How many clients can you add to your gym each month—and how many can you retain?
In the last 10 years, I’ve watched gym and CrossFit affiliate owners use various marketing programs that appeared to be very successful. The New You Challenge was one, and Gym Launch was another. In both cases, I was excited for gyms to get more clients, and I even did the New You Challenge three times at my own gym.
Unfortunately, even with great retention systems in place, we always struggled to keep the new people past the initial period of the challenge. Other gyms had the same issue.
In general, many gyms struggle with a lack of systemization and clear retention strategies. But much greater problems can appear in any gym when you bring in a lot of new people at one time.
Huge groups of new clients put a lot of stress on your staff and systems, and if they weren’t A-1 to start, the new pressure is likely to break them. Even great systems have their limits, and if you run them too hard, they’ll fall apart, too.
When dealing with large numbers of new clients, it simply becomes very tough to retain anyone.
But you also have another problem: As those new people flush out, they often take longstanding clients with them because those members haven’t been getting as much of your attention during the period of wild growth.
Whenever you struggle and fail to keep a horde of new people engaged, members of the old crew become irritated and dissatisfied. Then they leave.
Remember this: Large client counts depend on addition and retention. The gyms we work with that have 300 to 700-plus members know how to acquire new clients, but they also know how to keep them.
Systems for the Win
So how many new clients can you actually onboard per month?
It really depends on your systems.
Before I had any sales or onboarding processes, I couldn’t keep a single new client for long. They would all show up, sign up and then quit really quickly. I’m not the only one who had this experience.
I also hear of client bleeds in gyms that have an influx of people because another local gym closes.
Here’s the problem: It can be very tempting to try and onboard 20 or 30 new people at a time. The owner just wants to accommodate everyone quickly—that way clients get to keep training and the gym gets a big revenue boost. So corners are cut and processes are brushed aside—or they just break—as a mass of clients are pushed into the business.
In this scenario, the owner has forgotten what made the gym successful in the first place: a carefully planned client journey, complete with one-on-one onboarding, intake interviews, goal review sessions and regular communication perhaps involving a client success manager.
Instead of sticking to that tried-and-tested plan, the owner is making the same mistakes that killed the failed gym: They try to onboard the clients without any kind of assessment or any kind of intake process. They just throw them straight into classes because they believe all these people have experience. Then they struggle to manage everything, and people start leaving—both new, unsettled members and older, increasingly dissatisfied members.
The reality is that the new additions are leaving because they’re having the same bad experience they had at the failed gym.
Getting them to stay for years would require proper onboarding and a new experience: world-class service delivered by a true professional.
In this series, I’m going to tell you how top gyms get—and keep—hundreds of clients. We work with the best gyms in the world, and we’ll share their secrets with you.
To start, check out this podcast: “Top Tips From Gym Owners With 300-700+ Clients.” Or, if you prefer video, watch the show on YouTube: