Dr. Paul Bedford: Retention Strategies for 2024 and Beyond

Dr. Paul Bedford: Retention Strategies for 2024 and Beyond

(photo: Dr. Paul Bedford, courtesy www.retentionguru.com)

By Erin Phelan

By Erin Phelan

Fitness Industry Council of Canada

You might be fantastic at incentives and promotions, skilled at marketing, able to cast a wide net and attract members to your gym each and every month.


But how do you make them stay?


This is the time of year where your gung-ho newcomers often start to drift away, when classes that were jammed in January have space again, and when your regulars can finally get back on the equipment they love. For the fitness industry, it is crunch time: You have to tighten up your retention strategies – for newcomers, for your loyal members, and for those who might be paying a monthly fee, but are on the fence as to whether or not they stay.


Join Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) this Friday, February 16th at 1:30pm EST, for the first time in Canadian history, as Dr. Paul Bedford, known as The Retention Guru, shares insights and retention strategies he has implemented with gyms all across the globe – from large international franchises to small boutique clubs.


Dr. Bedford has moved through the ranks in the fitness industry, beginning his career like many as a fitness instructor and personal trainer, to gym manager, but always curious as to why so many members would start a gym journey and then stop. He completed a Masters degree in Exercise and Health Behavior, followed by a Masters in Social Science research, and finally a PhD, testing his theories on increasing adherence, reducing attrition and improving member loyalty. His presentations spark passion and interest, and the takeaways can be implemented immediately.


If you don’t have a great retention strategy, you need one, and it needs to be a part of your business model as much as your operations, HR and marketing. Here, we share three of Dr. Paul Bedford’s teaser strategies when building a Retention Strategy:

1. Know what you’re Offering, and Know your Company Culture

In an interview with Les Mills, Dr. Bedford spoke about the new era of fitness – where consumers often have multiple memberships, making it more vital than ever for a fitness facility to have a strong sense of who they are, what they offer, and how your gym or community is different.


“It’s very important to have a distinct member offering and be clear what you stand for – if you try to stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing. So, to take the specific example of a CrossFit or Hyrox offering, you’re appealing to strongly committed exercisers and it’s then a case of whether they choose you or go with the comparable competition,” says Dr. Bedford.


“But if you go to the other end of the spectrum and look at the people who are new to exercise, that’s where the industry is really missing a trick. We’ve significantly improved the quality of almost everything over the last 20 years and have some beautiful facilities to showcase, but we’re seriously lacking when it comes to onboarding. The analogy I often use is that it’s like walking into a car showroom and giving the keys to a Bentley to someone who hasn’t got a driver’s license. Can they even get it out of the showroom? And if we’re going to continue to grow the industry, we need to start segmenting and putting the right supports in place so that new joiners are being set up for success.”


2. Make Interaction Central to your Retention Strategy

How do you satisfy all your members and keep them coming back? Do you slash prices? Stay open 24 hours for convenience? In an interview with The Fitness Network, Dr. Bedford says that interaction is the key piece of the puzzle: “all gyms can see a huge impact by engaging more proactively with their members. Even the “drift-away’ers” are also crying out for interaction.”


Dr. Bedford advises gyms to be on the lookout for the different membership types in their facilities. “Of course, some people are self-motivated, and their program won’t change significantly from one year to the next, but many need change and variety to reinvigorate their enthusiasm. Every gym should have a mechanism for identifying members that like change or like consistency. Once they’ve categorized the former, they must ensure that every six or 12 months the people are approached and interacted with, regardless of whether they are paying for personal training.”


“Ultimately, in most cases interaction is the single biggest factor. The lack of a sense of belonging and community is the reason why people who should be great members lose interest and cancel, whether after two months or two years.”


3. Create a Watertight Onboarding Process

In an interview with podcast GloFox, Dr. Bedford reminds gym owners there is no “one-size fits all” when it comes to a member joining a gym – and there are traditionally three types of members who sign up:

    • The New Member who has never joined a gym before
    • The Savvy Member who is an experienced gym-goer and knows what they are doing
    • The Yo-Yo member who has been a regular member of a gym at least once, but has not committed to a gym long-term


Dr. Bedford says part of your retention strategy needs to start from the onboarding phase – and your team needs to identify who needs more support and who needs less. This involves asking the right questions and allocating the right resources to support each type. The mistake some gyms make is treating a Yo-Yo Member like a Savvy Member – when they should really be considered a new member, to make sure they get the support they need and ensure they don’t leave.

Fitness Industry Council of Canada is proud to provide the fitness industry will leading global experts like Dr. Paul Bedford, Retention Guru. Do not miss this exceptional opportunity to learn form a world-class leader!

Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.

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