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Measuring The Success Of New Member Onboarding

First impressions count when welcoming new paid and pay-as-you-go members to your leisure facilities. Journeys will differ. Yet, there are common ways to measure how successful your new leisure member journey is.

The second Xplor Loyalty Mindset live panel session took place on Tuesday 28 March 2023. We were joined by fitness industry experts to discuss how leisure organisations can measure the success of new member onboarding journeys. You can watch the panel here.

In this article we’ll share the key takeaways from our expert panellists on what makes a successful leisure member onboarding process. And simple ways to start measuring the success of your onboarding journeys.

Meet our expert panel

This panel was expertly hosted by Guy Griffiths – Fitness Industry Revolution Consultant & Founder of GGFit. Guy is a leading authority on member retention on a mission to help more people to be healthier and happier by spreading the word on member retention tactics that work.

Guy was joined by 5 fantastic panellists who represent a wide cross-section of the industry:

  • Lee WoodCommercial Director (Deputy CEO) at Active Tameside – From owning and managing gyms to moving into multi-site leisure centre management, Lee has 18 years of experience in the fitness and leisure industry. Active Tameside runs 12 leisure centres across the Tameside region.
  • Julie Allen Business Development Director at Leisure-net Solutions – Julie has built an impressive career in the active leisure industry over the past 18 years. She is passionate about creating engaging, memorable member experiences that lead to happier, healthier lives.
  • Amy Ritson – Partnerships Manager at Independent Gyms UK & Ireland Amy is a former gym owner who has held various roles at several big chain operators including Fitness First and Cannons (now Nuffield Health). Amy is now a part of the Independent Gyms UK & Ireland team – the national membership platform for independent fitness facilities.
  • Kave SedaghatOwner of Fit Nation Global Gym & elite online coach – Kave founded Fit Nation in 2013 and has grown the business to become one of the leading independent gyms in the UK. Kave also runs a successful online coaching business.
  • Will CheeldKey Account Manager at Xplor – Driven by the mantra, ‘who cares wins’, Will has a passion for delivery of first-rate people engagement. He’s worked within the fitness & wellbeing industry for 25 years. Will spent most of his career working within leisure operators, before moving to support operators as a supplier.

Best practice tips for new leisure member journeys

A successful new leisure member onboarding process will:

  • Help your members set goals that are realistic and achievable
  • Make use of segmentation to send the most relevant communications for each member
  • Routinely request feedback and referrals
  • Help provide members with education on basic health and fitness topics
  • Welcome new members into an inclusive, community friendly environment
  • Offer follow up sessions and programme refreshes at the right times

Beyond these simple factors, our expert panellists shared top tips for creating successful new leisure member onboarding journeys. A common theme was adding a personal touch. Exactly how this is achieved will be different for larger, multi-site operators.

“One size doesn’t fit all.” – Julie Allen

Leisure organisations often offer many types of membership to serve diverse groups. Plus, its common to run multiple sites and welcome large volumes of new members. When any of these is the case, it’s important to think about ways to meet new members where they are in their journey. Usually that means making use of your leisure management software.

Create customised new leisure member onboarding journeys. For each group of members, identify milestones and create activity-based triggers to send automated email and SMS communications.

“Often, you’ve got to have some sort of linear journey when running multiple sites. But don’t forget one of the most important things – first impressions. The first 5 seconds of customers coming into your buildings matter. We know that around 70% are still new and nervous coming through the doors. So, a warm greeting, a smile and product knowledge just puts people at ease, which in turn gives a great first impression.” – Lee Wood

Train all members of your team to deliver a good first impression as new members enter your facilities. Creating accountability for onboarding across your team can help influence your success in retaining more new members.

Make sure you create a good first impression as new members walk through your doors. For larger operators, creating accountability across your team can help drive onboarding success.

“Everyone is going to have different versions of their onboarding journey. What’s really key is to be able to capture it, to measure it, and, where you can, make individuals accountable for it. And that’s really to help engagement and ownership.” – Will Cheeld

Start measuring the success of new member onboarding

While new member onboarding journeys will differ, there are some easy ways to start measuring effectiveness.

Number of inductions

Ideally all members should have an induction of some type. Exactly what this involves will depend on your facilities and the types of membership you offer. For example, if you have a swim only membership, your induction could be a tour of the pool facilities or a skills session with a swim instructor.

For most full memberships, an induction will typically involve a tour, an explanation of how key equipment works in the gym, and goal setting with a gym instructor. If you are operating larger facilities with lots of different equipment, you could also run regular bookable group sessions to explain the equipment in more detail to new members.

“One of the things we did, which proved to be really useful because we’re primarily a strength gym with 120 stations and it’s a lot of variety, was to establish a free strength induction. So, once a week new members could roll in, learn how to use the equipment, and have a proper discussion about their training plans again. All the new members would come as a group. They’d all get to know each other.

We’d talk to them about the use of the equipment. Our research has shown that most people struggle to understand some of the equipment. So, we found that there were so many different levels to that one-hour service that really helped with our retention. Because it was really a lack of knowledge that meant people were getting frustrated and many not staying as long with us as they might.” – Kave Sedaghat

Use your leisure centre management software to track when a member attends an induction. Measure the percentage of members who do attend one. Look back historically to see if this has an impact on how long you retain members of different types.

