Watch the full video session with Sarah Pellegrino, Burch Valldejuli (Partner, mActivity) and Nick Hahn (VP of Product, Club OS).
A gym is nothing without its member community so your members must be highly engaged and motivated. They must also have a positive gym experience to foster long-term loyalty and increase your staff and member retention rates.
One key factor in gym membership retention strategies is fostering a sense of belonging and value among members. When individuals feel like they are part of a community and perceive tangible benefits from their membership, they are more likely to remain loyal to your club. Therefore, members must perceive your gym as more than just a place to work out. Your gym business must offer opportunities for your members to come together as a community and build meaningful personal relationships. And what checks all of those boxes? Member social events! In the following article, we'll dive into how mActivity, a health club centered around fostering their members’ physical, social, and mental wellbeing, leveraged member social events to engage their members and dramatically increase gym member retention. Let's jump in!
Why is there such a high demand for social events at fitness clubs and who do they benefit most?
As we explored in the last episode of this video series, How to Grow Your Gym with Gen Z Influencer Marketing, Gen Z has rapidly become a key market for the gym industry with nearly half of all new memberships at the World Gym Texas City and Houston locations being a part of this generation.
We've seen a number of gyms dramatically altering their approach to attracting, engaging and retaining their younger membership demographics based on their members' lifestyles, psychological profiles and fitness goals.
After all, if you're not adapting your marketing and business strategies to align with your key membership demographics, your gym is likely to get left behind.
Looking at the Gen Z and Millennial age groups specifically, it's unsurprising to learn that the effects of the so-called "Loneliness Epidemic" are being felt most strongly in these age groups, with 70% of 15-25 year olds having less social interaction with their friends compared with 20 years ago.
With the lingering effects of the COVID pandemic, widespread adoption of remote working practices and substitution of social media platforms for real-world social interactions, it might be easier than ever to for the younger generations to connect online, but it's not necessarily better for them, and we see this reflected in the statistics.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 70% of individuals in the older generations report having “very good" or "excellent” mental health, contrasted with only 56% of Millennials and a mere 45% of Gen Z.
More worrying still are trends amongst teenage girls in the U.S.; in 2011, 37% of teenage girls reported "persistent feelings of sadness" which has increased to just under 60% in just a decade.
This latter statistic was particularly troubling for Burch Valldejuli (Partner, mActivity), whose background in psychiatric research at Harvard led her into developing a state-of-the-art fitness facility, with a strong focus on providing her members with the tools they needed for both physical and mental health.
Located in the vibrant college-town community of New Haven, Connecticut and with 62% of mActivity's membership base being female--thus more statistically likely to suffer from poorer mental health--Burch was keen to develop a safe space for her members to work out.
She was determined to remove the intimidation factor associated with gym training, so ensured that she optimized the layout of her gym to encourage social networking and embody an inclusive, accepting environment for members of any fitness level and body type.
Like many clubs, mActivity found that member socials have proved enormously successful in uniting their gym community, providing a key value proposition which both attracts more Gen Z and Millennial members and provides a cornerstone to increase gym membership retention.
How do member social events benefit your gym and staff?
Member social events are one of the best gym member retention ideas you can implement because they benefit your staff as well as your gym member community. Your member socials are a great way to spotlight and celebrate your dedicated staff working behind the scenes, providing an essential platform for your employees to support and interact with members on a more personal level. Providing a relaxed setting outside of the typical member/staff dynamic can be a great way to break the ice and foster deeper relationships that improve the member and staff experience. Ultimately, the positive atmosphere created by social events boosts morale and job satisfaction, leading to improved staff retention rates and a better customer service experience. From a revenue growth perspective, member social events lead to happier members which leads to dividends toward your bottom line.
An impressive example of this is when mActivity raised their membership prices for the first time in four years by almost 50%, and maintained a 2% churn rate. How did they accomplish this incredible feat?
Transparency. Burch and her team leveraged the tight-knit community they built and simply explained to their members that the higher rates would enable them to pay (and keep!) their staff. mActivity’s members were actively in favor of paying higher fees in order to maintain the high-quality, personable service that they had come to expect – and love – from their gym.
By demonstrating to their members how the increased fees would contribute back into the culture and community that they valued so highly, mActivity was able to retain 98% of their membership base, reduce staff turnover, generate significant revenue, and invest in maintaining their industry-leading level of service.
What are the benefits of social events for your gym members?
As we've seen, integrating member socials into your gym's calendar isn't just about creating a fun diversion; it's as much a strategic business plan that can provide numerous win-win benefits for your members.
Beyond the benefits of physical exercise, providing inclusive member socials are a great way to increase member engagement and foster friendships amongst your members who might not otherwise have a chance to connect between sets or chat with each other on the treadmill.
Indeed, mActivity find that 13% of their members engage with their social events, giving them the opportunity to engage with a significant chunk of their membership base in a single space and help to create a cohesive community feel amongst members of diverse backgrounds, fitness levels and psychological profiles.
With increased social connections, members are also more likely to rank higher in terms of customer satisfaction and reap the psychological benefits that come with becoming a more active social member within your gym.
After all, by helping your members invest in their mental health as well as their physical health, you'll provide a holistic framework for wellbeing that provides enormous value for your members.
How to plan your member socials: a mActivity Case Study
When running your social events, there are a number of different factors you'll want to consider in order to create an enjoyable and beneficial member experience.
To start planning your events, you might want to consider things like: who you want to target, what type of event or theme you want to run with, where you want to hold your event and when is best time to host your event to maximize member engagement.
We've pulled out some of the best examples from mActivity's event strategy to give you some inspiration for your own member socials:
Who your member socials should target
In terms of your target audience, you should consider the fact that not all of your members have the same interests or goals, so make sure that your events offer enough diversity to attract different members through your doors.
mActivity found that attendance generally ranged between 80-120 people and opened their doors to friends and family in order to make their events more inclusive and generate more warm referrals.
Picking your event theme
When it comes to theming, asking your staff members can be a great way to engage your employees and gain valuable insights from the people closest to your members.
mActivity successfully implemented this strategy to give a sense of ownership to their staff members, who opted for themes like "prom" and a "fashion show", even collaborating with a DJ who was a member of the gym for maximum inclusivity.
Selecting the best time to host your member social
In terms of timings, consider when is a convenient time for your members, as well as what might lead to the most profitability for your gym.
mActivity looked closely at their member behavior to decide on the first Thursday of each month, avoiding the busy weekends and capitalizing on a day that was typically slower in terms of foot traffic on the gym floor, for example.
Where to hold your event
How Club OS can help you engage your members and increase your gym member retention.
The Club OS all-in-one gym management software solution is designed to help you attract your prospects, keep your existing members engaged and retain members for longer. Our integrated software solution enables gyms to streamline business operations, automate your marketing efforts and handle everything from reporting to point of sale (POS), and much more!
To find out more about how Club OS can boost your gym retention, increase member engagement and drive more revenue for your fitness business, book your demo with our team today.