An effective re-engagement strategy for high-risk leisure members who may cancel their membership or stop using your leisure facilities soon is essential to your long-term success.
According to the 2022 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report there are 7,063 gyms in the UK with around 9.9 million members. So, that means 14.6% of the UK population have a gym membership. Public sector leisure facilities make up 36% of those gyms and welcome 32% of members – that’s 4.7% of the UK population.
With an average attrition rate of 6.2% a month, and leisure centres making up 36% of gyms, you need to make sure you keep your members and visitors engaged and coming back to use your facilities. An effective re-engagement strategy to target members who may cancel soon is essential.
Keep members engaged right from the start of their journey with you. Apply the best practices and use the templates in the Ultimate Playbook for Onboarding Leisure Centre Members Effectively. Claim your free copy here.
What is a high-risk leisure member?
A high-risk leisure member (sometimes referred to as an ‘at-risk’ member) is someone who shows signs of being at greater risk of disengaging or cancelling their membership to your leisure centre soon.
Typically, high-risk members will have a lower level of engagement and attendance than other members.
What is a re-engagement strategy?
A re-engagement strategy is a plan of action that aims to reconnect with and re-activate high-risk members. It’s a process of identifying, targeting, and communicating with individuals or groups who are at risk of leaving you.
The goal of a re-engagement strategy for high-risk leisure members is to bring these individuals back into your centre, increase their engagement and loyalty, and drive revenue growth.
A re-engagement strategy can include a combination of tactics, such as targeted marketing campaigns and incentives, to regain the interest of disengaged members.
Checklist: Create a re-engagement strategy for high-risk leisure members
Ready to win-back disengaged members and increase retention? Use this checklist to create the right re-engagement strategy for your organisation.
#1: Identify why members are becoming disengaged
Whether you are starting from nothing or refining an existing approach to re-engaging high-risk members, investigating why members are becoming disengaged will help you create the right re-engagement strategy.
While some members will tell your team directly that they are thinking about cancelling their membership, many will not. Review the data available in your leisure centre membership software. Look for signals that your members may be at risk of cancelling.
Here are common signals you should watch for:
- Low attendance – Members who have a low attendance rate overall may cancel soon. And it’s not just low overall attendance you need to watch for. One of the highest risk groups are those who’ve not attended for more than a week but have attended in the last two weeks.
- Failed Direct Debit – Most Direct Debits fail and are rejected for two main reasons. A member having insufficient funds in their bank account or a cancel Direct Debit Mandate. Both are signs that a member may cancel soon.
- Lack of engagement – Members who are not engaging with your email communications or social media when they used to, may be becoming dis-engaged. Watch for members who no longer open your emails or have unsubscribed. If you send surveys or feedback requests, those who don’t respond could be at risk of leaving.
- Inactivity and behaviour changes – Members who used to use certain services or facilities regularly but haven’t recently – like personal training, group classes, or your health suite – may be high-risk.
- Negative feedback & reviews – Members who give negative feedback in response to a survey you’ve sent, or even leave poor reviews on a public forum (like social media or Google), are directly or indirectly showing dissatisfaction.
- Cancellation history – A member who has cancelled previously (or nearly cancelled) is more likely to do it again. Watch this group closely for signs they could be close to cancelling.
“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.” – Guy Griffiths, GGFit
Once you’ve identified disengaged members, create short feedback surveys to send out. So, you get relevant responses back, these should be tailored to the signals that members may cancel soon.
Popular survey solutions include SurveyMonkey and Google Forms, both offer free options. The questions you ask should give you responses back that you can use to improve on and address in your re-engagement approach.
Focus on using closed-ended questions with pre-populated choices to get quantitative data. At the end place any free response questions to let members feedback in their own words (1 or 2 of these will be plenty as they take longer to answer and analyse). Avoid leading questions (e.g., ‘how enjoyable or unenjoyable do you find our fun classes’) and using absolute words in your questions, like ‘every’, ‘all’, and ‘always’ (e.g., ‘are you always greeted by a member of our team’).
Keep any personal questions to the end. Choose to give members the option of staying anonymous. And let them opt in to a follow-up with your team.
As these members are disengaged, offering a small incentive for completing your survey can improve the response rate. That could be an opportunity to win a gift card for a big or local retailer, or a free personal training session.
#2: Analyse the data from your surveys and CRM
Most members will complete the survey you’ve sent them soon after receiving it. Therefore, you should be able to review the responses a few days after sending.
Analyse the response data for any patterns that could help you create effective re-engagement approaches. Look for any actions you can take to rectify issues that are keeping members away. This means that you’ll be able to show members how you’ve taken these onboard and addressed them.
Where members have said they’re happy to speak to your team about their responses and there’s clarity you’d like or further questions, call them ahead of creating your re-engagement strategy.
Supplement survey responses with the data available in your leisure management software. Identify patterns and trends in member behaviour and engagement.
Spot trends and answer questions such as:
- Are members more likely to cancel after a period of non-attendance or inactivity? If so, is there a pattern in the length of a period of non-attendance before they cancel?
- Do members who unsubscribe from your emails go on to cancel? If so, how long after on average?
