member retention

Why Onboarding New Gym Members Leads to Better Retention

Onboarding new gym members can significantly increase membership retention at your gym. Here are nine tips for improving your onboarding process!

Monica Hilton
November 29, 2022
Why Onboarding New Gym Members Leads to Better Retention
Onboarding new gym members can significantly increase membership retention at your gym. Here are nine tips for improving your onboarding process!

Membership retention can sometimes pose a significant challenge for gym owners. Once members have gotten started and developed consistency, chances are you’ve got yourself a long-term, loyal member. But how do we get them to that point? Onboarding new gym members is a crucial step in the process.

Onboarding is the process of guiding them through the introductory stage of membership at your gym. It’s more than just giving them a tour and signing them up for a membership. And although this process can look completely different at each fitness business, the similarity is in the outcome.

Onboarding new gym members

Onboarding new gym members is really about making them feel welcome and comfortable, answering their questions and introducing them to your community.

Nine Tips For Successful Onboarding.

Your onboarding process can set the tone for a member’s entire gym experience. Show them that you care about them and their journey from the start. Then you’ve paved the way for brand loyalty, long-term gym membership and referrals.

Here are some tips for properly onboarding new gym members:

1. Make It Personal.

The first key to successful onboarding is personalization. Every person that walks in your door will have a different story. They’ll come from different backgrounds, and have different internal and external struggles. And most likely, even though most will want to “lose weight” or “gain strength,” there will be more layers to explore.

Take the time to talk with each new member and understand their goals. Then you can develop a plan to help them succeed.

2. Establish A Baseline.

In order to create a plan for success, it’s important to find out where the member is starting from. Ask about their fitness experience and comfort level with trying new movements. Do they have any injuries to work around? And if they’re willing, record weight, measurements and body fat percentage.

In addition, performing baseline fitness tests is mutually beneficial to both of you. On your side, you’ll be able to ascertain the fitness level they’re starting at. On the member’s side, they now have a trackable “score” in which to beat the next time.

3. Give Them The Right Tour.

Your gym might have an abundance of state-of-the-art equipment and tons of square footage. But chances are, that’s not what your new member is looking for. Yes, you’ll want to get them oriented to their new surroundings, but “here are the GHD machines” isn’t going to get them ready for their journey.

As part of your onboarding process, take them on a tour that shows them what their wins will look like. First, walk them through an imaginary first class, pointing out that the coach will guide everyone through a warmup. Next, show them where the whiteboard briefing takes place and that there are modifications for every fitness level. Then point out the PR board, where members celebrate the things they never thought they’d be able to do.

All of these things help the member visualize themselves in classes and experiencing wins, setting the stage for a successful member journey.

Set the stage for a successful member journey

4. Safety First.

One of the most important steps in onboarding new gym members is teaching them how to move properly. Big numbers in the gym mean nothing if the member keeps getting injured, and technique is the key to consistent progress.

Private, one-on-one sessions are one of the best ways to introduce proper form and technique. Assess any mobility limitations and include the fitness benchmarks mentioned above. These initial sessions will show your new members that you truly care about their journey, as well as giving them a sense of direction.

Remember, the onboarding process can be overwhelming for some people. Make sure to go at the new member's pace and give them breaks when needed.

5. Tell Them What To Expect.

During your new member onboarding, give them a birds-eye view of the complete member experience. Tell them what to expect as they get started, as they progress and what the long-term member journey looks like.

Cover basic things like how to sign up for classes and how to purchase gym apparel. Tell them how to find a list of upcoming community events. Explain the milestones they’re working toward at the gym and what happens when they get there. Every gym is unique so go through the FAQs of your gym and provide new members with this info.

6. Introduce Them To The Community.

Your gym community is probably one of the biggest game-changers for membership retention. However, a gym full of strangers can be extremely intimidating for new members at first.

Help them overcome their intimidation by introducing them to at least three people. That way, they have at least a few familiar faces when they come into the gym at the start. Here are a few recommendations:

  • An “ambassador” member: Someone who absolutely loves your gym and will get them hyped up for everything you have to offer.
  • A member that will be attending the same class time as them on a regular basis.
  • One of your coaches: You know the one that’s really good with new members? That’s the one.

7. Invite Them To An Upcoming Event.

While you’re onboarding new gym members, get them excited about being part of the gym family by inviting them to an upcoming community event.

Also, invite them to invite their friends and family. Allowing them to bring a guest will help them feel more comfortable in a social setting with a bunch of new faces. Bonus: Their friend or family member may be interested in signing up as well!

8. Answer Their Questions.

At the beginning, the information overload might be a lot for new members to process. Allow them to ask all the questions they have. And even though you’ve probably answered the same ones a million times before, be patient. Remember that everything is new to them and you’re the helpful guide for their membership journey.

They’ll want to know things like what kind of results to expect, how often to work out and what to wear.

Remind new members that seeing results takes time and consistency. Encourage them to stick with it even when they don't feel like it or have a bad workout. Everyone has off days, but consistency is essential.

Provide gym info and answer questions

9. Leverage Automation For Follow-Up.

If all goes well, your new member is going to have an incredible gym experience ahead of them. In order to properly nurture that journey, and save yourself a ton of time, automation is key.

Here are just a few of the automated emails and texts you can send along the way:

  • Welcome text on the first day of their membership.
  • “Gym basics” email, telling them how to download the app and sign up for their first class.
  • Celebration text on their birthday.
  • Monthly newsletter email with all the gym updates and events.
  • Milestones celebration texts for things like 100th class or PRs.
  • Progress check-in emails, asking them how things are going and if they have any feedback to provide.
Pro Tip: Want to learn more about how to save time with automation? Then book a PushPress Grow demo today!

Following up after their first few visits is critical to getting them started on the right foot. But continuing to follow up throughout their whole membership span show that you truly care about their experience.

After a member has been with the gym for a while, try to get feedback on the process for onboarding new gym members. This will allow you to identify any areas that need improvement and shows that you're committed to providing the best possible experience for new members.

In Summary: Onboarding New Gym Members Is Key

Set new members up for success by guiding them through a successful onboarding program. Personalize the journey by finding out about their specific background, current fitness level and goals. Teach them to move safely and what to expect at your gym. Introduce them to the community so they feel welcomed and comfortable from the start. This shows the new member that you genuinely care and sets them up for an incredible, long-term membership experience.

Monica Hilton

Monica is our Content Manager extraordinaire for PushPress. She also owns her gym in Indianapolis, Together We Rise CrossFit, which she opened in 2014 and previously worked in IndyCar racing.

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