Gyms, Health & Fitness
February 27, 2023

How to Increase Gym Membership Sales

How to Increase Gym Membership Sales

Customer drop offs are expected in the fitness business. Whether people go to the gym or not usually doesn’t matter anyway as they’ve paid for a 3 to 6 month membership. This makes gyms unique as their new customers who’ve lapsed actually subsidise services for the existing members. It’s widely reported in fact that gyms count on this happening. But the cost of living crisis has probably thrown a huge spanner in usual business norms. 

The cost of living crisis has put gyms between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, energy bills for pools, saunas, electrical equipment and other utilities are through the roof. On the other hand, members drop off as they feel the pinch and need to cut back in order to afford essentials like food and other household expenses.

If your value proposition has little incentive and benefits to offset the cost of fitness lifestyles, you’ll definitely miss the usual lapsed memberships that typically subsidise your gym. 

That’s why in this blog post we’re going to take a look at the current issues that quite frankly hurt the bottom line for many gyms. We’ll also give you some free tips on how to increase gym membership sales all year round. It’s time to wave bye bye to low customer loyalty and gain some retention! 



    1. Get sign-ups and socials on form

    2. Always go heavy with personalisation 

    3. Incentivise upsells alongside core services

    4. Never forget: retention is a marathon not a sprint

    5. Set up a referral & rewards programme to do the heavy lifting

Gym Retention Strategies Guide


Issues with retention and loyalty for gyms 

In this section we look at five fundamental issues most gyms currently face. It’s true that some lapsed customers might work for you, especially if you own a chain of gyms.

However, there’s bound to be at least one gym that all the others have to make up for. See if any of these issues seem familiar to you. Better yet – ask your customers for feedback or check online reviews to see if any of our points below resonate. 


1) Lack of sales experience & digital presence

Now, as with any business, it’s the people inside it that make it. We’re not knocking any employees here but it has to be said; many people who work in gyms aren’t qualified. A whopping 70% of candidates lack the necessary skills or know-how. Chances are they’ve never experienced selling something either. 

That’s an issue. Without a working sales process there’s no chance you’re going to convert prospects into customers. But that’s not the employees’ fault. Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s up to the business to provide tools to help. For example, a sales playbook or inviting an expert in to refine and teach a brand new sales strategy could work. 

Smaller fitness chains and independently owned gyms find it difficult to consistently post on social media platforms. This is often due to time constraints, lack of content ideation, and blatant disregard of the potential advertising prowess of social media. Just take a look at some of these stats:

  • 81% of consumers use Instagram to research products and services 

  • 77% of B2C businesses acquire customers through Facebook

Social media is great for capturing leads. But let’s face it, those businesses which can afford to ignore it have got nothing they feel is worthy of sharing. Same can be said about their sales process or lack of it; there’s nothing to show the prospect that’s worth selling, other than the most basic service. So they’ve no choice but to depend on the customer to make that purchase decision on their own volition. 

Yet consumers want more and meeting their expectations is the only way to increase membership sales. 

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2) Outdated means of communication & tech 

Fitness technology is transforming the industry. There’s apps to help members manage their accounts, schedules and bookings. More generalised fitness apps like MyFitnessPal and Trainerize are also available. Both of which help freelance personal trainers track diet plans and manage clients’ workout regimens. Not to mention the amount of wearable fitness tech available on the market like FitBits and Apple Watches with tracker software. 

So, why is this relevant to customer loyalty and retention? 

Well clearly there’s a demand for technical innovation in fitness and health. If people are kitted out with activity watches and Fitbits, keeping track of their meals on MyFitnessPal, at the very least they’ll expect a functioning website.

It only takes around 50 milliseconds for someone to decide whether they like your website, which determines if they’ll stay on it.  Yet for many gyms, admittedly independently owned ones, the idea of setting up a website is just too much work. 

It’s time to face up to the reality that websites are actually crucial for your business. Did you know that 88% of consumers visit the type of business they looked up in the past 24 hours? This demonstrates just how effective a website can be for generating leads. (Make sure you’ve got a page for prospects to leave their email address so you can send them marketing materials!).

That’s because they’re your store’s front window, showing potential members what promotions and special deals you’ve got to offer. How to increase gym membership sales on websites requires a lot of work. You need to:


  • Build up your domain authority

  • Boost your brand awareness

  • Give your customers a voice on feedback pages 

  • Champion your people and members to show prospects you value them 

So, if you’ve got a poorly performing website, you might want to start with opening multiple channels of communications. Things like FAQs, a page for customers to leave feedback, newsletters and chatbots are staples ways of improving communication.

