Starbucks (not coincidentally where I’m writing this right now) has a policy – more of a mission, really – that they do a pretty dang good job living up to…
“We want our stores to be the third place, a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect.” (source)
The “third place” refers to the fact that everybody already has two other important places: home and work. Their goal is to earn their spot as your third place… one of the Top 3 most important “homes” you go to.
For many of us, the gym can become that third place. Somewhere you can go, sing it with me, “where everybooody knows your name.”
But that privilege isn’t given, it’s earned. And don’t expect your members to consider you a home-away-from-home just because you happen to be the proud proprietor of a bustling building full of barbells to build their biceps.
A home is a home because you feel at home. If you’ve ever gone back to visit somewhere you used to be a regular but everyone you knew is gone, you’ll recognize quite quickly, a home is the people, not the place that matters.
Roll Out the Welcome Mat
We love the comfortable feeling that we get from familiarity. And since we established that the happy homey feeling is more about people than places, what are you doing to make your brand best buds with every fresh-faced member walking through your doors?
Like it or not, this begins the second they step into the building, and your window of opportunity to put the benevolent ball in motion starts rapidly rolling downhill soon after. Onboarding, therefore, is your chance to show the member you’re worthy of booting Starbucks out of their Top 3 and becoming their new healthy home.
But you can’t do this by only focusing on the experience in your club…
Most members are only in the gym for around four hours per week. That means they aren’t in your gym for 164 hours per week. If you don’t have a plan for staying connected with them outside of your facility… well, you won’t be very connected at all. And that disconnect is one of the biggest reasons members quit.
That means that your job becomes making sure each member becomes deeply connected to your brand and sees you as their trusted advisor on health and fitness, no matter where they are.
The habit you’re trying to help them build isn’t sipping more smoothies or hitting dumbbells on the daily, it’s the habit of “coming home” to the supportive environment (physically and digitally) that you’ve carefully, compassionately, and intentionally designed.
That is what makes the member know that you’ve got their back. That is what will have your members asking for help when they need it instead of giving up and cancelling.
Retention is solved with intention and attention.
It’s the feelings, not the facility.
Neither happen by accident.
Your members live busy, complicated lives. You need to meet them where they’re at and give them what they need.
Computers are terrible at giving hugs and high-fives, but they’re a great technological tether connecting the people on either side, so start using them better.
That connection starts with creating a system that stops people from slipping through the cracks. It has to nurture the connection you work hard to build in the club. And if you can take those positive connections and create a “home” your members can take with them wherever they go… look out Cheers, there’s a new hot spot in town.
Next week, you’ll find out why unicorns and ninjas are building better fitness brands than you… yes, seriously.
Brainstorm ideas for how you can continue to provide value, support, and resources for members when they’re not in your facility. What can you do to make sure you’re earning the privilege of being their go-to health and fitness guide? Don’t complicate this or start thinking about how you’re going to benefit from it. Truly put yourself in the shoes of a new member who is desperate for help. What would really help them on their journey? Again, the focus is on providing helpful tips and resources outside of your facility, so get creative.
***Haven’t read the first article in the series yet? Click here to read The Biggest Mistake with Member Onboarding***
Joe Kerns is the Co-Founder of Member Activator, a turnkey retention company that helps you create loyal long-term members through high-tech, high-touch personalized member onboarding. He holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Psychology and combines his research and academic background with advanced marketing and digital communication technologies to create highly impactful customer experiences for fitness members.
Click here to take the Member Onboarding Quiz and find out how much better you could be doing with your retention program.