Onboarding. As we saw in our last post, it is the key member retention strategy into which all fitness centers must pour a significant amount of resources. It’s the plan that gives you the most bang for your buck! Research has shown that fitness facilities that have a well-conceived and well-executed onboarding process retain members at a rate 75% higher than those that don’t. Even with so much at stake, and so much to gain, there is still a great deal of confusion regarding onboarding in the fitness industry. Misunderstandings of exactly what onboarding is abound and many facilities still have no formal onboarding program at all.
Onboarding is not the same as Orientation
To clear up this confusion, let’s look at exactly what onboarding is. Perhaps the best place to start is understanding what onboarding it not. Onboarding is not the same as orientation. This is critical to understand because in my experience, this is where much of the confusion lies. Your facility may have a great orientation program, but still be struggling to properly onboard members – because, again, they are not the same thing. Here are some key differences between orientation and onboarding:
- Orientations are optional, but onboarding is positioned as a critical part of a new member’s journey. The difference is a staff member saying, “We will give you a free orientation to our facility if you would like,” versus “Our (name of onboarding program) is one of the most critical steps is members actually achieving their goals. It involves four free sessions with a wellness coach. Would tomorrow work for your first appointment?”
- Orientations typically consist of 1-2 complimentary sessions with a trainer, often with an agenda to sell personal training services. Onboarding consists of multiple sessions with a trainer or coach, typically 3-4, with specific objectives for each meeting.
- Orientations are intended to introduce the new member to the facility (i.e. set them up on the strength equipment, show them how to use the cardio machines, etc). Onboarding may include an orientation, but it goes deeper. Onboarding seeks not just to familiarize a new member with the facility, but also to discover their goals and then to develop a plan to help them reach those goals.
A Definition of Onboarding
From this we have a clear view of what onboarding is:
Lance Perkins, CEO of MobileFiT
Onboarding at your facility
As you think through developing or refining an onboarding process at your fitness facility, remember that onboarding involves a series of one-on-one meetings with a trainer/coach. Research shows the sweet spot is four sessions in the first month of membership. Have specific objectives for each session. The most effective way to move members toward their goals is to include behavior modification methodologies. To learn more about these methodologies, download our free eBook, Behavior Modification: Proven Strategies for Making a Lasting Impact with Your Members. This approach will give you the greatest chance for integrating your members into the facility and keeping them engaged long term.
Here’s one final resource to get you started. Our free eBook, New Member Onboarding, will give you more details on the concepts and strategies for developing an outstanding onboarding program at your fitness facility. So, gather your staff, brainstorm, come up with a plan, and see how your facility and your members will benefit from a well-thought-through, well-executed onboarding process!