 
  • Is it easy to join and log on, find information and browse classes? 
  • Does your booking and management system link seamlessly with your website, so your members can access or amend all the details they want? 
  • Is it quick, simple and hassle-free to book classes online? 

Ask yourself the same questions—and go through the same processes—if your studio has an app too.

Even though the need to connect digitally has drastically dropped, your members may still want access to on-demand, online workouts and classes. Regardless of whether they are coming to your studio or joining virtually, use your tech to reach out to members when they’re away from the studio to stay connected:

  • Send SMS messages announcing new classes or equipment. Use email automation to guide members through all your locations.
  • Update website news sections to notify members of changes in opening times or anticipated disruption. 
  • Use push notifications, automated SMS and emails to share helpful knowledge, friendly nudges to visit and other content you think your members want to see.

3. Personalize interactions with members at every opportunity

  • Members want to interact; they want to feel valued and want to know you care about them and their business. In fact, according to data from IHRSA, 90% of fitness studio members love the greetings, suggestions and encouragement your team can give.
  • They don’t want to feel like just another number. They like and want that communication for a better experience. To do that well, you need to:
  • Train your team effectively: Even shy team members should be encouraged to talk with studio-goers and find out how their day has been, and 
  • Tailor your messages, goals and processes to individuals: Focus on joining & onboarding, goal setting, regular reminders, and support.
  • Celebrate personal milestones with your members: Reward members with a free coffee, free class, or free consultation for all sorts of milestones.
  • Take the time to talk to long-time members: It’s easy to take long-time members for granted. But these may be the group most at risk of leaving. 

4. Automate wherever you can to streamline operations

  • ‍Research from IHRSA shows that the more times a member hears from you, the more likely they are to visit—and the more likely they are to stay a member. But the challenge with personalization is that it can be time-consuming. Tailoring all your communications to each individual member could be a huge task… unless you automate it.
  • Automation can free up your team’s time to focus on other retention efforts. It can streamline your operations and save you money. Most importantly, it’s a highly effective way to give your members the seamless experience they want.
  • Which processes can you automate?
  • Onboarding email sequences: Set triggers for different goals, demographics and interests, and create email sequences that automatically share the most relevant information with new members. 
  • Class booking reminders: You can nudge them the day before and even an hour before their scheduled class, so they remember to attend or cancel.
  • Goal check-ins and reminders: Ask if they’re still working at their goals, see if they need any extra help and encourage them to record their progress.
  • Feedback and review requests: This will help you identify dissatisfied members who may need extra personal attention to encourage them to stick with you.
  • Using Mariana Tek Insights, you can see who’s lost motivation, who came to regular classes but has suddenly stopped, and who used to come twice a week but has only visited once in the last two months. Give them a nudge, tell them you’re thinking of them, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

5. Flex your memberships to meet your members’ needs

  • If your members think they’re paying too much or not getting enough value from their memberships, they’ll think about leaving. But sometimes it’s simply a case of repositioning and re-framing their membership with a little more flexibility. If your members say this, respond with that:
  • “My membership isn’t working for me” or “I don’t use my membership”
  • Give members the option to manage their own memberships using software like Mariana Tek. When members can change membership type, features and even the date which their Direct Debit goes out of their account, they have full flexibility and control to help them meet their needs.
  •  “I’m not going to be using the studio regularly” or “I’m only here for a little while”
  • Offer shorter membership options, like two weeks or one month. Short-term memberships are rising in popularity, and more often than not, if your member has a great experience, they’ll stick around well beyond their expiration date. “I don’t want to be tied to a long-term contract”
  • Provide monthly rolling contract options, like the on-demand streaming services many of your members are used to. Or let your members pay-as-they-use. Again, if they have a great experience, they’ll stay longer. “I’m not sure I can afford it right now”
  • If a member is struggling financially or has a change of circumstances, talk to them. Take a personal approach and see how you can help. Maybe a little discount could convince them to stay. Or perhaps they’ll want to just pause their membership temporarily, so you don’t lose them indefinitely.
  • Some members may not like paying the highest price for their membership, but still want all the features and access they get with that top membership tier. Create a ‘premium’ membership product, with additional features at a much higher cost. This will anchor the cost of your original memberships, and they’ll suddenly seem like great value for money.

6. Emphasize your value wherever you can

You provide huge value to your members, more than they probably realize. All the little ways you add help and support, and all the extra features members use every time they visit, tend to go unnoticed after a while.

You can demonstrate your value in multiple ways:

  • Demonstrate all your offerings to existing members: Point out a feature that everyone uses without realizing its value, or explain how a member could get more from your studio.
  • Use social media, email and blogs to deliver extra value: Share daily training tips, recommended workouts, healthy recipes of the week, breathing exercises to try every morning.
  • Promote the value of good health, fitness and wellbeing using internal channels: Show them the price of not having it. Prove that a studio membership has long-term value by sharing key messages about benefits of regular exercise, good health and wellbeing. 
  • Hold open weekends for friends and family: Sometimes you don’t even need to promote the value of your studio yourself. Your members can do that for you. 

7. Explore more ways to help your members’ wellbeing

The best way to add value to your memberships and retain more members, for longer, is by finding out what your members are looking for, and offering it to them. Sounds simple enough, right?

Studio members want more than just fitness services from their studios; they’re expecting a more holistic offering to improve their health and wellbeing.

How to deliver more wellbeing and wellness at your studio:

  • Promote healthy eating: Create recipes, share shopping lists, and partner with nutritionists to offer advice or diet plans to your members.
  • Offer new classes and workshops: Host meditation, breathing, or relaxation workshops that members can join between workouts for a proper cool down.
  • Partner with other local providers: Enlist in the expertise of massage therapists, physiotherapists, and sports medicine specialists in your community to enhance your members’ experience. 
  • If you can add value by including more of these services and supporting healthy lifestyles, your members will appreciate their membership even more. It’ll match their needs, and they’ll be far more likely to stick around. If they decide to leave, they won’t just lose access to your studio, they’ll lose all those extra wellbeing benefits too.

8. Build a sociable, connected community

It’s human nature to be sociable, to want to belong. Bring in more community activities and social events, and you will meet the demands of your members, giving them more and more reasons to stick around. Here’s how to create a more bonded, social experience:

  • Group exercise: Data from IHRSA shows that those who train in groups are 50% less likely to cancel their membership.
  • Fitness challenges: Hold regular challenges – like “most steps climbed” or “most calories burned in a week”. 
  • Support programs: Pair experienced members with newer ones, and you’ll help build a more social studio, keep both types of members engaged and happy, and increase your retention rates.
  • Social events: Whether it’s a regular natter after a class, or an evening soiree once every quarter, there’s loads of options to get members socializing away from weights, rowers and resistance bands.
  • Community areas: Even just a few chairs, a sofa and a table designated as a chatty table, a social area could make a great area that builds a community feel and which members value.

Wrapping Up

More experiences available + more value = more retention

If you want to retain more members, you can’t just focus on fitness related strategies and offers. Exploring one or two options won’t be enough either.

The more experiences you can offer, the more value your members get. And the more value your memberships have, the more likely your members are to stick with you. Simply put, with so much value and a great experience every visit, your members won’t be going anywhere.

When you offer everything, your members want and expect—all in one place—they won’t have any reason to quit. The secret is a holistic approach to retention, one that prioritizes the ecosystem of boutique fitness.

With Mariana Tek, seamlessly connect both in a great experience on and offline, and promote it to all your existing members.

Article by Xplor Mariana Tek

First published: February 13 2023

Last updated: July 18 2024