The importance of member retention

Coming from the fitness industry, I recognise the importance of member retention. Often arguments would arise, what is more important sales or retention?  In a fee paying health club the more members the club has the better.  The cost of attracting a new member is arguably more than the cost of retaining a current member.  So investment in keeping your members is a very important element of club management.

So what can amateur sports clubs learn from the fitness industry and why is it important?

It is important to retain your members for a number of reasons and I have highlighted the main ones below:

  • Members pay fees, the club relies on fees to remain operational and for future investment
  • Continuity of membership helps clubs to build strong teams/squads
  • Members who have been with the club longer are more likely to invest their time and energy into the club (potential committee members and volunteers)
  • A thriving club with a strong core membership will attract new members to join

I never fail to be amazed at clubs who close membership and turn away potential new members.  Members are the lifeblood of our clubs and the more we have the more successful we can be.  Clubs just need to have a medium term plan to identify how they wish to grow, the resources they require and the method in which they may phase this growth (and this may be the topic for a future Blog entry).

So how do we retain our members?  What lessons can we learn from the professionals?

There are a number of things we need to understand:

Are our current members satisfied with their membership?

There are a number of areas of potential dissatisfaction.  These can include a member being unhappy that they are not getting enough playing time, a member feeling they are in the wrong squad, a parent feeling their child is not getting good enough coaching, a member feeling that fees are too high, a member feeling unhappy with the cleanliness of the changing rooms, the examples are endless.

Do we have feedback mechanisms for members?

To tackle any dissatisfaction you must consider the feedback mechanisms in place.  Do you ever assess your coaches, are they providing a great service to the club?  If there are issues with facilities, how easy is it for a member to complain, who do they complain to and what actions are taken?  Do you have parent’s evenings which give opportunities for parents to discuss their child’s progress and to understand the progression opportunities within the club.  Do you involve the parents so they start to feel part of the club, as soon as you start getting involved the less likely you are to fly the nest.

Why do members leave us?

Have you ever analysed the reasons that members leave.  It could be for legitimate reasons, going to University, moving away, retiring from sport.  However if you start to find they are leaving to join another club, for more development, to play at a higher standard, then you should start to consider how you can tackle this.  No one wants to lose their better players to other clubs if at all possible.

Are there progression opportunities for our members?

If we discover the next great junior at aged 11, what are their progression opportunities?  How do we communicate these, is there a clear area on your website for parents to read about your academy policy for example?  It is important that clubs take the initiative and work hard to keep the members that they have invested so much in.

Do we engage with our members?

It is important that as committee members and decision makers we spend time engaging with members.  This must cover ALL members, not just a small circle.  Think about your membership in the following way:

  • 20% – loyal, die hard members, who will stay with you for ever.  Often these members are those who do most of the management work of the club.
  • 60% – members who are engaged, paying or competing regularly and relatively happy with their membership, engaging in some social activity
  • 20% – not playing/competing regularly or competing at the wrong level, not engaged in social activities

When engaging with members it is clearly most important to engage with the bottom 20%.  Let’s get them back into the heart of the club, assess how we can get them back into competition/training and try and encourage them to attend social events.  These are your high risk members.

Do our members understand our plans for the club?

My final piece of advice is to ensure you are open and transparent in your management of the club.  Plans should be made public, let’s engage the members and encourage feedback.  By being open members can see that the club is ambitious and pro-active.  In many cases these plans may help members to understand the potential for them in the club in the future and help them to make the very positive decision to maintain their membership.

Your members are your biggest fans, they will help your club to gain new members through word of mouth if they themselves are happy.   Spend some time looking at member retention and see how well your club are performing in this area.

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Posted in management, members, Sports Clubs

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