With a new year comes the inevitable new wave of gym memberships. The idea of the gym is always so appealing to a lot of people. It represents the idea of getting healthy, losing weight, or finally getting that longed-for beach body. 

But in your heart you know you won’t go. Most of us know we won’t actually get our money’s worth out of a gym membership. Very few people do. But I think you might be surprised to learn just how small that number of dedicated gym-goers actually is. Over 80 percent of gym membership owners go once a week or less, and a good portion of them stop showing up at all. 

This is called breakage, and it’s how most gyms manage to sign on many, many more people than their gyms actually have the capacity for. In short, the gym is banking on the vast majority of customers popping in once a month if they stop by at all. 

What a sneaky business model! It’s a bit reminiscent of airlines overbooking flights on the assumption that someone will surely cancel. (A practice that occasionally ends in high profile disaster.) 

Gyms seem to be doing fine by using this method. The industry routinely brings in billions of dollars a year. But you probably don’t run a gym (or an airline) and aiming for swaths of customers who won’t actually use your service can spell disaster for most businesses. 

So how do you keep customers coming back? What’s the anti-gym membership business model? 

  • Make your service easy to use. Simplicity is the name of the game. The less complicated your product, the more likely people are to come back.
  • Find a frequency sweet spot. You want to encourage your customers to give you repeat business without overwhelming them, especially if you run a subscription service. You want to make repeat business the best deal for your customers without scaring them away with prices that become unreasonable unless they maintain a ridiculously high level of patronage.
  • Reward loyalty. This is something that your local coffee shop has had down for years. If every tenth drink is free, then that’s often all the nudge a thirsty customer needs to pick your cafe over a competitor.

Leave breakage to the gyms and the airlines. If you’ve got a product worth selling, then you want customers to keep coming back!

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