Losing the Retention Battle: Is Your Wellness Business on Auto-Pilot?

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When’s the last time your fitness business launched a new program? The last time you updated your corporate wellness marketing? If it’s more than 18 months ago, your wellness business is losing the war in customer retention.

Three fast ways to fail at customer retention

Successful wellness businesses cannot run on autopilot — the same products, same marketing, and same strategies every year. Competition evolves, prospects evolve — and your business has to evolve to survive.

1. Same products

Year 1. You introduce Zumba.

Year 2. Still offering Zumba.

Year 3. Right, still Zumba.

Year 4. Zumba is AWESOME.

Year 5. Don’t make me say it.

Even if you luv carrots, you don’t want to eat carrots, and only carrots, every damn day, right? Fitness customers are the same way. Over time, their interest in a given class or program naturally dwindles if the program itself doesn’t evolve with them.

You probably call it lack of motivation, or lack of willpower.

The truth is that YOU let your customers down. You let them get bored.

In business, we call it “eating your young.” Sure, you can wait for customer interest to dwindle — and finally, reluctantly, start cutting back your class schedule while wondering desperately how to replace the revenue you gradually lost.

But it’s much better for your business to take the initiative. Customer retention is the lifeblood of wellness businesses, and keeping customers curious and interested in what’s coming next is essential for retention.

If folks love your new class more than your old class, that’s OK. They’re still your paying customer!

Don’t wait for customers to vote your programs off the island.

Do it yourself. Overhaul, tweak, enhance — or scrap — programs before customer interest takes a dive.

2. Same marketing

The signage in your facility windows hasn’t changed since Year 2. The colors haven’t faded, much, so you really don’t see the need.

The posters on the wall haven’t changed either. Why bother? Weight loss is weight loss, right?

Every year you buy the 1/2-page ad in Healthy Living magazine. You buy display ads on a local news site. You submit the same ads you used last year, and the year before.

You send out the same postcards, one in January to “jumpstart New Year’s resolutions” and the next one in May, to “spring into summer” and another in September to “fall back into fitness.” (Yeah, we see what you did there.)

You always stake vertical banners in front of your place from March through October, and they always promote your “Bikini-Ready Bootcamp.”

Your Business Page in Facebook has the same cover photo it had three years ago, and nothing in the business profile has been updated since then either.

You claimed your Yelp account, and once a long time ago you hired someone who added photos and a call to action, but that was two years ago and nothing’s been updated.

By now, your business is invisible. You haven’t said anything new to your potential customers in years.

You’re that friend no one wants — the one who always, always tells the same stories, over and over.

Meanwhile, your prospective clients have grown and evolved. They’ve seen what other places have to offer, and as far as they can tell, you haven’t changed at all.

Do you need to chuck your marketing out every year and start from scratch? Definitely not. But you need to mix it up — new channels, new copy, new images, new calls to action, new ways of telling potential customers about what you offer.

A good rule of thumb is that about half of what you’re doing ought to be “touched” every year, in some way, shape or form.

Drop the Healthy Living ad. Try a radio spot. Change up the banners. Overhaul your marketing copy. Try social ads.

Even if you’re not making program changes, you can ALWAYS do a better job of spreading the word about them.

3. Same strategies

Too many wellness businesses are living with choices they made years ago, and never revisited.

Mindlessly sticking to an outdated strategy can be fatal.

I talked to a women’s health business recently who decided years ago that month-to-month pricing was not for them. They liked getting paid upfront for their weight loss programs, 6 to 12 months at a time, and that was that.

But…while they stood still, everything around them changed. These days, their prospective clients have many, MANY more options, online AND in the real world — and virtually all of them offer month-to-month pricing. Plus, many offer some kind of loyalty program so that clients get perks, discounts or other benefits from continued patronage.

Their insistence on long-term commitments is literally killing their business. They’re struggling to sign up customers — but they just can’t bite the bullet on changing their pricing strategy.

Some business choices seem purely operational, yet have strategic significance.

You’re a corporate wellness provider still managing your clients’ employee data with paper forms and Excel (!).  The snazzy online interface on your website looks cool – but behind the scenes, it’s converted to paper printouts that your employees re-key. In Excel.

Your customers are always asking for more reports about how their employees are doing — and you always resist, because it’s so hard to quickly produce accurate and useful insights from all those spreadsheets.

What’s worse, no one in your business has the vision or experience to chart a different path — and it’s not a priority to find someone who can.

Meanwhile, your competitors don’t have these problems. They’re able to quickly scale, to quickly and accurately bring new clients onboard. They’re automatically providing reports every month that you can’t even begin to provide. Their web portal? It’s real, and all the employee data’s available across all the systems.

When the path forward is murky, how will you find new direction?

The nice thing about autopilot is that it lets you step away from the controls for a bit. Focus on other parts of the business. Develop new strategies while the old ones hum along happily.

But you wouldn’t let the autopilot choose next year’s vacation — and you shouldn’t leave the future of your business on autopilot, either.

After all, stay away from the controls too long…there’s only one direction that plane’s gonna go.