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Why the Retention & Culture Model Beats Volume & ‘Community’ 

Why the Retention & Culture Model Beats Volume & ‘Community’ 

People connecting during a workout
In boutique fitness, community can be faked while culture cannot, writes MADabolic. Emphasizing the latter over the former should lead to better client retention outcomes.
MADabolic is a leading group strength and conditioning franchise brand with 33 studios open nationwide and another 80+ in development. For more information on the MADabolic franchise opportunity, please visit here

The retention model looks dramatically different from the volume model, with nuances existing in everything from how you treat your leads and prospects to staffing standards to the quality control of the actual product, and beyond. When chasing retention, it’s important to remember that you’re playing the long game. And that long game should be defined by how you continually feed and beef up the type of culture with which your target client identifies. 

At MADabolic, we strongly believe that the concept of “community” is oversold, overhyped, and overdone in the fitness industry. Community can be faked. Culture, however, cannot. And while the physical community of your gym members will cycle in and out over the months and years, your culture should remain consistent and tightly aligned with the target demographic you not only want to attract but keep as well. 

To do that, you first need to be very clear on a few key areas: 

  1. Who your client avatar is.
  2. What do they value.

Once those answers are crystal clear, every single thing you do and say needs to support that target client’s values, which – in turn – will feed the culture they crave and make them more inclined to stick around. This includes:

  1. All verbal and written touch points
  2. Internal training materials
  3. Staff standards and expectations
  4. Class procedures and structure
  5. External relationships and partnerships

Let’s use MADabolic as the case study here.

Our client avatar is the 25 to 40-year-old high performing go-getter who values strength, structure and accountability. They’re generally ambitious, educated, career-driven, extremely social and willing to spend on their health.

credit: MADabolic

Here are some things we do (and distinctly do NOT do) that keeps that client coming back for more:

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  • We provide constant corrections to individual movement patterns…we do NOT dish out motivational high fives. In fact, we actively discourage the “cheerleader” persona.
  • We prioritize the warm-up and eliminate the cool-down to stick to our 50-minute guarantee…we do NOT make efforts to keep our clients hanging around.
  • We lock our doors at the start of class time…we do NOT allow latecomers in (ever). 
  • We are an adult-only training facility…we do NOT offer childcare, and we do NOT allow pets in the gym.
  • We use bold and authoritative language in our client communications – from our newsletters all the way down to our waitlist confirmation text messages…we do NOT pretend to be soft and fluffy.
  • We force all prospective trainers to endure a training camp at our corporate headquarters to make sure they can walk the walk and talk the talk…we do NOT allow any non-certified trainer to teach classes.
  • We place a strong secondary emphasis on no-B.S. client education surrounding strength, nutrition, and recovery…we do NOT perpetuate gimmicky industry myths and trends.
  • Our workouts are programmed from the top down, so every single location runs the same daily workout…we do NOT allow franchisees or trainers to deviate from the program.
  • We partner and create relationships with high-performing hyperlocal businesses that our target client likely supports or purchases from…we do NOT partner with generic brands.

In turn, our retention rates are sky-high, with more than 70% of our systemwide members on recurring unlimited contracts. 

credit: MADabolic

Will copying and pasting the above exact measures to your gym increase retention? Probably not, because YOUR target client might differ from ours. This means their values will differ, which will require you to foster a different culture within your studio. 

Does this mean you’ll likely have to do and say things that will detract individuals outside your target demographic from coming in? Absolutely. But when you’re busy trying to appeal to EVERYONE, you risk appealing to no one, and you risk confusing and losing the clients that are already in your doors. Don’t be afraid to identify your niche, build a culture around it, and own it.

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