New Member Onboarding: Is Your Fitness Business Doing It Right?
An abundance of research points to the value of member retention. One especially compelling data point shared by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company is that increasing member retention rates by as little as five percent can increase profits by as much as 95 percent. Research further suggests that member retention starts early. In fact, the first four weeks in the membership lifecycle just may be the most important ones.
This begs the question: how can you increase your member retention rates? Enter member onboarding. Here’s a closer look at what it is, why it matters, and what strategies you can use for optimizing your fitness business efforts.
What Is Member Onboarding?
The term “onboarding” is usually used in the context of employees. Explains the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “Onboarding is the process through which organizations equip new employees with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at their jobs. Unlike new employee orientation, which is usually an isolated, single-day event, onboarding is a process that should start with the first contact an organization has with a new hire and continue through their first year on the job.”
As it turns out, onboarding also has applications for members, with significant benefits to fitness businesses. According to Gold’s Gym managing partner Don Murphy, the focus of onboarding within the context of your fitness business comes down to one key question: “How are you delivering the valuable programs and amenities to your brand new people in a way that they are inspired, they are educated, and they are empowered to make their own decisions?”
Why Member Onboarding Matters
A well-executed onboarding strategy can lead to many positive outcomes, including the following:
- Delivering instant value to your new members
- Creating an engaging community environment
- Demonstrating to members how to hold themselves accountable
- Tracking member engagement
All of these things not only support the immediate member experience but also support their health and wellness goals toward mutually beneficial outcomes.
Member Onboarding Strategies
Clubs enroll new members every day. While some of them may be at home in your gym from the get-go, others are outside their comfort zones. High interest levels combined with low confidence levels can be an obstacle or an opportunity for fitness businesses. These initiatives can help your business fall into the latter camp.
- Host group orientations
One way to help people feel connected to your gym is to help them build connections with each other. Hosting brief group orientations is a simple yet significant way to build community and engagement. This can also open the door to personal training sessions and the revenue they generate.
- Reach out
Not all new members will take advantage of the complimentary orientation. Again, this is an opportunity to bridge the gap between new members and their fitness goals, and doing so can be as simple as a phone call. If a new member has not yet attended a group orientation, consider reaching out with a welcoming phone call to signify your interest while simultaneously getting a better sense of their needs, wants, and goals. This is also a good time to share information about other products or services which might be of interest to them such as group classes or wearable technology.
- Offer new member incentives
Another way to help new members overcome any impediments to getting in and working out is to implement an incentives program. In ClubSolutions, Power Systems Education and Trade Show Coordinator Elisabeth Fouts recommends using a passport-style punch card program featuring assignments for new members to fulfill, such as attending a cycling class or having a fitness assessment with a personal trainer. Inviting new members to bring a friend, meanwhile, can further boost accountability.
- Educate your staff
Even the most comprehensive member onboarding initiatives will fail without an all-hands-on-deck approach. Explained Newton Athletic Club director of people and fitness operations Kate Golden: “For us, member integration is a team effort from sales to member experience to fitness to our youth program team — we all play an integral role to make sure the member is successful.”
One last thing to keep in mind about member onboarding? While member retention may be the goal, it’s also helpful to focus on how it aligns with your fitness business’s purpose. “It is about living out our mission to ‘make lives better’ and fulfilling the promise we give members when they join our club,” continued Golden.
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