FitChalk Member Engagement System

What is member engagement?

If your affiliate gym is a plane, member engagement is your plane’s fuel. A plane’s goal is to successfully travel from Point A –> Point B, and your affiliate isn’t much different.

In order to build a successful affiliate gym, you probably created goals designed to help you travel from “startup” (Point A) to “massive success” (Point B).

Now let’s define the fitness “startup”:

  • 20-30 paying members
  • You (of course)
  • 1 or 2 coaches willing to trade services for a free membership
  • A warehouse space you hope to outgrow in 6 weeks…err, let’s be realistic – 6 months.

Every affiliate owner’s vision of “massive success” looks different, but for example purposes, we’ll define it as:

  • 150+ paying members
  • 8 paid coaches who participate in a revolving development program
  • You in a leadership position with a stable salary
  • A gym manager, a marketing manager, a 7,500 sq. ft. facility your business owns.
  • Engaged members who rely on you for multiple services and a business with several revenue streams


Why is Member Engagement So Important?

Affiliate gyms have a built-in member engagement component. Unfortunately, the fact it’s such an obvious part of the gym means few owners actually recognize the opportunity to document and measure the impact.

The term engagement, specifically as it relates to your community, means: to participate or become involved in; to establish a meaningful contact or connection with…

If the example of Point A –> Point B above feels like your plan, make sure your plane has the right fuel. If not, you’ll run out of gas somewhere along the way. Strategically keeping members engaged helps maintain control over when, how, and why your affiliate gym grows.

Therefore, it’s not a safe play to simply rely on great programming, hard work, and good fortune to reach Point B.

To be clear, nothing is wrong with focusing on solid programming and working hard. In fact, you have to focus on those things to be successful, but the great affiliates know the real secret is their strategy for member engagement.

At FitChalk, we’ve found that affiliate owners recognize member engagement is important, but rarely make it a focus for high-level business strategy. Due to the fact nobody is really teaching it and it doesn’t show up on a P & L, there isn’t a clear example of a “good strategy,” which means a lot of owners find it confusing.

Don’t worry. Here are some guidelines.


A Practical Guide to Member Engagement & Developing a Strong Gym Community That Grows Your Business

A good member engagement strategy helps grow your business. It doesn’t have to be super-complex and shouldn’t require a large chunk of up-front money or even more than a few days to set up.

Your member engagement strategy will focus on 5 key elements:

  1. Personalized
  2. Embedded in the day-to-day member experience
  3. Community-building
  4. Timely
  5. Rewards growth


It’s Personal

A good member engagement strategy is personal, as if it were designed uniquely for each member. Think of it this way: your gym belongs to your members, not you. This means you’ll actually have to “get to know” your members.

Crazy, right?

That doesn’t mean you become best friends with everyone who walks through your front door, but knowing basic information about members will make the experience personal. The goal is to give them a connection to the gym.

Communication must be authentic and encouraging, easily modified for outreach to all members, and specific enough to address members by name (when appropriate).

Building a system that enables personal engagement is actually pretty simple. It will look basically the same each time you connect with a member, but give a personal touch for each individual. This is the starting point of a great strategy.

Think of the obvious things your community can celebrate and rally around. Commit to personally and publicly bringing attention to these items. This should begin the first day a member joins.

Highlight things like:

  • New Members
  • Birthdays / Membership anniversaries
  • Life Events
    • Marriages
    • Babies
    • Wedding anniversaries
  • Attendance Streaks
  • Goals Achieved / New Personal Records

Being personal is easy stuff and the entry point for creating a good strategy. It’s personal to the member and the ideas above are just to get you thinking.


It’s Embedded in the Day-to-Day Member Experience

What if your members felt the same feeling you do when they walked through the doors of your affiliate gym?

“This is my home, my family, and my comfort zone. I fit in here.”

The short answer is they would choose to come back tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. They would miss their gym when they were out of town and get upset that you don’t open on Sundays. They’ll be a lifetime member.

Members should be expected to engage from Day 1…which means the strategy must be embedded in the member experience. In order to establish this, focus on things like:

  • Regularly Track Member Goals
    • This does not mean a board where everyone writes their yearly goals. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this is about identifying the root of why a member pays you to workout each day.
    • You should seriously ask members for their specific goals. And ask this question often.
    • When you focus on their “why”, instead of your assumptions, it naturally makes the relationship more personal. This results in added value for the member.
    • The member’s “why” will always be evolving. They will reach a goal or discover a new challenge, so be sure to keep a pulse on their current motivation.
    • Don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate when they reach goals (see “It’s Personal”).
  • Connect individuals with like-minded gym members
    • After goal tracking is established, make an effort to connect your members. As the community grows, you’ll find members naturally fall into a few specific categories of people who are pursuing similar outcomes.
      • So while John and Nick are working to make The Games, Tom and Steve are focused on lowering their blood pressure.
    •  This IS NOT about isolating members who are chasing different outcomes.
    •  This IS about building a diverse community that connects, regardless of why they individually chose your gym.
    • Segmenting the community at a high-level makes it easy to provide timely communication. We’ll talk more about this in a minute.
  • Regular Gym Announcements
    • Communicate more than daily workouts and random updates
    • Focus on your city, nutrition, fitness news, and common interests for members.
    • Include your community in the mission of your business. Update them when you reach new milestones.
    • Encourage conversations around your announcements
    • Conduct surveys on polarizing topics you hear chatter about inside the gym
    • Listen to members and keep them updated on what they tell you is important

Customizing the member experience shouldn’t be overwhelming. Prioritize one or two hours per week in your schedule to organize how you communicate with your members.

