While recreation facilities always say they appreciate their members, they don’t always show it. And if a patron does not feel appreciated, he or she is less likely to renew membership. Developing a comprehensive member retention plan may seem overwhelming, but any facility can do it in a few simple steps.
Sending membership renewal reminders is an easy first step—and one that many facilities ignore. The Town of Flower Mound, Texas, has both monthly and annual memberships. For annual members, a postcard is mailed to the individual’s home the month prior to expiration. An email is then sent the week after the membership expires to remind them that it is still not too late to renew. While many agencies engage only in electronic communication, Flower Mound chooses to do a mixed marketing approach—with both direct mail and electronic reminders, so as to maximize the chances that members will actually receive the notices. After all, annual memberships comprise the the bulk of the town’s revenue, so renewals are critical.
Do an annual membership survey of your members to show your appreciation and that you are listening to their needs. Then post the results publicly. It’s also important to find out why individuals choose to leave your facility. Thirty days after a patron decides not to renew membership, send an electronic survey to gain feedback and understand what guided that decision. Also included is a reminder that membership is not required to take advantage of your recreation programming. Flower Mound sends non-renewing members a $10-off coupon to use toward program registration for completing the survey. Not only does the coupon entice them to complete the survey—it also provides some incentive to continue participating in programs.
Statistics show that individuals who actively use their memberships are far more likely to renew than those who do not use their membership. For this reason, the Town of Flower Mound sends individuals who have not used their membership cards for 90 days a “We Miss You” postcard to remind them to come and utilize the facility and all its great amenities and programs. This is one way to interact with member without asking for them to purchase a service or renew their membership, and it is an important aspect of member retention programs. Some facilities focus their energy solely on how to collect money from members, but it’s important to show members that the facility cares and is looking out for them.
Another great way to show your members appreciation without asking for money is to send birthday cards. All adult members with the Flower Mound facility receive an email the last week of the month prior to their birthday wishing them a happy birthday and providing a $10 coupon for a personal training session. While our agency is conservative about giving out coupons, the personal training coupon is for a service toward which we hope to drive additional revenue. By introducing members to special services, they become more vested in the facility and the retention rate continues to climb.
When an individual decides to join, he or she receives a phone call from a staff member within two weeks. The staff member has a script of items they must touch on during their conversation. The calls help create more of a personal connection with the facility—and new members know they can call and ask questions. Members are also directed to a new member website through a code number placed on their membership card with video clips on simple tasks that they may be embarrassed to ask about. Video clips include how to scan in at the front desk, find a locker, check in for a group exercise class, and take advantage of child care services.
In an effort to continue to acclimate a new member to the facility and in hopes of retaining their membership in the future, all members receive an email from the facility manager two to three weeks after they join. Included in the email is contact information for the facility manager, as well as a link to the member handbook online and all social media sites. Finally, after a month, a new member receives a survey asking how things are going and how staff can assist them make full use of the facility.
These methods listed are just some of the ways the Town of Flower Mound works to retain members. We also hold seasonal member appreciation days, two member-only events per year, and numerous other special events intended to show members how much we value them..
The Town of Flower Mound did not develop its member retention program overnight. We have spent the past two years developing and perfecting the system to achieve a growing membership database and increasing customer satisfaction survey results. Facilities of any size need to evaluate what they do to attract new members and how they are treating the members they already have.
We all want to know that our patronage, time, and commitment are appreciated. Your efforts to show your members you value them will build relationships and grow your facility.
Kate Schneider, CPRP, is the Community Activity Manager for Flower Mound, Texas.
Too often retention of membership is overlooked while you are out recruiting new members. Also, nice to see an NRPA article focued on community centers.