Number of visits in the first 30 days

Every new member should be visiting to make use of their membership in the first few weeks of their journey with you. Visits are a simple metric to measure in a standardised way, even if you have many types of membership.

Most people will visit once or twice a week. So, in the first 30 days of a new member’s journey with you, they should visit at least 4 times. If a new member has attended less than this, its time to get in touch.

“There’s one thing I’ve nearly always done when setting up member journeys at 200-250 clubs over the last 15 years. Regardless of whatever else the journey is around day 30, we’ll send a text or an email that says congratulations – if you’ve made 4 or more visits. If you’ve made less than 4 visits, we’ll send a text, or other type of communication, that encourages you to come in for a programme review or something similar.” – Guy Griffiths

On a monthly basis you can review how many members have made it to 4+ visits in their first month. Look for ways to boost that percentage. Look at the new leisure member journeys you have in place to see where attendance drops off.

“Let the technology do the heavy lifting and then you can focus on people that need that personal touch the most. Typically, people who are new to exercise.” – Will Cheeld

Measure success through digital engagement rates during onboarding

Most new leisure member journeys will involve sending emails (and potentially SMS messages) at key times.

“Send the right message, at the right time, to the right person to generate that return visit, which is essentially what we’re looking to achieve from any form of communication.” – Julie Allen

The Ultimate Playbook for Onboarding Leisure Centre Members Effectively gives you ready-to-use, customisable email and SMS templates you can use during the onboarding journey for paid and pay-as-you-go members. It includes templates for welcoming members, post-induction, celebrating key visit milestones, and much more.

“For those running multi-sites, looking at data is really important so you can customise your way of working. It is harder to personalise, but depending on what packages you offer you can create a journey that is customised for each package… I think it’s really important because it means every person can see you’ve actually listened, and you do care. It is about getting the point across that it takes 12 weeks to create a habit.” – Lee Wood

These onboarding communications can be used to measure the success of your onboarding processes.

Click through rates

Looking at average click through rates (how many links were clicked) is a good starting point. Use your leisure management software to track click through rates for each message and as a whole.

Emails in your onboarding journey should have a simple call to action (CTA) that you are trying to get members to click through to. Where emails have multiple links, look at the click through rate for each to see which is resonating. Look to prioritise the most important one. Aim to increase the click through rates you get.

Open rates

“Looking at where people are clicking is important. However, more important than click rate, of course is open rate. Are people opening your welcome message? Most clubs I work with see open rates north of 50%… you should be getting at least half of your new members to open.” – Guy Griffiths

Measuring open rates is important. Open rates will show if members are reading your emails. Your software should make it straightforward to measure open rates for each onboarding email.

Select the right subject line for your emails to increase open rates (try adding a name as this can boost open rates by 5.2%). Telling all new members that they will get these emails, which will contain important information for their membership, can help boost your open rates too.

Bounce rates

This is the most important digital engagement metric to pay attention to. There are several reasons why emails can bounce. For leisure operators, the most common bounce reason is an email address not existing. That’s usually due to a typo when the member joined.

Monitor closely for emails that bounce. Review the email address in your leisure management system. It can sometimes be easy to correct and if not it’s an opportunity to call the member.

Failing to address bounces will mean it’s always difficult to contact impacted members with any important information they need to receive as part of their membership.

“When we email people, we quite clearly say this is an offer or this is some information for you. So, they can actually choose whether they want to open it or not.” – Kave Sedaghat

Use upselling as a retention tool

Upselling isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind during new member onboarding, yet it can play an important role in retaining members for longer.

Most new members will need to feel they are progressing to stay motivated on their fitness and wellbeing journey with you. Tracking milestones towards their goals will help members feel they are making progress. And offering extras at key times can also help encourage members onwards.

There are subtle ways to upsell during the onboarding journey. That could be offering a trial of a fitness tracking technology for a period with the option to buy or add to their membership. You could use it as an opportunity to create relationships with businesses in the communities you serve. Curate a package of discounts from local businesses for your members and make this available after members have met certain length of stay criteria.

“[My members] unlocked their benefits after 3 months which helped me retain them for the 90 days. That is a crucial window when creating a habit. And that gave my gym a retention tool that didn’t cost me anything. It was a way to increase retention and have something there to offer, but not at any cost to me and nothing physical because one size doesn’t fit all.” – Amy Ritson

During onboarding (and beyond) upselling can mean making sure you give members access to the correct membership options for their needs based on how they are actually using their membership. Perhaps they need to upgrade (or downgrade). You could offer add-on options that allow them to customise their package.

For members on a basic package, you could showcase the benefits of upgrading to a premium membership. Customise recommendations to the individual based on activity so far.

In summary…

There’s no one size fits all approach, and every new leisure member journey will be a little different. Use digital communications to tailor the onboarding experience based on factors like the type of membership held, visit data and more. Having personalised, automated digital onboarding journeys in place is essential for larger operators.

Simple metrics to look at when measuring the success of your onboarding processes are the percentages of members who’ve had an induction and who’ve visited 4+ times in their first month with you. Members should be visiting frequently – at least once every 7 days – or you risk losing members.

Track engagement rates of the communications that make up your digital onboarding journeys. Follow up when emails bounce. Increase open rates and optimise CTAs to drive action from your members.

Employ upselling to encourage new members to feel they are progressing on their fitness and wellbeing journey.

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