Create dialogue, (healthy) debate, and education. Yes, the gym is for training . . . but, encouraging dialogue and learning as a normal part of the experience will help members comfortably embrace the community.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Test the waters and see what really captures member interest.


It’s Community-building

Focus on community relationships to take member engagement to the next level. There are several ways to do this, but just keep in mind most people are eager to be a part of something “greater than themselves.”

One awesome part of building a community is that it can happen in addition to the standard daily workouts. This means strategically boosting member engagement can also generate more revenues for your gym.

Non-revenue generating ways to strengthen community through member engagement:

  • Partner Workouts (2-4 times per month)
    • Mix it up and require members work with a new partner each time
    • Force members out of their comfort zones with unique workouts and movements
    • Pair members with contrasting strengths and weaknesses in order to spark creativity and teamwork
  • Athlete of the Month spotlight
  • Business networking events
  • Community Socials (1-2 times per quarter)
    • Try a new theme each time
    • Promote it internally
    • Feed everyone (or try a Potluck)
    • Offer a give-away to encourage attendance

There are no restrictions here, so take action and get your community involved. Add value for members and the rest takes care of itself.

Revenue generating ways to strengthen community as part of your member engagement strategy:

  • In-house team competitions
  • Nutrition Challenges
  • Expert Group Seminars (one hour, 1-2 times per month, and a small fee ~ $10-$25)
    • Skills
    • Mobility
    • Nutrition
    • Recovery
  • Monthly Team Progress Challenge (focus on measurable goals)
    • Require a small buy-in for accountability
    • Proceeds paid to the winner, towards new equipment, or to a charitable cause of the winning team’s choice

Community is a byproduct of culture. Sell this concept to new members and make sure they know community events are a huge part of the value they gain at your gym.

Think outside the box.


It’s Timely

As your strategy gains momentum, begin implementing new outreach campaigns and meet your members where they are. Very few members actually aspire to make The Games, but everybody wants to make noticeable progress.

Connect with your members quarterly and revisit goals you previously established for them. Highlight progress over the past 90 days and showcase the value created through their membership. Ask them for feedback and set new goals tailored for their next focus.

This is why Facebook reminds you about friends made, memories documented, and milestones reached. They want you to establish confirmation, attachment, and satisfaction with your engagement to their service.

Use this concept in your affiliate gym.

Timely engagement means capturing and delivering information a member needs to determine value. When you engage members, confirm they’ve met the expectations established when they signed up.

This is also a reminder of how meaningful it can be to understand the constantly evolving “why” for each member.

The good news is that systems can be implemented to streamline a more advanced strategy. Using FitChalk, owners apply tags and segmentation to their membership that helps simplify timely communication – based on where the member is at in the value cycle.

Obviously, a timely update for competitive athletes doesn’t look the same as someone graduating from Fundamentals. Timeliness is relevant to member progress, so be sure to account for that in your strategy.


It Rewards Growth

Accountability is a required focus. It’s built into the competitive spirit of functional fitness, but a good strategy creates accountability by rewarding growth.

Progress comes in many shapes and sizes. So, celebrating the little victories and big wins guarantees members will always have something to strive for.

A great part about rewarding growth is, to some degree, you set the benchmarks. As long as the marks are in place for everyone, it creates targets anyone can pursue.

Here are some examples of growth-based engagement:

  • Attendance
    • John attended his 1st class. Give him a fist bump today!
    • Betty checked in for 50 straight days!
    • 200-days Club (attended 200 days in a calendar year)
  • Personal Records
  • Number of Reps: Specific Timeframe
    • 1,000,000 meters rowed in 1-year
    • 1,000 burpees in 1 week
  • 1st Competition / Podium / Win
  • 1st Muscle-up / (insert gymnastics skill)
  • Lost X pounds during Nutrition Challenge

You get the point. It doesn’t matter if member growth is focused on personal goals or targeting benchmarks anyone can pursue. Make sure members strive for attainable goals and reward them with recognition your community will rally around.



There are many ways to build a strong community.

A good member engagement strategy is personal, present day-to-day, builds a stronger community, timely, and rewards growth.

Your strategy should make it possible to measure impact on member progress and retention. A strong effort can become the cornerstone for your business growth and help you travel from Point A –> Point B.

What is your favorite member engagement tactic? Comment and share below!

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