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3) Stringent pricing and & services

Consumers want flexibility and convenience. Yet even chain gyms members are expected to work around instructors and classes. We get it, there’s allotted times for a reason. It’s a matter of as and when the instructor is free to conduct their class. Much of the time these fitness classes cost nothing for members to sign up to. A great benefit in the eyes of your customers no doubt but is it really cost-effective for your gym?  

See this is where it benefits you to know the target audience for each of your classes. We bet that most of the instructors who do classes in your gym are freelancers. Much of the time these people have day jobs, who can’t run their classes whilst working. So they need to do them in the evening. But does this suit the majority of the customers who’d be willing to sign up to the class if they weren’t working themselves? 

There lies the challenges and issues of fitness timetables. They work around the instructor and not your customers. This affects retention as customers may look elsewhere for that Zumba or Pilate class. 


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4) Equipment condition & quality of service 

This point is similar to our previous one. If the equipment in your gym is poor quality, badly maintained and dated, there’s no way people are sticking around.

Gym equipment is directly responsible for 40% membership sign ups. That’s a potential 40% loss in leads if equipment is not up to scratch.


What’s more, poor equipment deters customers from sticking around due to:

  • Fear of injury because equipment is unsafe to use

  • Gym looks dated and cheap; no clear sense of value 

  • Gym is not equipped to help members achieve their goals 

This of course also has an effect on the quality of service customers feel. If they are prevented from using equipment that they’ve paid to use, it’s enough for them to cancel their membership and possibly warn others to stay away. It cannot be stressed enough how detrimental negative word-of-mouth (NWOM) is to your business. 

We’ll take a look at how to increase gym membership sales through effective retention strategies later. Even if your equipment is looking a little bit rusty… 

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5) Rewards & referral programmes are rarely used

Here’s another point, the final and perhaps most poignant of all. Gyms rarely used loyalty programmes. This is especially sad in an industry where its customers are there out of choice on a personal mission to better themselves. This kind of behaviour should be celebrated. It should be valued and promoted. 

Attrition in the gym industry is a real problem. Research shows that gyms have an annual attrition rate of 40%.

That’s more than double the standard rate in most sectors. Beginning to see the correlation here? Poor customer retention in an industry where loyalty programmes are severely underutilised can almost be expected. In fact, it is! As we’ve already seen it’s actually desired by gyms. 

JD Gyms rewards powered by Propello Cloud
JD Gyms - Plus+ Benefits
JD Gyms rewards powered by Propello Cloud
JD Gyms Partners
JD Gyms rewards powered by Propello Cloud
JD Gyms - Offers
JD Gyms powered by Propello Cloud


But in a climate where sector-wide innovation in customer loyalty is taking hold to meet expectations, coupled with technical breakthroughs, this worn out business model will buckle under its own weight.

As it stands, the gym industry within the health & fitness sector is six times bigger than online training. The sector is beginning to see a shift in preference though, especially as more consumers are preferring to work out at home as opposed to in the gym.

Looks as though those New Year Resolution memberships are being replaced with home bikes and ellipticals! But don’t sweat it. We’ve got some strategies here that’ll keep your fitness centre in the competition.

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How to Increase Gym Membership Sales: 5-step Process.

Time to lift customer loyalty and retention to new heights with our GAINS strategy! 

1) Get sign-ups and socials on form

Make sure your website has a form for leads to give you their contact details. They should be able to arrange a meeting with a member of staff in a seamless, frictionless process. The easier you make this stage for them, the better your chances of capturing them as a prospect. 

If you don’t have a website, it’s time to make use of your social channels. Social media accounts on Instagram and Twitter are quick and easy to set up. Facebook pages take a bit more time but you can cast a wide net fairly quickly using your personal network in the meantime. 

When communicating on social media, make sure you:


  • Promote special deals

  • Highlight your customers’ personal achievements

  • Share good causes that you support

  • Give health and fitness tips 

  • Celebrate your employees (to show their experience) 

  • Showcase new equipment

Face-to-face sales process

When a prospect comes to your fitness club you want a representative with sales acumen. Extra training or a sales playbook may be necessary. It all comes down to a formula: 


  • Show the prospect around the gym

  • Make sure the representative greets regulars as this points out to the prospect that these people are coming back for a reason; it also shows there’s a strong community 

  • Ask the usual questions; what’s the prospect’s aim? Body reconfig? Losing fat? Bulking? 

