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What a Year! 

2020 was an exceptionally difficult year for us all. Membership rates are dwindling, sales are at an all-time low, and people are now, more than ever, concerned for their safety and well-being. So how do membership based facilities such as associations and gyms, get back on track and get our membership back? The partial answer, aside from having a great product and genuinely great customer service, is the implementation of a member-retention strategy. Although Covid-19 has already done damage, your members past and present, already know that you have some value to offer them, so it’s your job to remind them of that value.

New Member Acquisition

The all-time best way to get prospective members through the door, is to work towards making sure you have a great product. As the old adage says, “a good product sells itself” and words could not be truer. If you are struggling to entice members to join, you need to take a look at what it is you have to offer and how you are creating value for your members. Taking a look at new value you can offer members on a daily/monthly/yearly basis is a great practice, as it keeps things fresh and keeps your brand relevant.

I once belonged to a gym, and when you walked in the door, you buzzed your card and grabbed your folded towel, and away you went to do your workout. One day I came in, and they had decided to start providing the towels rolled instead of just simply folded. I thought to myself, “Hmph, this is actually quite nice, a cylindrical towel rolled up nice, tight and compact” I put it under my arm like a football and off I went to do my thing.

I never forgot that towel trick, because it was the first-time I had seen a gym do such a thing, and I appreciated their drive to do something just a little different. Something as simple as rolling your towels instead of folding them had their brand running through my head, and I still think of it to this day.

Member Engagement

When your industry relies on acquiring and retaining a member-base, it is up to you as an organization to give your members reason to be a part of the community you are creating. In order to keep your members engaged you need to be constantly reaching out to them in new, exciting and creative ways. The key to this is to find the correct balance, so as to not be pestering your members but reaching out through different avenues to offer them things that hold value, such as discounts, classes, information, a gift, etc. Use your imagination! The possibilities are endless.

That same gym I spoke of in the previous section had a great way of keeping clients engaged. Every so often they would have competitions or games for the members to play. One consisted of a giant snakes and ladders board they posted in their front lobby. When you did a workout, you got to move forward a square; The winner won a 1-Year free membership.

Another game consisted of placing a colored glass bead into one of 4 jars. The jars were divided up into teams which your members signed up for. When you did a workout, you tossed a bead in your teams’ jar, and the jar with the most beads at the end of the month won a small prize.

Things like these, take little planning, do not cost an arm and a leg, and the impact they have on your clients is immense as it adds so much value to the community you are creating as well as reminding people why they want to be a part of it.

Member Retention

Alright, so you’ve got your new members, you’ve engaged them, now…how do you keep them? This last section ties directly into the first two, and it is one of these solutions that is just so plainly obvious that some may not see it. As long as you have a good product, offer value, build community and keep members engaged, they will actually be sad to leave. SAD! Yes you heard me correctly.

There IS another strategy that you can employ, and that would be a member appreciation gift. Not only do gifts offer value, they generate buzz within your membership, which in turn offers you brand awareness through word-of-mouth and increases your brand perception among your members/clients.


       A member appreciation gift can be anything you would like, however, keep in mind that this gift will reflect on your organization. There are many different times and ways to offer a gift; you can give a gift upon joining, annually to all members, annually to tiered members, only to exclusive members, or even a one-time gift to all members as a celebration. I would advise against any small trinket-style gifts such as USBs, fidget spinners, stress balls or beer cozies; these items have a time and place, however when offering your clients a gift, you want to give them something with a bit more meaning. So plan ahead, come up with a reasonable budget, what quantity you will need, and think about what would resonate with your members/clients. For example, in Vancouver, BC it rains a lot, so why not offer an umbrella. Austin, Texas is known for it’s delicious BBQ, so why not offer a BBQ cook set. In Brooklyn, NY it gets quite cold in the winter, offer your members some branded thin gloves that they can still use their devices with. The idea is to connect with your clientele so they know that you care enough to go the extra mile.

       In the end, having a Member Retention system in play may be an added cost, and it may take a fair bit of planning to get it right, but the ROI you will receive in brand awareness, brand loyalty and overall brand perception is likely to amaze. Best of luck to you!