How to welcome new members

A few years before I moved to Denver and found Zen Planner, I worked as a ski instructor. I don’t remember what the beginning of my first season was like, I just know that by my second (and third, and fourth) season teaching, I knew where and when to pick up my uniform, what layers to wear depending on what the weather was like and when to show up for work and what to say to clients.

My fifth season, I recruited a friend to teach with me — it was a blast, the money was good and she liked to ski, so it was a natural fit for her. I was shocked when, a month into the ski season, she abruptly quit. When I asked her why, she spewed out one reason: “No one communicates anything! I have no idea where to go, what I’m supposed to do, what to wear, who my boss is, how many kids I’ll be teaching that day, how to fill out my time card — anything!” I realized in that moment that I had a lot of information that I’d taken for granted, and that held for more than just being a ski instructor. Sometimes, particularly if we’ve been doing something for a while, we don’t realize how much we know (and how good we are at what we’re doing!) compared to people who are just beginning that thing.

Get tips on increasing member loyalty in our free guide, 7 Essential Strategies for Member Retention!

I’m certain there are lots of things you’re doing to attract potential new members (and if you’re not, we can help you with that!). Part of your prospecting system should include putting yourself in the shoes of a prospective member. Ask yourself:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where? (Wear?)
  • When?
  • How?
Who should I be to come to your gym or school? Where are you located?

Make sure the answers to these questions are explicitly outlined on your website and Facebook page. Note your address and hours of operation, and if possible, include a link to the Google map so that prospects can access directions to your location from a mobile device. Do you coach athletes and students of all ages, or are your programs restricted? Even if it seems obvious, make sure this is described as well. Some teenagers may be interested in Olympic weightlifting classes but if your site doesn’t address them, they may move on. This holds for martial arts, too; parents of young children may not know how early their kiddos can start karate. It’ll pay dividends for you to make that information obvious.

What should I wear, what should I bring and when should I arrive?

Prospects will make assumptions about what to wear based off of the photographs on your website, but that may also scare them away, thinking that not owning the right gear precludes them from participating. Saying something like, “be sure to wear fitted exercise clothes, especially made of wicking fabrics” is a good place to start.

Is there specific equipment they need to bring, or accessories like towels or water bottles? If you rent or loan yoga mats or uniforms, mention as much as possible so that prospects don’t purchase new gear before their first class. Give people an idea of when to show up and what to expect; if you want them to come early to sign a waiver, make sure you’re prepared for drop-ins before class. If you have to dig through a drawer for a document to sign, you’ll create skepticism that you welcome new students.

You’re in this business because you’re good at what you do, but as with lots of things, you might lose the forest for the trees. Keep an eye out for small ways to be more inclusive to potential new customers. It might make a big difference!

Making a great first impression can have a huge impact on overall member retention. Looking for more ways to keep your members loyal? Get your free copy of our guide, 7 Essential Strategies for Member Retention.

gym member retention guide