- If a Direct Debit fails due to a cancelled mandate, how many of these are you recovering back to member status? Is there a pattern like a drop in attendance before a failure?
- Similarly, if a Direct Debit fails due to insufficient funds, how many of these do you recover? Are members more likely to cancel after this happens?
- How many members re-join after they’ve cancelled? Are they more likely to cancel again? Do cancellation reasons impact this?
- Are members who respond negatively to a survey you’ve sent more likely to cancel?
#3: Segment at-risk members into groups
Now you should understand who your high-risk members are and common factors and patterns that show they’re more likely to cancel. Using the data available to you in your leisure management system, segment those members into groups that you can target.
You’ll be able to put in place targeted approaches that will work best for each group. For example, if a member used to attend classes regularly but hasn’t for a few weeks, highlight similar classes they haven’t tried or offer them a PT session to try something new.
#4: Choose the right mix of communication channels
An effective re-engagement strategy for high-risk leisure members will use multiple communication channels to win them back – like email, SMS, telephone, and in-person conversations.
This is the cornerstone of an effective re-engagement campaign. Use the integrations your leisure centre software offers with leading communications tools. For example, create your emails in Mailchimp and set up triggers in Legend to send them out.
Use multiple emails in your campaign to stay top of mind and increase open rates. Take care not to become intrusive. And personalise your messages for maximum impact.
Open rates can be as high as 98% with 45% responding for SMS messages. Whereas email has average open and response rates of 20% and 6%.
Strategic use of text messages will get the attention of high-risk members and encourage a response. Be mindful of opt-in preferences and send these messages sparingly for maximum impact.
In certain circumstances an email or SMS is not appropriate. If a member has unsubscribed from your emails, or left a negative review, jump straight to a phone call.
Keep it informal – ask how the member is getting on, listen to any concerns and address these. You could also include a call in a re-engagement campaign when a member has not responded to emails or SMS messages after a certain time.
If an at-risk member is still visiting in-person, make sure your fitness team knows to give them extra attention.
Research has found that members who interact with fitness staff at least twice a month are more likely to visit often and less likely to cancel.
Casual, non-sales focused conversations will help the member feel supported and included in your community. Members are more likely to confide in your fitness team with any challenges or help they need.
Above all, consider the right mix of channels for each target segment.
#5: Develop targeted, personalised re-engagement campaigns
Now you have your segmented groups and have identified your communications channels, create specific campaigns for each disengaged group. These should be tailored to overcome their reasons for disengagement and negative behaviour patterns.
Consider offering incentives to encourage at-risk members back in. Think about what would be most attractive to each group – you may need different incentives. Here are a couple of ideas:
- Guest passes – members who just use your gym equipment are 56% more likely to cancel than those who work out in a group. Guest passes and referral offers can encourage at-risk members back in with the chance to bring a friend for a social experience. Highlight your referral programme once a member has used a guest pass.
- PT sessions – especially where a member has become bored of a routine or seen results plateau, a personal training session paid for by your club can be attractive. Its an opportunity to track progress in a new light, redefine goals, overhaul their workout programme, and get back on track.
“Free PT? Aaargh! Nothing should ever be free; it devalues the product. And makes it hard, or impossible, to upsell in the future. ‘We’ll pay for you to have a £50 PT session’ is much better. You’ll get higher take-up, fewer no-shows, and more subsequent sales.” – Guy Griffiths, GGFit
Where cost is an issue for an at-risk member (e.g., they may have said so in their feedback, cancelled previously due to cost, or had a failed Direct Debit payment), consider offering them a more affordable option. For example:
- Recommend a lower cost package that would suit their usage patterns (e.g., if they have a peak membership but usually attend during off-peak hours suggest they switch and save).
- Suggest a basic gym-only option with bolt-on perks, like a certain number of classes or personal training sessions a month, so the member can customise their membership to suit their preferences.
- Offer a promotional price for a brief period to temporarily lower the cost for a member.
You could also offer a short-term freeze, the choice of a rolling monthly membership, or a switch to pay-as-you-go, in certain circumstances. Remember, supporting a member’s short-term needs will help win them back for the long-term.
Make sure opted-in high-risk members also get your regular emails and highlight what’s going on to entice them back in:
- New timetables
- Open days
- Special events
- New team member profiles
- Exclusive offers
- Education & tips
Your re-engagement campaigns should always be up and running. Set up triggers in your leisure centre management software to add members to your re-engagement campaigns as they become high-risk.
#6: Review & measure success regularly
Once your re-engagement campaigns are up and running, regularly review and measure success. Ultimately, success will be a member becoming engaged and regularly visiting your facilities.
Use the data and reporting tools available in your software to understand what tactics are and are not working. Test new approaches and make changes to influence success. As time goes on, you’ll gain greater clarity into what is and is not working.
Engage members right from the start
Those early days after a member has signed up can make or break how engaged they are in the long-term. Better engage members from the start of their journey with you and you’ll have fewer members landing in your re-engagement campaigns. Your leisure member onboarding process matters.
To help, we’ve partnered with retention expert Guy Griffiths, to create the Ultimate Playbook for Onboarding Leisure Centre Members Effectively.
It has everything you need to successfully onboard, engage, and retain both paid and casual members – including ready-to-use email and SMS message templates.