It’s one of the worst emails to get as a gym owner…
When it happens to you, don’t feel bad about it, it has literally happened to every gym owner in the history of the world, and no matter what you do, you can’t completely eliminate it.
People have lives. Things always come up — as result, members will always leave.
Our goal, then, is to make it happen less often, and never for reasons we can control.
So let’s review the top reasons members leave, and learn how to eliminate as many of those reasons as possible.
First, though, let me ask you a question:
What’s MORE important, getting members, or keeping them?
Obviously, both are important…
But let’s use a simple analogy:
You and your family are on a desert island. There is a single water source, and you’ve got one bucket. Maybe you even have as many buckets as you want … the only problem is those buckets have holes in them.
As soon as you put water in them, it all drains out. You can’t keep the water!
What should your FIRST step be? Would you try to keep filling up that bucket over and over, or figure out how to plug the holes?
You’ve got to plug the holes in the bucket so you can get some life-giving water back to your family so they don’t die of thirst.
STOPPED HERE where do systems fit in? where do marketing, clients, retention fit into the analogy?
Member retention is not nearly as sexy as marketing, but all the marketing in the world won’t plug those holes… good marketing is powerful, but if it’s the only game you’re playing, you’re destined to lose in the long run.
So, step one… fill the holes in your bucket (and, more importantly, build a system that does it for you) and in our analogy, there are at least 7 kinds of holes.
“I’m not seeing progress”
It can be tough for a regular, beginner-type person to notice their improvements at first. Numbers don’t really mean much yet, pounds and reps and sets and benchmarks… huh? Some people carry a lot of fat on the inside, and as their body burns that, their physical appearance doesn’t change much. Point is, beginners have it stacked against them… so it’s important to first, find ways to show them exactly where they are, and second, deliver objective results consistently.
It’s powerful to show someone, visually, in a quantified way, that YES, they are getting better!
*Pointing* “Look at these here charts…” If someone has legitimately stagnated, they may need a couple short weakness-focused sessions per week, a few personal training sessions, or some specific nutrition guidance from an expert coach. But in order to know what’s happening, you’ve got to have a system in place that can show them (and the coaches) exactly what’s going on. Tools like the Level Method, and the InBody, make this easy. No guesswork as to whether they are improving. If they are, *high five*, let’s keep doing what we’re doing… if not, let’s do some fine-tuning, and see what we can do to deliver better results, experience, and value. Either way, it’s important to leave speculation out of it.
“I feel lost, overwhelmed and don’t know what to do”
If you run a successful gym, a lot of your folks are regular people… non-athletes, or in some cases, ‘used to be’ athletes. If they walk into your gym mid-group-class it’ll be an assault on the senses: screams and grunts, banging plates and loud music, crazy people doing seemingly crazy things on strange-looking apparati. But that’s not the kind of overwhelm we’re talking about. The ‘lost and overwhelmed’ that cause people to leave accumulates over time. Folks come to class, and slowly realize they are pretty much bad at everything. We’ve all been there, right? A certain type of person takes that feeling by the horns, and attacks. Another type of person says: “no thanks, I’m going home.” It’s all too much to think about, and they’d just rather not. That feeling is why some people don’t come back… our job is to preemptively solve this problem – by simplifying everything for them and help them clarify their goals so they’re set up for success. That process is actually good for those horn-grabbers too, clarity is good for everyone… You want to help folks see exactly what they should be focusing on… so out of the seemingly overwhelming number of weaknesses and “shoulds”, they can focus on just 2 or 3 of the biggest ones, that will pay off if consistently focused on. It’s the rule of the vital few, it’s not about doing all the things well, but the most important things best. In economics, those big things are called lead indicators, measurements that help predict an outcome. A good coach will help guide someone through defining goals, and then define a few lead indicators they can focus on… it’s one of the most important elements of a quality goal setting session.
Injuries caused by improper scaling/coaching or ego
Some coaches are more knowledgeable than others. Some of our members have bigger egos than others. How do you manage that? Rules. That’s how. Society does it with laws. So, we’ve got to have rules, and there has to be a system in place to maintain those rules and standards. There’s an old saying that the only things that happen automatically (unless happening via an intelligent system) are bad things… it’s called entropy. And it’s the natural order of things to become more disorganized over time. If you’re a parent, you’ll learn quickly that letting your kid choose what’s for dinner is a bad idea… ice cream and pizza forever! Candy and chicken nuggets until I throw up! The point is, they don’t know what they don’t know. And as a high-level coach or a gym owner, you’ve gotta be the adult in the room and enforce the rules that keep people safe. But, of course, there must be rules to enforce in the first place. And those rules are best when they’re external, public, and known. Coach’s and gyms running the Level Method have the advantage of pointing to the wall and saying “Them the rules… sorry, it’s on this board right here… so don’t be mad at me if you’ve been doing kipping pull-ups for 5 years but still can’t do a strict pull-up”
“Coaches don’t care about me”
Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Ever heard that before? I bet you have… and for good reason. A sure way to push people out of your gym is to ignore them.. and a cherry on top is to only reach out when their credit card is declined. “Oh, I’ve been meaning to touch base with you… btw, I need an updated payment method.” Ouch. The thing about this: you really do have to care… like really care. And if you don’t care, you sure as hell better have systems in place that make sure your clients feel cared for. Goal setting sessions, coaching calls, birthday cards, small gifts, attaboy cards, facebook shoutouts, public recognition are all ways to make them feel like a million bucks consistently. That’s key. If you’re not doing those things, if you’re neglecting those things, it’ll eventually bite you. The key, again, is to have systems in place that prevent neglect, because even the best coaches in the world aren’t 100% on ALL the time… sometimes things come up, like life, and things slip. The system should work regardless of how you or your coaches are feeling so that your care-based, client-focused business, continues to run efficiently.
