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What NOT to do when a member leaves your gym

Hilary Achauer

It’s the worst feeling.

You invest time and energy welcoming a new member to the gym. You watch him connect with other members, get in better shape, and become more confident every day. One day you even overhear him telling another member, “I love this place so much!”

Your happiness at hearing this is twofold. One, it’s always great to have a new member. But even more than that, you’ve helped improve someone’s life!

Everything is going well and you’re sure he’ll be a member for a very long time.

Then it happens.

You get an email from him saying, “Hey, I need to cancel my membership. Thanks.”

What. The. Heck.

Of course you understand you’re running a business, but this feels personal. You truly care about this guy, and you know he loves the experience at your gym. So what gives?

It’s tempting to cancel his membership and never talk to him again. Confused and hurt, you decide he’s dead to you.

When you spot him in the grocery store three months later, you hide in the frozen food section until he leaves.

All these feelings are normal. You care passionately about what you do, and it’s okay to feel rejected. However, don’t let your emotions get in the way of your business’ success! Remember at one point this guy decided to become a member and even enjoyed his experience.

He’s an extremely important lead and someone you don’t want to abandon.

Former members are already familiar with your gym’s culture. They know your staff and the other members.

If you keep the door open and stay in touch, it’s much easier to win back former members than it is to convert a new lead.

Don’t be afraid to keep communicating with your former member, because in all likelihood, his cancellation had nothing to do with you. He could be going through a difficult time at work.

Maybe his car needed some unexpected repairs that wiped out his gym membership money for the year. It’s possible he’s working through a health issue he didn’t feel comfortable sharing with you.

Whatever it is, odds are he’ll be in a position to rejoin in the future. When that happens, you want to have kept up a friendly and open communication with him so the reentry process is smooth and not fraught with negative emotion.

How your gym handles a member’s cancellation will determine if and when that member returns.

In the same way you nurture a cold lead coming into the gym, you want to nurture former members to break down barriers, offer to help, deliver value, and offer opportunities to get back in the gym at a later date.Here are some tips for managing the cancellation and post-membership communication.

Membership Cancellation and Reactivation Process

This is a very similar process to someone coming to the gym for the first time. When they joined you recorded the date, why they decided to become a member, and information about their health. You want the same kind of information when they leave: the date their membership ended and the reason they are cancelling. No need to collect contact information because you gathered that when they joined.

Step 1 - Exit Capture

Part of your cancellation process must include a form (described in Step 2) that captures some important information. Ideally it’s done by a simple web-based form. If that isn’t an option, use a Google form or a paper form at the gym. It reduces friction and begins removing the emotional aspect.

This is the first step to starting the membership cancellation process, and it’s the best opportunity to actually talk to the client and offer any assistance. This doesn’t mean you offer a discount or bend over backwards … it’s just a way to help.

Step 2 - Find out Why

We find out why clients are training. We also need to find out why they’re leaving. The exit capture form should be extremely simple: name, date, an option to pick why they are leaving, and an open comment field.

Here are some options you can have on the form. Keep it simple.

I’m short on cash (Financial)

I’m unable to attend (Time)

It’s too far (Moving or location)

Medical reasons (Injured or having a baby)

It’s too difficult (Physical and mental capacity)

There are more things you can add to the form, like a rating of the gym or a place where they can write more about why they are leaving. However, before you build a 20-question form, make sure you will actually use the data collected from it. Ask simple questions and don’t break the process before you even start it by overwhelming the client with too many questions.

Step 3 - Break the Ice

The content of the email you send when a member cancels is extremely important. Of course you’ll include confirmation of the cancellation, but you also need to include something that shows them you aren’t upset. The content of this email should be a template you drop into every cancellation email, and it should cover these things:

  • We’ve loved having you  
  • You’ve achieved so much
  • You are going to continue to achieve so much
  • We will be here when you are ready to come back
  • Membership cancellation date

Nothing about the email can be emotional or upsetting. Let them know you still care about them and want them to be successful -- accept the emotional burden and remove it from the client!

Step 4 - Start your former client campaign

The email confirming the cancellation should not be the last email you send to your former member! It’s just as important to regularly reach out to former clients as it is to new leads. You won’t ask them to come back or bother them about why they cancelled in this first email. Instead, you’ll offer value and maintain a friendship.

Once you have a series of emails already written and scheduled to go out upon cancellation you can take the emotion out of the process and go back to focusing on current members and leads.

At UpLaunch, our Reactivation Framework (which we're giving away, below) -- the communication we’ve created to stay connected with former members -- starts off with an email every two weeks, then about once a month for the year after cancellation. It’s a fine balance: you don’t want to annoy them, but you also want to keep the lines of communication open!

Here are some ideas for emails to send to former clients.

  • At home workout ideas
  • Nutrition guide
  • A simple “how are you?”
  • Offer to buy them a cup of coffee
  • Healthy living tips, like how to get energized to start the day or how to reduce sugar intake
  • An email telling them how awesome they are
  • Checking to see if they are interested in coming back (wait at least 200 days after cancellation)
  • Encouraging them to get back in the gym (usually about a year after they cancel)
  • Offer a one-on-one personal training or goal-setting session, for free

That is a significant list of emails. But even one email is better than no emails. Just get started and over time build them out. Remember your focus should be giving value, not trying to win them back. They already know what your gym is like, so you don’t have to sell them on the experience.

Try to automate the emails as much as you can, or use some type of spreadsheet to keep track of the emails you need to send.

If you don’t have time to write these emails and you want to employ an automated system that will simplify and systemize the cancellation process -- and win back former members -- we can help.

The UpLaunch Reactivation Framework

The easiest and cheapest way to increase membership … and increase revenue.

The Reactivation Framework will help you to engage former clients, rekindle meaningful relationships with them, and have them asking YOU how they can get started again!

We'll show you how to establish a two-way communication that builds a real relationship with former clients along with specific content ideas. It's simple, easy to implement, and it WORKS.


Download our reactivation framework with five easy steps to engage and reactivate former clients!
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