3 Tactics to Ensure January Joiners Make It to March—and Beyond

Two men in a gym hold buckets to catch water raining from a leaky roof.

Everyone in fitness knows people often join gyms in January and leave in February and March.

Here’s a 2019 stat from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA, which is now branded as the Global Health and Fitness Association): When it comes to New Year’s joiners, “14 percent quit by the end of February, and 50 percent quit within 6 months.”

It’s early February, so you definitely have some at-risk clients—whether you know it or not.

Direct from Chris Cooper, here are three specific things you can do this week to ensure new clients don’t become former clients in the next six weeks.

A head shot of writer Mike Warkentin and the column name "Pressing It Out."

Retention Tactic 1

Do this: Make sure your new clients have a 90-day goal.

We recommend gym owners create an entire client journey that has a great deal of emphasis on the first 90 days. What you do in the first three months will have a significant effect on retention. A mentor can help you optimize your client journey, but if you don’t have one, here’s your stop-gap solution: Simply connect with new clients now to make sure they have a goal in mind.

The best way to get clients focused on something is with a sit-down Goal Review Session. You can certainly do that, but don’t hold off on talking to new clients while setting it up. At minimum, make a list of your New Year’s clients and connect with them according to this hierarchy: a sit-down meeting booked within three to five days (best), a quick in-person chat after a workout, a phone call, a text, an email (worst).

Just do something to get new clients thinking about goals. Make sure you keep track of those goals. In some cases, you’ll even have a chance to upgrade your service to help clients reach the goals they come up with.

Retention Tactic 2

Do this: Schedule 30-day check-ins for all new clients.

If you get a New Year’s client off the fence by talking about goals this week, you must follow up within 30 days to ensure they aren’t wavering.

New clients can’t always see progress and think they’re failing. Or they’re losing momentum. Or maybe they actually aren’t getting results and need an adjustment to a program. If you check in again in 30 days, you can solve a lot of problems and prevent cancellations.

Here’s a protip: Schedule this 30-day check-in right as you’re implementing Tactic 1. Say this: “We’ve got a goal and a plan in place. Let’s meet in 30 days to review progress. When are you free?” Get the appointment in the calendar now. Don’t circle back later when it’s easier for an at-risk client to ghost you.

You’ll review progress toward the goal at this meeting, you’ll celebrate wins, and you’ll make adjustments to the plan. But you’ll also address any other issues that come up. A powerful question: “How are you doing right now?” Another good one: “What challenges are you dealing with at present?”

Retention Tactic 3

Do this: Develop a “communication rhythm” with new clients.

Implement a plan to keep in touch with your new clients so they’re never on their own for long. The exact rhythm will depend on your workload, staffing and systems.

For example, if you’re a sole proprietor working 80 hours a week, you’re probably not going to have time for daily texts (a mentor can help you get more done in less time). If you have a client success manager—a critical role in a strong microgym—you can have that person handle comms, and you might be able to get daily emails out the door.

The point: Figure out what level of communication you can handle and then stick to the plan. Your minimum goal is to have clients expect to see your name in their in-boxes on a schedule. Your maximum goal is to re-engage flagging clients by giving them extra care and attention.

You don’t have to get extreme here. You could, for example, write down “15 ways to get the most out of the gym” and send one tip every two days for the next month. Or maybe you send a “Motivation Monday” email followed by a “how was the week?” video text on Friday. Maybe you call every 10 days.

Regardless of the details, pick a plan and then stick to it so your new clients know that they’re on your mind. Try to get them to respond to your communications. Radio silence? Ramp up your efforts with that client. Silent, absent clients are about 10 seconds from vanishing forever.

They Have to Stay to Get Fit

Don’t lose a single hard-won client without a fight.

If you let clients fade out, you aren’t doing your job. They came to you for help getting fit, and they haven’t made much progress since Jan. 1. You know they’ll need months and years of help to accomplish their goals.

Use these three retention tactics this week and you’ll have the greatest chance to change your clients’ lives.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.