“I don’t like competing with other people”
CrossFit attracts some serious Type A personalities. This can be good, and bad… the thing is, fitness shouldn’t be reserved only for the types that like to compete against other people to win. Some people are just in it to become better for themselves – they’re internally driven, motivated by personal achievement. There’s also another type of person, that is so competitive, that they’re hesitant about engaging in group classes, or any competitive environment, because they understand themselves, and the fact they’ll be the first to push right past their limits and (potentially) to the point of injury… “I’ll win at any cost! I will DIE on this floor!”
For the internally driven, objective goals – standards of achievement – become extremely valuable. They do best in a framework that incentivizes them to climb the ranks, all at their own pace and for themselves… for the achievement of it all. And that other kind of person? Who understands themselves, and knows they’re going to do everything in their power to win, to beat the person next to them, and potentially put themselves at risk… well, they’re ideal candidates for individualized training or personal training. And you have to have a system in place to notice that, take next steps, and slot them accordingly.
It’s too expensive, the gym down the street is cheaper
People will pay for value, perceived or real, and everything is based on the market. Duh, right… but if you are indistinguishable from the gym down the street, and they’re saying all the same things you say, doing essentially the same thing you do, then your client has every right to say you’re too expensive if you charge an additional $50 per month. There are three steps: First, you need to run things like a real business, with systems in place, and if you don’t have those, you’ve got to be willing to seek help from quality business coaching companies like Two Brain Business and Gymwright. That’s step one. Second, you have to find a real market advantage, something that actually sets you apart, that differentiates you from the rest. It could be simply providing better service and results to a niched clientele, or finding something that helps you deliver and create better services, and faster results for all your clients, like the Level Method. Third, you have to build a marketing machine that attracts your best client, and positions you as the best in the business, but this sorta comes back to step 1 and being sure to find mentors who can stop you from wasting days, months, and years of your absolutely most precious resource: time.
I don’t have time or the classes don’t fit in my schedule
Some of our best clients are moms with full-time careers. Whenever someone says they don’t have time, I laugh to myself and think about Steph and Michelle, and wonder what they would say about not having time.In most cases, it’s a matter of priority, not time. And if someone gives this excuse, see the “Coaches Don’t Care About Me Section”… because that’s probably what they’re really feeling here. They’ve lost interest, or rather, we’ve lost their interest by not staying engaged and delivering them a consistently outstanding experience. Of course, this is just going to happen sometimes, but by remembering our real job of giving consistent support, entertainment, motivation and gold stars, we keep this to a minimum. In some rare cases, people really don’t have time, and many more have conflicting schedules and can’t make class times… these are both candidates for individualized training. Whether at home workouts, nutrition coaching, or personal training. But remember, mostly, not having time is just an excuse. We’ve simply lost their interest, they’ve been magnetically pulled away from you, to more interesting things. The second you become more interesting and fun, the second you make them feel cared for, entertained, respected and special (oh, and provide real results)… they’ll be pulled right back.
Of course, there are other reasons people leave, like relocating, or some significant event. But the controllable factors are the ones we care about. And if we keep these 7 in mind, we really make big strides in improving our business and plugging the holes in our bucket so we can fully focus on getting the water.
And this is the part at the end where I say I have a magic answer for you! A powerful tool that’s going to solve all your problems with ease. Well, actually, yes… not really, though, lol. A tool is really only as good as it’s operator. Used properly, the Level Method helps in a huge way with everything listed above. I mean, it’s why we built the Level Method in the first place, it helps solve a lot of problems through a levels ranking system, like martial arts belts. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. And if you want to find out more, or how it works, give us a call. Wait though, before you call, it’s important we revisit that “a tool is really only as good as it’s operator..” Because the gyms that do best with the Level Method have usually been thinking about these 7 problems a lot, already… because they understand how crucial they are to the business. They already understand the value of systems and best operating practices, and they’re looking to really bump up to the next level. To get a real competitive advantage. So if that’s you, and you’ve already gone through a foundational business coaching program like the ones offered by Two Brain or Gymwright, give us a call.
Thanks for reading.