Establishing A Successful Member Onboarding Process

Sep 9, 2022

 by Ryan W.

We all have unique personalities, whether introvert or extrovert. We can all influence those around us in a positive way.  Sociologists have found that introverts can influence about 10,000 people over the course of an average lifespan (Maxwell).  Coaches, think about how many people you may have the opportunity to influence in a positive way over the course of your day, week, year, career and your life. The onboarding process is another opportunity. 

The Onboarding process can place a heavy burden on the practitioners once the reality sets in, a new client just signed up with you.  You may feel as if the odds are stacked against you and the momentum is shifting knowing that about 40% of new sign-ups will cancel their membership within 12 months.  But with a great staff, tools of the trade i.e. FitHive, resources to share, now it is time to unleash the onboarding process and continue building that genuine relationship, ultimately earning a customer for life.

Let’s start with the culture in your facility.  A new client is joining for the experience and camaraderie.  Let’s first celebrate that new member in choosing to become a part of your team. This can be accomplished in many different ways and platforms with either your own personal flavor or through virtual assistance.  

Clubs that properly onboard new members have significantly higher levels of member retention. The data shows improvement rates up to 85%. New member onboarding has been proven time and again as the most critical element in reducing membership churn at a fitness facility (Precor).   

Customer onboarding, which has the power to boost your retention rate, increase your customer lifetime value and bring those smiles to your gym community and beyond. Acquiring new customers is the most challenging aspect and much harder than keeping them there.

So, while it is still pertinent to bring in new customers, the real ROI is in fact on current ones. Studies show that increasing your retention rate by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%. (Gallo)

Switching gears a bit and looking through the lens of a new member.  The goal of onboarding is to empower new clients by helping new members get acclimated to your gym. This leads to a successful onboarding process and sets the clients up for long-term success and decreases anxiety, fear, stress, or any other emotions that hinder a client from starting. Furthermore, a well-developed onboarding process aids in reducing the number of canceled memberships by guiding them over the initial hump when joining your gym.

Here are five coaching points that establish a successful member onboarding process:

1. Communication 

It’s amazing the difference that a little communication can make.  Did you know that just two monthly interactions between staff and clients have been shown to cut the risk of membership cancellations by 33%?

So first, decide on a communication channel – ideally, it’ll be one that your customers use regularly. It could be e-mail, mobile text or messenger.

Then, choose what kind of content you’ll be sharing with your new members. Use the responses from your survey to provide the most relevant and helpful information. 

It might be information about booking classes, workout tips for getting started or introducing the members of your staff. Your content should delight and impress your customers and remind them why they signed up for your great gym in the first place.

FitHive has a one-stop shop system with an emphasis on marketing and communication. Thus, saving you time to interact with clients to build retention.  Along with automating your onboarding communications. Doing so, allows your new members to receive your messages without you lifting a finger. 

Generally, your onboarding flow should run for about 90 days – but don’t worry, you don’t need to contact your new members every day – that would likely have the opposite effect of what we’re trying to achieve. Usually, one piece of content each week on top of regular communications works great.

2. Assessments 

Just like measuring your strength on certain lifts and taking body part measurements can tell you if your training program is working, you need feedback to know how well your onboarding program is working too.

Identify key metrics such as customer churn rate, customer satisfaction, and member engagement. Take stock of what they currently look like before you implement your onboarding program. Then take measurements at regular intervals to see what kind of impact your onboarding efforts are having.

After a few months, follow up with a full audit of your onboarding program – you might find some things are working well and others are not producing the results you want. Taking time to review and reflect allows you to optimize your onboarding process over time.

3. Establish Clients Goals

As a fitness professional, you’ve seen how little progress is made when people don’t use goal setting. Program hopping, nutritional fads, and hours of aimlessly going in circles lead to little or no results. 

But goal setting, on the other hand, allows people to see future possibilities, gives them a plan of action and boosts their motivation, especially when challenges arise.

That’s why it’s essential to incorporate goal setting as part of your onboarding program. By pointing clients in the direction you’ll increase the chances that they’ll achieve success.

Schedule a one-to-one appointment with every new sign-up, but before you do that send them a questionnaire to determine their base level of fitness, current eating habits, workout preferences and what they hope to achieve.

This saves time, increases engagement and allows you to match them with the ideal trainer to help them reach their goals. Work through setting goals using the SMART system for the best results.

Usually creating goals for the six to eight-week mark. That’s long enough to allow change to happen but short enough to keep even the most apprehensive committed. Check-in and follow up regularly with customers to make sure they feel valued.

4. Customer Feedback 

Knowledge of your customers. Understanding what obstacles, challenges and pain points they face is the first step towards creating tailored solutions that’ll make up your onboarding program.

FitHive provides tools to gather data from your members about what they found most challenging when joining your gym. Then use the data to determine what issues your onboarding strategy needs to address.


5. Education / Engagement 

We were created to build relationships, striving on social interaction. When we feel a sense of family or community, where people look out for us and are interested in us, we’re much more likely to derive a sense of belonging, importance, and satisfaction.

Coffee mornings or educational seminars are also low-cost events where members can mingle and get to know one another away from the more pressured training environment. Get creative with and provide multiple touchpoints to and encourage as much interaction in your onboarding program as possible. It’ll pay huge dividends as time goes on.


Great onboarding is about empowering new members to have the courage to chase their goals. So often many people struggle with fitness because they don’t understand the basics.

And with access to the internet, there’s now an overwhelming amount of information that can leave newcomers in a state of paralysis by analysis. Keep in mind that working out for the first time can be seriously intimidating.

So, create your own verified source of reliable information for your members. It could be in the form of a blog, a video course, a printed manual or any other medium. It doesn’t have to be crazy in-depth – just answer the most basic questions that keep coming up (Tip: use the responses from your customer survey to design your knowledge hub)

There’s no point in keeping all of your knowledge locked up in your head – get it out there to guide your members along their fitness journey.


Example of your first customer onboarding process: 

  • Client Onboarding Checklist (Institute of Personal Training)
    • Step 1: Getting Signed Up 
      • T&C (Terms and Conditions) 
      • Contract Signed and Saved
      • Payment is Received
    • Step 2: Pre-Training 
      • Informed Consent and PAR-Q Received and Saved
      • Onboarding Questionnaire is Received
      • The Client is Added to Email Automation
      • The Welcome Pack Has Been Saved
      • Welcome/Thank You Card Posted
    • Step 3: Post Training & Ongoing
      • Client Check-In Via Email or Text Sent
      • Client Programming Has Been Written
      • Client Nutrition Guidance Has Been Provided
      • The Client Has Been Added To The Free Facebook Group


Positive influences or encounters between your clients and your gym occur daily and will create an experience for the client that will travel beyond your gyms’ walls. 

A great onboarding process leads through a journey of engaging and memorable encounters that guides your clients through hills and valleys along with a supportive gym community….to their success.

Designing an onboarding process is not arduous. Utilize these guidelines by personalizing them to fit your facility's needs. Then you are ready to grow your gym, manage a lower churn rate, and retain more revenue and happier customers.