  • Let the prospect do the talking and encourage with positive affirmations so they ask questions 

  • Allowing them to ask questions gives you indication as to where they’re at; what they desire most, what interests them, their focal points

  • This allows you to leverage these talking points to sell the service e.g., if the prospect asks about personal trainers and they’ve told you they want to bulk up, you can personalise their recommendation to the most qualified staff member 

  • Show them facilities e.g., squash courts, swimming pools, saunas, workout halls that are included in the basic service and once the tour is over take them to an area decorated with positive testimonials 

  • Offer flexible memberships and pricing (even a monthly one) as this is contrary to most gyms but shows you’re not trying to keep them on regardless of whether they stick to workouts

  • This shows you’re onboard with them completely and want to support their healthy lifestyle choices

  • If you have personalised engagement strategies like user-generated content, incentivise them to take part in return for free goodies and benefits

  • Also offer them free subscription to a loyalty programme in return for monthly rewards

The sign-up process for gyms should always be closed face to face. Whilst digitised initial sign-up actions have their place, it’s more important for your sales representatives to successfully demonstrate great value. The process should be seamless, no more than thirty minutes and get the customer excited to get going.

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2) Always go heavy with personalisation

Engagement is the first step towards retention. Consistent content and communication tailored and personalised to a gym member is a leap towards long term retention. So, how do you accomplish this?

If you implement the strategies in step one you should have gathered enough data from prospects. Data helps you paint a picture of the individual. In other words, personality-based marketing. With enough data you’ll be able to segment customers into categories more receptive to certain aspects of your services e.g., certain workout classes or PTs. 

Since you’ll have their email on record you can then send offers and special discounts just for them.

Personalised marketing is expected by most consumers according to 92% of marketers. This type of customer information is also useful for creating new loyalty programmes like tiered or subscription based schemes. As you’ll be able to gauge demand from the preferences of your gym members. 


User-generated content 

In addition to this, encourage customers to take part in your content ideation. User-generated content (UGC) is a fantastic retention strategy, particularly for gym-goers. Naturally, these people are goal setters and ambitious. They want to share their wins and gains. By placing the limelight on them gives them a huge sense of accomplishment. It makes them feel valued and celebrated and another reason to stick with your gym. 

UGC also cuts down the amount of time you need to dedicate to content ideation. Of course, keep customers in the loop about positive news surrounding your gym. If things are a bit quiet on the publicity side, you’ve always got a portfolio of employee and customer wins and goals you can share.  

To stand out from your competitors you need to offer more services. Some gym chains cater to customers’ needs for extra classes like HIIT or yoga sessions. As we discussed earlier, these are often run by freelance instructors who have tight schedules. For your cross selling and upselling strategies to work, your offers should be flexible and work around your customers. 

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3) Incentivise upsells alongside core services

To stand out from your competitors you need to offer more services. Some gym chains cater to customers’ needs for extra classes like HIIT or yoga sessions. As we discussed earlier, these are often run by freelance instructors who have tight schedules. For your cross selling and upselling strategies to work, your offers should be flexible and work around your customers. 

Hiring full time staff who specialise in particular classes is an ideal route. If you are responsible for multiple gyms, chances are demand for certain classes will vary gym to gym. That’s why customer data is important. It allows you to allocate resources where they’re most needed. This delights more customers and serves your business better. 

After all, you should charge for flexible, extra classes. We’d recommend a tiered loyalty programme for this one. For example, two free classes with a subscription to a higher tier. The highest membership could include three one-to-one hour slots with PTs. It’s up to you how to scale and model the business. Of course, this is something Propello Cloud can help you with. 


Even what’s in your vending machines has an effect

Back to the point at hand. Incentivising upsells and cross sells only work when they make sense. This is simple as what you stock your vending machine with. It’s crazy to think there’s gyms who stock sugary drinks and crisps. This just shows a lack of understanding your customers. As people who go to the gym are generally more conscious of what they put in their bodies. In a survey 85% of participating respondents said they preferred healthy snacks and drinks. 


Your engagement strategy informs conversion efforts 

As you know, by consistently engaging in personalised interactions with your customers, you learn more about them as a person. From the moment they sign up for a membership, to the possibility of them lapsing, you’ll understand what resonates with them on every step of their fitness journey. 

Come what may, you’ll know which of your classes to market and upsell to specific individuals. Plus, your win-back strategies will convert lapsed customers more effectively. 


Be flexible and offer free samples 

When it comes to cross-selling and upselling your services, make sure you’re flexible and you offer free samples of the service to loyal customers. Your marketing material will be highly personalised and therefore relevant. Making the conversion attempt more successful. 

