Successful gyms are built on member retention. Your ability to keep your members happy and engaged and their monthly payments flowing into your account will determine the health of your business. Gym loyalty programs are a great tool to help build member engagement and motivation. 

In this article, I’ll lay out everything you need to know to create a successful member loyalty program for your gym.

Here’s a quick overview of the topics we’ll cover:

  • What is a member loyalty program?
  • Planning your member loyalty program.
  • What your members expect.
  • What your business needs.
  • Research the competition.
  • Survey your members.
  • Follow the KISS principle.
  • Choose your rewards.
  • Get staff buy-in.
  • Have a launch party.
  • Have a referral rewards program
  • Joint loyalty programs
  • 3 more ways to build unbreakable loyalty

What is a Member Loyalty Program?

A gym loyalty program is a structured program to reward your members for choosing your gym as their fitness base. Members can be rewarded for one or more of the following variables:

  • Gym attendance
  • Class participation
  • Goal attainment
  • Habit attainment
  • Dollars spent at the gym store or cafe
  • Referrals
  • Introduction of a new member

One of the first business sectors to use loyalty programs was credit card companies. It was then picked up by retailers. Most of these plans provide spending rewards where you get a discount on future purchases when you spend a certain dollar amount. 

There is obviously a cost involved in establishing and maintaining a loyalty program. However, this investment is offset by the cost of acquiring new members. It costs five times more to replace a member than it would to retain that member with such initiatives as loyalty programs. As a result, the time, money, and energy that you put into building a robust member loyalty program will be well worth the effort.

Planning Your Member Loyalty Program

Before launching a member loyalty program you need to plan for its success. It needs to work for both your business and your members. Begin by thinking from the perspective of your members. Here’s what they want in a loyalty program …

  • An incentive that will motivate them
  • An easy way to track their progress
  • Achievable steps to attainment
  • Hassle-free and immediate goal reward redemption

What Your Members Expect

We’ve all seen those retailer loyalty rewards programs where you have to spend a thousand dollars just to get thirty bucks off your next purchase. For most people that seems unattainable and is actually demotivating. 

So the first thing you need to do is to make the reward commensurate with the effort. A couple of examples of successful rewards I’ve used in the past are a free protein shake after you’ve bought nine and a complimentary personal trainer session for reaching a predetermined fitness goal. 

Members need to be able to easily track their progress toward the reward. If they can’t they will soon lose interest. The old-fashioned way to do this was with a punch card. My wife has loyalty cards from a handful of cafes around our town. Each time she buys a coffee, her card gets stamped and, depending on the cafe, she’ll get a free coffee after so many purchases. 

A punch card system still makes sense for things like protein shake and fitness store purchases.

 Using an automated system, though, makes more sense for programs that are built around attendance and class participation. These types of rewards will be based on a points system. Ideally, the points accumulation should be accumulated automatically on your computer system when the member scans their card. 

There is some excellent member loyalty software that will put the recording process on automatic pilot for you. Make sure you choose one that provides a mobile application where members can check on their rewards accumulation at any time. 

When your member reaches their reward, it is imperative that it be delivered seamlessly and instantly. Imagine how you’d feel if you’ve been working for a free gym t-shirt for the past month. But then, when you finally attain it, you’re told that they’re out of stock and won’t be available for another three weeks. 

To avoid situations like that, you need to plan to make sure that the reward is going to be available when the member attains the points necessary to win it. 

What Your Business Needs

I’ve already pointed out that spending money on a gym loyalty program will quickly pay for itself in terms of improving your member retention figures. But you still need to ensure that the program is going to work in terms of dollars and cents. 

It can be tempting to make the reward offer as generous as possible for your members. For example, getting a free protein shake after every 5th purchase is a lot more inviting than getting it after every 10th shake. But the difference between the two is quite significant in terms of your bottom line. 

Let’s say that you’ve got 75 members who train six days a week and get a protein shake at the end of their workout. With a buy five, get one free program, they are going to get one free shake per week. If a shake costs $6, that’s $450 per week that you’re missing out on. Yet, when you cut it back to a free shake after every 10th purchase, which is pretty standard for drink rewards, you’ll only be losing $225 per week. That’s a saving of $11,700 over the course of a year. 

When it comes to the timeline for a points system during which rewards are accumulated, 12 weeks seems to work well. Anything more than that and the goal tends to appear too far away to be motivating. If the timeline is too short, you may find the costs to run the program getting out of hand. 

