Three Client Retention Strategies for Consistent Profitability

Struggling to keep your members interested? Here are some straightforward strategies to turn lukewarm clients into lifelong supporters of your business.


Retention is the cornerstone of a consistently profitable membership model.

It costs much more to gain a new client than it does to service an existing one – and this high churn also degrades the integrity of the brand.

By driving retention, we get:

  • A higher yield per client
  • A greater lifetime customer value
  • A more reliable long-term source of income for the operation

This base of reliable future revenue is the foundation for expansion, growth, and success. Without it, your business is surviving from one month to the next just making ends meet. You can’t invest because there’s always the risk that you won’t have the cash to cover next month’s bills.

“Your Assessor is the key to consistent profitability.”

The Assessor

In the IFBA Modern Training Gym model, client retention is driven by the Assessor. As well as being the Head of Sales for your gym, the Assessor is tasked with heading up the client experience from end-to-end – with a particular focus on days 0-90, but stretching to months and years into a member’s journey. 

They’re the key to consistent profitability, and the lynchpin in your efforts to create a business that works for you (not the other way around). Although the Assessor’s  input seems weighted towards the beginning of the customer journey (rather than years down the line), they set the tone for the entire client experience. They also take a lead in championing high standards across the board, role-modelling behaviours and standards for the rest of the staff team.

In this article, we’ll cover three retention strategies available to you:

  • The monthly one-to-one review
  • In-house competitions
  • The adventure club

These are key elements you can put in place to ensure that each client is engaged on their fitness journey; not just in the honeymoon period of the first 90 days, but in the months and years that follow. 

Monthly One-to-One Review

Most people find it very hard to stay motivated and keep track of their progress on their own – which is part of the reason they come to you.

The monthly one-to-one review is important for a few reasons:

  • It helps members hold themselves accountable to their goals. The simple act of reviewing what they’ve achieved and refreshing their ideas of where they want to get to and why can be very powerful.
  • It’s part of a ten star, personalised customer service. Feeling connected to one coach at the gym can really improve a client’s experience. They feel cared for and motivated by the one to one contact.
  • It drives retention and loyalty. A personal connection combined with great results is the perfect recipe for lifelong members.

Some tips on delivering the monthly one-to-one review:

  • It isn’t about finger wagging when people haven’t managed to get to the gym as often as they could or should. It’s about being supportive and encouraging while also keeping them grounded in the reality that if they want certain results, they need to commit a certain amount of time and energy.
  • It should be member led. This isn’t about you droning on for half an hour on what you think they should be doing – they need to be behind the steering wheel on the journey to their own destination. Give them the space to step up and hold themselves accountable to their aspirations and actions.
  • Give members notice and book it in before time. This makes it less of a surprise test and more of a helpful tool to benchmark progress and create drive.
  • It needs to be personalised. A general pep-talk about getting ripped isn’t enough – refer back to last month’s session to gauge progress. 
“Give people something to work towards that isn’t just their wobbly thighs in the mirror.”

In-House Competitions

In training, like most things in life, too much of the same can get boring. We need to punctuate our members’ daily fitness efforts with landmarks to keep them motivated and looking forward.

Having in-house competitions is a great way of doing this. It doesn’t take people too far out of their comfort zone or add much on to their time commitment to the gym. But it’s great internal marketing – it helps people meet people they usually wouldn’t, and feel part of a wider community, nurturing their loyalty and keeping them engaged with the more standard programming.

Here are some brief tips on running in-house competitions:

  • Do it properly

If you’re going to run an in-house competition, do it properly. Like anything else in a well-run gym, having a system that outlines the process step-by-step will ensure that standards are maintained and will save resource in the future, as you can simply reuse the same template. Ensure you’re on-brand in the way you organise and execute it, too.

  • Prepare

The run up to a competition is just as important as the day itself. The idea is that you’re using this to motivate your members, so mention it in training sessions to give them something to work towards – pop up posters, send out emails, and get a bit of hype going so you get a good turnout on the day.

  • Be inclusive

Don’t forget that you’ll have a range of fitness levels and ages participating if you’ve done a good job of making everyone feel welcome. Make sure to find a way for everyone to feel like they’ve got a shot at properly participating, without being patronising.

  • Keep it client-centric

For the more enthusiastic of us, the competitive spirit can get the juices flowing and you may find yourself getting a bit too involved. Remember that this isn’t a chance for you or your staff to show off; it’s about putting the cherry on top of a service focused on creating an outstanding client experience.

Adventure Club

Training in a gym is a very particular way of exercising – it’s completely removed from the everyday reality of people’s existence. It’s always in a specific place, often at the same times, with similar people.

Having an adventure club to mix things up brings this neat little world crashing into focus, giving everything a refreshing shake-up in the process.

Adventure club is about exercising in new places, in new ways, with different people. It injects excitement into what can get a rather jaded training routine. It also gives people something to work towards that isn’t just their wobbly thighs in the mirror or their trainer telling them to work harder.

Plan something a few times a year, and make sure to promote it internally, both digitally and in the gym itself.

Here are some ideas:

  • Go abroad

Mixing the excitement of fun in the sun with training is always a good way to get people on board.

  • Set a challenge

Think climbing a mountain or cycling across a country.

  • Push the limits

Take your demographic into account and provide the right amount of stretch.

  • Run a boot camp

Some time to focus on fitness and nothing else.

The high churn fitness model is fast becoming a thing of the past for people that want to drive life-changing profit, not just scrape a living: retention is the new cornerstone of a successful fitness business.

Want to learn more about optimising the customer journey?

Try our Insights subscription at half price for the first month with no ongoing commitment. 

Serious about transforming the profitability of your fitness business?

Put yourself or a senior member of your team through The Assessor course. 

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