Should the gym member enjoy the class and want to subscribe to it, invite the customer to sign up to a higher tier in yoecal vitamin and supplement shops, healthy snacks dispensaries and outdoor activity centres. This paves the way for offering even more flexible offers that customers redeem whenever they need protein powder or bars but at discounted prices.  

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4) Never forget: retention is a marathon not a sprint

Ultimately you must realise that retention is a marathon and not a sprint. Implementing the strategies already discussed will transform your gym in the eyes of your members. Naturally, this will make them want to continue to use your services. It’s also likely they’ll recommend your gym to other people. 

Let’s take a look at some more strategies specifically designed to drive retention. These are the result of a culmination of the aforementioned strategies.

Retention strategies 

  • Launch monthly fitness challenges - share on your website and social media channels

  • Competition winners could get rewards like an extra hour PT session or a seat to a fitness event with industry giants 

  • Connect with fitness influencers, invite them to try out your facility and share an online review to their followers 

  • Host podcasts for your PTs discuss fitness and health with some of their willing clients (and give them both a small reward for their time) 

  • Acknowledge, share and reward user generated content with special, relevant rewards 
  • Offer extra features in your service like WhatsApp comms for out of hours advice and health tips, nutrition diets and form feedback 

There’s so much you can do to build up the muscle of your retention strategies, to give them some real knockout strength. Of course, just like bulking up, it takes time and hard work. But your efforts can be optimised with a little bit of help from experts. 

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5) Set up a loyalty and retention programme to do the heavy lifting

How to increase gym membership sales using all of these strategies in the simplest way is to deploy a rewards programme. We’ve already touched on how you could work with local partners to keep on adding value to your propositions. 

Likewise, your conversion strategies will be layered with actions and triggered incentives (e.g., extend subscription for/ or renew membership and get) in return for valuable rewards. It’s important that all of the rewards on offer contribute in some way to the customer’s overall goal.

Referral programmes do the heavy lifting 

You’re able to break the annual cycle of New Year newcomers with a referral programme in place. These people don’t renew their memberships after it expires. This hurts your bottom line after three or six months when the contract comes to an end. Although some gyms trap newcomers into yearly contracts to circumvent this. Not good. You might be retaining customers for the foreseeable but you've certainly destroyed any semblance of trust. And trust is the key component of customer loyalty.

But with a referral programme in place, you let happy, loyal customers steadily bring in friends and family all year round. You’ll find your gym is full of customers who are actually dedicated to making a change. A loyalty platform like Propello helps you streamline the entire customer experience when interacting with your gym. 

We facilitate seamless sign-ups and frictionless but rewarding referral programmes. Promoting consistent engagement and leveraging upsell and cross-selling opportunities, informed by accurate segmented customer data. 

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Example of Increased Gym Membership Sales 

Our platform demonstrated its viability during the pandemic. JD Gyms saw members dropping off as they couldn’t go to the gym during lockdown. So, what did Propello do and what was the result? 

JD Gyms 

During our consultation with JD Gyms we devised a method to reactivate customers. Although JD Gyms had great equipment and a whole roster of extra classes for everyone, customers still churned for various reasons. 

As you’ll know, gyms tend to have a hard time reinstating direct debit mandates once members cancel them. To prevent this from happening to JD Gyms we built a conversion programme on our platform to showcase value to customers – in the form of extra benefits via cross sells for example – to justify incremental price increases. 

JD Sports Testimonial Web

Why justify price increases? 

The cost of living crisis is also hitting businesses hard. Gyms in particular are reeling from soaring energy bills. Sometimes prices have to go up to meet expenses. 

But like we said; customers still churned for various reasons – for many that’s the cost of living crisis. Up to 36% of Brits cancelled their gym membership due to the soaring costs in household expenses.  

It’s no secret that getting fit hits the wallet. With the Propello platform, JD Gyms managed to offset the cost of their memberships outgoings in comparison to their higher value propositions.

What we did

We implemented a loyalty and retention programme. This also facilitated referrals to other areas of JD’s enterprise, namely their sportswear and fashion brands.



The rewards aren’t necessarily gym-centric, either. If anything, the programmes are altruistic and promote the idea that JD Gyms wants to give more value to customers, determined to make better health and lifestyle decisions.

As a result, JD Gyms saw phenomenal uptake on their higher tiered Membership Plus, which offers a whole range of benefits. And this is something you can do for your gym members too! 



Grab your copy of our Gym Membership Engagement and Acquisition Guide.


Gym Retention Strategies Guide



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