How to Beat the Summer Attendance Slump

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When we say summer, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s evenings at the ballpark or the smell of sunscreen. Perhaps it’s cool, sweet watermelon. But more than likely, when you think of summer, you also think about the drop in attendance at your gym. Fitness businesses everywhere report a dip in traffic during the summer, and your gym is probably no different.

The thing is, summer doesn’t have to be synonymous with an empty gym. With some planning and a little work, you can keep your members engaged and motivated to work out all summer long. To help, we’ve created a two-phase plan of attack. We’ll explain what to do to make sure your members form a habit that keeps them in the gym, and we’ll share a few creative ideas to help your members sustain their momentum during the hottest months of the year.

Flip Their Motivational Switch

It’s probably no surprise that the key to this plan is a habit. In their book, Switch, Chip and Dan Heath explain that it’s easier to maintain a positive habit than to build a new one. To use this psychological concept in your favor, you’ll want to help your members get excited about working out so they solidify the habit. Then when the dog days of summer roll around, they think twice before letting their progress go to waste. (Or waist. See what we did there?)

We know what you’re thinking now. Your members are already excited, right? But are they as excited as they were on January 1st? Probably not. So give these ideas a try and see if you can recreate some of that intense and focused motivation to build a habit that sticks.

  • Free mini-session with a personal trainergroup flex
  • Guest passes to bring a friend to the gym
  • Weekly spotlight on group classes to expose more people to your different class styles. You can offer the spotlight classes free to the community to generate more interest and make them special for the week.

For more retention tips, download our free Essential Strategies for Member Retention Guide

Help Maintain Momentum

Hopefully your members will lock in the habit of working out heading into the summer. From there you’ll want to capitalize on that progress by helping your members maintain the momentum. Remember, it’s easier to keep a good habit than it is to start again, so your goal here is to do what it takes to keep them engaged.

Start rolling these programs out in July and August.

  • Weekly workouts in the park, farmers market or outdoor amphitheater. Advertise in your gym’s monthly newsletter. Also promote these workouts in family-friendly locations like your local ice cream shops, as well as in local hotels. (With good advertising, you might be able to attract new clients or out of town visitors willing to pay a drop-in fee.)
  • A contest for most workouts in X number of days. (There are 90 days in the summer season) You can use member management solution to keep track of visits by member and award a final prize to the member with the most in the set period.
  • Weekly workout accountability check-ins, possibly done by their trainer from the mini-session earlier in summer. This can be managed by text, email or in person. Or, you can do a weekly tips and motivation newsletter for this short period for members who opt-in.
  • Weekly/bi-weekly seminars, covering topics like nutrition, Olympic lifting, fitness competitions, mobility and recovery, etc. Look for guest speakers to give these lectures. Many freelance professionals and coaches will do a lecture for free in exchange for the exposure.

If these ideas sound good but the execution sounds overwhelming, we have a couple tips for you. Not all of your members will need extra encouragement. That’s where your member management software comes in. You can run a few simple reports to identify your more at-risk members. Then you can offer some of these promotions specifically to that group through targeted, automated emails.

For instance, your regular members probably won’t want a mini-session with a trainer, but your newer members might. Offer the mini-sessions to newer members or members with spotty attendance, using automated emails. Then, after they attend their mini-session, offer them the weekly accountability check-in throughout the summer. Since you’re not offering these promos to your entire gym, they will be less time intensive to manage.

If you’re still not convinced you can pull off this plan, you can take on an intern from your local college to help with the process. Reaching out to a local college and connecting with someone in the sports, fitness, wellness or recreation management department is easy. From there, school advisors and department heads will send your internship offer out to their students. Since most programs require internships before graduation, you should have plenty of interested candidates to pick from.

Now when you think of the good things about summer you can add a full gym to your list. With a little work up front, your summer season will be as busy as the first week of each new year.

Looking for ways to keep your members coming back to your fitness business throughout the year? Get your copy of our guide, 7 Essential Strategies for Member Retention, to get ideas that will help keep your members engaged with your gym for years to come.

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