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Increase Fitness Member Engagement & Motivation All Year-Round

Fitness member engagement with your leisure facilities typically peaks in January.

Motivation to be active is highest at the start of the year. Research has shown that the second Friday of January is the day on which most people who’ve made fitness resolutions are most likely to give up – known as Quitter’s Day.

If you can help them form a fitness habit (and support them if that habit slips), you’ll increase engagement and motivation to stick with you in the long-term. Improving the health of your community, increasing retention, and boosting income for your leisure organisation.

How can you keep your members engaged and motivated beyond January? Firstly, start by considering exactly what it means to be engaged and motivated.

What is engagement?

Member engagement is the regular interactions you have with your members. It’s the process of creating, growing, and managing the relationships you have with each leisure centre member in exchange for meaningful benefits.

Essentially, it’s how your leisure organisation makes members feel. When a member feels valued and recognised, a sense of belonging will be created. They are engaged.

What is motivation?

Motivation is what inspires your members to sign up to use your leisure facilities in the first place. It’s desiring a change in one’s self, behaviour, thinking or something else. Tap into your member’s motivation to help them set achievable, meaningful goals. Goals that will drive members to keep coming back.

Make sure you help members understand what motivates them most to keep active. It will be different for everyone. Combine intrinsic and extrinsic motivation:

  • Intrinsic motivation is driven from within (e.g., working out to destress)
  • Extrinsic motivation is driven from outside factors (e.g., being told to lose weight)

Consider too how you can help members overcome common barriers to maintaining motivation. These typically fall into 2 types:

  1. Mental barriers – for example, getting bored of a routine, fear of looking out of place exercising, or getting frustrated at a lack of results
  2. Circumstantial barriers – for example, other responsibilities getting in the way, feeling too stressed, or being overweight so exercise is tough

How to increase paid fitness member engagement

Engage your paid/full members to keep them motivated for longer – reducing risk of attrition and cancellations. Here are some of the key areas you should focus on:

1. Creating a successful paid member onboarding journey

One size does not fit all with onboarding – keep in mind your organisation, membership types and why a member has joined. Build journeys around key moments – celebrate achievements and milestones to engage and encourage members on to make their next visit.

“The best method of fitness member engagement is a conversation, either face-to-face, or over the phone. However, with staff resource at a premium, messages (email & SMS) can help to shape the conversations of a member journey. Sometimes, for certain (low risk) members, they can replace interactions, or can be a prequel or follow-up to a face-to-face interaction or call.”Guy Griffiths, GGFit

Much of the leisure industry is facing staff shortages, which makes getting onboarding right more challenging. An effective digital journey will alleviate pressure on your team, so they can focus on members who need extra engagement and motivation.

The Ultimate Playbook for Onboarding Leisure Centre Members Effectively has email and text message templates you can send to your members at key points in their journey with you. Your leisure management software should make it easy to trigger these automatically.

2. Helping members set goals & review these regularly

Wanting to achieve personal goals is often what motivates new members to join your leisure facilities in the first place. Engage members to dig deeper into their reasons for joining.

During a new member’s onboarding journey, work with them to make sure goals are realistic and tap into both intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Use the SMART framework. Think lifestyle as well as results – run through ways to overcome motivational barriers that may occur.

Failure to see results and boredom with routines are typical reasons many members lose motivation. Think beyond onboarding and help members review and refresh their goals regularly to keep them engaged.

For those using the gym, you could offer a session with a personal trainer as part of a membership (for example, include a personal training session every 6 months) or offer this as a reward that’s paid for by your club. Highlight the retail value to encourage uptake and demonstrate how valuable the offer is.

3. Making your leisure facilities a community hub

Serving your community is central to why you exist, so it goes without saying that you should focus on building a welcoming community feel to help members overcome any intimidation they feel.

Research from Les Mills has found that members who attend 1 class a week are 20% more likely to be loyal members than those who workout in the gym 3 times a week. Encourage members to take part in your group fitness classes to help engage with other members of your community.

Furthermore, research conducted by Zumba found that Britons are more likely to be motivated to workout if doing so with a friend. And 38% are more likely to work harder at getting fit if they are not alone.

