Retention in Gyms: What Actually Matters?

Retention concept: a magnet attracts a number of black metal pawns on a charcoal table.

I’ve had about 3,000 clients come through my gym over 20 years in business.

But I don’t have 3,000 clients in my gym—so should I focus my efforts on marketing to find more or should I invest in retention?

The truth: Marketing problems are often retention problems in disguise.

You don’t need more clients; you need to hold onto your clients longer.

Key Retention Metric: Length of Engagement

Churn is the percentage of clients who leave every month. If you have 100 clients and three leave every month, you have a churn rate of three percent.

The metric works well for software companies and similar businesses that don’t have personal relationships with clients.

But in a coaching gym, churn doesn’t give us enough info: It doesn’t tell us if we’re accomplishing our goal of making people healthier.

For example, people who leave a gym after three months might be done with fitness forever. They haven’t changed anything or created any habits. They tried a gym and decided “working out isn’t for me.”

On the other hand, clients who leave a gym after training for two years or more generally don’t stop working on their health and fitness. They might quit your gym because they’re moving, or their shift changed, or they want to try another style of training. So they leave—but they keep working out.

That’s actually a win for the gym owner even if it’s a “minus 1” in the client column.

The reality is that you won’t keep every client forever. But if your goal is to help people become fitter and healthier—and I know it is—you have accomplished your mission if a client leaves you after two years of work (or more). You changed that client’s life.

Churn doesn’t tell us if we’re truly helping people.

It also doesn’t tell us who’s leaving and why. It’s just “five people left.” We want to know who they are and why they left so we can upgrade our client journey.

Another example: If seven of 10 departing clients are all leaving after nine months of membership, you might add something to the client journey at the six-month mark to ensure they don’t cancel 90 days later.

Or what if 70 percent of departures occur in the first 40-60 days? That would indicate an onboarding problem—this is common, and you can fix it by adding more touchpoints earlier in the client journey.

The thing that helps you retain a client at the two-year mark won’t be the same as the thing that helps you retain a client at the two-week mark. You must have different strategies at different stages of the client journey. (We map out these journeys for our clients and give them specific strategies they can use with clients at each stage of membership.)

Numbers and Data

You should track LEG at your gym, and you should always try to improve it.

What are some milestones? Well, the industry average length of engagement is 7.8 months. That’s not good. You should aim to beat that by a large margin.

For comparison, Two-Brain clients hold members for 20 or more months, on average, by using tried-and-tested retention tactics.

And here’s a dollar figure that might blow your mind: The average gym owner who filled out the Two-Brain Gym Checkup in 2018 could have earned an extra $45,000 that year just by increasing average retention by two months.

We’re in the business of changing lives, but you can’t do that if your business goes under, so these financial numbers are important, too.

I’d encourage you to start tracking length of engagement today. If you already do, let’s drive the number up this week.

To help, I’ve got a new guide for you: “Never Lose a Client Again” is now available!


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.