This may sound strange, of course you want ALL of your members to return when you reopen.

But the reality is they’re not all going to return right away. It will start slowly and ramp up over time as people feel safe returning, reacquire lost habits, and deal with their own challenges for getting back to work, etc. In fact, in some areas the slow pace of return may be mandated, as it’s quite likely there may be incremental occupancy restrictions for facilities as they are allowed to reopen, just as many had leading up to closure.

Think about it this way, if 200 members return in the first week of your reopening, which 200 would you love those to be? A necessity is going to be getting your cashflow up to an operational level as soon as possible, so the logical answer is the members who have exhibited the highest levels of discretionary non-dues spend in the past.

And how will you know if your reopening strategy is working?

After all, how many post-pandemic reopenings have you had before? You have no experience to go on. You’ll need some sort of indicator, a canary-in-the-coalmine. Enter your most engaged members, the ones with the highest rates of check-ins prior to the pandemic. Logically you should expect their reopening return rate to be higher than other members. If it’s not, that can be an immediate indicator that something about your reopening isn’t working. If you can’t attract those members back, your chances of attracting others back is greatly decreased.

high value memberIf you have membership analytics allowing you to identify your most engaged, highest-spending members, you can give those members extra attention during your closure. How about a how-are-you-doing-we-miss-you wellness check call? You may not have the staff to do that with every member, but you could focus on a small group. How about attractive offers/incentives for a first reopening check-in? Again, maybe you can’t do that for all members, but it’s worth it for these members. Make them want to be the first ones back in the door.

For a variety of reasons, you should plan on new member acquisitions being extremely low for a while after reopening (e.g. desperate competition, caution, financial stress, approaching summer), so focusing on the return of current members is critical. And if that number could be limited, it becomes even more critical to leverage your member data and focus your attention on your highest value, most engaged members.