Part of ensuring that the member loyalty program is working for the business is to track its progress. You should keep figures on what the program is costing and how the program has impacted your retention rate and your membership base. If you aren’t getting the results you want, be prepared to make adjustments. 

Research the Competition

Before launching a loyalty program, you should take the time to research what other gyms are doing. As well as checking out local competing gyms, you should go online to the websites of some of the big players in the industry.

Gold’s Gym runs a successful points based program that they call Perkville. Every time you have a workout you earn five points. If you introduce a new member you get a thousand points. Accumulated points can be redeemed for Gold’s Gym merchandise. Members have 24/7 access to their rewards total on the Gold’s Gym app.

The thing I like about this program is that it includes a range of ways to accumulate points, is simple and completely transparent for members. 

Survey Your Members

The best way to know what will incentivize and engage your members is to ask them. Send out an email survey to all of your members telling them that you would love to introduce a program to reward them for their loyalty to your business. Rather than asking them what they want as a reward (most people want a whole lot for very little), provide them with options  that they can rank on a scale of 1-5 in terms of how inviting that reward would be to them. 

Use the results of the survey to select rewards that the majority of your members find realistic and motivating.

Follow the KISS Principle

The KISS principle is a basic maxim of business that reminds us to make the process as simple as possible. 

That’s another reason why I love the Gold Gym Perkville program. The member doesn’t have to do anything because the points accumulate automatically, He’s able to see them on the mobile app. When he comes in to redeem his rewards, the merchandise store operator will seamlessly adjust his points total and he’ll walk away with a bagful of free swag and a smile on his face!

Choosing Your Rewards

When it comes to selecting the rewards that you are offering to your members, think in terms of enhancing the gym experience. One way to do this is to reward the member with a service that they may not have previously been exposed to. 

For example, a reward of 5 free Pilates classes may introduce a member who usually confine herself to the cardio and free weights areas of the gym to a whole new training experience. Five classes is enough to whet her appetite and get her grounded in Pilates practice. Quite a number of those members will choose to carry on with these classes once they’ve used up their free pass. 

Other examples of enhanced member experience rewards are personal training sessions and health food bar items. 

Try to personalize the rewards that you offer to your members. Your tracking system should be able to track members’ behaviors while they are in the gym. Let’s say that a member purchases a protein bar after every single workout. You should build this into their rewards program so that their points can be utilized for that purpose. 

In addition to using member behavior data to direct the regards offered to them, you should also make personalized offers to members based on their behaviors. For example, you could offer the member mentioned above a free protein bar if he leaves a positive online review about the gym. 

By the way, don’t be shy about asking your members for online reviews. If you’ve been providing the level of service that you should, the majority of them will be more than happy to write a few glowing comments about their gym experience. Most people, though, won’t do it off their own bat – you need to ask them first. Offer them a freebie for their efforts, either announcing it beforehand or giving it to them after the fact as an unannounced gift (more on this later). 

Get Staff Buy-In

For a rewards program to be successful, you need all of your staff members to be invested in it. After all, they are going to interact with members more than you are. If they are enthusiastic about reminding members how their points are adding up, the enthusiasm will continue to roll over, creating positive feelings about the member’s relationship with the gym.

Imagine a member who has just had a workout and then grabs a protein drink. The person behind the counter can see on the screen how their rewards are tracking and says, “Don’t forget, Joe, next time your protein shake is on us”. 

That member is going to walk out of your gym, thinking good things about your business!

So, how do you get staff buy-in?

The first way is to involve your staff in the development of the program. Get their ideas and input, not only into what they think the members will be most enthused by, but also how the program can be as seamless as possible for them. If your staff can see that you have worked to create a system that involves minimal work on their part, they will be more likely to buy into it.

Another way to get staff buy-in is to run a parallel rewards program for them. You can be as creative as you like as to the specifics of how this will work. In my gym I had about 30 percent of my members who were working personal trainers. I set up a rewards program based around lowering body fat percentage. For every percentage point lost, the ,member earned a hundred points. This equated to $20 worth of gear at the gym’s fitness and supplement store. 

At the same time, every time a personal trainer had a client drop theri body fat percentage by a point, they would personally eran $10 worth of gear. That was enough for the trainers to become enthusiastic ambassadors of the program. 

