The “Paying-Itself-Back Role” That Drives Retention

An illustration on the time-is-money concept: Vector logo of a clock flowing into dollar symbol.

Numbers matter in a gym business—a lot.

Yet it’s not uncommon to see gym owners who track every squat and deadlift rep go blank when asked about the length of engagement in their businesses.

Length of engagement (LEG) is a measure of retention, and it’s a key performance indicator in a microgym.

If you don’t know your current LEG, you’ll never be able to figure out if it’s improving. And you’ll never be able to measure the effects of your retention tactics.

And here’s something many people don’t realize: Retention is the first key to increasing client count in a gym. Marketing is the second. Because if your marketing is an A+ but your retention is an F, your gym won’t grow.

Hard Data and Amazing Results

In a recent episode of “Run a Profitable Gym,” we interviewed Rune Laursen of BoxLife in Denmark. Rune had earned a spot on our Top 10 leaderboard for client count in December 2023, and he churned out stat after stat during the February interview. Whenever he was asked a question, he answered with an exact metric.

Here’s an example: Rune wanted to use Goal Review Sessions to improve LEG, so he had his client success manager make a Facebook post about the sessions.

He only got three bookings, so he tried another approach.

First, he added Goal Review Sessions to his client journey for new members. These people just saw the meetings as “part of the deal,” and he soon had lots of sessions on the calendar. In those sessions, Rune’s CSM worked hard to retain clients by solving problems and offering more valuable services.

Then he targeted at-risk members—people who hadn’t worked out in the last two weeks. He had 80 of these people, and his CSM started contacting them. It was a lot of work, so Rune added a second person to the system.

When the system was running well, Rune ran his numbers. Instead of 80 at-risk members, he had less than 10.

It gets better: When Rune’s long-term members saw the success newer members were having with goal reviews, he started focusing on the old-school members who had be hesitant to book sessions.

Rune added even more staff hours to his retention plan—and he added 120 goal reviews in a single month.

Quick stat for you: Our data shows that about 30 percent of clients who book goal reviews upgrade their service packages by about 30 percent. And we know these sessions improve retention.

Rune confirmed it: His length of engagement increased from 12 to 20 months as his CSM completed more goal reviews.

With retention vastly improved, his membership total increased and he earned a spot on our leaderboard, with 457 clients. Between December, when we ran the numbers, and February, when we interviewed Rune, he drove the number up to 512.

His revenue also went up “dramatically.”

Rune defines “front-end revenue” as everything sold beyond general memberships, and he added about US$20,000 a month to this category. Remember, that doesn’t even include all the revenue from new membership fees.

I’ll stop throwing stats at you now.

I’ll just circle back to remind you that retention is the key to more clients—and investing in staff is the key to retention.

I say “investing in staff” because a CSM isn’t an expense at BoxLife. The role generates a measurable return that warrants greater investment.

“It is the fastest ‘paying-itself-back role’ I could ever imagine in a gym,” Rune said.

You can watch the whole interview here:

Start Small and Track ROI

So if you want a lot of clients, you must improve retention. One of the easiest ways to do that is to hire a CSM.

And you don’t have to go big and hire a full-time CSM right off the bat. You can start small.

Here’s an example: Allocate about five hours a week to a CSM. That might cost you $120 a week, or $500 a month. Have the CSM work to book Goal Review Sessions—be sure to provide clear instructions and targets.

Then run your numbers every month to see if revenue and retention are increasing. If they are, the CSM’s cost will be more than covered. At that point, you might consider adding more CSM hours, then running the numbers again in a month or two.

Remember, I said numbers matter in a gym business. They’re critical.

If you have them, you can make smart investments that pay off handsomely. If you don’t, you’re flying blind.

Our mentors can help you get a CSM up to speed very fast with tactics and plug-and-play resources. To find out more, book a call here.


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.