All About Retention

Bob Wells | 06 May 2019

Our society is fascinated by the concept of newness. Whether it’s acquiring that new smartphone with all of its great new functions, the new car and the attached new car smell, or new house, we lose our collective minds in the pursuit of newness.

Unfortunately, we also see this mindset often in the fitness world, and in how many health clubs and coaches treat their existing members and clients. We often push them aside for that new client, which arguably is not moral. Inarguably, it is a poor business strategy.

Morally, most of us have learned “The Golden Rule”, or some variation of it, which is to treat others as you would like to be treated. Not one of us would prefer to be cast aside to make room for someone else.

From a business standpoint, unless you literally just started a business, it makes little sense to have this “new is better” mindset. Eric Claman explains why in his recent article “In 2019, Health Club Operators Need to Focus on Retention”. He highlights that it costs 5 to 20 times as much to acquire a new member/client as it does to retain an existing one.

Further, he points out that according to extensive research done by Bain & Company, that a 5% increase in retention can increase profits more than 25%. Gartner research numbers tell us that 80% of future earnings will come from 20% of your current members. KPMG reports that client retention will be the most significant revenue driver for future earnings, which is true for coaches and clubs alike.

The need to focus on and improve retention should be abundantly clear. Therefore, we can now turn our attention to the necessary action steps that will improve our retention rates, leading to better results for our clients, and our businesses.

First, we need to understand that client retention begins on day one of their journey with us. Gabriel Pagan of Crunch (headcoach@crunchnorwood.com) has created an incredible template for his teams to better navigate the client journey from day one in order to create and sustain member satisfaction.

Breaking down a successful client journey into actionable steps looks like the following:

Phase One: Communicate. Clearly and effectively communicate expectations and responsibilities for each party, as well as how often progress will be tested and what constitutes good progress. One coach I know does her progress reports for each of her clients the second week of each month. Whichever schedule/strategy that you use, make it something that’s easy for you to execute time and time again.

Phase Two: Innovate. Anticipate. Adapt. One of the things that we have to remember is that what got us this client is generally never enough to keep them long term. As time passes, our skills and knowledge must drastically improve. Two ways to improve our skills and knowledge include:

  • Self-study via books, journals (email me for a list), or amazing websites such as www.ptonthenet.com, www.precisionnutrition.com, and www.bobwellsfitness.com for more articles.
  • Certification programs such as TRX, Precision Nutrition (Level 1 & Level 2), PTA Global’s Exercise and Stress Management (ESM) and Behavior Change in Exercise (BCE) specializations, as well as NASM’s Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) course will help you increase your skills and knowledge.

A general rule of thumb is to do at least one new certification / workshop a year. This effort will provide you an ongoing network of professionals, as well as expand your knowledge and skill set in order to better serve your clients.

Additionally, we need to anticipate what challenges and obstacles that you and your clients will have to overcome and adapt accordingly. For example, most client information forms have a section about previous obstacles/struggles. This should give us tremendous insight on what our clients have already overcome, and what potential roadblocks may need to be addressed in the future.

For example, a client that often gets called upon at the last minute to work extra hours will likely need help with methods to relieve/reduce stress, such as meditation, to handle such situations, and easy to implement meal prep strategies to have food easily accessible in case something like this happens. As a coach and fitness professional, understanding and planning for these obstacles before you encounter them will make it easier for your clients to deal with.

Also, don’t be afraid to adapt, or move on from a program when the program is not working. Too often we hold on to strategies that no longer (or perhaps never) work because we are too attached to them personally.

As highlighted by Jack Canfield in “The Success Principles”, a better strategy is to have high intention and low attachment. For us, that means that the only attachment we should have is getting our clients results, and not the manner in which it is done.

Phase Three: Reward. Institute a longevity rewards program. Whether it’s a card, present, referral bonus, or simple thank you, meaningful gratitude and appreciation go a long way. As famed economist Adam Smith eloquently puts in “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”, as humans, we naturally love praise and rewards.

Execute these three steps to get better results for your clients, and for yourself.

Please post here or reach out to bob.wells@alumni.duke.edu with further questions and comments, which are greatly appreciated.

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Bob Wells

About the author: Bob Wells

Bob Wells graduated from Duke University, where he studied Psychology and Biological Anthropology and Anatomy. He is the CEO and Founder of Bob Wells Fitness, and he is currently helping develop sports nutrition courses and material for multiple universities.

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