Membership Renewal Strategies: Keep Your Gym Clients Committed Year after Year

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Membership Renewal Strategies: Keep Your Gym Clients Committed Year after Year

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The fitness industry experienced a shift after Covid that many studios are still feeling. Memberships, which were once ubiquitous in the gym model, suddenly became much more challenging to sell and nearly impossible to enforce. Studios (mine included) that had once enjoyed easy annual membership sales were now struggling to convince clients who had held onto memberships they couldn't use during shutdowns. Even now, a few years out from the Covid pandemic, clients are still weary about contracts, so what do you do? 

As a fitness studio owner, you know your clients are at the heart of your business- keeping them engaged and committed is central to your success. One of the most critical aspects of client retention is ensuring that they enthusiastically return and renew, but what if everyone is suddenly commitment-phobic? Here are some effective strategies to help you boost membership renewal rates and keep your clients committed to their fitness journey.

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  1. Meet your clients where they are. When I presented at IHRSA, one of the speakers said, "Dare to stand behind your month-to-month memberships," and I wholeheartedly agree. As a coach, I don't encourage one membership style for all studios. Instead, sell what your clients are willing to buy. If your intro-to-membership conversion rate is below ten percent and your sales process has become a battle, decrease your terms and focus on membership retention rather than on trying to sell long-term memberships that no one wants to buy. It's a different way of looking at the same problem- you want more members to stay. Encourage them to hold onto their memberships with perks, community, and supportive culture rather than by being stuck in a membership they can't cancel. 
  2. Offer Incentives for Early Renewal: Encourage your clients to renew their memberships early by offering them incentives such as discounted rates or freebies. Incentives motivate members to renew with a sense of urgency (one of the most effective levers) and also show your appreciation for their loyalty. If your members aren't motivated by discounts, think of a bonus they would be interested in, such as a free personal training session, nutrition consultation, or goal-setting session. 
  3. Provide Value-Added Services: Value-adds are similar to the bonuses listed above, but these are experienced throughout the membership, not just at renewal. You can enhance the perceived value of your memberships by offering additional complementary services such as personalized workout plans, nutrition consultations, workshops, or whatever your clients are interested in. Renewing their membership is an even more attractive proposition for your clients if they receive multiple services at your studio. It's much harder to replace all the offerings they enjoy at your studio, so it's less likely that they'll terminate their membership when schedules get busy or money gets tight. 
  4. Create a Sense of Community: The most essential tool you have in your toolbox is community. Studies show that people are less likely to leave if they make seven connections. Actively foster a sense of belonging among your clients by creating a solid community within your studio. Organize social events, fitness challenges, and a social environment where clients feel like they know each other to help them connect with their peers and feel more invested in their membership.
  5. Offer Flexible Membership Options: Give your clients the flexibility to choose from a variety of membership options based on their needs and preferences. Whether it's a monthly, quarterly, or annual membership, providing options can make it easier for them to commit to renewing. That doesn't mean you should have all the options on your website where clients can get easily overwhelmed. Instead, provide enough information for clients to see some popular options and chat with prospective members one-on-one to help clients pick a membership that fits their lifestyle long-term. 
  6. Provide Excellent Customer Service: This likely doesn't need to be said, but your best retention strategy is member experience. Your goal is to ensure that your clients have a positive experience every time they visit your studio. From friendly staff to clean facilities, providing excellent customer service can go a long way in encouraging them to renew their memberships. You should still be firm on your policies; friendly and passive are not synonyms. 
  7. Communicate Regularly: Stay in touch with your clients through regular communication channels such as email, social media, or targeted newsletters. Keep them informed about upcoming events, new classes, and special offers. To make them want to read and follow, pack your newsletters with value, track their milestone progress or class club status, and make sure someone (it doesn't have to be you!) is answering return emails to keep them engaged and interested in renewing.
  8. Collect Feedback and Implement Changes: The time to learn about problems is before members cancel, not after. Listen to your client's feedback and make improvements based on their suggestions. This shows that you value their input and are committed to providing them with the best possible experience, which can increase their likelihood of renewing their membership. If you're not sure what they're looking for or want to see more of, ask them! Members love to feel like their feedback matters, so consider a quarterly survey to check the pulse of your members' happiness at your studio. 
  9. Celebrate Milestones: As a coach, one of the most effective ways I see studios keep their clients year after year is by recognizing and celebrating your clients' fitness achievements and milestones. Whether it's a personal best in a workout, reaching a weight loss goal, or signing the 100-class club wall, acknowledging their accomplishments strengthens their commitment to their fitness journey and increases their "stickiness" in your studio. 

Harvard Business says it's 5-25x cheaper to keep a member than to find a new one, so focus on your retention strategies first to increase membership renewal rates and keep your clients committed to their fitness goals. 

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About the author:

Niki Riga
Industry Expert
Limitless Studio

Niki has been a client, a studio owner, and a coach in boutique fitness for over a decade, and she can’t think of an industry she'd rather be in. Her favorite part about coaching and studio ownership are the same: she loves supporting clients as they push past their limits and achieve their goals. Niki became a coach because she was regularly asked, “how did you do that!?” by other studio owners who were drowning in the day-to-day responsibilities of business ownership but didn’t have the support to grow their studio to its potential. She created Limitless Studio to partner with owners who have a vision for their business and are ready to implement systems to build the studio of their dreams.