It's highly likely that – as a gym owner or a health club operator – you want your business to be as sustainable and profitable as possible.

If that's the case, it's time to start looking at what really contributes the most to your bottom line: your members. Your ethos should not just be about getting as many members as possible, but instead focus on how you can keep as many members as possible.

You should be constantly reviewing how you can ensure members continue to exercise within your facility regularly, with a smile on their face, all while achieving health and fitness goals which they may never have thought possible.

If this is not at the heart of your mission right now, and you're focusing on 'sleeping members' instead, it might be you who needs to seriously wake up!

Loyal members are way more likely to do more of the following compared to their 'non-loyal' counterparts:

  • Refer more friends
  • Consistently attend the gym for a longer duration
  • Spend more in your stores
  • Schedule personal training sessions
  • Use all your club’s amenities
  • Book classes
  • Meet more people
  • Achieve result

In an ideal world, we want to turn every prospect who walks through the door into a loyal member. But just how do we do that?

The Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change

Let me draw your attention to The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behavioral Change.  This model is used to identify a number of stages that a person (and for our purposes, a member of your health club) may go through as they experience key lifestyle changes.

If you ask your manager, personal trainers, class Instructors or marketers to identify which stage each of your members are in, you will be in a much better position to relate to your members’ feelings about exercise. On top of that, you will be able to help them increase their exercise adherence, thus turning them from a nonactive member into a very active, loyal member!

The TTM is made up of five stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

Stage 1: Precontemplation

Precontemplation is the stage in which a member is not even considering going to your gym or health club. It may also occur when a prospect is not even thinking about joining your gym. The member or prospect in question in this case does not see or understand the value of incorporating the gym into his or her daily routine. When dealing with members in the precontemplation stage, it’s best to encourage them to consciously think about the advantages of leading a healthier lifestyle. It’s also a good time to educate members and prospects about the health risks associated with being physically inactive and to reinforce the health benefits of being physically active – and therefore, being an active gym member.

Whatever role you are playing to convince the member or prospect to become more active in your gym, it is important to recognize that the member may be stubborn or oblivious in their attitude toward the gym. That aside, it's best to still offer support and encouragement about the benefits of attending the gym and an active lifestyle.

A member in this Precontemplation stage of the TTM is probably not referring any friends to join your gym; they are certainly not achieving results and – besides the membership – they are not contributing to your health club’s profits.

Stage 2: Contemplation

Contemplation is the stage where a prospect or a member begins to consider the idea of going to the gym. A prospect/member in this stage is still inactive, but they may have started to think about how attending the gym could positively affect his or her health. This prospect/member is not quite yet ready to make a change, but is starting to think about attending the gym.

For us, the member's decision is key here. It is important that we encourage the member/prospect to assess the pros and cons of joining a gym, so he or she can start to better understand the positive implications of being an active gym goer.

A member in this Contemplation stage of the TTM is still probably not referring any friends to join your gym, they are not achieving results and, besides the membership if they’re already a member, they are not contributing to your health club’s profits.

Stage 3: Preparation

Preparation is the stage where a member is both mentally and physically preparing to start going to the gym. Here, this member is no longer “sedentary.” They’ve begun to engage in some exercise program (e.g. walking on a treadmill, 10 mins on the rower, working their muscles on the resistance machines), but there is no real consistency or commitment in the preparation stage. The member is susceptible to relapse back into the contemplation stage. For us, it is absolutely imperative to try and ensure any members in the preparation stage have an exercise plan they are comfortable with, so they can feel confident about achieving their goals and overcoming barriers.

It is expected that over 50% of members will be in the preparation stage when they first join the gym, so it is vital that you get this right. The earlier you can offer some personal trainer intervention and some behavior change rewards, the better it is for the member.

A member in this Preparation stage of the TTM is likely to want to refer friends to build a stronger social support network, meaning they offer more value than those in the earlier stages. However, they are still not achieving results with you – so they may not be shouting about how great your gym is from the rooftops. These are the members that have potential to become loyal members if their initial experience is right.


Stage 4: Action

Action is the stage where a member has been engaging with the gym for less than six months. This member is sticking to an exercise regime as planned in the preparation stage. Here, it is important to offer continuous support and encouragement, while helping the member concentrate on the long-term benefits of being an active gym member. In this stage, introducing the concept of goal setting with rewards is key. Managing the expectations and learning how to override potential hurdles, barriers and pitfalls are also important to helping the member progress to the next stage.

A member in this Action stage of the TTM is probably referring friends to join your gym and they are probably on their way to achieving results. They may very well be booking PT sessions, buying your supplements and contributing to your bottom line beyond their monthly dues. These members are loyal and are most likely coming to your gym 4-5 times per week.

Stage 5: Maintenance

Maintenance is the stage where a member has been actively attending the gym for more than six months. This member has significantly progressed from the action stage into the maintenance stage, where he or she is maintaining their great work at the gym.

As health club operators, it is important to offer continued encouragement to members in this stage so they maintain their positive behavior. It's wise to also identify potential issues which may arise for your member, leading to a relapse.

A member in the Maintenance stage of the TTM will be referring friends to join your gym and achieved results, having PT sessions, buying your supplements and engaging with you in more ways than one. These members are the most loyal and are most likely coming to your gym at least 5 times per week.

So where do we go from here?

The aim for all operators should be to try and get as many members as possible into the "Maintenance" stage of the TTM.

Most people who have a commitment to exercise will try and get at least an hour of exercise in per day. It doesn't always have to be in the gym but we'd surely rather it would be. That's around 24 visits per month!

There's a common misconception that we should encourage members to attend just 3 times per week, but that only exists because without realising we are preaching to those in the 'Preparation Stage' and we don't want to put these people off so they go back into 'Contemplation'.

The reality is as members progress through the stages, we should be encouraging people to hit the gym at least 12 times per month. Only then will we see our members form habits. When the habit is formed, that's when loyalty is, too!

Want to learn more about helping your members form habits? Check out our gamification guide and see how your can apply gamification techniques with a rewards program by scheduling a demo below.