How to Reactivate Frozen Members and Slow Attrition

Is your fitness club’s retention protocol borrowed from the local cable company? Non-existent until someone calls to cancel, and then suddenly, you bend over backward to keep their business? In the post-COVID fitness industry, you can’t afford to be reactive. You have to be proactive in retaining members. 

In a perfect world, as soon as you reopened your doors, your members would have come back in steady AND safe numbers. But clearly, 2020 is far from a perfect world, so you’re more likely seeing mass cancellations or members requesting to stay on a freeze indefinitely. 

So, what should your retention approach be in the post-COVID market? ??‍♂️ 

Start by considering these two statements: 

1.) Right now, no one is making the same decisions they would typically make. 

Often, fitness sales strategy is drawn from on-the-job knowledge. Best practices learned over years of experience. So what worked last year should work this year, right? Unfortunately, this year is unlike any we’ve seen. You can’t predict what your members, even members you’ve known for years, will decide to do. The pandemic is impacting everyone in different and profound ways. 

2.) Retention depends on building a dynamic with members that is relational, not transactional. 

You’re running a business, and businesses need revenue. So, it’s tempting to set a hard reactivation date for billing. The calendar flips to the reactivation date and — BAM! — revenue’s flowing again. Except you risk triggering another round of mass cancellations. 

Post-COVID, your existing members are more important than ever. The more you keep, the shorter your recovery period will be. So, how do you implement a retention strategy that is relational rather than transactional? 

Start here

  • Work with your analytics company or leverage your own data to identify member segments that are at a high risk of canceling. 
  • Re-engage high-risk member segments by reaching out. If possible, get them on the phone to build that person-to-person connection. In the conversation, lead with personal questions. Ensure their family is safe and that they are healthy. Then move into exploratory questions to gauge their thoughts on restarting their fitness routine: 
    • Are you finding ways to exercise at home or outside?  
    • Have you thought about coming in for a workout? 
    • What are your concerns about working out at the gym? 
    • Are you aware of the precautions we’re taking?
    • What steps could we take to make you feel comfortable? 
  • As you work through your list of high-risk members, asking these questions should give you a strong idea of the hurdles you face, like fears about the risk of indoor workouts, a lack of space between machines, too many members in the club at one time, or inadequate cleaning procedures. Use this information to identify blindspots in your post-COVID response and make the appropriate changes to address them. 
  • Next, document every step you’re taking to address member concerns and create re-engagement campaigns around them. Showcase to your members that your club takes the situation seriously and can ensure a safe space to workout.
  • Finally, pair your re-engagement campaigns with hyper-targeted promotional campaigns deployed at the household level. Motivate your members to reactive their memberships with offers like this: 
    • Two-week free reactivation for members to test the waters. 
    • Complimentary one-on-one trainer session to reconnect with their fitness goals. (Bonus: generate more opportunities for your trainers.) 
    • Special outdoor group class bundle. (Fall weather is right around the corner, perfect for a good workout.)  
    • Discounts on club products only available to active members. 

Remember, retention is an ongoing process. Partner with your analytics company to revisit your data monthly to map the emerging trends and stay ahead of the changes to the fitness industry caused by COVID-19. 

If you’re interested in learning more about MOTUS Consumer Insights, and how we can empower your team to create stickiness with members, visit