Tap into this by making it easy for members to bring a friend. During the onboarding process (and beyond), offer guest passes to members, when one is used give another as a thank you. Run a referral programme to incentivise bringing a friend who becomes a full member.

4. Asking for honest feedback

Members who feel heard will be more engaged and motivated to stay with you for longer. Regularly ask for feedback at key milestones in their journey with you and use this feedback to help address problems fast and make improvements.

Let members choose to tell you who they are when using anonymous surveys. Anonymous surveys can improve response rates, but on some occasions it’s helpful to know who has given feedback so you can respond appropriately (and directly if needed).

It’s also important to get feedback from those who aren’t visiting regularly to offer support if needed. You may want to consider a phone call at this stage too. Record feedback from calls in the same place as surveys, so your data is together.

Thank your members for their feedback – in writing and in conversations. Publish feedback in a ‘you said/we did’ format to show you are listening and acting on feedback – this will encourage more in the future.

“Lots of operators don’t ask for feedback because they fear negative comments, but this is not a good strategy. It’s better to ask and therefore get those negative comments through your official channels, otherwise they may appear on online forums where you have less control or may not even be listening. Also, by asking, you’ll get lots more positive feedback that you can share with your team and with other members and prospects.” – Guy Griffiths, GGFit

How to engage casual PAYG members

Engaging and keeping casual pay-as-you-go (PAYG) members is also vital. These members make up a big portion of your customer base so getting them to visit more often can have a big impact on the performance of your leisure organisation.

“A big proportion of visitors to many facilities – particularly public health clubs – are casual or pay-as-you-go members. Often, they’re not treated as members, or at the very least, they are just encouraged to ‘save money’ and buy a membership. Casual members can bring in just as much revenue as ‘full’ paid members, and if you treat them accordingly, they can be just as valuable.” – Guy Griffiths, GGFit

Treat casual members like you would a paid one – many of the fitness member engagement strategies we’ve already ran through apply. Plus, focus on:

1. Encouraging that next visit & rewarding regulars

This should start with onboarding (the Ultimate Playbook for Onboarding Leisure Centre Members Effectively has message templates you can use). The more frequently a PAYG member visits, the more likely they’ll be engaged and motivated to keep coming back.

Ask if they’d like to re-book the same session for the following week and if they don’t rebook upsell other services and showcase similar activities. When they become a regular visitor celebrate milestones, like 10 and 50 visits, and offer rewards like a voucher for a coffee or guest pass to show your appreciation.

Think about other ways to reward PAYG members who become regulars – birthdays, trying out new activities – think about the pathways for progression.

2. Showcasing your app

Your mobile app should be for PAYG members too. Explain the benefits – getting the latest news from your leisure centre, easy access to book classes & other activities, on-demand content and more – to encourage them to download it.

If paid members get the option of booking in advance, consider giving PAYG members a perk like an extra day to book ahead if they use the app.

Having an app on their phone can help members keep engaged with your brand top of mind.

3. Keeping in touch with occasional members

Remind those PAYG members who’ve not visited in the last 30, 60, or 90 days that you’ve not seen them in a while can help re-engage and motivate them to visit.

Encourage them back in but be cautious. They may have visited your centre under another booking (through a friend or partner for example) or for another reason (swim school for example) but not checked in using their own membership.

“If you send a newsletter to your regular (full) members, consider sending the same, or a tailored, version to your casual members. Congratulate members who’ve made milestone visits, include details of events and challenges that casual members can join, and mention the more popular activities or services that casual members are progressing or upgrading to.” Guy Griffiths, GGFit

Keep leisure members engaged and motivated to stick with you

These are just some of the ways you can keep your members engaged and motivated to keep active with you throughout the year.

Put in place the best practices explained in our Onboarding Leisure Centre Members Effectively playbook and engage paid and PAYG members for the start of their journey with you.

We’ve worked closely with retention experts like Guy Griffiths, to give you a complete toolkit to design and create your ideal onboarding processes for new members. So, your team can focus on motivating new members long beyond the January rush! Download your free playbook