Club Insider

We Are Bad At Retention

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Thomas PlummerThomas Plummer

We are bad at retention in this industry because we have never had to be good to survive. Ever since the advent of modern fitness in the 1950s, we have been totally focused on only one thing: the acquisition of new members.

The fitness industry is an industry of mistakes, failures and over 60 years of history of doing the wrong thing for our clients. We have mastered the art of the adversarial membership sale. We have advocated equipment and training that is both harmful and ineffective, and the member has never been anything more than a sales number recorded on a daily tracking sheet easily replaceable by the next new sale tomorrow.

Look hard and you realize that every system we use in most commercial fitness operations only exists as a direct result of the acquisition process. For example, our marketing has always been geared towards a one-hit encounter. That's because we've always had enough leads to just move on if our one-hit encounter doesn't result in a sale. We could do this in the past because there would always be more leads tomorrow to replace the leads we burned today.

This total acquisition mindset is also why we limit the new member's first experience to only two or three workouts, why we are content to set members up on antiquated circuit training with giant, worthless workout cards knowing that the person will fail in just a few weeks with that workout and why we create entire teams of sales people without one dedicated person to try and keep the people we already have in the clubs. We build businesses to acquire new members, and few, if any, clubs were ever built to retain the business that in those days was so easy to acquire.

Even today, there are still thousands of club owners, including most of the largest chains in the country, that still believe they are in the membership business, not the retention-through-client-success-business, and that we will always have an endless stream of new clients to replace the ones we continue to fail in the clubs.

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