Have a Launch Party

Create a big deal out of the launch of your member loyalty program. I recommend having a Friday night launch party, complete with music, a DJ, and cake. Do lots of advertising on social media, through your email newsletter, and with posters on the gym walls. 

Offer every member who comes to the launch party, a kickstart to their points. Invite them to bring a friend or family member to earn even more bonus points. Then, at the end of the evening, have a prize draw where you give away an extra hundred rewards points. 

Have a Referral Rewards Program

A member referral program is a great way to grow your membership. It is something that I used several times per year, especially during the slower winter period, to boost membership. I would add a month to someone’s membership if they referred a friend or family member who joined for six months and three months’ free membership if the person joined for twelve months. 

You don’t have to offer extended membership to the referring member. Other options are to offer a dual incentive. For example, they could both be given a couple of complimentary personal trainer sessions. You could even knock a few dollars off the monthly membership of both people. 

Joint Loyalty Programs

You don’t have to keep your loyalty program in-house. Pairing with a complimentary business in your area can be very successful. One very successful program that I inaugurated was targeted toward new members. 

Generally, if a member can get to the gym a dozen times in the first month, you’ll keep them as a member long term. So, I teamed up with a local hairdresser that happened to be located in the same strip mall as my gym. New members would be rewarded with a $50 hair salon voucher if they clocked in twelve workouts over their first month of membership. I had to pay $20 to the salon each time, but the results in terms of member retention and engagement made that investment well worth it. 

As a cross-promotion, the hair salon had a loyalty program running where people would receive three free personal training classes after spending a certain amount of money at the salon. Both programs were promoted to my members and the client base of the salon. As well as retaining my new members, the venture brought in a number of new members. It was a huge win-win for both businesses!

3 More Ways To Build Unbreakable Loyalty

New Member Nurturing Program

Rather than just signing up new members and letting them loose on the gym floor, you need to stay as connected as you can to them. Every new member should receive a welcome letter that provides next steps for them.

Develop a new member nurturing program that is designed to incentivize, motivate and educate them so that they feel comfortable about coming and using the gym. This is a great time to introduce a loyalty program built around gym attendance. 

Your new member is developing gym attendance as a new habit. This is no easy task so all the help you can give him, the better. The research tells us that members who visit the gym at least 20 times in the first 60 days of their membership are likely to be long-term members. 

Taking the time to develop a new member onboarding program will go a long way toward helping those new members to become entrenched. 

Give New Members an Unannounced Gift

After a new member signs up, you should ask them to complete a survey. Have them rate the service they received against what they expected. This will have a two-fold purpose. 

Firstly, it will help you to refine your sales process. Secondly, your new member will feel like you are being listened to. Once they have completed the survey, acknowledge and thank them. And then surprise them with an unannounced bonus. It is important that they don’t know the bonus is coming, so don’t tell them beforehand ‘if you fill out this survey, you’ll get this …’ Simply ask them to fill out the survey. 

It will be a lot more meaningful if you present the new member with a gift that they aren’t expecting. 

Engaging Front Desk Staff

When a member comes through your door, they should be entering an oasis of friendliness in a  sea of indifference. Your front desk person should use the member’s name twice during that initial interaction. 

You should have a system in place whereby when a member scans their card upon entry, the front desk person sees their details on the computer screen. This should include notes that will allow the staff member to engage the member beyond ‘Hi, how’s it going?’ The screen should identify the member’s main training goal, name of kids and other details that permit personalization. 

If a gym member asks a question, make it a goal to provide them with a satisfying answer or solution as quickly as possible. Have processes in place so that members are not left hanging. If the query cannot be addressed immediately, have a system in place where members’ queries are logged on a computer database and a name and date assigned to it. The system should involve a follow-up each day to make sure that the people assigned did, indeed, follow up. 

Summary

A member loyalty program has the potential to keep your members enthused and motivated with the result that your attrition rate will be low and your engagement high. But it will only realize those goals if the program you develop meets the following member expectations:

  • An incentive that will motivate them
  • An easy way to track their progress
  • Achievable steps to attainment
  • Hassle-free and immediate goal reward redemption

At the same time, the program must work for you in terms of ease of implementation and cost/ benefit ratio. In this article, I’ve laid out how to develop a program that meets all of these parameters. All you’ve got to do now is put it into action – your members will be happy that you did!

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