//Member Retention: Start Here

Member Retention: Start Here

2019-02-06T19:25:48-05:00 February 6th, 2019|Gym Owner|0 Comments

“I want more leads,” most gym owners say. 

More leads, no more problems, right?

Not quite. 

That’s like saying you want to go on more dates, because you’ll finally be able to meet the man or woman of your dreams.

That doesn’t make a lot of sense.


For one, there are a lot of “poor quality leads” out there, and secondly, who ever said you had what it took to land the person of your dreams, anyway? 

Harsh, I know.

Because once you get those leads and verify they’re a good fit for your gym, what are you doing to convert them, then keep them? 

If you ignore them once you’ve gotten what you want out of them, this is certainly no way to develop a long-term relationship. 

In business, we talk about nurturing leads, but we tend to forget about nurturing existing members. Also known as retention, this is important to not only getting someone to sign up for a membership but to also keep coming back, month in, month out (year in, year out). 

That said, where do you start? Anyone can Google “best retention strategies for a gym,” but what should you focus on, as to not get overwhelmed?

Think of your retention program like building a house.

Before worrying about what kind of lighting you’re going to install in the entrance-way, you need to get the actual foundation built, right? 

Similarly, don’t get caught up in fancy retention strategies if your fundamental product could use some work. 

Look familiar? These are all the services that your business “can’t live without.”

That being said, there is one major piece to retention that I don’t cover below. It’s so important, and it’s what ties everything together: find someone who truly cares about people.

You know that feeling when two different people in your life say the exact same thing, but you only hear it when that one person says it?

Ever stopped to wonder why? It’s most likely because you know that person really cares about you.

It’s the same thing with retention. You can have retention strategies in place that either make people feel loved or make people feel like they’re a part of a math formula.

The discerning factor is the person you put in place to carry out these strategies.

Find the person in your gym, whether it’s currently you or someone else, who cares the MOST about people.

Now, let’s get to building the house. For ease, I’ll break our retention process down into three layers: 101, 201, and 301. 

Retention 101: Your Core Product

You know what your members come to your gym for every single day?

Your awesome product. 

Your product, if done right and delivered consistently, will keep your members around. After all, this is why they joined–for the product and ultimately the results.

That said, let’s break down what your product is. 

Is it your brand new ski ergs and air runners? 

Is it the whey protein you sell up front? 


These aren’t the reasons why people sign up or why they stay. 

People sign up for a membership at your gym for the programming and the coaching, the two things they can tie to that thing they came here originally looking for: results

Results: PRs all day, everyday

It just makes logical sense that if you can continue to provide coaching and programming that is good and reliable (read: delivered in the same awesome way, every single day), they will keep coming back for more. 

What is it called when a customer comes back, again and again?


Once you understand what your core product is, develop the systems needed to ensure you can provide it well and consistently. 

Here are some examples:

  • Keep your gym looking good by hiring a cleaner. 
  • Make sure your coaches are providing the best coaching by having a staff handbook and a coaches development program. 
  • Figure out what your members want by having regular member surveys.
  • Outsource your programming if you think someone else can do it better.

Lastly, and I say this as much for myself as I do others, don’t get distracted by shiny objects. The simple stuff works best. If this game was all about the latest, hottest trends/tactics/services, I would have lost interest a long time ago. 

Get back to basics before you worry about anything else. 

Retention 201: Active Retention Program

That being said, even when we dial in our coaching standards and the programming, we still see people fall by the wayside. 

“Why?” we wonder. “Did I do something wrong??” 

Teddy bears are also proven to help.

Seeing people leave can be frustrating and can feel pretty arbitrary sometimes, but there are things we can do to alleviate some of the inexplicable attrition.

In order to implement a retention program, we need to understand the typical life cycle of any given CrossFit member, particularly those who are new to CrossFit. 

The first few months (generally up to six months), these new members are making PRs left and right.

We know better than to let this make us feel like bad ass gym owners because this happens to everyone. When new members come into our gym after not working out or not following a well-rounded work out program, CrossFit, done right, is going to be very effective at helping them see immediate results in both their strength and conditioning. 

Then what happens?

We hold our breath, as we await the inevitable drop off in PRs. We cross our fingers as we see our new member hit his first plateau, and he asks himself, “That’s it?” 

The first two months is a very critical period for any new member.

The experience members have during this time can make or break them. They will either fall out of infatuation with CrossFit and your gym, or their infatuation will slowly transform into a more steady, level-headed love. 

So how do you ensure a member has such a great experience in the first two months, they ultimately become a lifelong member? 

You take special care and attention to nurture them during this time. 

Skills session on blowing bubbles.

Our process is modeled off the one we learned at an Affiliate Solution seminar last year. We touch base with all new members at important intervals: two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, six months, and every six months afterward. 

We call or talk to new members at each point, addressing any potential issues off the bat (soreness, confusing movements, getting involved in the community, and other limitations), and we also use this opportunity to celebrate the small (or big) victories new members are seeing. 

At six weeks, we sit down with a new member to do a goal-setting session that will carry them to the six-month point. We repeat goal-setting sessions every six months, finding new, attainable goals for members to strive for. 

At-Risk Members

In addition to taking care of our new members, we keep an eye out for members who haven’t been at the gym recently. For members who have been out of the gym for a week (or longer), we check in with them, doing what we can to get them back in the mix. 

There’s probably a reason they’ve been out of the gym, and it’s one that may concern you. They may be losing motivation, they might be dealing with an injury, or something else. 

You’ll find that by heading off these potential issues with your new members, you are addressing doubts you didn’t realize they had. By understanding most everyone has the same initial highs and lows when they first start, you can catch your members before you lose them completely. 

Retention 301: When It Runs Without You

Once your coaching and programming are blowing away all your members and you are (or your retention person is) taking the time to tend to your members individually, it’s time to rely on others in your community to help do some of the legwork for you. 

As awesome as you may be, you can’t be everything to everyone.

The sooner you embrace this truth, the sooner you’ll reach out to others for their strengths and other traits they have that are different from yours. 

Your coaches and community, as a whole, are much more effective at retaining your members than you are.

As your coaches get more experienced, find ways for them to contribute more to the gym and be a community leader outside of the 60 minutes of class they coach.

Whether they run an event or a program at your gym, these separate opportunities allow your coaches to establish themselves as leaders in your gym. Different leaders attract different followers, and you want a diverse staff of coaches to be able to help retain all your members.

In and Out of the Gym

Hopefully you’ve already implemented a few social events outside the gym to give your community fun things to do. Whether it’s a day hike, holiday BBQ, or something else, all these events will encourage retention to happen without you. If a member has seven of her best friends she gets to see at the gym every day, she has more than seven reasons she doesn’t want to ever leave. 

Planning social events for your gym will give your community the opportunity to connect with each other outside of the gym in a way that will be much more meaningful and permanent for them. 

Once you’ve got the basics figured out, rely on your community, coaches included, to do the retention for you.

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You'll always be the first to get any new tips or offers we have at Almost Elite! I send out new articles weekly-ish. I'll share with you the journey we've been on and how we got to where we are today.

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I run CrossFit Lobo with my boyfriend Lee in San Antonio, TX. Writing about my journey as a gym owner and entrepreneur helps me to: appreciate where I am today, gain objectivity on my past experience and future decisions, and hopefully provide others with some perspective.

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